Kazakhstan is a unique region in the world, because of its history, geographical position and size. Being the world’s 9th largest country and located in the centre of Eurasia, it is also the largest landlocked country in the world. These resulted in a specific climate and a peculiar natural system of the country, which seems to absorb the brightest examples of landscape of both continents. In addition, complicated history of Kazakh people and constant interaction of nomadic lifestyle with settled people in South Kazakhstani ancient cities, have lead to a unique and authentic culture of Kazakhstan.
These peculiarities have created an opportunity to develop various and diverse offers in Kazakhstan travel and tourism industry, which include authentic cultural tourism, nature-based activities, including ecotourism, birdwatching, etc. in national parks and protected areas, skiing or trekking in mountains, water sports, sunbathing and swimming in lakes and rivers of Kazakhstan, and many others.
Diversity of natural areas has contributed to rich flora and fauna of Kazakhstan. The country is a habitat for about 122 mammal species, 500 species of birds and 107 species of fish; and over six thousand species of plants grow in the region. In order to preserve such a rich world of plants and wildlife, a network of national parks and nature reserves were established in the country. Recently, these protected areas have become accessible to visitors.
The most famous of them among tourists include Aksu Zhabagly Nature Reserve, which is a habitat of snow leopard and other rare animals, and is also known as a Kingdom of Tulips, where ulips are believed to originate, long before they were introduced in Holland; Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve is famous for its pink flamingos and other rare species of wildlife, and popular among bird-watchers; Altyn Emel National Park is interesting for its mystery of Singing Dune; Katon-Karagay National Park is a habitat of marals (red deers), unossified antlers of which are used as a precious medicine.
A range of high, middle and low mountains, such as Tien Shan, Altay, Ulytau, Kazygurt, etc. have a beautiful nature attracting tourists from all over the world. Tien Shan Mountains is the highest among them (with the highest peak of about 7000 metres), and Almaty, the largest city of Kazakhstan, is located at its bottom. Thus, an easy access to marvelous landscapes for tourists interested in trekking and winter sports is available from Almaty city.
Most popular climbing routes are located in the Small Almaty Valley and Bogdanovich Glacier. Attractions of these places include Pogrebetsky Glacier (4,231 meters), Tuyuc Su (4100 m), Ordzhonikidze (3980 m) peaks, and many others. In addition, high mountains of Kazakhstan are ideal for winter sports. There is no wonder that Kazakhstan hosted Winter Asian Games in 2011: one of the priorities of the country has been propaganda of winter sports.
A unique sport complex Medeu (sometimes spelled as Medew or Medeo), with a skating rink popular among tourists, was built in 1950’s, at 1691 metres above sea level, which makes it the highest skating rink in the world. A sophisticated artificial refrigeration system enables to keep high quality ice coverage over 8-months of the year. Another major winter sport attraction of Kazakhstan is Shymbulak (Chimbulak) ski resort, also located not far from Almaty. Snow lies in these places from November till May; however, sunny weather is usually registered there during more than three hundred days each year. The resort hotel can accept up to 114 tourists.
Kazakhstan is not only steppes and mountains; it is also a country of rivers and lakes. Lakes among the steppes are usually like an oasis among empty deserts.
Coast of the biggest lake in the world – Caspian Sea is perfect for sunbathing, swimming and fishing. The largest number of reservoirs is concentrated in the south-east part of the country, in the region with a symbolic name Zhetysu – “Seven Rivers”. Almost all the rivers of Zhetysu belong to the basin of Lake Balkhash, which is also a popular tourist destination for its health centres and recreation camps. Besides health resorts, rafting in mountain rivers for extreme tourists, boating and sailing in lakes are only a few examples of activities offered for tourists in Kazakhstan.
Unique culture of Kazakhstan is a reason to travel to Kazakhstan for many tourists. Almost in every corner of the republic, a visitor, interested in real life of Kazakh people – their traditions, rituals, art and culture, will find many things of interest. These include museum complexes, ethno villages, depicting traditional lifestyle of Kazakh people, historical sites of medieval cities and many others.
For example, tourists are offered to experience traditional lifestyle of Kazakhs, to try national dishes and to interact with the local people in Shabanbay Bi Village, situated in Kyzylaray Mountains, Central Kazakhstan. Zhambyl Zhabayev museum complex in Almaty region includes a house with a garden, where the poet lived in XIX-XX centuries and a mausoleum. This is a visual representation of not only Zhambyl’s life, but also of a whole era in which the poet lived and worked. South Kazakhstan is famous for ancient cities located at the routes of the Great Silk Road with historical monuments and other sites.
Ethno-memorial complex Map of Kazakhstan – Atameken, located in Astana, is the largest ethnographic park in Kazakhstan and a unique outdoor museum. Cities and landscapes of the country, as well as mini copies of main attractions and historical sites can be found on the map.