Astana (formerly called Akmola). Population: 700,000 (2007).
Head of state:
President Nursultan Abish-uly Nazarbayev since 1991.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Karim Masimov since 2007.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two-pin continental plugs are standard.
Unexplored by many, Kazakhstan is an intriguing and little-known land of vast plains, mountainous horizons and beautiful culture.
South Kazakhstan is a focus of Central Asian history, featuring many famous monuments. It is a scenically diverse region where the snow-capped peaks, lakes and glaciers of the Tian Shan range give way to steppe and desert. The desert is home to the Singing Barkhan - a sand dune 3.2km (2 miles) long, which, as it crumbles, produces a peculiar singing sound.
Almaty was until very recently the former capital of Kazakhstan and it enjoys a beautiful setting between mountains and plains; it is a city of modern architecture, cool fountains, parks and spectacular mountain views.