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Cities, Lakes & Mountains of Kazakhstan

The largest country in Central Asia - and the ninth largest in the world - Kazakhstan features so many incredible landscapes and landmarks. This exciting 11-day itinerary includes the best that this country has to offer, from its historic metropolises to its sacred scenery. You will start the trip in Astana, current capital of Kazakhstan, visit Kazygurt Holy Mount, explore the Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve by horseback, and wind down in the largest city, Almaty, for several days of sightseeing. A whirlwind trip to remember, this Kazakhstan itinerary has it all. 

Highlights   Pricing
  • Learn the dark side of history at Alzhir, a memorial to the wives of Stalin regime prisoners
  • Trek up Kazygurt Holy Mount, where Noah’s ark is said to have come to rest
  • Visit the mausoleum of Arystan-bab, a popular Muslim pilgrimage destination
  • Explore Charyn Canyon, known as the valley of Castles for its incredible landforms 
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Day by Day Itinerary

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Day 1
Arrive in Astana

Your exciting 11-day trip through Kazakhstan begins in Astana, the second-largest city and current capital of the country, located in the northern region. Your day begins with a transfer to your hotel, where you will meet your guide to take an exciting city tour, visiting sites including the Museum of the First President, the Astana-Baiterek monument, the Temple of Peace and Accord, and the city’s central mosque. Enjoy lunch and dinner in a local restaurant and an overnight at your four-star hotel.

Day 2
Astana Alzhir - Shymkent

On your second day, you will take a morning trip to Alzhir, which stands for “Akmolinskiy internment camp for the wives of the betrayers of the homeland” – a memorial to the wives of Stalin regime prisoners, who were deemed “guilty by association.” After you return to Astana in the afternoon, you will visit a local entertainment complex where you can explore an oceanarium and the Kupol common room, which features models of famous sites from around the world including the Great Wall of China and the Statue of Liberty. Enjoy dinner in a local restaurant before taking a quick flight to Shymkent, where you will stay overnight.

Day 3

After an early breakfast in Shymkent, you will visit Kazygurt Holy Mount – located in the western ridge of the Tien Shan mountains and said to be the place where Noah’s ark came to rest. In the afternoon, you will head back to Shymkent and explore its underground mosque and local pottery workshop before exploring the Aksu canyon in the nearby Sairam Ugam National Park.

Day 4
Shymkent - Turkestan

Today, you will transfer to the city of Turkestan (around 3 hours) – literally meaning “city of Turks.” Along the way, you will visit a museum in the village of Shaulder, explore the ruins of Otrar, and the mausoleum of Arystan-bab, a popular Muslim pilgrimage destination. After settling in at your hotel in Turkestan, you will spend the afternoon exploring the ancient city of Sauran, about 25 miles from Turkestan, where you will return for dinner and overnight.

Day 5
Turkestan - Suzak - Aksu-Zhabagly

Head out early this morning to transfer to the ancient site of Suzak, stopping along the way at several mausoleums. After enjoying lunch in Suzak, you will transfer to the Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve, the oldest nature reserve in Central Asia, where you will stay overnight. Total driving time today is around 4 hours. 

Day 6

Spend the day on horseback, exploring the beautiful mountain refuges, waterfalls and fields of the Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve, located at the foothills of the Tien Shan mountains. Enjoy a picnic lunch and head back to your guesthouse for dinner and a sound night’s sleep.

Day 7
Aksu-Zhabagly - Almaty

Enjoy a second day in the Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve, exploring the Taldubylak – Kazanchykyr Natural boundary, the shore of river Zhabagly, and the local Museum of Nature. After an early dinner, you will transfer to Tulkubas to catch an overnight train to Almaty.

Day 8

Welcome to Almaty, former capital of Kazakhstan and the country’s largest city. After settling in at your hotel, you’ll meet with a guide for lunch and a city tour, visiting sites including the Central Square and Monument of Independence, the Central Historical Museum, the central mosque, and the Medeo skating rink, located at a high altitude with a stunning view of the surrounding city and mountains.

Day 9

Today, you’ll visit some of the great sites surrounding Almaty, including the Charyn Canyon - the valley of Castles - and several small villages, where you’ll be able to experience local life and sport, including eagle hunting. In the evening, you will head back to Almaty for dinner and overnight in your hotel.

