The most important cities of Kazakhstan
Astana is in a state of constant development ever since the president proclaimed it the capital in 1997. The city’s architecture, especially monumental statues and squares, does not only surprise but also makes a great impression on visitors. Wide avenues and streets heighten the size of the city, located in vast, dry steppes. A distinctive feature of Astana is an astonishing, over 100-meter-high observation tower called Bäjterek.
The tower is crowned with a gold 22-meter diameter sphere that serves as an observation deck from which the magnificent metropolis can be seen. Almaty, a former capital city located in southeast Kazakhstan, is today a cultural, scientific and industrial centre. The city is famous for a green market that is the one of the last remains of the Silk Road (an ancient network of trade routes connecting China, Europe and the Middle East).
Lakes and mountains of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is especially famous for its beautiful lakes. One of the biggest lakes in Asia is Balkhash, which consists of both freshwater and saltwater. Approximately 320 km from Almaty, at 2000 m above sea level, you can find the fabulous Lake Kaindy, known for its shimmering blue and green waters. The lake was created as the result of an earthquake. Why is it impressive? Because of the trees that rise from its bed. You will not find any information about Bektau Ata, the mountains located about 80 km from the city of Balkh in guidebooks. The mountains are visible from a distance as they are surrounded by flat steppes – yellow or light-orange strips of land that are the symbol of Kazakhstan. The country is also rich in steppes filled will green grass grazed on by cows. In the steppes, you can also meet herds of horses and camels – an interesting titbit: one of Kazakhstan’s popular drinks is actually camel milk.
These enormous flat surfaces astonish and astound – it is a landscape completely different from the one you see in Europe. Although steppes and lakes of northern Kazakhstan were entered onto the list of UNESCO Heritage Sites in 2008, Almatinsky Nature Reserve, with the highest summit Belukha (4506 m a.s.l.), where you can find the snow leopards and see captivating the Altai Mountains, remains the symbol of Kazakhstan. One of the most popular tourist attractions is also Sharyn Canyon, which is often compared to the Grand Canyon in the USA. Although its most popular part is Valley of Castles, also worth seeing is the so-called “black canyon”. The glistening vertical rock walls and ledges suspended over the Sharyn River look particularly spectacular in the evening when the setting sun’s red rays light them up.