KYRGYZSTAN

KYRGYZSTAN  - A WELCOMING, HOSPITALE COUNTRY WITH A BEAUTIFUL NATURE AND CULTURE

 In terms of naming conventions, the country's official name is "Kyrgyz Republic" whenever it is used in some international arenas and foreign relations. “Kyrgyz” is thought to be derived from the Turkic word for “forty” – a reference to the 40 clans of the great Manas. The country’s flag, a nod to this, features a 40-ray sun. Situated in the northern Himalayas with over 80% of the country straddling the fabled Tien Shan and Pamir Mountains, Kyrgyzstan’s intact and undisturbed alpine nature makes it among the world’s most unique mountainous places. Kyrgyzstan is one of the Central Asian ex-Soviet states achieving independence in 1991 and since then continues to develop and flower making it peaceful and beautiful. It’s wedged between Kazakhstan in North, Uzbekistan in west, Tajikistan in South and the huge China in east. Without any ocean (however the worlds next-biggest mountain lake Issyk Kul) and palm-coral beaches Kyrgyzstan is luckily still visited by few tourists and those coming here does it to marvel the magnificent nature.

Kyrgyz is believed to have been derived from the Turkic word for "forty", about the forty clans of Manas, a legendary hero who united forty regional clans against the Uyghurs. Literally, Kyrgyz means "We are forty". At the time, in the early 9th century AD, the Uyghurs dominated much of Central Asia (including Kyrgyzstan), Mongolia, and parts of modern-day Russia and China. The 40-ray sun on the flag of Kyrgyzstan is a reference to those same forty tribes and the graphical element in the sun's center depicts the wooden crown, called tunduk, of a yurt—a portable dwelling traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan, country of Central Asia. It is bounded by Kazakhstan on the northwest and north, by China on the east and south, and by Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on the south and west. Most of Kyrgyzstan’s borders run along mountain crests. The capital is Bishkek (known from 1862 to 1926 as Pishpek and from 1926 to 1991 as Frunze). Kyrgyzstan also was a important part of the ancient Silk Road. Many cities in Kyrgyzstan were closely connected with the Silk Road. However, after the invasion of the Mongols, most of the buildings and artifacts from that time were destroyed

 

KYRGYZSTAN IS ABOVE ALL A MOUNTAINOUS COUNTRY

The mountainous covers 80 per cent of the land. Kyrgyzstan lies where two great Central Asian mountain systems, the Tian Shan and the Pamirs, come together. The Tian Shan Mountains run northeast to form the country's eastern border with China; Kyrgyzstan's southern border with Tajikistan follows the Trans Alai Range along the northernmost part of the Pamirs. At its eastern extremity, next to the Uighur Autonomous Region of Sinkiang, China, rises Victory (Pobedy) Peak, Kyrgyzstan's highest peak at 7,439 metres.Mount Khan-Tengri is on the border with Kazakhstan and Peak Lenin (7,134 metres)  in Gorno-Badakhshan on the border of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and is the second-highest point of both countries. It is considered one of the less technical 7000 m peaks in the world to climb and it has by far the most ascents of any 7000 m or higher peak on Earth, with every year seeing hundreds of mountaineers make their way to the summit.

Kyrgyzstan is one of 45 landlocked countries, but does have the consolation of Issyk-Kul, the world's second largest high-altitude lake (behind Titicaca in South America). Issyk-Kul Lake is 182 kilometres long, up to 60 kilometres wide and reaches 668 metres in depth. Its area is 6,236 square kilometres. About 118 rivers and streams flow into the lake; the largest are the Djyrgalan and Tyup. It is fed by springs, including many hot springs and snow melt. Issyk-Kul is an endorheic lake in the Northern Tian Shan mountains in Eastern Kyrgyzstan. It is the seventh deepest lake in the world, the tenth largest lake in the world by volume (though not in surface area) and the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea. The lake has no current outlet, but some hydrologists hypothesize that the lake's water filters deep underground into the Chu River. The bottom of the lake contains the mineral monohydrocalcite: one of the few known lacustrine deposits. Issyk-Kul means "warm lake" in the Kyrgyz language; although it is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it never freezes. The lake is a Ramsar site of globally significant biodiversity[6] and forms part of the Issyk-Kul Biosphere Reserve.

Kyrgyzstan might be one of the smallest countries in Central Asia, yet its landscapes are diverse: from exquisite mountain ranges, lush valleys and hundreds of rivers and alpine lakes to stark landscapes and sandstone canyons. Kyrgyzstan is a paradise for outdoor and adventure lovers! There are so many beautiful treks in the country that you’ll need a lifetime to do them all! Canyons are one of the most spectacular features of Kyrgyzstan’s nature. They are so scenic and often have a magical feel to it.

 

CLIMATE

Kyrgyzstan’s great distance from the oceans and the sharp change of elevation from adjacent plains strongly influence the country’s climate. Deserts and plains surround Kyrgyzstan on the north, west, and southeast, making the contrast with the climate and landscape of its mountainous interior all the more striking. The lower parts of its fringing ranges lie in belts of high temperature and receive hot, drying winds from the deserts beyond. The amount of precipitation the country’s westward- and northward-facing slopes receive increases with their height. The valleys have hot dry summers, with a mean July temperature of 82 °F (28 °C). In January the average temperature is −0.5 °F (−18 °C). Annual precipitation varies from 7 inches (180 mm) in the eastern Tien Shan to 30 to 40 inches (760 to 1,000 mm) in the Kyrgyz and Fergana ranges. In the most populous valleys, rainfall ranges from 4 to 20 inches (100 to 500 mm) a year.

Kyrgyzstan has plenty of natural hot springs! Some of them are very popular because they’re so beneficial for the health. The water is known to help with diseases related to the nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems.

 

BISHKEK – THE CAPITAL

Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan and the greenest city in Central Asia. It’s the largest city in the country but most travelers don’t stay here very long. They’re more interested in conquering the Kyrgyz mountains. Bishkek is a green, peaceful city, and base for Sovietistan Travel office. There is great things to experience in Bishkek. There is a excellent range of good restaurants and a cool nightlife. It is a peaceful city with many beautiful parks. It has all the qualities a big city and capital offers. Despite it is capital, it still remains a quiet place compared to e.g. Tashkent, Almaty, Nur-Sultan, etc  It’s quite an experience to shop at a local market or at one of the chaotic bazaars in Kyrgyzstan. It’s the place where the locals do their shopping and the bazaars are an integral part of their life. You’ll find everything you need: from local food, spices, fruits, and vegetables to household goods, dodgy electronic equipment, clothes, toys, and souvenirs

 

OSH – THE FORGOTTEN SILK ROAD CITY

Osh, the country’s second largest city, is also one of the oldest (3.000+ years) in the region. Its vast and bustling market – still going strong – was a key trading point on the Silk Road, the overland route taken by caravans heading between Europe and Asia. In Osh, the mountains was a beacon for travelers. Sulaiman Too was seen as a sacred mountain and a major place of pilgrimage. Its five peaks and slopes contain a large assembly of ancient cult places and caves, to which sick people come in the hope to be cured. There’s a smooth rock slope called Bel Tash. People believe that if you slide down this slope, you’ll heal from all your ailments and women who seek to conceive will get pregnant. The caves are all interconnected with a network of ancient paths and renovated mosques.

 

RICH IN CULTURE AND HISTORY

Kyrgyzstan has three Unesco World Heritage sites. The Tien-Shan mountain range is one, the network of routes that made up the historic Silk Road is another, the third is Sulayman Mountain on the outskirts of Osh. It is "the most complete example of a sacred mountain anywhere in Central Asia,” according to UNESCO, and has been worshipped for several millennia. Women who climb to the shrine at the top will, according to legend, give birth to healthy children.

