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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.