Kazakhstan | Culture, Facts and Travel


Interested in exploring a traditional part of the world that very few get to experience? Kazakhstan is a beautiful country along the famous Silk Road, littered with picturesque mountains, lakes and traditional architecture. Let’s delve into some Kazakhstan facts and learn about the culture and travel opportunities within the region.

A nomadic lifestyle

Kazakhs traditionally followed a nomadic lifestyle, always on the move. Living in traditional dwellings called yurts and travelling by horseback, the Kazakhs roamed the country and still do to this day. While there are plenty of modern influences, many people still live this nomadic lifestyle. Ultimately, it’s a testament to the resilience of the Kazakh people to survive in often harsh conditions and climates and their desire to hold onto their traditional way of life.

Kazakhstan's golden steppe
Kazakhstan’s golden steppe

Visiting Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan

While many Kazakh people still adhere to the traditional nomadic lifestyle, modern influences are also a big part of current-day Kazakhstan. For example, Astana was deemed the capital of Kazakhstan in the 1990s and is a hub of entertainment and modern architecture. The city itself is divided by the Ishim River, and you’ll find a range of old Soviet block style buildings mixed with modern sky scraping structures.

Astana city, Kazakhstan
Astana city, Kazakhstan

As infrastructure continues to be built, Astana is an example of how progressive Kazakhstan is, despite many traditional ways of life still being upheld beyond the city fringes.


With a strong Russian influence due to its history and association with USSR, Kazakhstan still maintains Russian Orthodox Christianity as one of the main religions, however, only about 25% of the population are Russian Orthodox. The country is overwhelmingly Muslim, with around 70% following Islam. Traditionally, Kazakhs were Sunni Muslims, and this culture continues today.

With that said many religions have found their place among Kazakh residents, with Judaism, Baha’i and Buddhism all playing a role. Being a very traditional country, it isn’t surprising that the main Kazakhstan religion is Islam.

Hospitality is a way of life

One thing you’ll notice as soon as you arrive in Kazakhstan is the hospitality and generosity of its people. Despite not being considered a particularly wealthy country, Kazakh people are very giving, and a many traditions are built upon this kindness. Even today, some traditions still typify the generous nature of the Kazakh people.

Konakasy, for example, is the tradition of welcoming a guest with food, lodgings and entertainment. Guests are considered special, and they are treated as such. Korimdik is another giving tradition and involves giving a gift to celebrate achievements or gains in a person’s life. Even Suinshi, the act of giving a gift to someone who delivers good news, is still present in Kazakh culture.

Kazakh food

Kazakhstan’s food is diverse and unique. Due to the types of livestock typically raised in the country, many dishes revolve around lamb or horse meat. Due to the traditional nomadic lifestyle, food preservation techniques, such as salting and drying meat, are still used today. Roasting is also the most popular method for preparing meat.

Most dishes include some form of meat, whether it be Pilaf (a rice dish with vegetables and meat) or shuzhuk (horse meat sausages). Of course, with modern influences more prevalent in Kazakhstan, plenty of Western-style food is also available.

The Medeo Gorge

While in the Almaty region, another great sight is the Medeo Gorge. The dam protects the city below from dangerous mudflow but is far more picturesque than your average dam. You can breathe in the fresh pine tree air as you look out over the captivating vista below.

Another cool feature is the mountain skating rink, known for being the highest in the world. So, if you fancy a skate amongst Kazakhstan’s beautiful mountains and lakes, Medeo Gorge is the place for you.

Big Almaty Lake

Kazakhstan is distinctly known for its stunning mountain lakes. And at 2,510 metres above sea level in Almaty Gorge, you’ll find the breathtaking Big Almaty Lake. The gorgeous blue water reflects the sky and surrounding mountains, making it a must-see on any Kazakhstan tour.

Big Almaty Lake
Big Almaty Lake

However, if you’re looking for a place to swim, we’d suggest something a little warmer. Due to its mountain location and altitude, the crisp blue water never rises above 10 degrees. In fact, the lake was formed following the movement of an ancient glacier, giving you some idea of the landscape many, many years ago.

Ascension cathedral

If you’re looking for something more man-made to set your sights on, it doesn’t get much better than the Ascension Cathedral in Almaty. While not extremely old in architectural terms, having been built in 1907, it is unique. It is a Russian Orthodox church with a distinct Russian church design. However, there are some unique things to note also.

Standing 56 metres tall, it’s considered the second-tallest wooden church in the world. Uniquely, although it is made from wood, no nails have been used in its construction. With restoration work taking place over the years, the Ascension Cathedral in Almaty is a sight you must see for yourself.

Crooked Compass offers perspective-shifting journeys throughout Kazakhstan and central Asia if you’d like to explore some of these beautiful landmarks and much more. Contact us today to find out more!