Updated on: 5 August, 2021
My little round trip through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan was just amazing. It’s unbelievable what landscapes both countries have to offer. It’s unbelievable how the locals live and preserve traditions. And it’s incredible how many wild animals exist and can be admired here.
This article shows you my highlights, which you should definitely see and experience on your tour through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
MY TIPS FOR YOUR ROUND TRIP THROUGH KAZAKHSTAN
1. KOK-TOBE PARK
My journey begins in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan . It was the capital of the country until 1997 and has remained the cultural center to this day. Directly near the city limits is the mountain Kok-Tobe, whose mountain summit you can reach by cable car.
With a height of 1100m, it is the highest point in the city and offers an outstanding panoramic view. The ride on the cable car is a really cool experience because you can admire the city from above at a relaxed pace.
Since 2016 there has been a small amusement park on top of the north side of the mountain, which offers visitors various activities. There is also a chic restaurant where you can enjoy a cold beer or delicious food on hot days.
In general, Kok-Tobe Park is a good place for a short excursion or a stroll with a view. Especially at sunset, both the view of the city and the return trip by cable car are very impressive. I think it’s a great start on your tour of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
2. BIG ALMATY LAKE
Not far from Almaty is Big Almaty Lake, which is about 15 kilometers south of the city center. The natural reservoir is one of the most important sources of drinking water for the city of Almaty, which is why bathing is absolutely forbidden.
However, the sight is overwhelming and therefore a perfect start on the journey of discovery through Kazakhstan. A one-hour drive from the lake separates you from the center of Almaty. If you share a taxi with one or two people, the trip there and back is super cheap (approx. 2500 KZT per person / approx. $7).
Be sure to bring snacks and drinks with you to enjoy a relaxed picnic with a magnificent view.
3. GREEN MARKET IN ALMATY
For all lovers of large local markets, I can only recommend a visit to the Green Market in Almaty. Here you will find authentic tastes and the excellent aromas of Central Asia and it is really worth visiting the market.
Fresh and dried fruits, numerous types of nuts, Georgian sweets, smoked fish, fragrant spices and medicinal herbs, cheeses, sausages and a huge selection of fresh meat can be found at various stalls.
There is even a whole department that specializes in horse meat (very tasty, by the way, you have to try it!).
If you really fancy a special taste experience, then you can try some of the country’s specialties. For example, there is fermented horse milk (Kymyz) or fermented camel milk (Shubat).
Wasn’t mine, but it’s a cool experience!
4. LAKE KAINDY
Overwhelmed by the first impressions, the tour through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan continues for me and leads me to Saty Village, where I was promised two breathtaking lake landscapes.
Only 15km southeast of the village is Lake Kaindy, also known as the “sunken forest of Kazakhstan” . After an earthquake in 1911, the lake was created here by a landslide that formed a natural dam. From the approx. 30 meter deep lake, numerous spruce trees protrude from the turquoise water and awaken an impressive sight.
A little tip : you should definitely explore the area around the lake on a hike. The landscape here is simply fantastic!
5. KOLSAY LAKE
The second lake landscape is 15 km southwest of Saty Village and is also called the pearl of the northern Tian Shan Mountains. This is where the three Kolsay Lakes are located, which are so clear that the surrounding landscapes are reflected in the water at sunset.
Kolsay is a perfect place for all outdoor fans as there are various trekking routes. A three to four hour hike over 9 km takes you from the first lake to the second lake.
But if you are a real pro in hiking, you can go to the third and highest lake. Alternatively, it is also possible to conquer the hikes with a horse. But be careful: the paths are really adventurous and therefore not exactly comfortable with a horse.
MY CONCLUSION ON THE TOUR THROUGH KAZAKHSTAN
I never would have thought that Kazakhstan had so much to offer. I don’t even have to travel to Canada or Australia to admire such impressive landscapes. Regardless of whether it is wide steppes, dry deserts or crystal clear mountain lakes and deep canyons – you can find all of this in Kazakhstan.
