Destination the shrinking Aral Sea

Destination the shrinking Aral Sea

Discover the variety of enormous Kazakhstan

Central Astana

Central Astana

Highlights of this 20-day adventurous tour in Kazakhstan:
– modern and fantastic architecture in Astana
– the town of Aralsk and the memory of the Aral Sea, but also with new hope for better times
– Turkestan and its famous mausoleum
– the Aksu-Jabagly nature reserve and a stay in a lovely guesthouse there
– cosmopolitan Almaty
– diverse nature plus the authentic countryside during a tour in Almaty Province

This is a varied and quite demanding program showing you Kazakhstan from different angles. Travelling by car, train and plane you will realize how big – and empty – Kazakhstan is.

The steppe in the south and center can be endless, the mountains and mountain lakes nearby Almaty are breathtaking. You will watch and engage in urban and in countryside life, notice the impact of both nomadic and Soviet culture in present-day Kazakhstan.

A visa is not necessary for a visit of up to 30 days to Kazakhstan for most countries.

You can read more about highlights and practical advise on travelling in Kazakhstan here.

Fishermen on Northern Aral Sea

Fishermen in the Aral Sea

Day 1

You will depart from your home country to arrive next day in Astana, Kazakhstan. (International arrivals in Kazakhstan tend to be at night). Start of your adventurous tour in Kazakhstan!

Day 2

Day travel distance: 90 kms
After arrival at night in Astana you will be transfered to your hotel in the city (half an hour drive).
You can catch up with some sleep and in the course of the day will be offered an excursion in the modern part of Astana and enjoy its fantastic new architecture. Amongst which the landmark Baiterek Tower and the (pyramid shaped) Khan-Shatyr shopping- and entertainment center.

In addition, and quite in contrast, you may optionally visit an old prison-turned-museum at 35 kms from the city. This complex is called Alzhir. In Stalin’s times it was a prison for women of so-called traitors who were forced to labour in one of the numerous camps or coal mines in the vicinity.

After returning to Astana you have leisure time.
Khan Shatyr shopping center in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

Day 3

Day travel distance: 1.400 kms
Depending on the exact flight time you will head for Kyzlorda in the south-west of the country today by plane, and onwards by train for another 400 kms to the former port of Aralsk. This town, now 200 kms removed from the Aral Sea, is the most westwards point of the tour.
You will arrive around midnight and be transfered to a small hotel.
Kazakh train station

Day 4

Day travel distance: 100 kms
Aralsk used to be a proud port on the Aral Sea. Not anymore, since the sea is now hundreds of kms away… Today you will have a look at the last remaining wreckages of stranded ships; collectors of scrap metal take care that also these last few ones will have completely disappeared soon.

Please note that in this case the excursion may be changed.
After that you will enjoy an excursion to the Aralsk museum about the lake and port. You will stay in the same small hotel.
Shipwrecks on the beds of the former Aral Sea, Kazakhstan

Day 5

Day travel distance: 20 kms
Today you have the opportunity to investigate Aralsk by yourself.
Late in the evening you will head for Turkestan, some 800 kms to the east, by train (sleeper). Arrival in the next morning.
Shipwreck in former Aral Sea, Aralsk, Kazakhstan

Day 6

Day travel distance: 800 kms
In the morning you arrive in Turkestan, and will be transfered to your hotel.

For today an excursion is planned to the Mausuleum of Hodzha Ahmed Yassawi. It was built between 1389 and 1405 in memory of the prophet Hodzha Yassawi. This complex of buildings is one of the most beautiful and important from Timur’s reign.
Afterwards you have leisure time.

Khoja Ahmad Yasawi Mausoleum in Turkestan, Kazakhstan

Turkestan Mausoleum

Day 7

Day travel distance: 400 kms
Today you will be transfered by car to the Aksu-Jabagly nature reserve, on the way visiting the mausoleum of Aristan Bab and the ruins of Otrar in a desert like landscape. Otrar was once a flourishing Silk Road town demolished (like so many) by the Mongols.

You continue till the mountain ranges bordering Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and reach the village of Jabagly, gate to the Aksu-Jabagly nature reserve, where you will be accommodated in a nice guesthouse. Dinner is included today.

Bedding of former Aral Sea, Kazakhstan

Landscape in Turkestan vicinity

Day 8

Day travel distance: 40 kms
After breakfast you will enter the reserve by 4WD head (the oldest reserve in Central Asia), and situated in the high mountains with peaks over 4,000 meters. Flora and fauna are rich here, a.o. the evasive snowleopard and brown bears are roaming the mountains!

You’ll have a lunchbox with you, hike a lot and return to the guesthouse in the evening, dinner included. Optional: horse-riding (cost of renting a horse not included in the offer).

Horse riding in Aksu Jabagly nature reserve, Kazakhstan

horse riding in Aksu-Jabagly

Day 9

Day travel distance: 30 kms
Another day in the nature reserve. Today a visit to the imposing Aksu canyon is planned, with plenty of hiking. The Aksu river has carved a wonderfully bizar canyon into the landscape.

Aksu river in Aksu Jabagly nature reserve, Kazakhstan

Aksu-Jabagly nature reserve

Like yesterday you’ll bring a lunchbox with you and will stay one more night in the cosy guesthouse where dinner is included.

Day 10

Day travel distance: 120 kms
After breakfast you will be transfered to the Tjulkebas railway station at 20 kms from Jabagly to catch the train to Taraz (100 kms). Upon arrival you are transfered to a hotel and in the afternoon will enjoy a city excursion.

Taraz celebrated its 2,000 years anniversary in 2002, as a result of the fact that it was being mentioned from early on as a stop-over on the Silk Road.
You will visit the history museum, the mausoleums of Alye Ata and Aisha Bibi, and a restored old caravanserai.

