Kazakhstan’s Top-Rated Visitor Centers in National Parks

ASTANA — The Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Kazakhstan has recently unveiled a comprehensive ranking of the most popular visitor centers within its national parks. The compilation highlights the significant role these centers play in providing essential services to visitors while ensuring minimal environmental impact.

Photo credit: ile-alatau.kz. Click to see the map in full size. The map is designed by The Astana Times.

Turgensai, the Ile-Alatau National Park in the Almaty Region

Offering a breathtaking natural panorama, Turgensai secured the top spot in Kazakhstan’s ranking of visitor centers and was attended by a total of 258,632 people. It is located 80 kilometers from Almaty. As a starting point on a journey through the protected areas of Turgensai Gorge, it is a popular destination for camping, hiking, and mountain biking among locals. The center, created by modern standards, provides tourists and guests of the region with an information desk, a lecture hall, a souvenir shop, a catering facility, a playground and terraces around the area. Tourists flock to this picturesque destination, drawn by its ecological allure and the immersive experience it provides.

Turgensai visitor center. Photo credit: primeminister.kz.

Sharyn, Almaty Region

The Sharyn visitor center, also nestled in the Almaty Region, claims the second position in Kazakhstan’s visitor center ranking. In six months it attracted 49,332 visitors. The Sharyn National Natural Park was created to preserve natural landscapes of special ecological, historical and aesthetic value. Surrounded by the stunning landscapes of the region, Sharyn captivates visitors with its unique offerings and commitment to sustainable tourism. The park is a haven for not only unique natural objects and complexes but also historic and cultural heritage. Tourists find special interest in the burial grounds and mounds on the park territory.

The Sharyn visitor center. Photo credit: journalofnomads.com

Zerenda, Kokshetau National Nature Park in the Akmola Region 

Heading north to the Akmola Region, Zerenda captures the third spot in the ranking, which welcomed 11,709 people in the first half of this year. This region, with its distinctive charm and natural wonders, has become a favorite among tourists. Zerenda’s visitor center stands as a gateway to the rich biodiversity of the Akmola Region. Zerenda stands out with its rugged coastline featuring a sandy beach, crystal-clear fresh water and a variety of fish inhabiting the waters. Abundant in wildlife and various berries and mushrooms, these lands have long attracted nature enthusiasts looking to indulge in the gifts of nature. In the vicinity of the river, wild boars, elk, deer and other animals inhabit the area. In the dense forests of the natural park, on the lakeshore, there is a plethora of guest houses to suit every taste and budget.

Zerenda, Kokshetau National Nature Park. Photo credit: Photo Safari Group.

Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve, Akmola Region

As we delve deeper into the Akmola Region, the Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve emerges as a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Securing a notable position in the ranking, the reserve’s visitor center welcomes guests with information on the region’s diverse flora and fauna, emphasizing the importance of conservation. More than 7,000 people visited the reserve this year. Korgalzhyn Reserve is included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage List “Saryarka — Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan.” UNESCO also recognized the Reserve as the first biosphere reserve in Kazakhstan. Korgalzhyn Reserve has the largest population of pink flamingos in Kazakhstan. Scientists say that until 2011 there were about 45,000 of this species, unfortunately, now the population has decreased to 15,000. Tourists come to see these beautiful birds in the warm seasons – from May to October.

Flamingos in Korgalzhyn Nature Reseve. Photo credit: astana.citypass.kz

Altyn-Emel National Park, Almaty Region

Concluding the list is the Altyn-Emel National Park in the Almaty Region, which welcomed 6,000 visitors this year. While situated at the tail end of the ranking, Altyn-Emel’s visitor center serves as a gateway to the park’s unique geological formations and cultural landmarks. It is the third largest national park in Kazakhstan in terms of territory and the first in the Almaty region. Altyn-Emel National Park is renowned primarily for its exceptional natural attractions that draw in travelers from around the globe. The Singing Dune and the Aktau Mountains stand out as the park’s foremost natural wonders, symbolizing its unique charm.

Altyn-Emel National Park. Photo credit: altynemel.kz.

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