Image credit via The Telegraph
Britons hoping to visit Kazakhstan can do so without a visa for another year, it has been confirmed. Until December 31, 2018, UK travellers can stay for up to 30 days without the need for a trip to the Kazakh embassy in London.
So what does the country, best known as the home of Sacha Baron Cohen’s fictional character Borat, have to offer?
Stones with signs One of Kazakhstan’s most curious sights is the Buddhist rock carvings and paintings of bodhisattvas at Tamgaly Tas, (literally, ‘stones with signs’) found on the banks of the Ili River, 100 miles north of Almaty.
Skiing in the city Shymbulak Ski Resort (shymbulak.com) is a short 30-minute drive from Almaty city centre, making it ideal for a quick ski session (the season runs December to April). It’s the most advanced ski resort in Central Asia so you can expect mod-cons like Wi-Fi and cafes.
In search of birds If you know your Himalayan Snowcock from your Himalayan Rubythroat then Naturetrek has the tour for you, a 10-day trip staying in remote desert camps in search of Central Asian speciality birdlife with an ornithologist. Costs £2,295, including flights.
An answer to the Grand Canyon Orange-hued, enormous and thoroughly Instagrammable, Charyn Canyon is Kazakhstan’s answer to the Grand Canyon. Possible as a (long) day trip from Almaty.
Charyn Canyon: thoroughly Instagrammable Charyn Canyon: thoroughly Instagrammable CREDIT: CAROLINE EDEN
Eccentric museums If you like eccentric small museums then don’t miss the Folk Musical Instruments of Kazakhstan Museum in Almaty. Located in Panfilov Park, it’s housed in a sweet wooden house.
Shopping for horsemeat Almaty’s Green Market features lanes of horsemeat and entrails weighed on huge peeling Soviet-era scales. This is no Borough Market but it is a fascinating insight into what city-dwelling Kazakhs eat.
Marvellous Nur Astana Mosque Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, is home to the third largest mosque in Central Asia, the gold-capped Nur Astana Mosque.
Nur Astana Mosque Nur Astana Mosque CREDIT: CAROLINE EDEN
Lake Kaindy Lake Kaindy CREDIT: CAROLINE EDEN
A tower crowned with an egg Bayterek Tower is an iconic 97-metre tall tower in the capital Astana that is crowned with a golden egg. You can travel in a lift up 86 meters into the egg, for views of the city and the manicured gardens below.
And finally, to space (maybe) It’s not easy to witness rockets blasting off from the place where Yuri Gagarin made history but some tours are available to the Baikonur Cosmodrone for the very rich or well connected (and it’s allegedly easier for citizens of former USSR countries).
More information caravanistan.com/Kazakhstan is an excellent research tool for independent travellers.
Regent Holidays has an eight-day Essential Kazakhstan trip from £2,885 per person, including return flights from London Heathrow, transfers, accommodation throughout and sightseeing.
Air Astana has flights from London Heathrow to Almaty.