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Kazakhstan Travel Guide

Known fully as the Republic of Kazakhstan, this central Asian country sits between Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, with the Caspian Sea trickling into the country from the west. Within an area of 2.71 million square kilometres, live around 17 million people, mainly of Kazakh and Russian descent and of Muslim and Russian Orthodox religion. The locals speak Kazakh and Russian and make most of their money from oil, manganese, gold, phosphates, iron and steel, cotton, electric motors, lead, zinc, copper, titanium, grain and tractors, trading mainly with Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the Netherlands, China, Italy, Turkey, Germany, the UK and South Korea.

The locals were a variety of Turkic and Mongol nomadic tribes in the 13th century and kept themselves separate from each other whilst living within the country. Five centuries later the Russians seized the land and by 1936, Kazakhstan had become a Soviet Republic. Later on during the 1950s and 1960s rural ‘Virgin Lands’ program, the Soviet people were urged to aid cultivation of the country’s grazing land. The surge of Russians to Kazakhstan put a tilt on the country’s ethnic varieties, with all non-Kazakhs drowning out the amount of natives. In 1991, Kazakhstan gained independence, causing many outsiders to leave. Today the country is looking at developing a solid national individuality and to reinforce relations with adjacent states.

Due to the vast amount of land available in Kazakhstan, mountaineering and hiking are definitely on the cards! The best areas for both activities are around the Küngey and Zailiysky Alatau mountain range surrounding Kokshoky, Shymbulaq and Medeu,. Heading east there are other great areas including the Zhungarsky Alatau range and in the north-east, the Altay rmountains. Visitors will need to book a hike and hire a guide for safety and security and will need to bring all their own required gear. Skiers will also find some excellent skiing areas in the country, especially the area of Shymbulaq, which is only one day away from Almaty. Water lovers will find there are plenty of canoeing and rafting excursions on Kuwait’s remote rivers, with the Ili River between Lake Balqash and Lake Qapshaghay, near Almaty, being the calmest of waters. Getting back on land, travellers can head for the capital of Astana, once a small mining town, the place is now a low-lying area, with trees lining the streets and plenty of welcoming locals. Unfortunately though, all the interesting buildings are still situated in Almaty, including the country’s consulates and embassies, but Astana is still worth a day’s exploration, if only to chat with the locals.

The easiest way to get around Kazakhstan is by plane, as trying to get from one end of the country to the other would take absolutely ages. Helicopters are also available and are the best way to travel, especially if trying to get to a skiing or hiking region. Visitors using the trains will find them cheap but slow and must make sure they never travel alone. The local buses are the most popular way to get around a region in Kazakhstan, with travel to towns being cheap and regular. Car hire is another option, with travellers being able to hire a car in many bigger towns, especially in Astania.

Reaching the country, travellers can get direct flights to Almaty via Vienna, Frankfurt, Istanbul, China, Pakistan, India and Russia, with all other places having to make a connection in one of the above countries. Train travel to the country is not advisable. Heat wise, the summer is far too hot to enjoy and the winters are far too cold! So the best time to arrive here is in the spring months of April through June, when the flora is thriving and also in the autumn months of September through November, when markets are abound with fruit for harvest time.

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