Best of Kazakhstan Tour

Almaty, Turkestan (Khoja Ahmed Yasawi Mausoleum), Otrar, Shymkent, Astana

The Best of Kazakhstan Tour is a blend of city excursions, ancient discoveries and cultural encounters that takes you from Almaty’s mountain ranges to Astana’s high-rise buildings, with extended stopovers in historic Turkestan, Otrar and Shymkent region along the way. Whether riding the overnight train alongside local families, shopping at the lively Green Bazaar or touring an underground mosque with its own story to tell, you’ll be experiencing the best of Kazakhstan each step of the way.
Don’t let Kazakhstan’s sheer size deter you from spending your holiday in this ambitious land, holding status as an independent country for less than thirty years but with a history nearly as old as civilization itself. Many of the country’s most magnetic attractions – from the Almaty and Shymkent metropolises to the Ahmed Yasawi Mausoleum, the most revered site in Kazakhstan – can be reached in a convenient loop involving train, plane and car rides through this vast and beautiful land.

Arrive in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan. You will be met by our driver and transferred to the hotel, where check-in begins at noon, followed by a free day to rest from your travels or walk about the city. Overnight in Almaty.
In the morning your guide and driver will meet you in the lobby of your hotel to begin the Almaty city tour:
  • Walk the pleasant pathways of Panfilov Park, named after an esteemed general who perished while defending his homeland. Within the park is the corresponding World War II Memorial Complex, whose focal point is a gigantic monument of soldiers bravely in advance, with an eternal flame blazing nearby.
  • Visit Zenkov Cathedral (a.k.a Ascension Cathedral), also situated in Panfilov Park. Constructed entirely of wood without a single metal nail, this colorful five-domed wonder is one of the oldest buildings in Almaty, with an interior as culturally enlightening as its outer façade.
  • Plunge into the atmosphere of Green Bazaar, a lively eastern market whose festive colors, mouth-watering smells and lively crowds transform an ordinary shopping trip into an unforgettable cultural experience. It’s the perfect spot to purchase dried fruits and famous Kazakhstan chocolates...but don’t forget to bargain!
  • Stop by Republic Square, where the Mayor’s Office, Central State Museum and former Presidential Palace encircle the Monument of Independence, a towering statue of the Golden Man flanked by smaller symbolic sculptures and bronze bas-reliefs depicting the country’s history.
  • Tour the Central State Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, containing nearly a quarter million permanent and temporary exhibits, including its most well-known display, a replica of the Golden Man. Exhibits are very informative, covering the full gamut of Kazakhstan ethnography and history from prehistoric times to the 21st century.
  • Ride the 21st-century Almaty Metro, whose tunnels give the impression that you’re in a palace instead of a public subway system. Each station has been beautifully designed to portray a specific theme, and you’ll stop at 2-3 stations to admire the colorful, intricate murals.
  • Drive from Almaty to Medeo along a scenic mountain road (18km), to see the world's highest Olympic-sized skating rink.
  • Continue the tour with a short drive to Kok-Tobe Hill, which provides a striking panoramic view of Almaty. Entertain yourself atop Kok-Tobe with the petting zoo, souvenir shops, famous Beatles statue and a meander down the Alley of Lovers.
  • Take a short ride from the top of the hill to the city center on the famous Almaty Cable Cars.
After the city tour, our driver will take you to the train station for your overnight train from Almaty to Turkestan (830km, 13hrs). Overnight on the Almaty-Turkestan train.
Tour duration: approximately 6 hours
Upon arrival in Turkestan your driver will meet you at the train station to start your tour. The Hazret-Sultan Historical and Cultural Complex is one of Kazakhstan’s most revered destinations, attracting countless visitors with a handful of significant sites:
  • Khoja Ahmed Yasawi Mausoleum (14th century), a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the finest buildings of the Timurid Period. This towering structure contains thirty rooms that now hold a small museum, mosque, a huge bronze cauldron and the graves of Yasawi and his family.
  • Hilvet Underground Mosque (c. 12th century), where Yasawi is said to have lived out his last years on earth in darkness. It now serves as a small museum, with rooms delineated for extended meditation.
  • Ancient bath house, whose various chambers maintained respective warm or cool temperatures despite the lack of doors between them.
  • Old city walls, garden paths and several smaller mausoleums help to complete this complex.
Head to Shauldir village in Otrar region (75km, 1hr,15min) for two important stops:
  • Visit the nearby Arystan Bab Mausoleum (dates vary), burial place of Arystan Bab, teacher of the famed Khoja Ahmad Yasawi of Turkestan. The mud-brick structure, which also displays a handwritten Koran, attracts a constant stream of local religious pilgrims.
