The first stop on our Kazakhstan itinerary is Nur-Sultan – stay here for at least two full days to explore it to the fullest.
This capital city, located in the northeast of Kazakhstan, impresses visitors with its modern architecture – you’ll even forget that you’re still in the desert. The city is a colorful mix of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Soviet Russian influences, which are all reflected in this architecture.
To really get to know the city, check out both the modern and sophisticated left bank and the traditional right bank, home to the historic old town. One iconic building you shouldn't miss is the futuristic Baiterek Tower, which offers a breathtaking view from the top. The National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan is also a good place to learn more about the country, its people, and its culture.
During your stay in Nur-Sultan, sleep at a local hotel for just €9 a night for a single room.
Your next stop is Almaty. Get there from Nur-Sultan by night train for €20. We recommend staying in Almaty for about three days to experience the whole city.
Almaty is located in the southeast of Kazakhstan and is one of the best places to visit in the country, and for good reason! The city offers amazing cultural and historic sites like the Arasan Bath, Zenkov’s Cathedral, and the Central Mosque. The Green Bazaar and the pedestrian area offer the perfect opportunity to take part in the city’s life and try some fresh local products and dishes.
If you want to take a short break from the city to immerse yourself in nature, head to the Big Almaty Lake in the Zailiysky Alteau mountain range. It’s the perfect spot to get out and go hiking while enjoying the spectacular views of the turquoise water.
If you’re looking for suitable accommodation, you can find a hostel for €7 a night for a bed in an 8-person dorm.
You can reach the next stop of your trip through Kazakhstan, Almaty, by night train for about €25. Zhabagly is located in southern Kazakhstan and is home to one of the most beautiful nature reserves you will ever see. The Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve, the oldest in Central Asia, is home to mountains, rivers, canyons, and meadows.
While visiting the reserve, there are many activities to take part in – from bird watching to hiking and climbing. If you’re there in spring, there are also fields of tulips adding a pop of color to the verdant valleys. We recommend hiring a guide, as many of the trails are not properly marked.
A guesthouse is the perfect accommodation for your stay in Zhabagly, costing €27 a night for a double room.
Travel from Zhabagly to Turkistan by taxi and train for €18. Try and stay here for about two days to be able to see everything.
We’re headed to the southwest of Kazakhstan, to the city of Turkistan. The city is strongly connected to the culture and history of the country. The Juma Mosque and the Historical and Cultural-Ethnographic Center are only a couple of the places worth visiting in Turkistan.
We recommend checking out other popular attractions, too, like the Mausoleum of Khawaja Ahmed Yasawi, the Mausoleum of Rabia-Sultan Begum, the Hilvet Semi-Underground Mosque, and the Sauran – preserved ruins of a Silk Road city. The medieval architecture behind the mausoleum is simply beautiful with its turquoise domed roofs. These places are full of Kazakh history and are perfect for getting to know the country's past.
You can find affordable hostels here from €16 a night for a bed in a 4-person dorm.
Take the night train to head further west to Aral, which will only cost about €16.
The main reason for visiting Aral is to see the Aral Sea, or rather what is left of it, and to learn the history behind it. The Aral Sea used to be a thriving body of water that housed fishing towns along its coast. However, in the 1960s, when the rivers that flowed into the Aral Sea were used for cotton harvesting, the lake no longer received the required amount of water and started to dry up.
Today, several tourist stations within the town tell the story behind the Aral Sea. The Fisherman’s Museum, a small history museum, is one of them. You can also explore the ship graveyard that this shrinking sea left behind.
However, you'll also see that the locals are trying to revive the Aral Sea! People have become aware of their mistakes and are working to restore the sea to its original size. It will take many years to achieve this, but they have made progress, which has given a little boost to the cities’ economy.
Stay in an affordable hotel nearby for €15 a night for a double room.
Kyzylorda is the perfect place to end your trip. The easiest way to travel from Aral to Kyzylorda is by train, with the prices starting from as low as €12. Kyzylorda is a great place for a short stay, so you won't need more than a day.
You’re back to bustling city life here, which is a great way to end the trip! Try some of the amazing restaurants and enjoy local cuisine. Be sure to check out Victory Park, Aytbay Mosque, and Central Square.
For your last night in Kyzylorda, a hotel is the perfect choice – double rooms are reasonably priced at €26 per night.
To conclude your trip, take the plane back to Nur-Sultan for about €60 to catch your flight back home.