Kyrgyzstan has the most vibrant and accessible nomadic culture of Central Asia. Staying in a yurt camp is one of the best and most wonderful things you can do when you want to learn more about the Central Asian nomadic culture. Many nomadic families welcome travelers in their yurts. You can stay with them for a few nights, participate in their daily activities.Yurts still litter the steppes and just 36 per cent of the country’s resident live in an urban location.

Horses have always played an essential role in the lives of the Central Asian nomads. They were the first people in the world to learn the skill of horseback riding. The nomads practically lived on their saddles while roaming the endless steppes and jailoos and their children learned how to ride horses before they could barely walk. The horse is still a loyal companion for the shepherds, and for many Kyrgyz. Nowadays horsemanship is still a much-revered skill in Kyrgyzstan. The boys in the small towns and villages learn from an early age to sit in the saddle and while they grow up, they master the skill of riding. The national horse game is Kok Boru, better known as Dead Goat Polo. Kok Boru is an ancient honored tradition among the nomadic tribes and one of the most popular sports in Central Asia. It looks like a polo game but it’s played with the beheaded body of a goat. There is less hazardous games you can attend, like At Chabysh (a long distance race), Kurosh and Oodarysh (wrestling games on horses), Kyz Kumay (catch the bride), Tiyin Enmey (a game where the rider has to pick up coins from the ground while riding at full speed) and many more. We show our visitors these games whenever possible. Sometimes we happens to come across such horse games by chance, and there are also organized festivals and events during the summer.

One of the most beautiful ways to experience the country in a real Kyrgyz style is by going on a horseback riding trip for one or several days. Sovietistan Travel has organized such tours for many years. Kumyz, fermented mare’s milk, is drunk with great gusto in the steppes of Kyrgyzstan.

The art of felt-making has always played an important role in the lives of the Kyrgyz people. The secrets of this handicraft were handed down from generation to generation. The felt, made from lamb wool, was primarily used to cover and decorate the yurts but this material was also used to make carpets, bags, toys, and clothes. The thick and durable felt that is used for the outside of the yurt is called boz ui, (gray home, named after the color). The colorful felt used to cover both the floors and walls on the inside of the yurt is called shyrdak. They often have the most colorful embroidered decorations stitched on it, which are called tush-kiyiz. Each tush-kiyiz has a symbolic meaning and can tell a story.

Music has always been a big part of Kyrgyzstan’s culture, and the traditional folk music in Kyrgyzstan is a symbol of the country’s heritage. There are two styles in Kyrgyz folk music: vocal and instrumental. The vocal songs have lyrics about the nomadic lifestyle or tell epic tales from Manas or other Kyrgyz literature. The instrumental songs often refer to the sounds of the nomadic life and the landsapes. There are several instruments used in the Kyrgyz music. The komuz is the national and most important - a three-stringed instrument that looks like a small guitar. There is  other instruments like the temir ooz komuz (a type of jaw harp), the sybyzgy (a type of flute), the dobulba and asa-tayak (percussion instruments) and the kyl kyak, a vertical string instrument that looks similar to a violin, shaped as the face of a horse and played with a bow made of hair from the tail of a horse.

 

There’s a big collection of ancient bal-bals in the field near the Burana Tower. These bal-bals are gravestones, made by the nomadic Turkic tribes who used to roam around Central Asia in the 6th century. These gravestones were initially erected as a representation of slain enemies and later became memorials for their own ancestors. The bal-bals are oddly proportioned with misshapen heads and short torsos, characterized by detailed carvings of faces and hands. They were made by some of the greatest stone carvers of their time and are remarkably well-preserved. While most bal-bals seem to be gazing in the distance with a stern look on their face, you can spot one or two who seemed to be enjoying their eternal life with a smile.

UZBEKISTAN

UZBEKISTAN IS KNOWN FOR MANY THINGS - A DESTINATION YOU MUST SEE TO BELIEVE!

Sovietistan Travel has travelled and organized many tours during the years, and we have great experience in pin-pointing exactly what to see & do. We make priority not seeing as many attractions possible, but to select the best, hence offering the most rewarding experience of Uzbekistan. We tailor-make all our departures accordingly time of year and our clients wishes. In order to explore the Silk Road cities in a more eco-friendly way, and 2021 we launch our first departures where we spend more time on foot, walking around the cities attractions, instead of just sitting in a bus. Of course, we offer all levels of services and accommodation, but our priority is always smaller groups, and informel travelling -   treasuring the amazing architecture and the pure-hearted smiling people of Uzbekistan. Of course, we offer more traditional round-trips to the Silk Road cities of Uzbekistan; typically Tashkent – Khiva – Bukhara – Samakand – Tashkent, but we also explore less developed touristic attractions and regions in Uzbekistan e.g. we are particularely fond of South-eastern corner in the Fergana-region. Here is plenty of really nice and positive things to explore – this is the region where you find production of Silk and ceramics, and where the landscapes are rich of fruit ochards; abricots, peaches, grapes, etc. Our combined Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan tour is an splendid tour to give you an impression of Uzbekistans Silk Road cities, Fergana-region and of course, neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. Another attraction we amire, is the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan, officially the Republic of Karakalpakstan. The capital is Nukus, with it’s worldfamous Museum of Art, also known as the Savitsky Museum and the Desert of Forbidden Art. It possesses the world’s second largest collection of Russian avant-garde artworks, as well as galleries of antiquities and Karakalpak folk art.

REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan has an area of 447.400 square kilometres. Uzbekistan stretches 1,425 kilometres from west to east and 930 kilometres from north to south. Bordering Kazakhstan and the Aralkum Desert (former Aral Sea) to the north and northwest, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan to the southwest, Tajikistan to the southeast, Kyrgyzstan to the northeast and the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan to the south-west. Uzbekistan is one of the largest Central Asian states and the only Central Asian state to border all the other four. Uzbekistan also shares a short border (less than 150 km) with Afghanistan to the south. Uzbekistan is a dry, landlocked country. It is one of two doubly landlocked countries in the world (that is, a landlocked country completely surrounded by other landlocked countries), the other being Liechtenstein. In addition, due to its location within a series of endorheic basins, none of its rivers lead to the sea. Less than 10% of its territory is intensively cultivated irrigated land in river valleys and oases, and formerly in the Aral Sea, which has largely desiccated in one of the world's worst environmental disasters.[44] The rest is the vast Kyzylkum Desert and mountains. The highest point in Uzbekistan is Khazret Sultan at 4,643 metres above sea level, in the southern part of the Gissar Range in the Surxondaryo Region on the border with Tajikistan, just northwest of Dushanbe (formerly called Peak of the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party). Uzbekistan is home to six terrestrial ecoregions: Alai-Western Tian Shan steppeGissaro-Alai open woodlandsBadghyz and Karabil semi-desertCentral Asian northern desertCentral Asian riparian woodlands, and Central Asian southern desert.

 

CLIMATE

The climate in Uzbekistan is continental, with little precipitation expected annually (100–200 millimetres). The average summer high temperature tends to be 40 °C, while the average winter low temperature is around −23 °C.

ABOUT

Uzbekistan lies at the core of the ancient Silk Road, and the strategic location gave it many advantages. Since aeons, traders travelled from China to Europe through Uzbekistan and brought with them a wide mix of ethnic groups, cultures, religions, crafts, and food. There is many things to marvel in Uzbekistan. Bazaars and markets are the living and beating hearts of every city in Uzbekistan. Exploring the colorful bazaars is great places to get a taste of local food and treats. It is where locals shop for fresh produce, meat (ranging from lamb to horsemeat, and their daily bread). Rows upon rows of fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, and dry fruits are what brings this bazaar to life. Uzbekistan's signature dish is palov (plov or osh), a main course typically made with rice, pieces of meat, and grated carrots and onions. Oshi nahor, or morning plov, is served in the early morning (between 6 am and 9 am) to large gatherings of guests, typically as part of an ongoing wedding celebration. These places are a shoppers paradise. From ceramics to pottery to crockery to dry fruits to ikat print textiles they have it all. Ikat is a national pattern which you will see in a lot of textiles from tablecloths to scarfs. During summer there are many musicians and dancers performing in the streets of the old cities. It’s not uncommon to come across people dressed in traditional clothes dancing to an eerily beautiful song.

