Astana, the modern capital of Kazakhstan, has been in the spotlight for several weeks because President Nursultan Nazarbayev was recently elected. Here are 6 things to do in Astana Kazakhstan that were brought to you by a bossy couple of travellers.
It is an isolated place in the centre of the Kazakh steppe and has an unbearable winter climate. The city is located on the western edge of Kazakhstan, the country that occupies the largest part of its territory, and is surrounded by the largest mountains in the world and the largest river system in Kazakhstan.
Astana has taken advantage of its location on the Ischim River to turn much of the city into a green zone. Kazakhstan is a dry country, but it is a huge country, with the largest population in the world and a large number of wildlife. The north of Kazakhstan, where Astana is located, is known for being brutally cold in winter, with the wind blowing from the Kazakh steppe. Almaty, which has the second largest city in Kazakhstan and the third largest in Russia, is a little warmer and surrounded by high mountains.
As you may remember, my journey from Seoul to London enabled me to make a one-day stopover in Almaty and Astana. It was therefore a controversial decision to move the capital from the largest city in the country, Almaden, to another location. Kazakhstan needed a new capital, not only one with a capital in Kazakhstan, but also one in Kyrgyzstan, as AlMaty is located on the extreme south-eastern border with Kyrgyzstan. The Kazakh routes eventually led from Kostanay to Astanas and Karaganda, with the Kazakh part of the journey ending in Almaty in a whole week.
However, airfares to Astana can be quite expensive, so that by shopping and planning early you can make considerable savings, as you can see for Kazakhstan in general. I recommend a trip there, as it is a city in the middle of the country on the western border with Kyrgyzstan, which offers a contrast of different architecture.
It is crazy to think that there are so many interesting things about Kazakhstan that we do not really know much about. In Astana you will find some other people who use the word "strange" to describe their experiences in the city, such as the people, the architecture and the culture.
When you bring Kazakhstan to the US, most people think of Borat first, but let's face it, it doesn't sound appealing. You cannot come to Kazakhstan and taste the national dish, Besbermak, or try some of the other national dishes, such as baklava.
Besbermak tastes best in a Kazakh family home and is found in many places in the country, such as the city of Astana. Horsemeat is considered a delicacy in Kazakhstan, as it is served in family homes but not restaurants.
While the capital has a number of wonderful sights to offer, you should not forget Astana and go directly to other parts of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is there, but not exactly Astana, and you don't expect excitement or a clue.
Astana is an interesting point on the map of Kazakhstan, and you can visit it in different ways, with a variety of travel options, from the city center to the country.
However, as I have lived in Kazakhstan since 2016, I would encourage you to go to Astana if you have time, and as you are curious about the modern state of Kazakhstan, a visit to Astana is always a good idea. This post will tell you how I came to appreciate Almaty and later moved there, as well as some of the things I did in Astana that I happened to find out there.
On the second day, your first stop should be the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the largest museum in Central Asia. It consists of numerous halls that tell the history of Kazakhstan, including the ancient city of Almaty, the first city in the country and today's capital.
Made of glass, metal and concrete, it is meant to be a beacon of renewal and to represent not only Astana but the whole of Kazakhstan.
The project was to make the city the center of Kazakhstan and Central Asia, and the mosque is located in the heart of the city, just a few hundred meters from the main square. No trip to Astana would be complete without a visit to one of the country's most important landmarks, the Grand Mosque. It is located at the intersection of two main roads in a region that is managed separately as a special city.
But most people know that modern Astana has a fairly extensive history and that the city grew out of a relatively young city that was founded in 1830, a year after the foundation of the Soviet Union, but was quite younger in those years. The ancient name Akmola, which means "white grave," was introduced after Kazakhstan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It became the official name of Kazakhstan after gaining independence in 1992, and then adopted the older name "Ammola" again once Kazakhstan had gained freedom from its former colonial masters, the USSR, from 1991 to 1992.