Kazakhstan things to see and do

Tourist offices

State Agency for Tourism and Sport

Mukhtar Auezor 126, Astana, 473000, Kazakhstan
Tel: (3272) 396 638.
www.kazsport.kz

Things to see and do

Almaty

Almaty is a city of modern architecture, wide streets, cool fountains, parks and squares and spectacular mountain views. Attractions in the city include the Panfilov Park, which is dominated by one of the world's tallest wooden buildings, built at the turn of the 20th century without using a single nail, and the Zenkov Cathedral. Also find fine museums such as the State Art Museum.

Archaeological sites

Several archaeological and ethnographic sites have been preserved in central Kazakhstan. There are Bronze Age and Early Iron Age sites and New Stone Age and Bronze Age settlements in the Karkarala Oasis. The Bayan-Aul National Park has rock drawings, stone sculptures, clean, sparkling lakes and pines clinging to the rocks.

Baikonur Cosmodrome

The Baikonur Cosmodrome, located 5km (3 miles) from the garrison city of Leninsk and 230km (143 miles) from Kzil-Orda, is the Central Asian answer to Cape Canaveral - tours are available, during which visitors can witness space launches. It was from here, on 12 April 1961, that Yuri Gagarin, the world's first cosmonaut, took off.

Hiking and trekking

The country's rugged landscape and incredible mountain ranges, offer great mountain climbing and trekking. The best season for trekking is between June and September.

Mountains and lakes

The Tien Shan Mountains stretch for more than 1,500km (932 miles), with the highest peaks Pobeda Peak (7,439m/24,406ft) and Khan-Tengri Peak (7,010m/23,000ft) - a snowy, marble-like pyramid. The huge Inylchek Glacier splits the summits and the beautiful Mertzbakher Lake lies at its centre. The Kolsai Lakes - known as the 'pearls of the northern Tien-Shan' - lie within the ridges of the Kungei Alatau range. Kazakhstan also boasts one of the largest lakes in the world: the unique Lake Balkhash is half saline, half fresh water.

Nature reserves

Kurgaldjino in the north of Kazakhstan houses the most northerly settlement of pink flamingos in the world, while Naurzum, offers a rich landscape of geographical contrasts: salt lakes ringed by forests, ancient pines strewn amongst sand dunes, pine forests growing out of salt-marsh beds, and rare animals such as hisser swans and grave eagles. Aksu-Zhabagly is a UNESCO biosphere reserve in southern Kazakhstan and home to 239 species of birds, 47 species of animals and 1,400 species of plants.

Relax at a spa

Kazakhstan has a wide range of spas. The most internationally renowned resorts include Sari Agach (in the south), Mujaldi (in the Pavlodar region), Arasan-Kapal (in the Taldikorgan region), Jani-Kurgan (in the Kzil-Orda region), Kokshetau and Zerenda (in the Kokshetau region) and those located in Zaili Alatau.

Watersports

All the regional centres boast sport complexes, swimming pools and training halls. Rafting and canoeing can be easily arranged through local travel agents. The Ili river between Lake Qapshaghay and Lake Balhash is a good place for this.

Winter sports

The 4,000m- (13,123ft-) high Zaili Alatau Mountains near Almaty offer great winter sporting activities. Near Almaty, the Medeu ice-skating rink is the largest speed-skating rink in the world; over 120 world records in ice skating and ice hockey have been set here. Watch Ice hockey games at the rink in Ust-Kamenogorsk. The winter sports complex of Chimbulak offers fantastic skiing, and many competitions are held here.

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