 

MUCH TOO SEE IN UZBEKISTAN

Fergana Region is one of the regions of Uzbekistan, located in the southern part of the Fergana Valley in the far east of the country. It borders the Namangan and Andijan Regions of Uzbekistan, as well as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Agriculture is the main economy activity of Fergana Region, primarily irrigated cotton, sericulture, horticulture, and wine. Animal husbandry concentrates on meat and milk production.The area is also a center for textile and silk weaving, light industry, clothing and the production of traditional Uzbek handicrafts, especially pottery. Getting to the Aral Sea is a major expedition these days, so figure on a two-day 4WD trip from Nukus. Termiz There are many half-hidden ruins and Islamic shrines to discover in the countryside around this remote border town. Kokand, the least visited of Uzbekistan's three medieval khanates, the palace of Khudayar Khan is the highlight here. Nukus It may feel like the end of the world but the capital of Karakalpakstan has a world-class museum. Uzbekistan may be light on mountains but you can still stretch your legs in the western reaches of the Tian Shan, near Tashkent. Visiting Uzbekistan is a feast for the senses, from the wonderful turqouis tilework decorating madrassas and mosques to bustling markets and bazaars. It is absolutely stunning. The sheer mastery and craftsmanship that went into building the minarets, tombs, madrassas, mosques really baffles the visitor. Uzbekistan is home to the three most important Silk Road cities, Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva.

 

THE FAMOUS SILK ROAD CITIES: BUKHARA, SAMARKAND & KHIVA

 

BUKHARA

Bukhara is the fifth-largest city in Uzbekistan, and the capital of Bukhara Region. People have inhabited the region around Bukhara for at least five millennia, and the city has existed for half that time. Located on the Silk Road, the city has long served as a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. Bukhara served as the capital of the Samanid Empire, Khanate of Bukhara, and Emirate of Bukhara and was the birthplace of Imam Bukhari. The city has been known as "Noble Bukhara" and has about 140 architectural monuments. UNESCO has listed the historic center of Bukhara as a World Heritage Site. Likewise Khiva and Samarkand, Bukhara has lots to offer the visitor. This historic old town is in fact the most complete example of a medieval city in Central Asia today, and its well-preserved urban structure and striking medieval architecture, as well as the remains of many covered bazaars, all reflect the influence of the Silk Roads throughout the long history of Bukhara. 

 

Walking between the numerous arches and cupolas of the old city feels like walking back in time. The city breathes of an architectural genius that is seldom found in our modern metropolises, and the sheer mastery and craftsmanship that went into building the minarets, cupolas, and walls of this city baffles every visitor. It’s a place where one can walk around and spend days on end visiting some of the world’s most beautiful mosques and Madrasas. Bukhara has some buildings that are more than a thousand years old and the old center hasn’t changed much since its construction. The city has numerous pools of water like the one at Lyabi Hauz that reflects the blue mosaics around it. 

 

Bukhara city is divided into two parts, the old city, and the new city. While a big part of the city’s inhabitants lives in the new city, the older part is the most interesting area. This is where you’ll find most of the beautiful Madrasahs and minarets. Bukhara is not just about architecture and there is plenty to do in and around the city. Bukhara is a modern city with buzzling traffic and people getting around. Because of this Bukhara still feels very authentic.

ARK FORTRESS. This huge white citadel used to be a military fort and the symbol of the state’s power. This is one of Bukhara’s oldest structure and it holds several museums, a mosque and old stables. Bolo Khauz Mosque is just a hundred meters away from the Ark citadel. The mosque has some of the most stunning and intricately carved wooden pillars with a ceiling above the pillars covered in beautiful frescoes and geometrical patterns.

 

POI KALON ENSEMBLE. This courtyard is surrounded by the Kalon minaret, the Miri Arab Madrasah, and the Kalon mosque. It’s the crown of Bukhara. People come from all over the world to witness the beauty of this place. The blue cupola of the Madrasah is covered in a golden glow during sunset.

 

ULUGBEK MADRASAH. This madrasah is relatively small compared to the ones found in the Poi Kalon Ensemble but it’s still very gorgeous.

 

ABDULAZIZ KHAN MADRASAH. This is part of the architectural ensemble of Ulugbek Madrasah and is found right across from it, however, it is much bigger and more beautiful. The Abdulaziz Khan Madrasah is grand and elaborately decorated

 

ISMAIL SAMANI MAUSOLEUM. The Ismail Samani Mausoleum is located in the beautiful Samanidov park. This is one of the oldest few buildings that remain from the rich Persian Samanid dynasty that ruled Central Asia until the 10th century. This shrine is considered to be one of the oldest monuments in the Bukhara region.

 

CHOR MINOR MADRASSAH, which means four minarets in the Tajik language is one of the most charming buildings in Bukhara. It has four turquoise domes.

 

LYABI KHAUZ ENSEMBLE. It’s the name of the area that surrounds one of the few hauz or small water ponds of Bukhara. When Bukhara was first built, it was possible to find smaller ponds like this one in every inner courtyard of the old city. Lyabi Hauz is one of the few remaining ponds in the city. The pond is surrounded by small restaurants, souvenir shops, a very unique Madrasah, and a mosque.

 

CHOR BAKIR COMPLEX. The Chor Bakir necropolis is a cemetery covering almost 3 hectares located just a few kilometers outside of the old town. It was the burial place of Abu-Bakr-Said and many people in Uzbekistan consider this sacred place to be a very important pilgrimage site.

SAMARKAND:

In Uzbek, Samarqand, is one of the oldest cities of Central Asia. Known as Maracanda in the 4th century BCE, it was the capital of Sogdiana and was captured by Alexander the Great in 329 BCE. The city was later ruled by Central Asian Turks, the Arabs, the Sāmānids of Iran, and various Turkic peoples before it was annexed by the Khwārezm-Shāh dynasty and destroyed by Genghis Khan (1220). After it revolted against its Mongol rulers, Samarkand became the capital of the empire of Timur (Tamerlane), who made the city the most important economic and cultural centre in Central Asia. Later Samarkand was conquered by Uzbeks in 1500 and became part of the khanate of Bukhara. By the 18th century it had declined, until it became a provincial capital of the Russian Empire (1887). It was briefly (1924–36) the capital of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. Samarkand today consists of an old city dating from medieval times and a new section built after the Russian conquest of the area in the 19th century.

There is plenty of attractions in Samarkand, and some of the Worlds most famous architecture are among them. In short, the Registan Central Asia's most impressive ensemble comprises three huge medressas covered in stunning tilework, Shah-i-Zinda,   Gur Emir Mausoleum, Bibi Khanym Mosque, Ulugh Beg Observatory, Ulugbek Madrasah, Tillya Kori Madrasah, Sher Dor Madrasah, Imam Bokhari Mausoleum, Saint Daniel’s Tomb, Hazrat Khizr Mosque, Afrosibab (Museum), Gumbaz Synagogue, etc

 

KHIVA

Visiting the ancient city of Khiva is like travel back in time. The old city of Khiva (also known as Itchan Kala) is essentially an open-air museum. It has a fortress surrounding the complex, within which, there are dozens of ancient madrasas, mosques, minarets, and clay-coloured houses.  According to archaeological data, the city was established around 1500 years ago. It is the former capital of Khwarezmia and the Khanate of KhivaItchan Kala in Khiva was the first site in Uzbekistan to be inscribed in the World Heritage List (1991).Try to visit Khiva early in the morning because once the sun rises, the alleys of Itchan Kala saturated with textile salesmen and souvenir shops.

