Kazakhstan: Central Asia’s hidden gem
Tucked away in the heart of Central Asia lies the prosperous nation of Kazakhstan. As a country that until 1991 was part of the Soviet Union, it has come on leaps and bounds since its independence.
Its ancient history, a heavy focus on building a contemporary atmosphere and beautiful landscapes make it one of the region's greatest untouched places to visit.
Re-tread the first footprints of the area's ancient horse-tamers
It is believed that the first horse was allegedly tamed and then rode by the country's ancestors. Rather than the estimated era of 1000 years ago, there is evidence to suggest that horses had been used for transport as far back as 5500 years. So why not ride amongst the beauty of the country?
A Kazak horse
The highest point of the country lies on the China/Kyrgyzstan/Kazakhstan border, which is on the most eastern point of the region, and is a mountain known as Khan Tengri. This marbled snow-capped spectacle is also nicknamed Blood Mountain due to it glowing red as the sun sets. Any time of day the mountain and its surrounding areas is on the most beautiful places on earth, and largely unseen by the limited tourism that country attracts.
The snow-capped Khan Tengri
In the Sharyn National Park another natural wonder can be found: The Sharyn Canyon. Likened to the Grand Canyon of Arizona, the Kazakhstani equivalent is 96 miles long and is as 980 feet deep. It contains a stretch of rocks that are similar in appearance to bygone manmade structures known as the Valley of Castles. The Sharyn River also runs parallel to the area, adding to the Canyon's scenic allure.
Sharyn National Park
Its parks and greenery
Although not typically known for its good looks, those who have been will tell you how attractive large swathes of it are. Its national parks and nature reserves consist of amazing unspoiled landscapes and wild animals like brown bears and elks.They are also great to journey through by car. Katon-Karagay National Park in the Altai Mountains, for instance, is a drive like no other, with its hairpin bends and winding roads.
The greenery of the area was said to give the world the origins of the first ever apples. Today you can still find uncorrupted forests filled with Malus Sieversii - a wild type of apple.
A couple sharing an apple
A lasting aspect that Russia left with the Kazaks was its interest in space travel. Baikonur Cosmodome is the largest space installation in the world, and was the first ever built. Although found in the Kazakh Steppe, it is run by the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces and Russian Federal Space Agency. Whilst not exactly open to the public, the government hopes to make it a tourist hotspot in the next few years. Until then, there is a museum nearby, which includes many old instruments used during space programs of the past.
Started in 1988 and completed in 2011, the Almaty Metro system is still considered a fresh arrival to the city and only consists of only seven stops on its one line. What makes it worth seeing is that, whilst looking brand new and immaculate, they were designed during the Soviet era and thus the platforms already seem already historical. A lot of capital went into the making of the line and it shows: grand archways and marbled floors - a real change from the dirt of the London Underground.