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Silk Road - Kazakhstan: Across The Kazakh Steppe

Group Tour

10 Days From $3,325

Overview

The world’s largest landlocked country, Kazakhstan is undoubtedly the most economically advanced of the Central Asian ‘stans’. Rich in oil and minerals, the country has undergone a transformation in recent years that has seen it emerge from the windblown steppes of Asia to become the dominant presence in the region. 

Beyond its booming cities, though, lies a country still steeped in the traditions of its past. Here, amongst the high mountains, green valleys, vast ...

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HIGHLIGHTS

At a glance

MEALS

9 x Breakfasts
9 x Lunches
9 x Dinners

TRANSPORT

On this tour we will use a combination of minibuses, 4x4's, an overnight train and a domestic flight, as well as optional boat rides.

GROUP SIZE

Maximum: 12

CARBON CONTRIBUTIONS

A carbon-offsetting contribution to Eco Act for all bookings

EXPERT TEAM

The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate

ACCOMMODATION

All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary

ACCOMMODATION

As an overall ethos, wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip.On this particular trip, we will be in a combination of comfortable hotels as well as some simpler guesthouses/ homestays with possible shared facilities, and multi-share rooms at Saty. There will also be one overnight train. Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability.

ENTRANCE FEES

All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

FITNESS RATING

Low / Moderate

FITNESS RATING

LOW: You should be comfortable walking around towns and cultural sites. May include some optional walks (typically 1-2hrs).

LOW/MODERATE: May be of a long duration and/or involve numerous border-crossings. May include easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-3hrs/day). You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle.

MODERATE: May include several easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-5hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle. Previous experience of similar trips helpful.

MODERATE/HIGH: May involve several days of moderate hiking (up to 3-6 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

VERY HIGH: May involve several days of moderate/strenuous trekking (up to 4-7 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a very fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

Map & Itinerary

Individual departures may vary so please refer to the information in the tour specific links in the Dates and Prices section below

Silk Road - Kazakhstan: Across The Kazakh Steppe
EXPAND ALL ITINERARY DAYS
COLLAPSE ALL ITINERARY DAYS

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN ALMATY

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN ALMATY

The tour will officially start around lunchtime today in Almaty, giving those who have arrived on the overnight flight the chance to freshen up before taking an afternoon tour of the city. Almaty is Kazakhstan’s largest city and we’ll begin with a walking tour to visit Panfilov Park, before taking in the striking Zenkov Cathedral, which lays claim to being one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world. We’ll also visit the Central Museum and the Independence Monument before driving to Kok-Tobe Mountain, the highest point in the city, to enjoy some breath-taking panoramas of the city.

Kazakhstan Hotel or similar
Lunch, Dinner

DAY 2: ALMATY - ALTYN EMEL NATIONAL PARK

DAY 2: ALMATY - ALTYN EMEL NATIONAL PARK

Departing the city after breakfast this morning, we’ll drive towards Altyn Emel National Park. We’ll first stop en route at the Ili River, famed for the Genghis Khan crossing. We also visit Tamgaly Tas to see traces of the Buddhist past – beautiful images of Buddha and Burhans (Bodhisattvas) painted on the canyon rocks. Continuing our journey to Altyn Emel, we’ll stop to climb the ‘singing sands’ of the Barchan Dunes before heading to a local guesthouse in the village of Basshi, which will be our base for the next two nights.

Guesthouse
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 3: ALTYN EMEL NATIONAL PARK

DAY 3: ALTYN EMEL NATIONAL PARK

Sandwiched between the Ili River and the Ak-Tau Mountains, the Altyn Emel National Park encompasses some 4,600 square kilometres of largely desert and rock. A uniquely sculpted landscape of ancient volcanoes, it is home to the colourful Katutau Mountains. It is also a haven for a range of wildlife, some of it very rare, including Central Asian gazelles and Turkmenian kulan (wild ass). Following breakfast we’ll set off to fully explore the Ak-Tau and Katutau coloured mountains. There’ll be opportunities for some easy but rewarding walks in the area and we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch before returning to our welcoming guesthouse.

Guesthouse
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4: ALTYN EMEL - CHARYN CANYON - SATY

DAY 4: ALTYN EMEL - CHARYN CANYON - SATY

This morning we leave Basshi and drive on towards the Charyn Canyon, located along the Charyn River and close to the Chinese border. Likened to the much larger Grand Canyon, Charyn drops down some 300 metres in parts and is filled with a spectacular collection of colourful formations, including the impressive Valley of Castles where we’ll enjoy a scenic walk. We’ll continue later to the village of Saty where we spend the night. This afternoon we’ll visit the beautiful Kolsai Lake and there’ll be an opportunity here to take a boat trip.