TURKMENISTAN

The sovereign state of Turkmenistan is ruled by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.

 

TURKMENISTAN IS WELCOMING, FRIENDLY AND A VERY SAFE COUNTRY

In short, Turkmenistan is a really pleasant and welcoming country to visit! Turkmenistan is a very safe country likewise the rest of Central Asia. It is possible walking at night without the slightest problems, and the Turkmen people is extremely, helpful, friendly and welcoming.   Sovietistan Travel has conducted business with Turkmen business partners for years, and has been all-over in the country, and we really praise the experience. The standard of accommodation and restaurants in Turkmenistan is excellent! Tourism is fairly new, but improves year-by-year. Most nationalities need visa to enter Turkmenistan, but receiving an invitation prior departure it is easy to enter upon arrival in Ashgabat International Airport. The staff is friendly and welcoming.

CLIMATE

The greatest “challenge” for most visitors is the hot summer climate (And for locals too; that’s why many bus stops are equipped with A/C. The climate is arid continental, with cold winters and scorchingly hot, sunny summers. Being that the country is subject to different air masses, the weather is unstable and there can be cold spells as well as heatwaves. The wind can be strong and can raise dust storms. Much of Turkmenistan is occupied by the Karakum Desert, where the temperature in summer can reach as high as 50 °C. The coasts of the Caspian Sea are desert as well, but they are milder in winter, while they are a bit less hot but more humid in summer. In the north, in the area which was once occupied by the Aral Sea, we find Lake Sarygamysh, a lake fed by a branch of the Amu Darya River and once part of the same Aral Sea

 

GEOGRAPHY

Turkmenistan, officially the Republic of Turkmenistan.  It is predominately an desert country in Central Asia, bordering a range of countries and the Caspian Sea. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwestUzbekistan to the north, east and northeastAfghanistan to the southeastIran to the south and southwest and the Caspian Sea to the west. At 488,100 km2, Turkmenistan is the world's 52nd-largest country. It is slightly smaller than Spain and somewhat larger than the US state of California. It lies between latitudes 35° and 43° N, and longitudes 52° and 67° E. Over 80% of the country is covered by the Karakum Desert. The center of the country is dominated by the Turan Depression and the Karakum Desert. Topographically, Turkmenistan is bounded by the Ustyurt Plateau to the north, the Kopet Dag Range to the south, the Paropamyz Plateau, the Koytendag Range to the east, the Amu Darya Valley, and the Caspian Sea to the west. Turkmenistan includes three tectonic regions, the Epigersin platform region, the Alpine shrinkage region, and the Epiplatform orogenesis region. The Kopet Dag Range, along the southwestern border, reaches 2,912 metresat Kuh-e Rizeh (Mount Rizeh). The Great Balkhan Range in the west of the country (Balkan Province) and the Köýtendag Range on the southeastern border with Uzbekistan (Lebap Province) are the only other significant elevations. The Great Balkhan Range rises to 1,880 metres at Mount Arlan and the highest summit in Turkmenistan is Ayrybaba in the Kugitangtau Range – 3,137 metres. The Kopet Dag mountain range forms most of the border between Turkmenistan and Iran. Major rivers include the Amu Darya, the Murghab River, the Tejen River, and the Atrek (Etrek) River. Tributaries of the Atrek include the Sumbar River and Chandyr River. The Turkmen shore along the Caspian Sea is 1,748 kilometres long. The Caspian Sea is entirely landlocked, with no natural access to the ocean, although the Volga–Don Canal allows shipping access to and from the Black Sea. Major cities include AşgabatTürkmenbaşy (formerly Krasnovodsk), BalkanabatDaşoguzTürkmenabat, and Mary. The population of the country is about 6 million, the lowest of the Central Asian republics. Turkmenistan is one of the most sparsely populated nations in Asia. Citizens of Turkmenistan are known as Turkmenistanis, Turkmenians or Turkmens.

 

ASHGABAT - THE WHITE CITY

Ashgabat, is the capital and the largest city of Turkmenistan. There is written and said much about the “White capital” Ashgabat, and for most visitors the city whereas many new buildings are constructed with white marble, is an impressive experience.  Ashgabat was recently noted by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the most white marble-clad buildings in the world -- 543 new buildings lined with white marble covering a total area of 4.5 million square meters. The tasks for modern Turkmen architecture are diverse application of modern aesthetics, the search for an architect's own artistic style, and inclusion of the existing historico-cultural environment. Most major new buildings, especially those in Ashgabat, are faced with white marble. Major projects such as Turkmenistan TowerBagt köşgiAlem Cultural and Entertainment CenterAshgabat Flagpole have transformed the country's skyline and promote its identity as a modern, contemporary city. It is situated between the Karakum Desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range in Central Asia. It is also near the Iran-Turkmenistan border. The city was founded in 1881 on the basis of an Ahal Teke tribal village, and made the capital of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic in 1924. Much of the city was destroyed by the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake but has since been extensively rebuilt, resulting in monumental projects sheathed in white marble. The Soviet-era Karakum Canal runs through the city, carrying waters from the Amu Darya from east to west. The greatest number of fountain pools in a public place is 27, which can be found in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, as certified on 29 June 2008. The fountains cover an area of 14.8231 ha. They are coordinated, programmable, with lights, and synchronized. 

RICH IN HISTORY

Turkmenistan has been at the crossroads of civilizations for centuries; Merv is one of the oldest oasis-cities in Central Asia and was once the biggest city in the world. In 1925, Turkmenistan became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union and Turkmenistan declared its independence from the Soviet Union after the independence referendum in 1991. As a result, the constitutional law was adopted on October 27 of that year and Article 1 established the new name of the state: Turkmenistan. Most of the country is covered by the Karakum or Black Sand Desert.

TURKMENISTAN HAS A IMPRESSIVE LIST OF WORLD HERITAGE SITES

 

1. Ancient Merv, a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road in the BaýramalyMary Region

2. Köneürgenç, unexcavated ruins of the 12th-century capital of Khwarazm.

3. Parthian Fortresses of Nisa, one of the first capitals of the Parthians. Bagyr neighborhood, Ashgabat

 

OTHER NOTEABLE SIGHTSEEING PLACES

 

DARWAZA GAS CRATER - "DOOR TO HELL"

Not on the list, but one of the most well-known touristic sites, is the Darvaza gas crater The gas crater is near the village of Darvaza, also known as Derweze. It is in the middle of the Karakum Desert, about 260 kilometres north of Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. The gas reserve found here is one of the largest in the world. The name "Door to Hell" was given to the field by the locals, referring to the fire, boiling mud, and orange flames in the large crater, which has a diameter of 70 metres. The hot spots range over an area with a width of 60 metres and to a depth of about 20 metres. In the 1970s, Soviet engineers accidentally collapsed this cavern about 260 km north of Ashgabat, while exploring for gas in the Karakum Desert. The escaping methane was lit, intending to quickly burn it off and avoid poisoning nearby villages, but it has continued burning ever since.

KÖW ATA UNDERGRIUND LAKE

The landlocked nation has access to the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest lake, but it’s a long way from the capital city of Ashgabat. Most people from the capital region prefer the country’s next best swimming spot—which is located more than 200 feet underground.

A long metal staircase leads down into the Bakharden Cave, where the 235-foot-long lake is located. The warm waters contain a high amount of different salts and minerals, most notably sulfur, which is responsible for the distinct smell within the cave. Thus, Köw Ata Underground Lake is also the closest thing Turkmenistan has to a thermal spa. Aside from being a swimming spot and a thermal spa, the cave is also a natural monument, established to protect the largest known colony of bats in the whole of Central Asia.

