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When you hear the term “Central Asia”, Kazakhstan is probably the first country that comes to your mind, and given its immense size and economic status, it is only natural. In fact, Kazakhstan is so vast that if you compare it with all the other Central Asian countries, it would be more than twice their combined size. It is also the wealthiest country in Central Asia due to its enormous reserves of oil and natural gas.
Kazakhstan is a country for outdoor lovers, and as such, you will find plenty of places to explore. For experienced hikers, hiking the Tian Shan is a real treat, with plenty of challenging trails to be found. Even for those seeking leisurely hikes, hiking along the shores of Kolsai Lake’s deep blue waters will leave you in awe. Charyn Canyon offers some great photo opportunities, while the tranquillity of Big Almaty lake will take your breath away. Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve is another stunner in the country, an area surrounded by snow-capped mountains, teeming with diverse wildlife and also home to some of the country’s most epic hiking routes.
“Outdoor activities seem great, but what about the cities?” – you may ask. Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan (formerly known as Astana) with its futuristic architecture and ever-changing skyline, seems like a city from the future. The city’s main draw is its aforementioned architecture – with modern and Soviet-era buildings and monuments, and a lively river-side location. Some of Nur-Sultan’s must-visit attractions are Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center – the city’s most impressive architectural structure shaped like a tent, Palace of Peace & Reconciliation – a 62m-tall glass-and-steel pyramid, National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan – a huge museum where you can learn the history and culture of the country and Baiterek Tower – an iconic 97m-tall monument with an observation deck.
Nur-Sultan, however, isn’t the largest city. That title goes to Kazakhstan’s former capital Almaty – a city with a strong European influence that also serves as a trading and cultural hub for Kazakhstan. Almaty can be defined by elegant shopping malls, lively nightclubs, fancy restaurants, verdant parks and great museums. On top of that, you can find excellent hiking and skiing opportunities just outside the city. While the city is considered the base for visiting the Big Almaty Lake, it can also be your jumping-off point to explore the famed Kolsai Lake and Charyn Canyon National Park.
Apart from its modern cities and amazing natural beauty, Kazakhstan’s historical wealth also plays a vital role in boosting the country’s tourism. There are the underground mosques and necropolises of Mangistau, the silk-road history of Shymkent or the historical architecture of Turkestan waiting to be explored.
Kazakhstan is so vast that if you compare it with all the other Central Asian countries, it would be more than twice their combined size.