Homestay/Guesthouse
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 5: KAINDY LAKE - ALMATY - TURKESTAN

DAY 5: KAINDY LAKE - ALMATY - TURKESTAN

We’ll begin the day with a visit to nearby Kaindy Lake. A relatively young natural feature, the lake appeared suddenly in 1911 after an earthquake caused a huge landslide. Improbably turquoise in colour, the lake is famous for its forest of submerged spruce trees which, bizarrely, still retain their foliage. The clear, cold waters make it easy to see the forest and it may be possible to take a boat trip out onto the lake here to see this at close hand. Later we will drive on to Esyk to visit the museum and burial mounds here, where the famous ‘Golden Man’ was discovered. The museum contains a replica and other exhibits of the Scythian period. We then drive back to Almaty, arriving in time to enjoy dinner before we catch the overnight train on to Turkestan.

Overnight Train
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 6: IN AND AROUND TURKESTAN

DAY 6: IN AND AROUND TURKESTAN

Arriving in Turkestan late this morning, we will have a short time to freshen up and have lunch before visiting the UNESCO site of the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi. Commissioned by Timur in 1389, it was intended to replace an earlier 12th century mausoleum but remains unfinished. In spite of this, it still draws pilgrims from across Central Asia and is considered one of the best-preserved of all the Timurid constructions. Later this afternoon we drive to the ancient city of Sauran to explore its historical treasures. Returning to Turkestan for the evening, we have a chance to enjoy a traditional Kazakh dinner in the home of a local family.

Khanaka Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 7: TURKESTAN - SHYMKENT

DAY 7: TURKESTAN - SHYMKENT

After breakfast today we’ll first drive to the ancient ruins of Otrar and also visit the Arystan Bab Mausoleum before continuing on to Shymkent. The third largest city in Kazakhstan in terms of inhabitant numbers, Shymkent is one of its most ancient cities; founded in the 12th century at the intersection of the trade routes to European Russia, Central Asia, West Siberia and China. This afternoon our sightseeing will begin with one of the best historical museums in Central Asia, which tells the ancient and cultural history of South Kazakhstan. We’ll also have time to visit the thriving market where you can find various local goods and feel the vibe of an Eastern bazaar.

Shymkent Grand Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 8: SHYMKENT - NUR-SULTAN (ASTANA)

DAY 8: SHYMKENT - NUR-SULTAN (ASTANA)

Transferring to the airport after breakfast this morning, we fly on to Nur-Sultan (Astana) next – the recently renamed Kazakh capital. Arriving around midday we’ll drive to a local restaurant for lunch, after which we’ll join our guide on a tour of the city. Beginning in the old part of the city, formerly Akmola, we’ll take a walk along the riverside to absorb the city’s astonishing skyline and view some of its most important architectural highlights. A visit to the National Museum then provides a chance to see the famous ‘Golden Man’, before finishing with the remarkable Temple of Peace and Accord and the Nur-Astana Mosque.

Kazzhol Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9: NUR-SULTAN (ASTANA)

DAY 9: NUR-SULTAN (ASTANA)

Just a short drive out of the city lies the ALZHIR Memorial, a museum founded in 2007 and dedicated to the injustices and hardships faced by the wives of political prisoners during the Soviet era. One of the largest camps in the old Soviet Union, the Akmola Camp for Wives of Traitors of the Motherland was opened in 1938 and once housed more than 18,000 prisoners of 62 different nationalities. Following our visit we then head on to the village of Sofievka, whose residents retain many Kazakh traditions, including eagle hunting. We’ll enjoy a traditional Kazakh lunch, along with musical entertainment and handicraft demonstrations, before driving back to Nur-Sultan late this afternoon. This evening we will head out into the city for our final dinner in this fascinating and increasingly important country.

Kazzhol Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 10: TOUR ENDS IN NUR-SULTAN (ASTANA)

DAY 10: TOUR ENDS IN NUR-SULTAN (ASTANA)

The tour ends this morning after breakfast.

Breakfast

PRIVATE HOLIDAYS: DATES DON’T FIT?

All group tours can be taken on a private basis.

Additional Details

Responsible Travel

Responsible travel and sustainable tourism are fundamental ideas that Wild Frontiers has been committed to since our birth. It is our strong belief that these words should not be simply ‘tagged on’ to itineraries and websites but should be at the very core of each trip, and our adventures are therefore designed with the local people, culture and eco-system in mind. We believe that a successful trip not only delivers a unique and unsurpassable journey for our clients, but that it also benefits the peoples whose lands we are privileged to visit. For more information, please see our responsible travel page.

Getting There

If you would like us to send you a quote for the suggested tour flights or on any alternative flight that may suit you better, please let us know, noting that for our US clients, we will most likely refer you to one of our preferred partners. For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.