NOKHUR CEMETERY

At the cemetery of the isolated village of Nokhur, nearly every grave is marked by a wooden post adorned with the horns of a mountain goat. The goat horns are thought to fight off evil spirits and help the souls of the deceased to ensure a safe passage to heaven. In addition to their appearances at the village cemetery, skulls of mountain goats are found at some of the houses’ doorways of the village as well. The Nokhuris, the mountain tribe of the region, have always considered mountain goats sacred animals for their strength and endurance. The reverence of mountain goats clearly predates Islamic traditions, and though today the Nokhuris are devout Muslims, this part of their ancient belief system has continued to survive.

YANGYKALA CANYON, BALKANABAT

Turkmenistan is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Asia, and one of the least visited in the world. And out in the far west of this often forgotten country lies a natural attraction that few Turkmen have ever even seen: the Yangykala Canyon, a windblown landscape of colorful canyons and strange formations that stretches some 15 miles across the desert to the Garabogazköl Basin.

Yangykala was once underwater, the floor of an ancient ocean that existed millions of years ago. Once that ocean had dried, it left behind a rocky landscape that was slowly eroded by wind and rain, cutting out cliffs and canyons whose walls are now ribbed like the carcasses of strange stranded sea creatures. And then there are the colors: pinks and oranges, reds and yellows, a spectrum of coral shades that give Yangykala Canyon a distinct look. It’s sometimes referred to as the “The Grand Canyon of Central Asia,” but the two are very different. Yangykala had no Colorado River to carve its path, so the actual canyon is far less defined than the Grand Canyon. In many places it looks more like a Martian landscape, pockmarked and chaotic—a place where few humans come and where even the camels look almost lost.

Köytendag Mountains. A dirt trail leads to the remote Kyrk Gyz Cave. Inside the cave is a something which looks familiar but slowly reveals itself to be bizarre. The ceilings of the cavern is bedecked with a large number of stalactites. However on closer inspection, one can see the stalactites are not stone, but cloth. Local legend has it that anyone who can fling a mud pie with a cloth attached to it to the ceiling of the cave and make it stick, walks away with a wish granted. Kyrk Gyz Cave means “Forty Girls’ Cave”, a name that refers to a local legend of forty girls who once retreated there, in order to avoid rape and murder by bandits. Once in the cave, the forty girls were fed by a mysterious old woman, whose tomb is said to be located in front of the cave. When the bandits discovered them, the Girls prayed to the Gods, who showed them an escape route through the caverns. What that story has to do with placing mud-soaked cloth stripes to the ceiling of the cave however, remains unclear.

 

DEKHISTAN RUINS

What is left of a former flourishing trade city eerily juts out of Turkmenistan’s remote Misrian Valley, the site of medieval Dekhistan. Now in ruins, this area by the Caspian Sea was once a fertile region that supported some 3,000 years of civilization. In its heyday, Dekhistan was a prosperous and strategically located urban center along a caravan route between the ancient realms of Khoresm, an oasis region in Central Asia, and Hyrcania, located southeast of the Caspian Sea in present-day Iran. Dekhistan is believed to have risen in the late 8th century to early 9th century, and comprised nearly 500 acres of fortressed land divided into an old town and a trading and residential district. The capital city of Misrian thrived under the Khwarazmian dynasty, and was notably the site of a medieval mosque with two 80-foot minarets, constructed between the 10th and 12th centuries.  The city declined due to the collapse of its advanced irrigation system after extensive deforestation, in conjunction with an invasion by the leader of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan. By the 15th century, Dekhistan was completely deserted, and most of the city has been blanketed by sand. The valley has since become arid and infertile, and Dekhistan is now in one of Turkmenistan’s harshest regions. All that remains within the ruins of the city walls are the great mosque’s minarets and portal, as well as bits of former mausoleums and caravanserais. 

 

AKHAL TEKE HORSES - THE PRIDE OF TURKMENISTAN

Experts say that nowhere in the world but in Turkmenistan nature and man’s efforts have succeeded in creating such a graceful, exceptional, tireless, sturdy, noble horse as the Akhal Teke. They are not only fast and of great endurance but also of peculiar royal beauty. These horses became one of the most striking illustrations of talent and mastery of Turkmen people. Turkmen are very proud of their horses.

Akhal Teke horses got their name from the Akhal oasis in the center of Turkmenistan, which is historically inhabited by one of the Turkmen tribes – the Teke.  Through centuries the Teke were able to keep the purity of their horses, to polish their exterior, develop endless enormous stamina and the ability to withstand the extremeness of temperatures and harsh climate. Akhal Teke horses are notable  for their dry constitution and well developed muscles of croup,  a much longer neck than other horses, mobile thin ears, very expressive eyes, thin legs with strong sinews, tall and high withers, strong small hoofs and a unique  golden-colored coating, possessing a brilliant metallic sheen, outstanding speed and highly developed nervous system.

 

Akhal Teke horses have been immortalized in Turkmen traditional songs, proverbs and poems. Their intelligence, wisdom and attachment to human beings are all legendary.They fed them pellets of food that contained a mixture of alfalfa, barley and mutton fat. To treat a horse badly is considered a sin among them. The whole tribe would scorn a person committing such a sin.” For this reason, of all Central Asian peoples, Turkmen are the only ones who never slaughtered a horse for its meat or drank mare’s milk.

After the Bolshevik Revolution the Akhal Teke horses experienced a very difficult period in their history. During collectivization efforts all Akhal Teke horses were registered with the new Soviet government and private ownership of horses was banned.

By the end of the 20th century this ancient and unique horse breed was in danger of extinction.

The Akhal Teke is an excellent sport horse. It is perfect in marathon racing; dressage, breaking in and flat race conquer. In 1935 thirty Turkmen riders with their horses made a very long trek and covered 4,300 km from Ashgabat to Moscow in 84 days. All horses successfully overcame the difficulties of this trek, the major part of which run through the Karakum and other desert terrain. Shortly afterwards the Akhal Teke stallion Zenith set a record by covering 300 km in 19 hours. The Akhal Teke proved itself as an endurance horse. If necessary the Akhal Teke can stay without food and water for much longer than other horses and could easily endure terrible heat.

 

Our travel agency can organize a visit to these private stables or offer cross-country horse treks.  You’ll ride under the watchful eye of highly qualified instructors and experience the solitude of the Kopetdag Mountains and the Karakum Desert. The peace and beauty of the nature will be one of the highlights of your stay in Turkmenistan. Contact for more details on horse riding tours, but also about attending horse races that take place every Sunday during spring and autumn at the National Hippodrome in Ashgabat.

The last week ending on the last Sunday of April has formally been devoted to the famous Turkmen horses. 

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Kazakhstan has become an increasingly popular destination in recent years. Kazakhstan has much to offer. It’s a huge territory, mostly known as an steppe-country. There is long distances in the country, but a good infrastructure among the biggest cities (where majority of the sightseeing attractions is situated) makes it easy to get around.

 

GEOGRAPHY

Kazakhstan, officially Republic of Kazakhstan. Bounded on the northwest and north by Russia, on the east by China, and on the south by KyrgyzstanUzbekistan, the Aral Sea, and Turkmenistan; the Caspian Sea bounds Kazakhstan to the southwest. Kazakhstan is the largest country in Central Asia and the ninth largest in the world. Yes, Russia, Canada, USA, China, Brazil, Australia, India, Argentina and …Kazakhstan. So it covers a huge area. Between its most distant points, Kazakhstan measures about 2,930 kilometres east to west and 1.645 km north to south. Actually the extreme western part of Kazakhstan is situated in Europe (that’s why Kazakhstan soccer team participate in EU Championhip qualification). While Kazakhstan was not considered by authorities in the former Soviet Union to be a part of Central Asia, it does have physical and cultural geographic characteristics similar to those of the other Central Asian countries. Kazakhstan,declared independence on December 16, 1991.