For us it was now on to Kyrgyzstan. After a journey of several hours we came to a national border and luckily we were allowed to cross it after a thorough baggage check and multiple passport controls.
Welcome to Kyrgyzstan!
MY TIPS FOR YOUR ROUND TRIP THROUGH KYRGYZSTAN
1. KARA-KYZ YURT CAMP
Smartphones, the internet, social media and always being online. Everyone knows it: lingering for hours on social networks and checking what one or the other person is doing or feeling the need to share one’s own activities. But not here!
The stay at Kara-Kyz Yurt Camp showed me that a time beyond digital media is really good for the soul. Why? At about 2200 m altitude you are in a small valley surrounded by dense nature.
If you try to post a story on Instagram or just send a message on WhatsApp – no chance, no network.
In the camp there are several yurts, which are the traditional tents of the nomads, along a small river. They are particularly common in Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
It is common to share a tent with two or three people, traditionally as a family. There is a permanent kitchen and dining room at the entrance to the camp. Here you will be cooked by the locals every day and they will help you with all matters relating to the camp.
In general, you should be well equipped to visit the camp. Therefore, sturdy shoes, a rain jacket, clothes that keep you warm in cool temperatures and a flashlight or, better still, a headlamp, which will definitely make your life easier at night, should be part of your basic equipment.
Depending on the weather, the camp is not accessible all year round, but only from May to September. However, the Kara-Kyz Yurt Camp is an ideal starting point for hikes around the valley or excursions with horses, which can also be organized from the camp.
So if you are in the town of Karakol, 30 km away, and feel like a digital detox, visit this camp and experience a unique time as a nomad.
2. JETI-OGUZ – THE SEVEN BULLS
If you can’t get enough of natural wonders on your round trip through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, treat yourself to a relaxing day or multi-day trip to Jeti-Oguz. The region in northeast Kyrgyzstan is about 20km from the city of Karakol and is known for its red sandstone cliffs.
This place was named after the rock formation Jeti-Oguz, which means “seven bulls”. Other unbelievable natural wonders such as the “broken heart” or various red rock formations adorn the region and offer beautiful sights at sunrises.
In the center of the region there is a village, where you can also stay overnight in yurts.
A little tip: one of the best spots to really admire the rock formations is on a hill, which you can find via a dusty path behind the village.
You will also meet a lot of kids here who are out and about with their horses wildly and convey a real feeling of freedom. I was absolutely impressed by the positive energy they radiate and simply live into the day.
I found the kids just as crazy, who tamed huge golden eagles and gave visitors the opportunity to see these fascinating animals up close.
This place is so idyllic and unique that a visit to your tour through Kyrgyzstan is an absolute must!
3. NABU SNOW LEOPARDS SANCTUARY
Kyrgyzstan not only offers breathtaking landscapes, but is also home to numerous wildlife. Experiencing wildlife up close is absolutely great and a real highlight. However, it is not always a matter of course that nature and its biodiversity are respected.
Fortunately, there are organizations like NABU (Naturschutzbund Deutschland) who have built the world’s largest outdoor enclosure in Kyrgyzstan to help and protect injured snow leopards.
Around 7,000 of these animals live in the wild around the world. Just under 300 snow leopards are left in Kyrgyzstan, as their populations have declined by almost 80% in just a few years due to poaching and illegal trade.
If you are interested in the work on site and want to visit the injured wildcats, you can try to get a special permit from NABU. But it’s not really common for tourists to visit the snow leopards, which makes perfect sense.
However, I wanted to make this small contribution because I am a friend of nature and the sad stories of the big cats really touched me.
MY HOTEL IN KAZAKHSTAN
HOTELS AND ACCOMMODATION IN KYRGYZSTAN
The adventure as part of the press trip to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan absolutely exceeded my expectations. I never would have thought that such breathtaking landscapes could be discovered here.
Thank you Kazakh Tourism and Discover Kyrgyzstan for the amazing trip!