Kazakhstan has become an increasingly popular area for tourism over the past few years, quite surprisingly being instigated by the fictional character Borat placing them on the map for a number of people who had never even heard of this part of the map. Famous for a number of massive brands such as Express K and Baikonur, the country is also synonymous with oil drilling, however Borat, played by Sasha Baron Cohen, was believed to increase business through tourism by approximately eight times the amount, despite the negative connotations and the annoyance expressed by the Kazakhstan government on the stereotypes played off in the film. I’ll admit, I’m a huge fan of Borat, but I do feel a wee bit guilty, so now I’m going to produce a full list of everything I think you absolutely must do while on holiday in Kazakhstan.
1.0 Visit Zenkov Cathedral
This beautiful looking cathedral is incredibly colourful and reminds me of the Kremlin with its design and colour choice. Following the revolution, the cathedral was converted into a museum for a period of time, however in 1990 it was turned back into a cathedral. We should all be grateful it is still standing as it somehow withstood the damaging effects of an earthquake in 1911. You can find this building located in Panfilov park.
This city can be found is the South East, surrounded by giant mountains, with a beautiful, picturesque view of the surrounding land. From here you can combine different aspects of a holiday, from visiting the musems and parks in the city, heading to a bar for a much deserved drink, trekking into the mountains for a hike or simply admiring the architecture, which is so impressively different to back here in the UK.
3.0 Skiing in Chimbulak
With its heights reaching 2,230 metres above sea level, you may feel some altitude issues if you head straight up without any acclimatization. Skiing will definitely mix up your trip, offering some excitement, with some incredibly long distances to try.
4.0 Try Clonking
Never heard this word before? This requires a little bit of an explanation for why, as well as what. The food chain is becoming a bit imbalanced in the Kazakh lake, as the catfish are eating way too many carps. This damage to the ecosystem could be detrimental without human interaction (huh, bet you never expected to hear that), so clonking involves hitting the lake with a flat wooden object. The reason for this is that catfish then come straight to the surface to investigate, which makes them easy to fish. If you aren’t interested in fishing then I would stay away from this one, however it is a really interesting activity to witness.
5.0 Arasan Bath-house
I love a relaxing recovery following an exhausting hike, so these bathhouses provide a perfect solution for anyone looking for some TLC. Of course, they provide separate sections for men and women, so you don’t have to feel awkward or have to worry about holding in the belly.
If this seems like a bit of a mouthful, you can also call it the Big Almaty Lake, which is where you will find the Zailiysky Alteau Mountain Range. You can dip a toe into the lake and look out at the mountains that surround you, with a picnic in hand. Many of the postcard images look like something out of Switzerland, while the forest stretches for miles. If you have a car, this trip isn’t too far from Almaty, meaning you can tick this all off in one day if you are short on time.
Not too far off the Caspian sea, Mangystau (or Mangistau) is where much of the oil is extracted from. In fact, around 1/4 of the oil extracted in Kazakhstan is based in this region, however the landscape has this unique and beautiful look, with the rocks making great shapes, ancient mosques and plenty of buildings which have truly stood the test of time.