Lowlands make up one-third of Kazakhstan’s huge expanse, hilly plateaus and plains account for nearly half, and low mountainous region ns about one-fifth. Kazakhstan’s highest point, is Mount Khan-Tengri (6,995 metres); the perfect pyramide-shaped mountain that turns red in the evening sun due to its ice-covered peak, , in the Tien Shan range on the border between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and China, contrasts with the flat or rolling terrain of most of the republic. The western and southwestern parts of the republic are dominated by the low-lying Caspian Depression, which at its lowest point lies some 29 metres below sea level. South of the Caspian Depression are the Ustyurt Plateau and the Tupqaraghan (formerly Mangyshlak) Peninsula jutting into the Caspian Sea. Vast amounts of sand form the Greater Barsuki and Aral Karakum deserts near the Aral Sea, the broad Betpaqdala Desert of the interior, and the Muyunkum and Kyzylkum deserts in the south. Most of these desert regions support slight vegetative cover fed by subterranean groundwater. The Caspian Sea, the largest inland body of water in the world, forms Kazakhstan’s border for 2.330 km of its coastline. Other large bodies of water, all in the eastern half of the country, include Lakes Balkhash, ZaysanAlaköl, Tengiz, and Seletytengiz (Siletiteniz). Kazakhstan also wraps around the entire northern half of the shrinking Aral Sea.

CLIMATE

Kazakhstan’s climate is sharply continental, and hot summers alternate with equally extreme winters, especially in the northern plains and valleys. Temperatures fluctuate widely, with great variations between subregions. Average January temperatures in northern and central regions range from −19 to −16 °C; in the south, temperatures are milder, ranging from -5 to −1.4 °C. Average July temperatures in the north reach 20 °C, but in the south they rise to 29 °C. Temperature extremes of −45 °C and 45 °C have been recorded.

WHERE TO BEGIN…

Most arrive by air to either capital, Nur-Sultan or Almaty and it’s in and around these two cities where most attractions are situated.

 

NUR-SULTAN – THE CAPITAL

Nūr-Sūltan is the capital city of Kazakhstan, situated in the north-central part of the country. The settlement was founded in 1830 as Akmoly or Akmolinsky prikaz . In 1832, it was granted town status and renamed Akmolinsk. During the Soviet era on 20 March 1961, it was renamed to Tselinograd. In 1992, after Kazakh independence Tselinograd adopted the presumed original name Akmola. On 10 December 1997, Akmola replaced Almaty as the capital of Kazakhstan. On 6 May 1998, it was renamed to Astana.  On 23 March 2019, following an unanimous vote in Kazakhstan's parliament, the city was renamed to Nur-Sultan, after former Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Nūr-Sūltan is a glorious modern city, planned and built by globally-renowned architects. It is unique in Central Asia and you can be forgiven for thinking that you are in a modern western city with huge malls, modern skyscrapers, and broad avenues. The city lies on the banks of the Ishim River in the north-central part of Kazakhstan, within the Akmola Region, though administered as a city with special status separately from the rest of the region. Official estimate reported a population of 1.136,008 within the city limits, making it the second-largest city in the country, after Almaty, which had been the capital until 1997. Akmola became the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997, since then it has grown and developed economically into one of the most modern cities in Central Asia.

SIGHTSEEING IN NUR-SULTAN

Baiterek is the main attraction and symbol of Nur-Sultan. Kazakh Eli – ("The Country of Kazakhs") – a monument on Independence Square. The 91-meter stele is crowned with the Samruk bird (Samұryқ, Simurg) – the king of all birds, the keeper of the peoples. The mythological image of Samruk also includes the second important monument of Kazakhstan – "Baiterek", in the translation "Tree of Life", under which the king of birds sits and spreads seeds on the ground from the flapping of wings. Bäiterek; "tall poplar tree" is a monument and observation tower in Nur-Sultan attraction popular with foreign visitors and native Kazakhs, it is emblematic of the city. The tower is located on Nurjol Boulevard, and is considered a symbol of post-independence Kazakhstan

 

Nurjol Boulevard (formerly Water-Green Boulevard) is a recreational pedestrian zone with an Alley of Singing Fountains.

 

Akorda is the residence of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

 

Independence Palace – a building designed for diplomatic and other events of international level; the building also has a large-scale layout plan of Nur Sultan with existing and future facilities.

 

The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation is the Congress Hall, designed for summits and congresses of representatives of traditional Kazakhstan and world religions. Architect Norman Foster

 

"Kazakhstan" – Central Concert Hall.

 

"Shabyt" – Kazakh National University of Arts.

 

"Zhastar" – the Palace of creativity of schoolchildren and youth.

 

Khan Shatyr is the largest shopping and entertainment center (considered the largest tent in the world). Architect Norman Foster. Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center

 

"Ethnoaul National Cultural Complex" – a unique cultural, tourist and image project EXPO-2017. Ethnoaul is a real opportunity to travel to the past and feel like a real nomad, to feel the atmosphere of centuries past. The national-cultural complex will acquaint visitors with the rich history, culture, art and traditions of the Kazakh people, where anyone who is interested will be transferred to the ethno-cultural environment of the nomadic civilization and fully enjoy the daily and festive life of the aul.

The triumphal arch "Mangilik el" is a landmark architectural structure, erected in honor of the anniversary of independence of Kazakhstan on the idea of Nursultan Nazarbayev.

National Space Center:  Future Energy Museum "Nur Alem" EXPO 2017 – the spherical building "Nur Alem" (Kaz. Shining World). Its height is 100 meters and its diameter is 80 meters.

Nur Alem is the tallest building with a spherical shape, 30 meters in diameter, than the Ericsson-Glob Arena in Stockholm.

 

Expo 2017

On 1 July 2010, at the 153rd General Assembly of Bureau International des Expositi ons held in Paris, representatives from then-Astana presented the city's bid to host the Specialised Expo 2017. The Kazakh concept for this exhibition relates to the impact of energy on society in the modern world. The theme of the Nur-Sultan (Astana) Expo was "Future Energy." Expo 2017 opened to much fanfare on 10 June 2017, with heads of state from 17 different nations in attendance. It is the first world's fair to be held in Central Asia and its central pavilion, Nur Alem, is the largest spherical building in the world. The two-millionth visitor was registered on 7 August. More than 4 million people attended the event.

 

THE STEPPE

Another amazing part of Kazakhstan, is the steppe. A seemingly endless expanse of grassland, arid and almost completely flat. The Eurasian Steppe covers much of Kazakhstan, but though at first it seems empty, it has its own peculiar beauty, and plants, people, and animals do actually live here. There’s something very special about driving straight for hours with nothing changing on the horizon, and about waking up in the morning in a tent, knowing that you’re the only person for miles. In 2008 Kazakhstan’s Naurzum and Korgalzhyn state nature reserves were named a UNESCO World Heritage site; both are important habitats for migrating birds, as well as for many other animal species.

 

SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN


The southeast of Kazakhstan is the country’s tourism sweet spot.

ARAL SEA

Avid travellers can then venture further west to the Aral Sea (or what’s left of it)

BAIKONUR COSMODROME

In the middle of absolute nowhere, the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the launchpad for the Soviet space programme. Baikonur Cosmodrome. The Soviet Union launched its space flights from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan’s desert steppe of Baikonur, (remember Sputnik 1?), and it’s still used for launches to the International Space Station. Though bureaucratic and expensive, it is possible to get permission to enter the cosmodrome, watch a launch, and visit the on-site museums with their collections of space craft and related technologies. That said, if you’re travelling on a budget, it might be easier to park your vehicle some distance off and watch the spectacle unfold in the sky from there.

