Hidden in the Tien Shan Mountains, Lake Kaindy is a relative newcomer to the landscape made by a landslide in 1911. With water that shifts from turquoise to emerald green depending on the light, it’s particularly scenic to walk here, either on a day trip from Almaty or on a longer trek. Siberian roe deer graze on the lake shore, there’s a large amount of bird life, and the lake is also good for trout fishing. This is somewhere you’ll want to retreat to and spend a while, watching the reflections and ripples on the water.
The Khan Shatyr is the most famous building on Astana’s skyline, and its claim to fame is that it’s the world’s biggest tent. Designed by Norman Foster, this iconic structure houses an indoor beach resort, boating river, shopping mall, and concert hall. It’s temperature controlled so it’s always balmy inside, even when the mercury falls to -40 Celsius outdoors. Andrea Bocelli sang at the Khan Shatyr’s opening, with the presidents of Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Armenia, and Belarus in the audience, so you’ll be the latest in a long line of international visitors.
The Soviet Union launched its space flights from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan’s desert steppe of Baikonur, (remember Sputnik 1?), and it’s still used for launches to the International Space Station.
Though bureaucratic and expensive, it is possible to get permission to enter the cosmodrome, watch a launch, and visit the on-site museums with their collections of space craft and related technologies.
That said, if you’re travelling on a budget, it might be easier to park your vehicle some distance off and watch the spectacle unfold in the sky from there.
This astoundingly beautiful, tiled mausoleum with a turquoise dome is home to Kozha Akhmed Yasaui. The main chamber is capped with an 18m-wide dome, above a vast, 2000kg, metal kazan (cauldron) for holy water, given by Timur, who had the tomb built in the 14th century. Yasaui’s tomb lies behind an ornate wooden door at the end of the main chamber: you can view it through grilles from corridors on either side.
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