  • Otrar archeological site, where traces of well-planned city boulevards and abodes, now long abandoned and littered with pottery shards, are outlined in the dusty landscape.
Relax and reflect on your experiences on the drive to Shymkent (145km, 2hrs). Drop-off at the hotel upon arrival. Overnight in Shymkent.
Tour duration: 7-8 hours
Free time in the morning before hotel check-out at noon. Our guide and driver will meet you at hotel reception to begin your tour of Shymkent’s highlights:
  • Regional Museum of Southern Kazakhstan, where you’ll familiarize yourself with the history of Shymkent region with chronological displays including petroglyphs, topographical maps, a full yurt display, countless artefacts and a giant outdoor diorama of a Silk Road caravan.
  • Memory Alley in Abai (Shanshi) Park, a boulevard flanked by the names of every man from the region who served in World War II. The walkway is bookended with a large eternal flame monument and a giant statue of a fighter jet.
  • Museum of Victims of Political Repression, which perpetuates the memory of those who suffered under suppressive Stalinist policies with pictures, personal stories and moving sculptures.
  • Hakim Abai Museum, a small but informative museum dedicated to the life and works of Abai Qunanbaiuly, one of Kazakhstan’s greatest poets and reformers.
  • Kyluet Ethnography Museum, where you’ll delve deeply into Kazakh culture through pottery lessons and exhibitions, musical instrument demonstrations and exploration of an underground hilvet (meditation room).
Drive to Sayram (15km, 30min), to continue your tour to the following:
  • Ibrahim-Ata and Karashash-Ana Mausoleums (13th century), burial site of the parents of Khoja Ahmad Yasawi (the revered Sufi scholar buried in Turkestan). These tombs are considered sacred, attracting local religious pilgrims.
  • Mirali-Baba and Abdulaziz-Baba Mausoleums (dates vary), final resting places of an Islamic scholar and an Arab soldier who spread Islam in the region, respectively. The elaborate burial vaults are historically significant, and the tombs are considered sacred by many Central Asian Muslims.
Return to Shymkent to catch a flight to Astana (1600km, 1hr 40min). After landing in Astana, a driver will take you to the hotel. Overnight in Astana.
Tour duration: approximately 5 hours
Your guide and driver will meet you in your hotel lobby to begin the tour of Astana. The tour will include:
  • Independence Square, a marble plaza scattered with benches and symbolic sculptures whose crowning glory is the staggering 91-meter-high Kazakh Eli Monument.
  • Excursion to Hazrat Sultan Mosque, boasting of the largest dome in Kazakhstan (51x28m) plus four minarets 77 meters in height. The premises are adorned with fountains and flowers while the interior impresses with massive white pillars and intricate Kazakh ornamentation.
  • Continue to the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, a huge symmetrical pyramid built by architect Norman Foster, whose glass-and-granite symbol of unity holds conference halls, exhibition rooms and even an opera house.
  • Cross the Ishim River and continue sightseeing along Nurzhol Boulevard. This pedestrian walkway is lined with fountains and statues that reflect Kazakhstan’s heritage and culminates in Round Square, a busy center of shops, cafes and fountains.
  • Ride to the top of Bayterek Tower (a.k.a. the Tree of Life), the city’s most popular attraction which provides an amazing view of the city and the chance to place your palm in the famed golden imprint of President Nazarbayev’s hand.
  • Shop at Khan-Shatyr, a unique shopping mall and entertainment center housed in the largest tent in the world. Its amazing eco structure maintains warm temps inside even during the city’s frigid winters.
Return to your hotel. Overnight in Astana.
Tour duration: 4-5 hours
Free time in the morning. Check out of the hotel by noon for drop-off at Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport. End of Best of Kazakhstan Tour.
  • Transfers between airport and hotel (1-2 ppl in sedan; 3-8 in minivan);
  • One-way, economy-class flight ticket from Shymkent to Astana (flight times subject to change based upon availability);
  • One-way train ticket, compartment class, from Almaty to Turkestan (train times subject to change based upon availability);
  • Accommodation based on double/twin room at hotel (4 nights, with breakfast);
  • Private, local English-speaking guide and entrance fees to the sights as per itinerary on days 2-5;
  • Bottled mineral water (1 liter per person per day);
  • Boxed picnic lunch on day 4;
  • Transportation during the city tours on days 2-5 (1-2 ppl in sedan; 3-8 in minivan).
  • Tour leader to accompany travelers for the whole duration of the tour;
  • Consular fees for Kazakhstan tourist visa and Letter of Invitation;
  • International flight tickets before and after the tour;
  • Tips for driver, guide, porters, etc. are not included but are appreciated;
  • Hotel charges for additional services;
  • Full board (lunches and dinners);
  • Travel insurance;
  • All other charges and services not mentioned under Inclusions.

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