ALMATY

Almaty, formerly known as Alma-Ata and Verny, is the largest city in Kazakhstan, with a population of about 2,000,000 people, about 11% of the country's total population, and more than 2.7 million in its built-up area that encompasses Talgar, Boraldai, Otegen Batyr and many other suburbs. It served as capital of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic and later independent Kazakhstan from 1929 to 1997.  Some people believe that "Alma-Ata" is Russian city-name and "Almaty' is Kazakh one. But they are wrong of course. During the Soviet times the city was called "Alma-Ata" which meant "Father of apple" ("Alma" means "Apple", although "Ata" means "grandfather"). There is a legend which says that the name "Alma-Ata" was created in 30 minutes time during the meeting of the Soviet leaders. Later, when Kazakhstan got its independency, the city became "Almaty" that means "apple" (in a meaning of adjective) and it sounds more Kazakh now. Almaty’s former name, Alma-Ata,  means “father of apples,” and the town touts its heritage proudly. A fountain in the center of town is apple-shaped, and vendors come out each week to sell their many varieties of domesticated apples at market. Apples weren’t always a precious fruit in Almaty though. They used to be commonplace, and during Soviet development many of the trees were cut down for their wood. Up to 80 percent of the wild apple forests were destroyed. Today, reserves throughout the Tian Shan mountain range keep the last wild apple forests growing safely—except from foraging bears, who don’t care at all about botanical history. Pomologists report that the wild apples have a variety of flavors, depending on how the bees pollinate the blossoms. There are honey- and berry-flavored apples, sour crabapples, apples that taste like licorice, and a few strains that would be good enough for a supermarket’s produce section. Granny Smiths and Fujis can both be traced back to Kazakhstan, where apples still grow wild. It might seem strange to think that the common apple was not originally a universal fruit, but in fact it has its roots in one specific region of the world. The ancestor of the domestic apple is the Malus sieversii, which grows wild in the Tian Shan mountains of Kazakhstan. There were plenty of different apple sorts; the most noted one was "aport". Can you imagine - one fruit was as big as a baby head!

Almaty has myriad sightseeing opportunities, with plenty of parks and a variety of places of entertainment. Almaty’s international airport is well connected, making it the perfect starting point for your tour. Almaty is still the major commercial and cultural centre of Kazakhstan, as well as its most populous and most cosmopolitan city. Almaty is green city surrounded by mountains. The city is located in the mountainous area of southern Kazakhstan near the border with Kyrgyzstan in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau at an elevation of 700–900 m, where the Large and Small Almatinka rivers run into the plain. When it's not raining you can see the proud peaks of the Trans-Ili Alatau.The city has been part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in the area of music since November 2017. There is a musical festival here that is held every year and called "Almaty - my first love". The city was the host for a 1978 international conference on Primary Health Care where the Alma Ata Declaration was adopted, marking a paradigm shift in global public health.

WHAT TO SEE IN ALMATY

 

Ascension (Zenkov) Cathedral. The Russian Orthodox cathedral is located in Panfilov Park in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Completed in 1907, the cathedral is made out of wood but without nails.This is really the jewel in the crown of Almaty, it is called ‘Voznesensky Sobor’ or Ascension Cathedral. The inner structure of the cathedral was made in art workshops in Moscow and Kiev. The iconostasis was painted by N. Khludov. After the Russian Revolution the cathedral was used to house the Central State Museum of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. From 1930 to 1940 it was used by notable public organizations. The first radio transmitters in Almaty were situated in the cathedral's belfry. Restoration work on the cathedral began in 1973 and lasted until 1976. In May 1995 control of the cathedral was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1997, after additional restoration work, it was reopened for religious services. The building is made out of Tian Shan spruces, these local logs, and it was designed so well that now after 114 years after it was built those logs are still in great condition. During recent reconstruction, the architects who scraped off the upper layers saw underneath like it was brand new. Its height is 56 meters tall, and is claimed to be the second tallest wooden building in the world.  

 

Abay State Opera and Ballet Theatre. This building constructed in the early 1940s was the first building to incorporate national Kazakh heritage traditions in its architecture. The interior of the theatre also tells the story of an ancient warrior whose grave was discovered in the Almaty region. The warrior was buried in an elaborate golden costume. This earned him the title of ‘‘the golden man’‘ and he’s since become one of the country’s symbols. The hall is decorated with the elements of the golden warrior’s costume. You can also see here the golden snow leopard, which is a symbol of Almaty, because this animal lives in the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains”.

 

Green Bazaar. The Green Bazaar, or Zelionyj Bazar, is a place you really should visit when visiting Almaty or Alma-Ata.  This market is central to the every day life of the local people and it is  called the ‘Green Bazaar, or market, because in the past it was the traditional place to buy and sell local produce like vegetables. It is by no means the only market in Almaty, but it is the most well known, and probably, sells the widest range of goods.   This is a great place to feel the real atmosphere of central Asia and to get involved with a bit of ‘haggling’ and sampling of local produce. The building was constructed in the 1970’s, it holds up as a perfect example of Soviet constructivism. The nine domes were created in the form of pyramids and first of all bring natural light into this place, it is extremely light here. And another thing – the windows, they can turn in a very special way in order to expel hot air from the market outside.

 

A little way from the city lies the Shymbulak ski-resort in the Medeu valley, which turns into a huge outdoor natural gym when it gets hot. The highlight is the “Medeo”, an ice-rink located 1.691 metres above sea level. The mountains are so close to the city (15 km) that some come to practice after work. Shymbulak, hosted the Winter Asian Games in 2011, and bid (albeit unsuccessfully) for the 2014 and 2022 Winter Olympics, too. You can ski at Shymbulak from November until May, and the lifts go up to the Talgar Pass at 3,200m. In total there are around 20km of pisted runs, plus some excellent, affordable opportunities for heli-skiing. The resort’s ski jump overlooks Almaty and the views for the top are spectacular, even if you’re not intending to jump.

 

Turkistan. Moving west into the great Eurasian steppe, there’s the UNESCO site of Turkistan. Kazakhstan was on the Silk Road, and there was a substantial commercial centre at Turkistan at least by the 4th century AD. An important Sufi saint, Khodja Ahmed Yassawi, preached and was buried here. His medieval mausoleum remains an important pilgrimage site. It is an important city with a rich cultural and historical heritage. The blue-domed mausoleum was built in the XIVth century and dedicated to Sufi philosopher and poet Khoja Ahmed Yassawi. Kazakhstan has relatively few surviving historic sites from this period, unlike neighbouring Uzbekistan, so Turkistan should be treasured even more.

Altyn Emel National Park. Altyn Emel was established as a National Park in 1996. It covers an area of 4600 square kilometers – the size of Luxembourg and Mauritius combined. One of the highlights of the park is the singing dune.

 

Charyn canyon. The canyon is within the Charyn River valley which practically kisses the Chinese border. It might not be as deep as the Grand Canyon, but its steep sides and colour gradations make it equally as impressive. It looks like a sister of Grand Canyon in the USA, plunging to 300 meters in places. It has an impressive size of 80 kilometers in length as well. In the area there are several other smaller canyons (each with different colors and feautures)

 

Kolsai lakes and Kaindy. Kolsai is a nice place for recreation, hiking, and horse riding in Kazakhstan. There are three lakes situated at an altitude of 1800 to 2700 meters above sea level.  Kolsai’s lakes are situated around 300 km from Almaty. On the way, make a stop at Lake Kaindy. This place is a relative newcomer to the landscape made by a landslide in 1911. With water that shifts from turquoise to emerald green depending on the light, it’s particularly scenic to walk here, either on a day trip from Almaty or on a longer trek. Siberian roe deer graze on the lake shore, there’s a fair amount of bird life. The lake is also good for trout fishing.

