NUR-SULTAN – The Australian-based Lonely Planet travel guide book listed Kazakhstan among its 2021 Best in Travel destinations. The travel giant also placed Central Asia at the top of 2020 Best in Travel regions in January.
The list usually includes the Best in Travel cities, countries, and regions. The 2021 travel guide split the single list into three new categories featuring countries that were rated Best in Sustainability, Best in Community, and Best in Diversity. Each category also has ten subcategories.
“We realized that to reimagine travel post-2020, we needed to reinvent ourselves first, so we updated our editorial practices to highlights more local and diverse voices,” said Lonely Planet President and CEO Luis Cabrera.
Because of this new approach, Kazakhstan’s quickly joined the Best in Community list. Instead of building new hotels and infrastructure, Kazakhstan invested in its rural communities, thus, minimizing environmental impact and ensuring a more authentic experience for tourists.
“Spearheaded by the Kazakhstan Tourism Association, rural villagers are trained in hospitality to provide homestays for tourists while acquiring fresh economic opportunities for themselves,” the article reads.
The Lonely Planet highly valued the efforts of the Kazakhstan Tourism Association in the area of scalability and community empowerment. The association supports rural homestays connecting them with local tour operators and training them in the art of hospitality.
Choosing rural homestays means choosing authentic Kazakh experiences and supporting the rural economic livelihood. In addition to comfortable family homes and traditional yurts, locals offer activities such as horseback riding, hiking, village tours, and national dish cooking workshops.
“It was a more intimate way to discover this country and its customs, which also requires a great openness and a willingness to share with others. It was the best decision,” said Gaël Bokongo, a traveler who stayed in a homestay, told the Lonely Planet.
The rural communities in remote regions often happen to live next to breath-taking views of mountains, lakes, and canyons. The Lonely Planet reviewer has visited Saty village next to Kolsai and Kaiyndy lakes, and Charyn Canyon.
“Kazakhstan is having a moment. Revived interest in the Silk Road legacy of Central Asia has helped the nation step out from behind a curtain of relative travel anonymity to become something of a sought-after destination,” the article reads.