Whether you like hiking, swimming, fishing or horseback riding, are just interested in Kazakhstan or have visited the country at least once in your life, you no doubt know the nation has a number of unique summer vacation destinations. EdgeKz has compiled a list of the most exciting locations to visit from May-September.
Burabai is often referred to as a “little Switzerland” in the Kazakh steppe. Its advantageous location from Astana, just a comfortable three-hour drive along one of the country’s widest high-end speedways, makes it the top vacation spot for city residents who flock there almost every weekend for a swim. Russian tourists in particular visit to enjoy Burabai’s hiking trails.
Getting there: driving from Astana is the best option
Things to do: hiking, swimming, trekking, biking, fishing, horseback riding
Famous for: Zhumbaktas Rock, Kokshetau Mountain, Chebachie Lake
Where to stay: visit www.burabai.kz for prices. The site is not available in English, but can be used with the help of a Russian-speaking friend. Prices range from $27-$100 and booking.com has a website in English.
Bukhtarma Reservoir in the East Kazakhstan region is formed by a dam on the Irtysh River. One of the largest artificial reservoirs in the world with an area of 5,500 square kilometers, Bukhtarma is 120 kilometers from Oskemen. The waterway attracts thousands of Kazakh and Russian tourists each year and the best time to visit is July-August when the water reaches the highest temperatures.
Getting there: the most convenient way is to drive to the motels and lodges from Oskemen. There are frequent flights to Oskemen from all parts of the country.
Things to do: swimming, sunbathing, fishing, mushroom picking
Famous for: fishing (ide, bream, carp, pike, uskuch, trout, pike, grayling, perch and carp)
Where to stay: guest houses and lodges from $30-$270, depending on the choice of comfort and accommodation. For reservations, contact Semey-based tour company Togas Tour at email@example.com or +7(777) 246 1566.
Kapshagai Reservoir is located about 75 kilometers north of Almaty, the largest city and former capital of Kazakhstan. Each year, thousands of urban residents flock to the reservoir in search of a shelter from the sunny and stuffy days and Kapshagai has been a perfect weekend escape for decades.
Getting there: recommended one-hour drive from Almaty
Things to do: swimming, fishing, riding speed boats, scooters
Famous for: aqua park
Where to stay: there are plenty of guest houses on the shores of Kapshagai; in addition, tourists may stay in Almaty, as it’s only an hour drive from the reservoir. For information about accommodations, consult www.visitkazakhstan.kz, the site is also available in English.
Bayanaul National Park
Bayanaul National Park is the place for those who enjoy swimming and hiking. About 450 kilometers south-east of Astana, Bayanaul boasts a number of scenic lakes, breath-taking natural springs and forest-filled mountains for trekking and exploring nature.
Getting there: driving by car, although the road is quite bumpy, is the best choice from Astana
Things to do: hiking, swimming, exploring, taking pictures
Famous for: Aulietas Cave. Autlietas means “sacred rock” in Kazakh and legend has it if you make a wish, touch the cave’s rocks and walk away without looking back, the wish will come true.
Where to stay: rental options are available starting from $10-$45 per night. Higher-end accommodations, such as the Sultan Cottages, range from $135-$150 for suites with basic amenities and can be reserved by calling +7 (7812) 56 69 14 or +7 (7812) 33 63 61. Guests can also bring a tent or arrange with the guide to rent one and sleep in the nature area for about $10 per night.
The best time to travel to this remote destination is mid-June to mid-August. Its two famous big beaches, Koktuma and Akshy, are located on the southwest shore and serve as great summer getaways. The area’s scenery and mountains provide an opportunity for explorers to wander the wilderness and spend some time in nature on horseback tours and hiking.
Getting there: buses run from Almaty to Usharal and a train runs from Almaty to the Beskol Station 15 kilometers away. A shared taxi or private car is the most common way of getting from the town to the beach.
Things to do: swimming, fishing, hiking, riding horses
Famous for: beach destination
Where to stay: accommodations can be arranged via tour companies including Visit Kazakhstan (www.visitkazakhstan.kz), Welcome to Kazakhstan (WelcometoKazakhstan.com), Mars Tour Kazakhstan (+7(727) 274-40 94, +7 702 379 81 98, firstname.lastname@example.org), Pelikan Resort Complex (+7 (727) 397-52-29, 397-49-32, 397-50-07, email@example.com) and Ozero Alakol (ozero-alakol.kz, firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Charyn Canyon
The Charyn Canyon is about 200 kilometers southeast of Almaty and stretches for nearly 154 kilometers. Hiking in the canyon is recommended with a local guide who can be hired in Almaty prior to the trip, as it is easy to get lost in the many small valleys. Due to lack of tourist infrastructure and its extreme Celsius range in the winter and summer, it’s strongly recommended to dress properly and visit the canyon in the fall or spring.
Getting there: companies such as Asia Travel (www.asiatravel.com) and AdvanTour (www.advantour.com) can make the arrangements. For those who want to travel in luxury, helicopters can also be taken to the canyon. For more information on helicopter tours, contact DIMAL Kazakhstan Travel Agency at +7 (705) 167 91 94 or +7 (727) 327 46 24.
Things to do: hiking, exploring
Famous for: Valley of Castles
Where to stay: no lodging available at the canyon; it’s better to stay in Almaty and travel from the city.
Chundzha Hot Springs
Chundzha Hot Springs is 243 kilometers east of Almaty and takes an average of five hours to drive from the former Kazakh capital to the Uighur district of the Almaty region. The area contains about 140 different mineral springs.
Getting there: Renting a car in Almaty or taking a bus or taxi is often the best way to visit, as the road to Chundzha is accompanied by picturesque scenery through Kok Pek pass.
Things to do: mineral baths, horseback riding tours
Famous for: healing waters
Where to stay: among numerous resorts, EdgeKz recommends Premium. This resort is fairly new and offers a spa and two large pools with hot mineral water. Address: 30th km of the Chundzha-Kolzhat Highway; phone: +7 (727) 7840001or +7 (771) 4019891; price: $40-$66, including breakfast and lunch.