yurt in Kazakhstan

Itinerary map
See itinerary here

(continued from UAE)

Landed in Astana early morning.  The airport has a Soviet style that I like.  I spent my 2 first days exploring the city and planning my stay around the country. Like everyone says, Astana is a modern, organized city with amazing buildings being built from petro dollars. 
It is Kazakhstan's new capital with a spectacular presidential's palace.

I visited the International Expo 2017 which was held by Milan in 2015 and will be held by Dubai in 2022.  Amazing to see all these countries around the world and how they are working towards a sustainable, renewable future.  Kazakhstan pavillon (big round sphere on pictures) was by far the most impressive with 8 indoor levels.

Astana tower
Burabay National Park Charyn Canyon Friends Mosque and mountains in Eastern Kazakhstan
Modern Astana

I visited Burabay National park, 300km north of Astana, a green patch of mountain in the middle of deserted plains.  The landscape and vegetation were very similar to Canada.  With my GPS, I was surprised to learn that I was above the 55th parallel north.

I also visited Malinovka, a small town 35km East of Astana to learn about the forced labour camp from the Staline era.  Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the Soviet Union died here between 1937 and 1950.

Truck Horse meat hot dog Kok Tobe Astana Expo 2017
Building a yurt, Kazakhstan

I took a 17 hour train to travel 1250km to Almaty, the old capital of Kazakhstan until 1998.  What a different feeling from Astana: big trees, lots of shade, cafes everywhere.  No sky scrapers, and cool old Soviet like buildings.  I spent most of my first day walking around town, visiting the Orthodox cathedral, the amazing mosque and the super interesting market, where I bought fermented camel milk.  I took the cable car to Kok Tobe, the top of a small mountain, providing amazing views over the city and the Tian Shan mountains.

panoramic picture
Charyn Canyon

The electricity kept coming ON and OFF for the first few days in the apartment where I stayed, a shitty place for the price paid.

On my birthday (September 8th), I left Almaty with a Kazakh couple owning a RV camper.  We drove through amazing landscape in southern Kazakhstan, including Charyn Canyon and Kolsay Lakes during 3 days.  I hiked to Kolsay 2nd lake (and back) in 6 hours (16km).  On my last day, we slept in Kegen and they were kind enough to drive me to the Kazakstan-Kyrgyzstan border, located in the middle of no where!  One of the most remote and unused border in the world (that I have seen in my life!). 

Continue reading because Kyrgyzstan was my next destination!

You can check more of my pictures from Kazakhstan on flickr.

Mosque in Astana