Updated: Jun 5, 2020
What is one country in Central Asia that still remains less explored even after its vast landscape and popularity? It’s Kazakhstan. Sharing its border with Russia in the north and China in the south, the Altai Mountains in the East and the Caspian Sea in the south, Kazakhstan is the epitome of beauty and culture. The world’s largest landlocked country has a myriad of locations to explore. Not your regular travel destination, the country has a majority of non-denominational Muslims coupled with a large section of the Christian (mainly Russian Orthodox) community. This makes Kazakhstan one of the most culturally rich countries in the world. Here is a list of top 7 cities to visit if you are travelling to this marvellous country:
Previously known as Astana, Nur Sultan is the capital city of Kazakhstan. Located in the middle of barren and vast Kazakh steppe, Nur Sultan is the second coldest capital city in the world. The city has some of the most beautifully carved mosques; Nur Astana Mosque and Hazrat Sultan Mosque. The city is as modern as it can get. When in Nur Sultan, do not forget to visit Baiterek & Khan Shatyr.
If you are visiting Kazakhstan in winter, Kostanay has to be on your list. Located in the far north the city shares its border with Russia, thus it’s a no brainer that the majority of the population here is Russian. The city is remote, very cold, and sleepy. So it is suggested to carry as many woollens as you can if you are visiting the place.
One of the most popular destinations to visit in Kazakhstan is Almaty. The city is known for its gorgeous settings and postcard-perfect surrounding. This astonishingly beautiful city is famous for Big Almaty Lake, Kolsai Lake, Lake Issyk, Beatles Statue, Charyn Canyon, Panfilov Park, and the Arasan Baths.
One of the wealthiest cities in Kazakhstan, Atyrau has the largest oil reserve in the country. The city is situated on the banks of the Ural River, the third largest river in Europe. The city practically oozes money, so, if you are in the mood of some uptown restaurant, some lavish cuisines to try, or taking a walk in the medieval settlement of Saraychik, Atyrau is the place for you.
The beautiful city of Turkestan is located in the Syr Darya plain of Kazakhstan. It was a focal point for cultural diffusion, as the Silk Road traversed it. The city is famous for the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, who was a Turkic poet, Sufi, and the prominent proponent of Islam in Central Asia. Turkestan thus serves as one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Kazakhstan.
The ancient city of Aktau is famous for its serene backdrop and fascinating landscape. Its current name means "white mountain" in Kazakh, which may be due to its cliffs that overlook the Caspian sea. The city is home to ancient architectural ensembles, ancient libraries, theatres, cultural centres, and parks. When in the city, do not forget to visit Taras Shevchenko Statue, Altyn-Emel National Park, and World War II Memorial.
One of the oldest towns of Kazakhstan, Taraz is a perfect blend of ancient and modern culture. Located in South Kazakhstan on the banks of river Talas, the city holds a slew of secrets from the past. The medieval city of Taraz, a major trade centre along the Silk Road, was destroyed by the Mongols. Some of the best places to visit in Taraz are Babaji-Khatun Mausoleum, Akyrtas, Aisha Bibi Village, Stonehenge, and Mausoleum in Sha-Mansur.