executive summary by darmansjah
the imposing Russian Orthodox Assumption Cathedral was consecrated lasy year and can house up to 4,000 worshippers
Fly from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Astana via Frankfurt on Lufthansa (Lufthansa.com) or via Abu Dhabi on Atihad Airways (etihadairways.com).
the Ufo shaped home of the city's circus can accommodate 2,000 spectators
Both Singapore and Malaysia citizens require a visa to enter Kazakhstan. Visit www.kazakhstan.org.sg and www.kazembassy.org.my for more details.
City buses cost US$0.40 taxi rides cost around US$3 in town and US$14 from the airport.
The final word – ‘I have taken a lot of risks in my life, but Astana was the biggest gamble of all. I put everything on it’ Nursultan Nazabayev, President of Kazakhstan.
6 Ways To Do it….
Designed by Norman Foster, the striking pyramid shape of the PALACE Of PEACE AND RECONCILIATION is full of symmetry and symbolism (Manasa 57; tours in English US$4). The nearby PALACE OF INDEPENDENCE is well worth a visit for its huge scale model of how Astana is planned to look in 2030 (Dvorets Nezavisimosti; tours in English US$3).
palace of peace and reconciliation
palace of independence
ASTANA NURY is a top class Azerbaijani restaurant with two lovely summer decks overlooking the river. Go for the shashylk (grilled meat on skewers) and pilaw (rice) dishes (pr Respubliki 3/2; mains from US$6). Near the station, KAFE TIBET is a neat and bright place that does good laghman (noodles) and manty (dumplings), with some English speaking staff (Birzhan-Sala; mains US$1.50-US$3).
West of Astana, the Unesco-listed KORGALZHYN NATURE RESERVE is a classic steppe landscape. Its lakes are home to more than 300 bird species, including the world’s northernmost flamingo colony. Akmolaturist can arrange permits, guides and transport (akmolatourist.com).
The yurt-shaped, blue-domed PRESIDENTIAL CULTURE CENTRE houses the high-quality main museum. Exhibits include a brightly decked yurt and gold jewelry from ancient Scythian burial mounds (pr Respubliki2; free, English tour US$0.30). the BYTEREK MONUMENT is south of here, on Nurzhol bulvar – Astana’s showpiece boulevard (admission US$3).
HOTEL MUKAMMAL is a well-run place with rooms in golden tones, and a good little Kazakh and European restaurant (US4135; mukammal.kz). South of the river, the COMFORT HOTEL ASTANA is a tasteful retreat from the city hustle, with professional service and an international restaurant. Half-price deals are often available at weekends (US4270; comforthotel.kz).
Some of 150 miles north of the capital LAKE BURABAY is a favourite beauty spot, surrounded by pine forests and strange rock formations. The small town of Burabay lies on the northeast shore. Minibuses (US$9.50; 3 hours) and shared taxis (US$14; 2½ hours) leave from the Astana bus station. There is a wide choice of accommodation, with Hotel Kokshebel recommended (burabai.kz).
Explore More Kazakhstan
The former capital ALMATY is still the country’s biggest city. Its leafy streets are set against the backdrop of the snow-capped Zailisky Alatau mountains. Candy-coloured Zenkov Cathedral is one of the city’s remaining Russian transit-era buildings (almaty.kz).
AKSU-ZHABAGLY is one of Kazakhstan’s most beautiful and popular nature reserves. Here the glacier-topped mountains meet the steppe, and wildlife includes red marmots, golden eagles ibex and bears. For more details, see shabagly.com or wildnature-kz.narod.ru.
The 14th-century mausoleum in the city of TURKISTAN was built in honour of a Turkic Muslim holy man, Kozha Akmed Yasaui. With its glorious blue, white and turquoise tiling, it is the country’s finest architectural monument. The nearest large city, Shymkent, is 2-3 hours away by taxi or bus.
Kan Tengri focuses on adventure travel such as horse treks (kantengri.kz). Steppes Travel and Far Frontiers offer tailored trips within Kazakhstan or as part of a broader Central Asian tour (fairfrontiers.com; steppestravel.co.uk).