Kazakhstan lies at the crossroads of ancient civilizations, the intersection of major transportation routes, cultural, economic, social and ideological links between Europe and Asia, between the East and the West. The South of Kazakhstan, as a part of the Great Silk Road, features a unique complex of historical, archaeological, architectural and cultural monuments. The Northern part of the route run through the South of Kazakhstan and Semirechye and was the main connection for international trade and cultural exchange. On the territory of contemporary Kazakhstan there are more than 22 sites of ancient settlements, including local rulers' (khans) palaces. The most famous tourist attractions are Turkestan, Taraz, Almaty and the new and shining capital city of Astana. Khodja Akhmed Yassaui mausoleum in Turkestan became a sacred place for Moslems from all over the world. Nowadays the mausoleum is visited by up to 300 people every day and during religious holidays the number of pilgrims increases up to 1,000 people a day.
Taraz used to be the main administrative center of the Silk Road. Historical monuments of the past are preserved here in an excellent condition. Necropolis of X-XII centuries, world-famous mausoleums of Karakhan and Davudbek, castles of ancient rulers, fortification works, temples and other cult buildings take visitors back to ancient Kazakh khanates (states).
Almaty, spreading out at the foothills of the Zaili Alatau, is a very beautiful city with extremely picturesque surroundings. Kok-Tobe (Green Top) (1,130 meters), below which stands the city's 350-meter television tower, opens a very beautiful panorama of the city, especially gorgeous is the night view of the city with myriad sparkling lights. There are some cozy restaurants and cafes open for tourists and guests. Closeness of Almaty to the Zaili Alatau mountains adds special charm to the city, providing the fantastic diversity of beautiful surroundings, routes and landscape, which attracts tourists and lovers of active leisure. The Medeo the world-famous skating-rink is probably the most visited and attractive site within the Almaty area. It derives its name from that of an ancient nomad, Medeo, who founded a village in that fabulous place. The road to Medeo snakes along the Maloye Almatinskoye Ushchelye (canyon). This is where mountain resorts, sanatoriums and private estates are located. Once a year the Medeo stadium is de-iced and transformed into a huge concert stage. It becomes the venue of the popular song festival "The Voice of Asia" (Azia Dauysy) http://www.voiceofasia.actis.kz/ that draws together young and world famous singers from different countries of the world. Those who seek stomach-turning sensations may try the skiing resort of Chimbulak http://www.chimbulak.kz/ located beyond Medeo at the altitude of 2,230 meters.
Khan Tengry is the highest peak of Kazakhstan. Its splendid marble top makes it one of the most beautiful mountains of the world, which attracts alpinists from all over the world.
The Kolsai Lakes comprise three mountain lakes located at the altitudes of 1,000, 2,250 and 2,700 meters above the sea level. Surrounded by rocks, forests of broad-leaved trees, pines spruces and mountain meadows, the lakes create an enchanting picture. There are a lot of opportunities for diverse forms of outdoor and water recreations: swimming, fishing, horseback riding, hiking; skiing and skating in winter. The lakes are open for boat excursions. A real pearl of the Zaili Alatau is Bolshoe Almatinskoe Lake, situated at 2,510 m above the sea level, 15 km from Almaty and surrounded by majestic mountains.
Charyn Canyon, also called "a young brother of the Grand Canyon", is nearly 200 m long and 100 to 300 meters high. The red clay walls of the canyon are carved with deep fissures, caves, grottoes of different shapes and sizes. They create an impression of a huge, ghost city inhabited by fantastic creatures.
Unexpected paradise can be found on the territory of the State Park of Altyn-Emel. It stretches from Ily-river till mountain ridges of Aktau. Here one can see rock paintings, witness the enormous variety of the fauna and the Singing barkhan. This unique miracle of the nature is a 300-m. high sand hill, which utters sounds, resembling the siren of riverboats.
In Tamgaly ravine, not far from Almaty archaeologists discovered about a thousand of the rock-paintings, still unknown to the world. This place is really the ancient gallery of Art, featuring pictures of discs, chariots, tamgas (family songs), preying inscriptions. The gallery of Tamgala's petroglyphs is the world's treasure and is kept under the protection of UNESCO.
The West. West Kazakhstan is the meeting point of Europe and Asia in the basin of the Caspian Sea. The region's Karagie Depression, 132,9433 ft below the sea level, is the lowest point in the world after the Dead Sea in Sinai. There are many architectural heritage sites in this region, including the subterranean cross-shaped Shakpak-Ata Mosque (12th - 14th century) which is hewn out of rock, memorial complex Eset-batyr (Eset warrior), and natural reserves in Turgay and Irgiz, with settlements of flamingo, wild boar, saiga, and other species of rare animals. A number rivers flow across the region: Irgiz, Torgay, Khobda, Yil, which open a lot of opportunities for fishing, underwater hunting and water sports. The North. This region is the industrial, high-populated part of the country. The Ishim River runs through the territory and proposes many beautiful sand beaches, scattered with ancient pines and rare species of fauna. It numbers up to 160 species of mammals and about 200 species of birds and this fact promotes hunting in the region. The State National Park "Kokshetau", uniting a great number of resorts, is known as an excellent place for medical treatment and leisure. "Borovoye", a popular resort, called "Little Switzerland", is surrounded by numerous charming lakes. Every year this region is visited by more than 15 thousand tourists for active leisure, fishing, hiking, hunting, educational and echo-tourism.
The Center. Central Kazakhstan has one of the largest lakes in the world. The unique Lake Balkhash is one-half salt, one-half fresh water. Some archaeological and
ethnographical sites have been preserved in Central Kazakhstan. There are Bronze Age and Early Iron Age sites and New Stone Age and Bronze Age settlements in the Karkarala Oasis. The Bayan-Aul National Park has rock drawings, stone sculptures, clean, sparkling lakes and pines clinging to the rocks. The Baikonur Cosmodrome is located 5 km (3 miles) from the garrison city of Leninsk and 230 km (143 miles) from Kzylorda city Astana, a new capital of Kazakhstan is located in the region.
The East. East Kazakhstan offers picturesque landscape of snow-capped mountain peaks, plunging forested canyons and beautiful cedar forests. Lake Markakol is 35 km
(22 miles) long and 19 km (12 miles) wide and lies 1,449 m (4 754 ft) above sea level. The city of Semipalatinsk, 30 km (19 miles) from Siberia, was a place of exile of famous Russian people, whose houses are preserved as museums. Other museums in the city include the Abai Kunanbayev Museum, commemorating a great Kazakh poet and philosopher, and the History Museum. Nuclear tests were carried out south-west of Semipalatinsk until 1990, and today background radiation does not exceed international standards. The town of Ust-Kamenogorsk is a mining and smelting town and is the gateway to the Altai Mountains. Occupying the central point of the continent, these gentle mountains are covered with meadows and woods and stretch for thousands of kilometers into Mongolia.
A very useful site with comprehensive information on traveling to Central Asian countries presented by Asia Tourism travel agency (fascinating tours, breathtaking expeditions, accommodation, transportation, visa information, Embassies & Consulates of Kazakhstan abroad, etc.). http://www.asiatour.org/index.html