If you wish to arrange your own flights you are completely free to do so and in this case we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require. However please note that if you are planning on making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.
 

Flight Code Departing Arriving
KC 942 London Heathrow (LHR) 18:05 Astana Airport (TSE) 05:25
KC 622 Astana Airport (TSE) 07:00 Almaty Airport (ALA) 08:40
KC 941 Astana Airport (TSE) 14:50 London Heathrow (LHR) 16:45

Visas

Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact our recommended visa agency, Travcour www.travcour.com 

For this tour UK passport holders currently do not require a visa for Kazakhstan.

Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.

Extensions

If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Or alternatively you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.

The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries.

Below is just a small sample of what you could do. Please contact the office for more details and to discuss your individual requirements.

Baikonur Cosmodrome

A flight from Nur-Sultan (Astana) or Almaty to Kyzylorda, combined with a 3-4 hour drive, will take you into the heart of the Kazakh steppe to see the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world's first and largest operational space launch facility and the place from where Tim Peake launched into space in 2015. Permits are required and come with a sizeable price-tag but for those with an active interest in the space programme, a tour of Baikonur is likely to be a highly memorable and rewarding experience. Allow 2-3 days

Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan

If you have more time in the area why not explore neighbouring Kyrgyzstan with its mighty mountain ranges or Uzbekistan with its striking cultural legacy. Allow 1-3 weeks

Governmental Travel Advice

Many governments issue advice which highlights potential hazards their citizens might experience when travelling abroad. We strongly suggest you refer to your country’s particular advisory site before booking and contact us if you have any queries or concerns. Click to follow links to the advice of the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or the US State Department.

Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective governments.

Key Information

CLIMATE

The weather conditions in Kazakhstan can be extremely varied. In the mountains even in the middle of summer it can turn bitter with snow falling; at the same time mercury in the thermometers of Nur-Sultan (Astana) can be nudging 40 degrees. All in all, late spring /early summer and late summer/early autumn are considered the best time to visit in terms of favourable conditions.

IS THIS TRIP FOR ME?

It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. All our tours have a fitness rating as a guideline but you should check the day-by-day itinerary carefully. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office.

KEY ASPECTS TO CONSIDER

Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour.

It should be noted that the accommodation in Atlyn Emel and Saty is very welcoming but rather basic - please be sure that you’ve read the Accommodation section above for more details.

There will be opportunities to undertake some easy walks in all the National Parks and although not obligatory, you should be prepared for such walks in order to maximise your enjoyment of the trip in its entirety.
 

THE NATURE OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL

We feel that it’s worth pointing out that while we will always strive to stick as close to the stated itinerary as possible, it may be necessary from time to time to make changes to our itineraries or services (due to weather, political and religious influences etc.) and this can happen with little or no notice. This unpredictability can be one of the most exciting aspects of adventure travel and for many of our clients often leads to unexpected highlights as the tour-leader necessarily adapts the tour to the changing conditions. However we are aware that this lack of assuredness may not suit everyone. As such, with the greatest respect, if you are someone who needs to know that everything will happen exactly as planned, we would kindly suggest that perhaps our tours are not for you. Adventure travel can be infectious and once you’ve caught the bug, it is likely to never leave you, but especially if this is your first such tour we would strongly urge you to give us a call if you have any concerns whatsoever about your suitability for this trip.

TRAVELLING SOLO AND SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS

As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!

Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip. On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you for all nights in hotels, but not when staying in Basshi, Saty or on the overnight train.

Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.
 

INSURANCE

Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. If you choose to purchase the Wild Frontiers bespoke policy through Travel & General (currently available to UK residents only) then please note for this trip the minimum required level of cover will be the Standard policy. Please see the Insurance section for more details.

General Information

TOUR PRICE

All our tours are priced on a land-only basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from your tour.

DEPOSIT

A £200 (or equivalent) deposit is required to confirm your booking. 

PROTECTION FOR YOUR MONEY

For further details please see our travelling with peace of mind page

WILD MILES

This tour will earn you 6982 Wild Miles

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.

Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatory
Tips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documents
International Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UK
Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs

WILD FRONTIERS COMMUNITY

If you’re still not sure if this trip is right or just want to see get some different perspectives, then why not have a look at the wide variety of resources we have on our website? Browse our community section to read our blogs, watch videos and find out about our events. 

WHY WILD FRONTIERS?

We are frequently asked what makes Wild Frontiers different from other tour operators. Visit our Why Wild Frontiers page to find out.

INSPIRATION

WF SIGNATURE VIDEO

In this short film Wild Frontiers founder and MD explains the ethos behind the award-winning travel company.

REVIEWS OF THIS TRIP