At night you will be transfered again to the railway station to catch the sleeper to Almaty, 700 kms eastwards.
Aisha Bibi Mausoleum in Taraz, Kazakhstan

Day 11

Panfilov Cathedrale, Almaty, Kazakhstan

Panfilov Cathedrale in Central Almaty

Day travel distance: 700 kms
Early morning you arrive in Almaty, where you’ll be transfered to a hotel and have some time to rest. After lunch time a city excursion is organized, visiting a.o. the Panfilow park, the Zenkow Cathedrale and the museum for musical instruments.

Day 12

Day travel distance: 350 kms
A completely different part of your tour starts today. In five days, seated in a 4WD with an at least basic English speaking driver, you will visit the natural highlights of the Almaty Province. This south-eastern part of the country offers a great variety of landscapes on a relatively small territory, from steppe and semi-desert to the high mountains. Meanwhile you will experience life in the Kazakh countryside. Accommodation will be mostly in guesthouses.

The first day will bring you to the Kapachagai reservoir and Altyn Emel national park, both situated north and north-east of Almaty. With 5,200 kms2 Altyn Emel is Kazakhstan’s largest national park and in this landscape of semi-deserts and rocky mountains you may spot some wild donkeys and gazelles.

Singing Dune in Altyn Emel National park, Kazakhstan

Singing Dune in Altyn Emel

For the whole countryside tour outside Almaty all meals are included. Today you’ll have lunch in a small cafe along the route and dinner in hotel Altyn Emel, also your accommodation for the night.

Day 13

Day travel distance: 150 kms
Another day in Altyn Emel. Today you will head for the Aktau and Kakatau mountain ranges, wonderfully white resp. red colored. Of course plenty of hiking is included.

Aktau Mountains in Altyn Emel National park, Kazakhstan

Aktau and Kakatau mountains in Altyn Emel

Accommodation a guesthouse in the village of Basshi.

Day 14

Day travel distance: 300 kms
Quite a journey today, from Basshi in southern direction close to the border with Kyrgystan through mainly empty steppe, sometimes crowded by herds of sheep, cattle or horses. Between the end of May and mid September semi-nomads live in these region, living in their yurts.

Kaindy Lake in Kazakhstan

Kayindi lake at Saty

The first of the three Kolsai mountain lakes is situated at 1,818 meters. It’s a wonderful area for hiking, horseriding (optional) and relaxing. Accommodation is in a simple but nice homestay in the nearby village of Saty, where also dinner will be served. Today, after lunch, you will enjoy the excursion by nostalgic Soviet jeep (it may be an modern jeep now…) to the remarkable Kaindy lake (see picture).

Day 15

Day travel distance: 20 kms
You will spend one more night in the homestay in Saty. During the day a short transfer by car will bring you to the first Kolsai lake, at an altitude of 1,700 meters. From there you may hike to the second lake, a 9 kms walk however with a 550 meters ascend – and back. Alternatively you may rent a horse (plus guide) for a spectacular ride to the second lake.

Return to Saty and accommodation. Lunch (from a lunch box) and dinner are included today.
Horse riding at the Kolsai Lakes, Kazakhstan

Day 16

Day travel distance: 320 kms
The return to Almaty is initiated, but not before having some adventures in between! 110 kms after leaving Saty you will visit Charyn Canyon, the most spectacular natural phenomenom of the Almaty Province. Dwell around and enjoy.

Close to Almaty in the village of Issyk you may pay a visit to the Golden Man Museum, with treasures from the surrounding burial mounds from the Sakh period. In the evening you return in Almaty and will be taken to your hotel.

Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan

Charyn Canyon

Please take note that in order to visit the Golden Man Museum you should leave early from Saty this day!

Day 17

Day travel distance: 340 kms
The last excursion of the tour brings you to the well-known site Tamgaly Tas as 170 kms from Almaty, with ancient rock paintings from the Bronze Age. It’s a UNESCO protected site. Lunch on the way, accommodation in Almaty.
Petroglyphs in the Kazakh steppe

Day 18

Day travel distance: 0 kms
This day you have for yourself. Our guide can give you all mind of advise regarding places to hunt for souvenirs, local museums, good places for hiking etc. Accommodation in the same hotel.
Panorama over Almaty, Kazakhstan

Day 19

Ski Lift at Chymbulaq resort, Almaty, Kazakhstan

Panorama from the top at Chymbulaq

Day travel distance: 0 kms
A second and last free day in Almaty. You may take a taxi to the Medeo and Chymbulaq region just south of Almaty, take the lifts all the way up and enjoy the panorama as shown below.

Day 20

Day travel distance: 20 kms
Transfer to Almaty Airport for your flight back home. End of your adventurous tour in Kazakhstan!

The cost of this 20-day adventurous tour in Kazakhstan at four persons is per indication €1,935 p.p. and at two persons €2,745 p.p. For other group sizes please write us for an offer.

Included in the offer are:
– 17 nights in 3* and 4* hotels and guesthouses, on the basis of bed & breakfast and in double rooms.
– all transfers in Kazakhstan by car/minibus and by train
– services of English speaking guides during all excursions except for the mini-tour in Almaty Province. This 5-day mini-tour from Almaty is with an (at least basis) English speaking driver.
– entrance tickets for all nature parks, museums and sites according to the program
– seven lunches and six dinners

Not included in the offer are the international flight tickets, the remaining lunches and dinners, the flight ticket Astana-Kyzlorda (cost from USD 60-130 p.p.) and all not mentioned services.
Finally we will withhold €9 per person for the Dutch GGTO Travel Guarantee Fund.



    Astana, Aralsk, the South, Almaty


    April-October for individual tours


    €1,935-2,745 p.p. at 4-2 persons


     20 days

    Tour Route in Kazakhstan