Kazakhstan Highlights Tour

Almaty, Astana, Burabay National Park, Charyn Canyon

Almaty and Astana remain Kazakhstan’s two most visited cities, and indeed there’s no lack of classic and crazy cultural and historical experiences in either one. However, many people fail to realize the exquisite natural beauty that lays just beyond the fringes of their city limits, beauty that will surround and overwhelm you in the ‘Kazakh Switzerland’ of Burabay National Park and the surreal colors and landscapes of Charyn Canyon.
On the Kazakhstan Highlights Tour, there’s no need to choose between city sights and nature getaways, for this trip gives you the best of both worlds. You’ll alternate fun and informative tours of Almaty and Astana, Kazakhstan’s two largest cities, with day trips to two of the most beloved national parks in the country, Charyn Canyon and Burabay National Park, so that you can end your vacation feeling refreshed and with a more comprehensive picture of Kazakhstan.

Arrive in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. You will be met by an OrexCA driver and transferred to the hotel. Check in to the hotel at noon.
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
Meet your guide and driver in the lobby of your Astana hotel to begin the tour of Burabay National Park. Relax on the drive to the reserve (260km, 4hrs) while your guide shares more about the history and ecology of the region.
Upon arrival to Borovoe (Burabay), enjoy some light hiking through mountain glades and pine forests. Stop at Khan’s Pass for incredible views of Burabay and Zheke-Batyr Mountains from a special observation deck. Continue on to Ablai Khan Meadow, a peaceful clearing that affords a charming view of the Ush-Kyz, Ok-Jetpes and Zhumbaktas Boulders, unusual rock formations made even more spectacular by the legends surrounding them.
After lunch, enjoy free time to explore your environs before climbing a small ascent to Mount Bolektau, one of Burabay Park’s most beloved features, at the top of which you can bask in an unhindered view of Lake Borovoe. Return to Astana. Overnight at the hotel.
Tour duration: approximately 10 hours
Transfer in the morning to the airport for a flight to Almaty (1300km, 1hr 40min), where a driver will be waiting to bring you to the hotel. Check in to the hotel at noon. 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!
  • Admire Almaty Central Mosque, one of the largest mosques in Central Asia that can accommodate thousands of attendees. Its gold domes and striking white marble exterior give this post-independence building a regal quality, while the interior impresses with artistic simplicity.
  • 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 back to the hotel. Overnight in Almaty.
Tour duration: 3-4 hours
You will be met by your guide and driver at the lobby of your Almaty hotel to start the Charyn Canyon Tour. Depart Almaty and drive to Charyn Canyon (220km, 3-4hrs). On the way, enjoy the view of the passing Altai Mountains and villages as your guide regales you with stories of Charyn Canyon region.
Upon arrival, hike to the bottom of the gorge to see the roaring Charyn River. Have a rest and a picnic lunch while your guide shares more information about the nature surrounding you. Hike through Charyn Canyon, where steep mountain slopes reach up to 300 meters and the stunning Castles Valley runs more than 2 kilometers in length. Spend the afternoon walking about this fairytale land, basking in the miracle of nature as you wander its ridges and bypaths.
After the hike, drive back to your hotel. Overnight in Almaty.
Tour duration: approximately 10 hours
Free time in the morning. Check-out from the hotel by noon for transfer to Almaty International Airport. End of Kazakhstan Highlights Tour.
  • Transfers between airport and hotel (1-2 ppl in sedan; 3-8 in minivan);
  • One-way, economy class flight ticket from Astana to Almaty (flight 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 1-4;
  • Bottled mineral water (1 liter per person per day);
  • Boxed picnic lunch on day 4;
  • Transportation during the city tours on days 1-4 (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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