Day 10

Today, you’ll head 17 miles south of Almaty to Big Almaty Lake, a stunning mountain lake located 8,238 feet above sea level, in the gorge of the Bolshaya Almatinka River. Enjoy a visit and lunch in the nearby observatory, before visiting a falcon farm for its “Golden Eagle show.” Finally, you’ll head back to Almaty for dinner, where you’ll spend your final night in Kazakhstan.

Day 11

Today is the final day of your action-packed 11-day tour of Kazakhstan. You’ll be transferred to the airport, from where you may be heading home or onto your next exciting destination in Central Asia.


Suggested Accommodations

Marriott Astana Hotel

Marriott Astana Hotel

From the moment guests walk into the golden, adorned lobby of the Marriott Astana Hotel, they will be whisked away into a world of all things chic, sleek and sophisticated. Located just steps from the shops and restaurants of the new city center of Astana, the Marriott offers guests the best location to take in the nearby city sights, such as the Bayterek monument and the city parks. With over 270 guestrooms and suites and an on-site health club and indoor pool, guests of the Marriott can relax after a busy day of sightseeing and shopping before enjoying a gourmet meal at Aroma Restaurant. To cap off the night, visitors can indulge in a cocktail and a view at Vista Sky Lounge, overlooking the capital city. 

Orbita, Rixos


This boutique hotel in Shymkent, Kazakhstan is the perfect base from which to explore this vibrant city in the south of the country. With its world-class service and intricate design, Orbita Hotel is setting the standard for hotels in Shymkent. Located inside a historic two-storey house built by Japanese prisoners-of-war in the 1950s, the hotel combines Kazakhstan flair with traditional Japanese design, including the counter-clockwise numbering of the hotel’s seven rooms, each uniquely decorated. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar, the quiet location, just outside of the busting city, and most importantly, the top-quality service. 



For class, style, and a dash of opulence, the Rixos Khadisha Hotel is the perfect luxury-home-away-from-home in Shymkent. This world-class hotel, located in the business district of the city, features a grand staircase, a spacious entry, and a full-featured spa, including an indoor pool and fitness area, a sauna, and a Turkish hammam - the perfect way to relax after a busy day. Dining options abound: Kazakhasia restaurant, which serves a variety of Asian cuisine; Olivia restaurant, offering traditional Italian; a cocktail at one of the on-site bars; or room service delivered straight to the guest’s luxurious room or suite. At this hotel, guests should prepare to be treated like royalty. 

The Turkestan Hotel

The Turkestan Hotel

Hotel Turkestan, quite appropriately, lies at the heart of Turkestan city in South Kazakhstan. Guests have a choice of standard rooms (double or twin) or can upgrade to a deluxe. The no-frills rooms are basic and could do with a bit of an upgrade, although that's not to say they don't offer a comfortable stay for one or two nights. The grand lobby does its best to bump up the star-rating of the Turkestan, and there's also a bar and restaurant serving a buffet-style breakfast every morning. The real reason guests stop here is to explore the surrounding region, which boasts various attractions illustrating area's rich and long history. The city of Turkestan, about 200 miles northwest of the larger Taraz city, has played a significant role in shaping Kazakhstan into the country it is today, and this city is considered to be sacred for many Kazakhs.
Ritz-Carlton Almaty

Ritz-Carlton Almaty

Occupying the top ten floors of the Esentai Tower, the Ritz Carlton enjoys unrivalled views of Almaty and the sweeping, jagged, snow-peaked Ile-Alatau mountain range. Guests choosing to stay here have the best of both worlds with easy access to the city and all its famous historic sights as well as the ski slopes in the national park to the south. After a long day on the piste or exploring the city, guests can ascend the escalator into the luxurious surroundings and enjoy all that the hotel has to offer. With restaurants and bars decorated with the latest works from the hottest modern artists in the country, from cocktails with a view to sumptuous dishes prepared with expertise, dining and drinking at the Ritz Carlton is a feast for the senses. Rooms and suites boast stunning panoramas and are fitted with every modern convenience and comfort. Meanwhile, the acclaimed Six Senses Spa offers a retreat from the stresses of everyday life. 

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From Travelogues
On his visits to Kazakhstan, Jay is consistently struck by its wild nomadic traditions and its spectacular, thrusting new architecture.
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