Almaty was the Kazakh capital until 1997 and is still the largest city in Kazakhstan. It is believed that this is the place where applies originated from. Almaty is a charming and green city. Roads are wide and tree-lined and there are good views of the Zailisky Ala-Too mountains that form a backdrop to the city.
We visit today Panfilov Park, named after General Panfilov who fought against the Germans in World War 2. As the narrative goes, the 28 men under his command repulsed 50 German tanks from the outskirts of Moscow. An impressive monument was erected in their honor in the center of the park. The most famous sight of Almaty, Zenkov Cathedral, is in Panfilov Park as well. It was built in 1904 without a single metal nail and is one of the world’s tallest wooden buildings. Right next to the park is the museum of musical instruments, which we will visit as well.
At the Green Bazaar you will then get a chance to explore local Kazakh culture as you shop for fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also a great opportunity to take photos. You will notice how different ethnicities are selling different products – Russian women selling chicken, Tajik/ Uzbek men selling dried fruits, Korean women selling Korean salads, etc. We will have buffet dinner at the hotel.
Hotel Kazzhol or similar.
After lunch we drive to one more beautiful natural sight – Big Almaty Lake. The lake is a natural alpine reservoir, located in the Ile-Alatau National Park at an altitude of 2500 meters above sea level. From the city center it takes just about one hour to get there. Unfortunately it is not permitted to go all the way to the lake or to take a swim, but we can enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery and take photos.
At 17:00 we need to depart from the lake directly to the airport to catch the domestic flight to Shymkent, departing 19:25 from Almaty Airport. Upon arrival at Shymkent at 20:50 transfer to the hotel for dinner and overnight. Hotel Shymkent or similar.
In the late afternoon we drive back to Shymkent to arrive just in time for dinner. Hotel Shymkent or similar.
Astana is Central Asia’s youngest capital and a showpiece for the 21st century Kazakhstan. Talented and well-known architects like Norman Foster have made major contributions to this futuristic city with its almost surreal skyline. We start our city tour today afternoon at the Independence Square and visit impressive Hazrat Sultan Mosque just next to it. From here we drive to Baiterek tower in the very center of the new part of Astana. The tower has become the symbol of Astana. Its shape represents a poplar tree with a golden egg laid by a magic bird from Kazakh folk tales. From the top of the tower, you can enjoy a nice view of Astana and the surrounding steppes. We will then have a walk along the Nurzhol Boulevard. Along the boulevard, which was designed by Kisho Kurokawa, most of Astana’s modern buildings are placed. We will end the walk at Khan Shatyr, giant tent-like shopping center designed by architect Norman Foster. By now it is time for dinner already. After dinner, we will watch the light show at Ishim river and before returning to the hotel. Hotel Kazzhol or similar.
We start in the morning with the Memorial Museum Alzhir, located 40km outside of the city, to learn more about the dark history of Kazakhstan. Alzhir was the biggest concentration camp in USSR for wives of “betrayers of the homeland”. There you will get an understanding of how people lived, worked and survived in Soviet concentration camps, the infamous Gulags.
Back in Astana we will have lunch and then head to the new and impressive National Museum. The museum is huge and we will visit the most interesting rooms, including the ones with famous Scythian gold artefacts, most importantly the Golden Man.
The third Museum we will visit is located in the part of the city that was constructed specially for the World EXPO 2017 with the topic Future Energy. Centerpiece of the Expo area is the building Nur Alem, which is the world’s largest spherical building with the diameter of 80 meters and a height of 100 meters. The buildings served as the Kazakh Pavilion during the EXPO and starting from 2018 it will work as a Museum of Future.
After visits to these three very interesting museums we will have farewell dinner in a nice restaurant. Hotel Kazzhol or similar.