 

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Kazakhstan
TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan has a whole lot of admirable attractions that are sure to impress. Lush meadows, glaciers, the Pamir Highway, and the grandiose mountains and rivers make this country heaven for adventure travellers

Tajikistan, officially Republic of Tajikistan, lying in the heart of Central Asia. It is bordered by Kyrgyzstan on the north, China on the east, Afghanistan on the south, and Uzbekistan on the west and northwest. Tajikistan includes the Gorno-Badakhshan (“Mountain Badakhshan”) autonomous region, with its capital at Khorugh (Khorog). Tajikistan encompasses the smallest amount of land among the five Central Asian states of 143,100 km2, but in terms of elevation it surpasses them all, enclosing more and higher mountains than any other country in the region. Tajikistan was a constituent (union) republic of the Soviet Union from 1929 until its independence in 1991. The capital is Dushanbe.

 

The territory that now constitutes Tajikistan was previously home to several ancient cultures, including the city of Sarazm of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age and was later home to kingdoms ruled by people of different faiths and cultures, including the Oxus Valley CivilisationAndronovo CultureBuddhismNestorian ChristianityVedic religionZoroastrianismManichaeism and Islam. The area has been ruled by numerous empires and dynasties, including the Achaemenid EmpireSasanian EmpireHephthalite EmpireSamanid Empire and the Mongol Empire. After being ruled by the Timurid dynasty and the Khanate of Bukhara, the Timurid Renaissance flourished. The region was later conquered by the Russian Empire and subsequently by the Soviet Union. Within the Soviet Union, the country's modern borders were drawn when it was part of Uzbekistan as an autonomous republic before becoming a full-fledged Soviet republic in 1920.

 

CLIMATE

The climate of Tajikistan is sharply continental and changes with altitude. In the warm-temperate valley areas, summers are hot and dry; the mean temperature in July is 27 °C in Khujand (Khojand) and 30 °C in Kŭlob (Kulyab), farther south. The corresponding January figures are −1 °C and 2 °C, respectively. In very cold winters, temperatures of −20 °C and lower have been recorded. In the highlands conditions are different: the mean January temperature for Murghob in the Pamirs is −20 °C, and temperatures can drop to −46 °C.

Tajikistan is a beautiful country and the people are incredibly friendly and hospitable. About 50% of the country lies above 3000 meters, so it's a true trekkers paradise. More than nine-tenths of Tajikistan’s territory is mountainous. The Trans-Alay range, part of the Tien Shan system, reaches into the north. The massive ranges of the southern Tien Shan—the Turkestan Mountains and the slightly lower Zeravshan and Gissar ranges—define the east-central portion of the country. The ice-clad peaks of the Pamir mountain system occupy the southeast. Some of Central Asia’s highest mountains, notably Ibn Sīnā (7,134 metres) and Imeni Ismail Samani (7,495 metres) peaks, are found in the northern portion of the Pamirs. The valleys, though important for Tajikistan’s human geography, make up less than one-tenth of the country’s area. The largest are the western portion of the Fergana Valley in the north and the Gissar, Vakhsh, Yavansu, Obikiik, Lower Kofarnihon (Kafirnigan), and Panj (Pyandzh) valleys to the south.

PAMIR MOUNTAINS - THE ADVENTURE HAVEN

The remoteness, cultural experiences, and incredible scenery attracts people from all over to visit the Pamir Mountains. The mountain range, an extension of the Hindu Kush and Karakorum, is the Pamirs, and the plateau, sometimes called Bomi Dunyo or “Roof of the World,” is the Pamir Plateau. The Pamir National Park covers 18% of the total size of Tajikistan. In 2013, the park was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Just like the mountains, lakes in Tajikistan are an integral part of the nature of the country. There are about 1450 lakes in the country. The largest lake of Tajikistan is Karakul. It is located in the northern-eastern part of the country, at a height of 3914 meters above sea level. The most popular and beautiful lake of Tajikistan is Iskanderkul. This triangular shaped lake is located at an elevation of 2,195 m. Moreover, according to a legend, Alexander the Great stopped by this lake, and so the lake was named in his honor (his Persian name was Iskander).

Tajikistan is home to the world’s second tallest dam. The Nurek Dam (300 m) is located on the Vakhsh River in Tajikistan and was built to generate hydroelectricity. It was the world’s tallest dam until 2013 when China bagged the title after creating Jinping-I Dam (305 m). Fedchenko Glacier in Tajikistan is the longest glacier outside the Polar Regions. The long and narrow glacier is located in the Yazgulem Range of the Pamir Mountains. It covers an area of 700 square km and extends for a distance of about 77 km.

 

DUSHANBE

Dushanbe is the capital and largest city of Tajikistan. As of January 2020, Dushanbe had a population of 863,400 and that population was largely Tajik. Until 1929, the city was known in Russian as Dyushambe (Russian: Дюшамбе, Dyushambe), and from 1929 to 1961 as Stalinabad. Dushanbe is located in the Gissar Valley, bounded by the Gissar Range in the north and east and the Babatag, Aktau, Rangontau and Karatau mountains in the south, and has an elevation of 750–930 m. The city is divided into four districts, all named after historical figures: Ismail SamaniAvicennaFerdowsi, and Shah Mansur.

KHUJAND is the second biggest city in Tajikistan. Walk around the lively and vibrant Panjshanbe Bozor and experience the local culture. Later visit the Historical Museum of the Sughd Region to learn more about the thousands of years of history that Khujand has witnessed.

PAMIR HIGHWAY

Pamir Highway connects Tajikistan with neighbouring Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. There’s no better way to see an array of breathtaking valleys, spectacular mountain views, and rugged cliffs than to be behind the wheel on Pamir Highway. This highway, also known as M41, is one of the highest in the world, with the peak point at Ak-Baital Pass, which is 4,655 meters above sea level. The quirky roadside attractions, wild landscape, and snow-covered ridges are sure to make your trip an unforgettable experience. Along the way, look out for flocks of yaks. If you are lucky, you may get a chance to spot the elusive Marco Polo sheep in the higher stretches of the surrounding mountains.

 

KARAKUL LAKE

Vivid skies, sparkling water, cool breeze, and sounds of geese! Located in Tajik Pamir National Park (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Karakul Lake is the main attraction of the Karakul village. Walk around, and you’ll appreciate the unique vibe and desolation of the lake and the village. The sparkling blue water of the lake is mesmerizing, and so are the reflections of the lovely landscapes and snow-covered peaks in the waters. Be fascinated by looking at the Peaks of Lenin and Avicenna that stand tall with all their glory among the deep blue skies.

Spend a night in Karakul to get extraordinary views of Milky Way and watch unique bird species in and around the lake in the morning.

 

WAKHAN VALLEY

A large swatch of Wakhan Valley sits in Afghanistan’s northern region, but some part of it stretches into Tajikistan. An arena of colonial competition between Tsarist Russian and Britain during the Great Game (1830-1895), Tajikistan’s Wakhan Valley is now a peaceful region. See the ruins of the 12th-century Yamchun fortress that speaks volumes about Wakhan history. Many other fortresses at the top of the hills offer extraordinary views of the surrounding areas.

The people here are hospitable, and the landscape is fantastic. Enjoy gazing at the lovely villages across the river on Afghanistan’s side and take pictures of the Hindu Kush Mountains.

 

MURGAB

Snuggled in the foothills of mountains, Murghab is known for its splendid mountain range. A glacier adjacent to the town gives it an imposing backdrop. If you have a love for mountains, then Murghab is a must-visit. There is also a bazaar in Murghab where you can buy handicrafts, and food. If you have an interest in archaeology and history, head over to the ancient tomb at Kana-Kurgan. Hiking, Yak trekking and Marco Polo sheep viewing are other interesting activities here.

 

KHOROG

Khorog is a small town and has restaurants, markets, and hotels. Head over to the famous Botanical Garden or Central Park. To explore the history of the area, go to the Regional Museum. If you are visiting the city in winter, do not miss soaking yourself in the warm pool at Garm Chashma. Other interesting places to see here include the Khorog City Park and Khorog Museum. The city park is an excellent place to relax and enjoy the evening breeze.