Nightmares from the USSR

Nightmares from the USSR

A tour to former nucleair test sites

Central Kazakhstan

On the way in Central Kazakhstan

Highlights of this 6-day program about remants of the former USSR in Kazakhstan and to the former nucleair test sites nearby Semipalatinsk (Semey):
– excursions in old & new Astana
– touring the interesting hilly steppe landscape of Central Kazakhstan
– a safe excursion to the former nucleair test sites with an expert
– getting to know the rich history of the steppe, the city of Karaganda and her surroundings
– visiting monuments in and around Astana & Karaganda that are connected to the USSR

The tour program starts in Astana and ends in Karaganda (this can be altered in a private tour). Part of the tour travels in the former nucleair test zone close to Semipalatinsk. A short stay in this area is not dangerous for your health, as long as you stick to the rules set out by the accompanying expert.

The Kazakhstani part of the Soviet heritage is represented in the central part of the country in the best way. This is where notorious correctional camps of the Stalin epoch – “Karlag” and “ALZHIR” were situated. These are the lands which became witnesses of the nuclear explosions, made during Cold War and Arms Race.

The history of the Civil War, which followed the October revolution, is also represented abundantly. Developing virgin lands, industrialization, urbanization… Silent witnesses of all those processes, being a part of life in the USSR, are still can be seen here, in the very heart of 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.

Day 1

day travel distance: 73 kms

Bayterek Tower in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

Central Astana with a view of the Baiterek Tower

Arrival to the Astana airport and start of your tour about nightmares from the former USSR in Kazakhstan!

Transfer from the airport to the city. Accommodation at a hotel and breakfast. You will start with a half-day survey excursion around the city. And on the ways you will see sights of the Soviet time. Including the memorial for vistims of the political repression and an excursion to the Presidential culture center. Then visits to the Congress-Hall, “Yesil” hotel, Pioneers’ House, national security commitee, “Oktyabr” cinema, “Molodezhniy” palace, steam locomotive monument etc. and more!.

The new administrative center is on the left riverside of Ishim. Here you will enjoy lunch.

In the afternoon follows a 4-hour trip to the Akmol (Malinovka) village and back. This includes an excursion to the museum of the former “ALZHIR” correctional camp. Dinner.




Day 2

day travel distance: 635 km

Alzhir Memorial Complex nearby Astana, Kazakhstan

Alzhir Memorial Complex nearby Astana

Breakfast. Journey from Astana to Aksu (440 km, about 6 hours long). Time for lunch and visiting the public garden. Here, monuments of the Soviet period are kept together.

Journey from Aksu to Kurchatov (195 km, about 2.5 hours long). Accommodation in Kurchatov. Here you can walk tour around the town. This town was the former center of the Semipalatinsk test site. And it housed the  general directorate of the National Nuclear Center and the National Security committee building. You will also visit the house of Lavrentiy Beria and deserted part of the town). Dinner.


Day 3

day travel distance: 120 kms

Former Nucleair test sites in Kazakhstan

Radiation levels were measured here

Breakfast. Excursion to the museum of the test site. Followed by lunch.

In the afternoon a trip to the “Opytnoe Pole” test site (125 km, 4 hours).Here the first nuclear explosion was made in 1949. We stay for a short-term stay on the spot. And then return to to Kurchatov.

On the way you will enjoy an excursion to the ghost-town Shagan, where the aerodrome of long-range aviation was situated (120 km, about 3 hours). Dinner in Kurchatov.



Day 4

day travel distance: 290 kms

Central Kazakhstani steppe

Central Kazakhstan – steppe

Breakfast, followed by a transfer to Karkaralinsk. This tour is partly along the territory of the former Semipalatinsk test site through the mountain oases Yedrey and Ku (290 km, 7 hours). You will have short stops in the most picturesque places, lunch in the field. Arrival to Karkaralinsk. Accommodation and dinner.



Day 5

day travel distance: 218 kms

Monument in the Central Kazakh Steppe

Monument in the Central Kazakh Steppe

Breakfast. Excursion around Karkaralinsk. This includes sights of the Civil War period: general Kornilov house, 78 Communards memorial, people’s commissariat building etc. Then, an excursion to the history museum followed by a short excursion to the mountains (optional). Lunch.

The journey continues from Karkaralinsk to Karaganda (218 km, 4 hours). Accommodation in the hotel. You’ll have a survey excursion around the city. To be spotted are the Lenin monument, the Miners’ culture palace, Stanislavskiy theatre, city hall, “Chaika” hotel, Nurken Abdirov monument. But also the  Circus and the industrial part of the city. Dinner.


Day 6

day travel distance: 160 kms

Ecomuseum in Karaganda, Kazakhstan

Sovjet street art in Karaganda

Breakfast. A half-day trip to Dolinka village. This is the former center of the “Karlag” correctional labour camp. The visit includes an excursion to the Museum of “Karlag”, Building of Former “Karlag” administration, Maternity hospital and “Mamochkino” child cemetery.

You will continue to the Spassk memorial, located in the place, where the former camp of prisoners of war was situated.

Transfer back to Karaganda. Lunch. Excursion to the Karaganda Ecological Museum (1 hour). Free time, with an option for purchasing souvenirs. Dinner. Departure.

The cost of this program about remnants of the former USSR in Kazakhstan at four persons is by indication €1,395 p.p. and at two persons €1,995 p.p. For other group sizes please write to us.

The above mentioned prices include:
– all the transfers by a 4WD minibus according to the program of the tour
– services of a driver and an English-speaking guide-interpreter
– accommodation in hotels (double or triple rooms)
– three meals a day
– entrance fees to museums as mentioned in the program
– security facilities on the territory of the test site (respirators, shoe covers).

The above mentioned prices do not include: visa expenses and consular fees, insurance, the price of getting to the starting point of the route (Astana city) and way back from Karaganda
Finally we withhold €9 per person for the Dutch GGTO Travel Guarantee Fund.



    Astana, Karaganda, Semipalatinsk




    indications €1,395-1,995 p.p. at 4-2 persons


    6 days

    Tour Route in Kazakhstan