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Ancient Kazakhstan: A Journey Back in Time from Almaty to Turkestan

This incredible 11-day archaeological tour of Kazakhstan will open your eyes to an entire ancient world. From the moment you arrive in Almaty, you will be transported back in time with a trip to the burial grounds around Issyk Lake; from there, you will explore the Tamgaly petroglyph site, the Tukturmas catacombs and ancient city of Sairam, with a backdrop of mountains, waterfalls and sand dunes, of course. Prepare to be amazed by what you will find unearthing centuries of civilization, discovering the tales and treasures of ancient Kazakhstan. 

Highlights   Pricing

Visit the burial grounds where the Golden Man was found Enjoy a Golden Eagle Show at a local falcon farm Discover the “Singing Dunes” in Altyn-Emel National Park Explore Akyrtobe, the ruins of an ancient stone settlement

 
Starting at
$590
per person per day
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Day by Day Itinerary

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Day 1
Arrive in Almaty

Today, your exciting adventure in Kazakhstan begins, as you arrive in Almaty, the country’s largest city, just before midnight. Transfer to your hotel for a late night snack before settling in for the night.

Day 2
Almaty - Issyk Lake - Almaty

Welcome to Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan. Today, you will visit the Central Historical Museum before taking a trip to Issyk Lake, where you can explore archaeological monuments and the burial grounds where Golden Man was found. After lunch, you’ll travel to the Turgen River Gorge where you’ll be able to trek to a spectacular waterfall before heading back to Almaty for dinner and overnight.

Day 3
Almaty - Tamgaly - Almaty

The third day of your journey kicks off with a visit to the Tamgaly petroglyph site, famous for its rock carvings of the Buddha. After lunch, you’ll head to the gorgeous nearby mountain lake, Big Almaty Lake, and then onto a falcon farm for the Golden Eagle Show. You’ll have dinner and spend the night in Almaty.

Day 4
Almaty - Charyn - Chundja

Today, you’ll drive to Charyn National Park (around 4 hours) to explore the Charyn Canyon, the largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon. Later, you’ll transfer to Chundja, where you can settle into your hotel and enjoy some time bathing in the local hot springs pools. Enjoy lunch in Kokpek village and dinner in your hotel.

Day 5
Altyn-Emel - Kapchagay

This morning you’ll embark on the 4-hour drive to the magnificent Altyn-Emel National Park to observe the stunning “Singing Dunes”, two large sand dunes located between Keesha and Ulken Kalkana's mountains. After lunch, you’ll transfer to Kapchagay, a picturesque city on the Ili River, via a 4-hour drive. Enjoy some time by the water before enjoying dinner at your hotel.

Day 6
Altyn-Emel - Almaty

Today, you’ll head back to Altyn-Emel National Park for further exploration. Check out Terekty kurgan and the petroglyphs before you board a train for your overnight trip to Taraz, via Almaty.

Day 7
Taraz - Akyrtas - Berikara Gorge

You’ll be up bright and early this morning for your arrival in Taraz - a city in the Jambyl Province - so you’ll have time to settle in and sleep in your hotel. After breakfast, you will meet with a local archaeologist to start your exciting day. You will visit the Regional Museum, several mausoleums, Tukturmas catacombs and a local market before returning to your hotel for lunch. In the afternoon, you will explore Akyrtobe - the ruins of an ancient stone settlement. Finally, you will transfer to Berikara Gorge, located in the mountains 50 miles from Taraz, for your overnight stay in a guest house.

Day 8
Berikara Gorge

This day is all about exploration: visit the rock paintings in the Berikara Gorge, which depict ancient tribal life, explore ancient mounds and even have a horseback ride around the area, taking in the natural scenery. You will enjoy another night in your guest house.

Day 9
Berikara - Shymkent

Hit the road again and head to Shymkent (a 2-hour drive), where you’ll visit an underground mosque, a local pottery workshop and the South Kazakhstan Regional Historical Museum. After lunch in a local restaurant, you’ll transfer to Aksu canyon in Sairam Ugam National Park via the ancient city of Sairam, once a stop along the Great Silk Road, where you’ll be able to step out onto the Devil’s Bridge - if you’re brave enough! Enjoy dinner in your hotel in Shymkent.

Day 10
Shymkent - Turkestan - Almaty

After an early breakfast, you’ll head out on the 3-hour drive to Turkestan - quite literally the city of Turks - to explore the ruins of Otrar. You will also check out the the Mausoleum of Arystan-bab of 12 centuries, a popular Muslim pilgrimage site, and the Khodja Ahmed Yassaui Mausoleum. After lunch in a local café, take time to explore the city - including its medieval bath houses and fragments of the citadel battlement - before you catch your overnight train back to Almaty.

Day 11
Almaty

Enjoy your final full day in Kazakhstan at one of the most beautiful spots in Almaty - the Kok-Tobe mountain. The highest point of the city, the mountaintop will give you a spectacular panorama of the city and its surrounding mountains. Afterwards, enjoy a walk around the city, checking out the Kastayev State Arts Museum and the Monument of Independence. Finish off your trip with dinner and a show in Alasha restaurant.

Day 12
Departure

It’s time to say goodbye to Kazakhstan as your exciting adventure comes to an end. This morning, you will depart Almaty, to head back home or onto the next stop on your exciting adventure.

 

Suggested Accommodations

Location
Accommodation
ALMATY
Ritz Carlton Almaty, Royal Village Resort

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. 

 

Royal Village Resort


Welcome to the Royal Village Resort, a five-star hotel on the shores of the Kapchagay Reservoir. From the moment guests arrive, they will be swept away by this gorgeous hotel, home to both indoor and outdoor pools and with access to a private sandy beach. Guests may spend their days soaking up the sun or stretching their legs windsurfing, cycling, and horseback riding. For those in search of relaxation, they may pay a visit to the on-site spa, opting for a treatment or a session in the sauna or Turkish steam bath. The hotel offers several food and beverage options, including Le Gourmet Restaurant, which serves French cuisine, Astau Restaurant, whipping up delicious, local fare, the piano bar, which features live music, and of course the pool bar, for a relaxing drink between laps. All rooms at the resort feature flat-screen TVs, a private bathroom, and a terrace, and complimentary WiFi is available throughout the resort. 


 
 
SHYMKENT
Orbita, Rixos

Orbita


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. 


 

Rixos


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. 


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