NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan is a country where one can experience all four seasons, yet many tourist resorts and activities are only available in summer or winter. What if one’s only option is to visit during autumn? Go to the southern regions for a pilgrimage and cultural-historical and gastronomic tourism, said travel blogger Nurzhan Algashev in an exclusive interview with The Astana Times.
Many tourist sites such as Alakol, Balkhash and Burabai rely on revenue from May-September. In autumn, hotels, guest houses, small cafés and entertainment spots start to close and freeze their business till the following summer. If one plans a vacation in autumn, he or she should explore the southern part of the country to have a wonderful time.
“Of course, it is also possible to travel in autumn,” he said. “This is especially true about the south of Kazakhstan, where warm days last longer. I would recommend visiting more southern regions exactly in the period when it gets colder in the north.”
In the Turkestan Region, Algashev suggests travelling to Khoja Akhmet Yassawi mausoleum, Ak Meshit cave, Arystanbab and the ancient cities such as Otyrar and Sauran.
In the Zhambyl Region, it is Aisha Bibi mausoleum, Karakhan mausoleum and Akyrtas city, destinations for pilgrimages and cultural-historical and gastronomical tourism.
“It (autumn) is very suitable for pilgrimage tourism. These are holy places,” he said. “You can easily visit them in the fall, because in the south it is a bit warmer. The weather allows it.”
Autumn is also a good time for people who prefer a detox programme, rehabilitation sessions from stress and exhaustion and medical procedures in one of the country’s many sanatoriums that operate year round.
“The sanatoriums function not only near big cities. For instance, Rakhmanovskie Kliuchi (Rakhmanov’s Springs) is located in the most eastern part of Kazakhstan… You can both get treatment and enjoy nature,” he said.
The flora covering the East Kazakhstan and Pavlodar regions becomes especially bright and colourful in the beginning of the season. If not viewing the display from a sanatorium, tourists can visit national parks for similar scenes, he said.
Adventure seekers are also treated to many options.
“Adventure tourism, by the way, is claimed to be one of the potentially interesting ones for Kazakhstan in terms of the positioning of our country. (This is) eco-tourism, adventure tourism,” said Algashev.
Kazakhstan has a “very beautiful nature that varies from forest to mountains, glaciers, deserts, canyons and other landscapes” and many areas offer camping, hiking, trekking and climbing. The Alatau Mountains in the Almaty Region, for example, have very popular routes for one-day trips or trips that last several days.
Climbing is very popular near Almaty. Locals usually “go to mountains and climb them with equipment and, in the evening, go back to the city,” he noted.
The country has options for climbers, both amateur and professional. Inexperienced individuals can hire a qualified instructor and scale category 1A and 1B peaks, Russian grades for easy roped climbing.
“For beginners, it can be Maloalmatinsky gorge and Bolshoe Almatinskoe gorge. There is Kok Zhailau, famous Kim-Asar gorge or trekking to Bukreyev Peak,” said Algashev.
Tourists can trek in the east in the Altai mountains or the west to see the “unbelievable Marcian scenery on Ustyurt Plateau.” Climbing in the west is a tough trip, however, due to the lack of water. For a more enjoyable experience, he recommends several-day expeditions by four wheel drives .
“Cycling tours are getting more popular, also in rough terrain such as in Assy Plateau, mountains and foothills of the Almaty Region. The same can be done near the capital in Burabai,” he said.
Some enthusiasts enjoy horseback riding or rafting. The latter is available in the mountains of the Almaty and East Kazakhstan regions.
“I think these are the most popular activities to do in Kazakhstan… I think adventure tourism has a big potential in our country. The main thing is to want it,” he noted.
Algashev specifically highlighted the tourism potential of the Almaty Region.
“First of all, it is a modern megapolis that can offer anything. The second, it is near mountains. In other words, the nature component cheers you both in summer and in winter. In winter, Shymbulak mountain resort works, while in summer tourists can go trekking and do other activities. A few hours’ ride will take you to Charyn Canyon, Kolsai Lakes and other tourist attractions,” he said.
Mangystau Region is another area with booming tourism opportunities.
“It is the only place where we have our own ‘sea.’ The Caspian Sea might be a lake, but it is a big water reservoir. (There are also) Bozzhyra, Sherkala, Tuzbayir and Chinki canyons and Ustyurt Plateau – fantastic places,” he added.
In promoting tourism and developing its potential, the Kazakh government and experts frequently discuss the idea that Central Asia should position itself as one destination and introduce a new Silk Road visa.
“I am very happy that there is an understanding of this question in our government and, maybe, in other neighbouring countries… It is very right to introduce one Silk Road visa. It will be a very good step. Why? Because of foreign tourists. If we look at ourselves as tourists, we travel to remote places such as European countries, South Eastern Asia and North and South America. Accordingly, if we visit those continents, we try to visit as many countries as possible. This is the nature of a person, that a tourist wants to see the maximum, have more experiences, visit more countries and places. A visa always stays as a barrier. When a tourist visits our region, for example, Uzbekistan, and if he has an opportunity to visit Kazakhstan, why wouldn’t he or she use it? If not all, but half of tourists take the opportunity, then it is already a very big plus, a very big flow,” he said.