UNESCO Sites in Kazakhstan Tour

Almaty, Tamgaly, Shymkent, Otrar, Turkestan, Sayram
  • Khoja Ahmed Yasawi Complex
  • Khoja Ahmed Yasawi Complex
  • Otrar Archeological Site
  • Otrar Archeological Site

UNESCO Sites in Kazakhstan Tour will delight anyone with a curiosity in the patchwork history of this massive nomadic land. The tour includes visits to the Tian Shan Mountains, Tamgaly Petroglyphs and Khoja Ahmed Yasawi Mausoleum, all UNESCO-recognized World Heritage Sites. City tours of ancient Otrar and Sayram, Shymkent and Almaty are also included to enhance your understanding of Kazakhstan past and present.
Petroglyphs scatter the floor of a sleepy valley, bequeathed to us by the Kazakhs’ nomadic ancestors. A stately blue-domed burial vault keeps watch over the open steppe, weathering changes for over 500 years. Fringes of the Western Tian Shan Mountains, unmovable and age-old as the earth itself, embrace lively Almaty in their snowy grasp. Each destination is bound together by their status as one of Kazakhstan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sits, a title bestowed on the world’s most precious historical and cultural riches.

Arrive in Almaty, former capital of Kazakhstan, where a driver will meet you for transfer to your hotel. Hotel check-in begins at noon, followed by a free day in Almaty.
Overnight in your Almaty hotel.
Meet your guide and driver at your hotel lobby in Almaty to begin the drive to Tamgaly Petroglyphs in Tamgaly Gorge (170km, 3hrs), where you’ll discover a UNESCO Heritage Site made up of thousands of rock paintings. Allow your spirit to be refreshed on the drive by the remarkable steppe scenery, standing in stark contrast to crowded Almaty.
Upon arrival to this open-air museum you’ll have the chance to roam about the valley and marvel at the endless petroglyphs before you. The rock carvings are divided into several labeled sections, and your guide will provide further insights into the drawings depicting animals, chariots, dancing, hunting and various religious symbols. Stand amazed at their sheer volume and distinct features that can be easily discerned by the untrained eye.
Stop for a picnic lunch in this vast outdoor gallery, enjoying a rest in the fresh air before returning to the city. Drive back to Almaty for hotel drop-off. Overnight in Almaty.
Tour duration: approximately 9 hours
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.
Drop-off at the airport after the tour for a flight from Almaty to Shymkent (680km, 1hr 10min).
Upon arrival in Shymkent your driver will meet you at the airport for transfer to the hotel. Overnight in Shymkent.
Tour duration: approximately 6 hours
Your journey will start by meeting your guide and driver at your Shymkent hotel. Head to Shauldir village in Otrar region (145km, 2hrs) 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.
Continue on to Turkestan (75km, 1hr 15min), which replaced Otrar as the regional commercial center after the latter’s final demise. One of Kazakhstan’s most revered cities, the Hazret-Sultan Historical and Cultural Complex continues to attract 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 (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.
Return to Shymkent (170km, 2hrs 30 min). Drop-off at the hotel upon arrival.
Tour duration: approximately 10 hours
Free time in the morning. 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 Park (Shansi 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), where you’ll continue your tour to the following:
  • Ibrahim-Ata and Karashash-Ana Mausoleums (13th century), burial site of the parents of Khoja Ahmad Yasawi (a revered Sufi scholar who is himself 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.
Drive back to Shymkent to catch a flight to Almaty (680km, 1hr,10min). After landing in Almaty, a driver will take you to your hotel. Overnight in Almaty.
Tour duration: approximately 5 hours
Check out from the hotel by noon and transfer to the airport. End of UNESCO Sites in Kazakhstan Tour.
  • Transfers between airport and hotel (1-2 ppl in sedan; 3-8 in minivan);
  • Round-trip, economy class flight ticket from Almaty to Shymkent (flight times subject to change based upon availability);
  • Accommodation based on double/twin room at hotel (5 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 2;
  • 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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