The world’s ninth largest country, Kazakhstan is a vastly unexplored land, with mountainous horizons and a strong sense of heritage and culture. With few tourists, the locals are always welcoming, happy that you’ve taken the time to explore their precious country. One of the most popular locations in Kazakhstan for travellers is Almaty, a city of modern architecture, spectacular mountain views and wide, paved streets. In addition to being home to one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world, built without the use of a single nail, Almaty also has some great museums, glossy shopping centers and chic cafes, almost reminiscent of many European cities. Kazakhstan’s landscape is beautifully diverse, with snow-capped peaks, glaciers and lakes, as well as deserts and stretches of secluded plains.
There are plenty of nature reserves where you can experienced the heart of Kazakhstan, from Kurgaldjino, which houses the most northerly settlement of pink flamingos in the world, to Naurzum, an area of rich contrasts, with forests surrounding salt lakes, ancient pine trees dotted around sand dunes, and rare species of wildlife, including grave eagles and hisser swans. Southern Kazakhstan is home to a UNESCO biosphere reserve, with 47 different species of animals, 239 species of birds, and 1400 species of plants, making it an excitingly diverse destination for nature lovers.
The rugged landscape and natural beauty of Kazakhstan is the perfect setting for outdoor activities and sports. Mountain climbing and trekking is immensely popular, with the best months for trekking being between June and September. The Zaili Alatau Mountains located close to Almaty offer great winter sports, while the Medeu Ice Skating Rink is famous for being the largest speed skating rink on the planet, and is one where over one hundred world records have been set, in both ice skating and ice hockey.
When it comes to history, Kazakhstan has a deep one, and many archaeological and ethnographic sites around the country have been preserved in order to help people truly appreciate this. The Karkarala Oasis not only contains Bronze Age and Early Iron Age sites, but also New Stone Age and Bronze Age settlements. For rock drawings and stone sculptures hidden amongst the magnificent setting of pine forests and sparkling lakes, head over to the Bayan-Aul National Park. For something slightly more high-tech, the Baikonur Cosmodrome is well worth a visit. Central Asia’s answer to Cape Canaveral, visitors can enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience of watching space shuttles being launched.
The cuisine is Kazakhstan is reflective of the country’s strong sense of tradition and heritage, and there are many local dishes that are considered to be specialities. These include horsemeat sausages, mutton stew and charcoal barbecued skewered chunks of mutton. The country’s cooking techniques and ingredients have been hugely influenced by their previous, more nomadic way of life, but there are still plenty of international restaurants to be found around the cities. No matter what your tastes may be, in terms of food and other attractions, Kazakhstan is a place of exciting discoveries that everybody can enjoy.
Astana, located at the north of Kazakhstan, is the second largest city in the country, and took over from Almaty as the capital city in 1998. Since then, it has undergone an incredible transformation, costing billions of dollars, to raise its status and make it one of the most influential capital cities in all of Central Asia. It is also one of the coldest capitals in Asia, with temperatures reaching -40°C in the colder months, but don’t let this put you off, as the city caters to the weather and has many temperature-controlled areas of interest.
One of Astana’s most popular attractions is the Bayterek Tower, nicknamed Chupa Chups by the locals due to the way in which its futuristic architecture almost resembles a giant lollipop. Visitors can enjoy great views from the top of this 97 meter high building, as well as an art gallery, a restaurant, an aquarium, and a golden palm print of President Nazarbayev’s hands.
The Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center is also definitely worth a visit. It is the first and only lifestyle center in Astana that contains both shopping and entertainment under one roof. Made up of a humongous transparent tent, large enough to hold up to 10000 people, the complex contains a shopping and entertainment area and a park, complete with cobbled streets, a boating river, an indoor beach, and a minigolf course. Best of all, the transparent material of the tent lets all of the sunshine in but keeps the cold out. Astana’s other popular entertainment complex is Duman, consisting of an oceanarium, a 3D theatre, souvenir shops and cafes.
For those looking for a taste of Astana’s history, there are some great museums to visit, where you can learn more about the city’s past, as well as its culture and traditions. The President’s Museum of Kazakhstan is built like a yurt, with a dome that resembles a mosque, and displays exhibitions about the country’s history. There is also an outdoor museum, the Atameken Map of Kazakhstan, and this contains a miniature version of the entire country, with recreations of every city, as well as historical monuments and special points of interest.
When it comes time to relax, the Ak Bulak Sauna Complex is a must, with 3 private double-floor saunas, each decorated in a different style and complete with its own swimming pool. You will also find Russian and Finnish steam rooms, a jacuzzi, a hamam, and an entertainment hall – the ideal place to enjoy Kazakhstan bathing traditions.
Although there are plenty of cafes and international restaurants in the city, the local cuisine is definitely worth trying. Shashliq kebabs will be one of the most recognizable items on the menu, but OROGOLD recommends avoiding purchasing these from any street vendors unless you have a strong stomach! Other popular dishes include beshbarmak, made from horse meat and pasta, and boursaky, a bread that is served hot, and tastes similar to an unsweetened donut. The locals around the city are extremely friendly and welcoming, and always happy to share their culture, so if you are unsure about anything, be it food, directions, or are just looking for a local hidden gem in Astana, do not hesitate to just ask around.
OROGOLD Store in Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center
The majestic Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center is easily the most extraordinary building in Astana. Made from a heat absorbing material, the 150 meter high, translucent tent is said to be the largest tent structure in the world, it provides summer temperatures on the inside, even when it may be -40°C on the outside. Inside, the shopping mall boasts of many sought-after international brands, spread out across cobbled streets, while the food court offers a variety of cuisines. For more formal dining, you can choose from one of the many restaurants. In addition to all of this, there are plenty of other attractions for both children and adults, from the indoor beach club complete with sand brought in from the Maldives, swimming pool and water slide, to the drop tower, flume ride, to the boating river, minigolf course and 500 meter monorail. With so many incredible attractions, shops and dining venues, it is no surprise that the Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center has quickly become one of the most popular destinations in Astana.
Address: Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center, Turan Ave 37 Astana 020000, Kazakhstan
Contact No: 1-877-554-1777
Store Hours: 10.00AM – 10.00PM (Monday – Saturday)
09.00AM – 10.00PM (Sunday)