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Kazakhstan is the heart of Eurasia. Located simultaneously in two parts of the world – Europe and Asia, it is at the junction of several of the world’s largest civilizations and borders with China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the Russian Federation. Due to its key strategic location, it is among the strongest supporters of the Belt and Road Initiative strategy adopted by the Chinese government. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the country received a total of over 7.7 million total visitors in 2017.
Kazakhstan has a unique geography with a rich and diverse landscape, which includes numerous lakes, lowlands, deserts and valleys framed by mountains in the east and southeast. Due to the large territory and variety of natural conditions, there are over 6,000 species of plants, 172 species of mammals, 500 species of birds, 52 species of reptiles, 12 species of amphibians, and 150 species of fish.
The country’s new capital, Astana, has become a showpiece for 21st-century Kazakhstan, with a fantastical skyline marked by landmark buildings designed by leading international architects in a variety of Asia, Western, Soviet and futuristic styles.
Nur-Sultan - Capital of Kazakhstan
Astana is the capital city of Kazakhstan, straddling the Ishim River in the north of the country. Along the left bank, the ultramodern, 97m-tall Bayterek tower offers panoramic views from its observation deck. The Ak Orda Presidential Palace is topped with a massive blue-and-gold dome. The giant, tent-like Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center houses a shopping mall and indoor beach resort.
On the right bank, the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan houses Kazakh contemporary art and exhibits on the history of the country and Astana. In the middle of Presidential Park, the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation is a distinctive glass pyramid containing an opera house. Independence Square is home to the towering Kazakh Eli monument and the Palace of Independence, with its scale model of Astana in the year 2030. The city’s mosques include the giant Hazret Sultan Mosque, constructed in typical Kazakh style, and Nur-Astana Mosque, featuring classical Islamic architecture.
Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest metropolis, is set in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains. It served as the country's capital until 1997 and remains Kazakhstan's trading and cultural hub. Landmarks include the Central State Museum, displaying thousands of historic Kazakh artifacts. In the center is Panfilov Park, home to the bright-yellow towers of Zenkov Cathedral, a tsarist-era Russian Orthodox church.
Cultural sites also include the Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical Instruments, which showcases traditional Kazakh harps, horns and bagpipes, as well as the A. Kasteyev State Museum of Arts, which displays historic and contemporary works by Kazakh and Russian artists. Republic Square features the towering Independence Monument, topped with a statue of the Golden Man, an ancient Scythian warrior and national icon. The city's 371.5m-high television tower, known as Almaty Tower, sits on Kok-Tobe, a mountain and recreation area. Almaty is also a gateway to Shymbulak ski resort and Medeu, a high-altitude ice-skating rink.
The remoteness of the country from the oceans and the vastness of its territory affect the climatic conditions of Kazakhstan. The climate is sharply continental with an average temperature between - 19…-4 degree in January and between +19…+26 degree in July. The temperature in winter can lower to - 45 degree while in summer rise up to +30 degree.
Largest cities: Almaty, Karagandy (Karaganda)
Languages: Kazakh and Russian are spoken by the local population; English is usually used by staff of major tourism companies and hotels.
Currency: the national currency is Tenge (KZT); US Dollars, Euro and other currencies can be easily exchanged in banks and exchange bureaus.
Weather: The best season to travel to Kazakhstan is from March to November, since winter in Kazakhstan is usually cold; however snowy winters might be perfect for winter sports. Temperature in summer can reach up to +40'C and more in some regions. More on weather and climate of Kazakhstan
Population: major ethnicity is Kazakh; other ethnic groups include Russians, Uzbeks, Tatars, Germans, etc. About 55% of the population is urban and the rest is rural.
Food: Kazakh cuisine, Central Asian, Russian cuisines, as well as Italian, Turkish, Korean restaurants are popular in Kazakhstan. Organic and naturally grown ingredients are usually used to prepare meals, which give them an exceptionally rich taste.
The Republic of Kazakhstan is a multinational state, inhabited by more than 120 nationalities. The main religion is Islam, but the Kazakhs manifest tolerance towards other religions of the peoples living in their territory, such as Christianity, Judaism, etc. The country has built many mosques and churches in recent years.
The Kazakh territory is fed by 8,500 rivers. The length of seven of them (the longest ones) exceeds 1000 km, including the Ural and Emba flowing into the Caspian Sea, the Syr Darya, flowing into the Aral Sea and the Irtysh, Ishim and Tobol, carrying their water to the Arctic Ocean. Kazakhstan has 48,000 lakes. The largest of them are Balkhash, Zaisan, Alakol, Tengiz and Seletengiz. Kazakhstan occupies the northern part and half of the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea. The Kazakh part of the Caspian Sea coastline is 2340 km. The major part of Kazakhstan is occupied by deserts and steppes. The rest of the area is covered by semi-deserts and forests. The flora and fauna consist of 155 species of mammals, 480 species of birds, 150 species of fishes and about 250 species of medicinal plants, with very rare ones among them.
Best time to visit Kazakhstan
The best time to visit Kazakhstan is in the spring or autumn, as the weather is the best. Summer tours are also possible, as long as they don’t visit the hottest regions of Kazakhstan. Baikonur launch tours, the most exciting tour in Kazakhstan, are available year round. In this travel guide, you can learn everything you’ll need to make the most out of your trip to Kazakhstan. Check out the links below for information about tours, festivals, holidays, and exhibitions.