3 reasons to visit Kazakhstan in 2024

With Kazakhstan’s treasures starting to be officially recognised and as the country prepares to host the World Nomad Games for the first time, the limelight is

Team Wanderlust
23 December 2023

With an irresistible mix of widescreen landscapes, Silk Road history and a cultural blend of the modern and the past, Kazakhstan’s wonders remain curiously seldom-visited. However, it’s about to get some of the attention it deserves, as Kazakhstan prepares to host the World Nomad Games for the first time in its history next year. Organisations such as UNESCO are also sitting up and taking notice, moving to protect the vast natural wildernesses and cultural heritage this melting pot of a country harbours, as the number of international visitors steadily creeps up. With its name translating as ‘Land of the Wanderers’, it seems like the ideal destination for a Wanderlust reader, too. Here are just three great reasons why you should visit Kazakhstan in 2024…

1. Altyn Emel National Park is the country’s newest World Heritage site

The Singing Dune in Altyn Emel National Park (Shutterstock)

You know Mother Nature conjured something special when it’s inscribed by UNESCO on its World Heritage list. And Altyn Emel National Park has a healthy claim to being the most otherworldly of the lot. Kazakhstan’s wide-open vistas are among its greatest draws and at Altyn Emel they come together in spectacular fashion, where relic forests and yawning steppe sit shoulder to shoulder with craggy mountain ranges and rolling deserts. This natural mosaic spans for a mighty 4,600 sq km and is only a few hours’ drive north-east of Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty. Guided tours ensure you see its most beguiling spots, from the swirling crimson, orange and white peaks of the Aktau Mountains to the ‘Singing Dune’ a 150m-high sand formation that makes a rumbling sound in windy weather. You’ll find nowhere like Altyn Emel anywhere else on Earth.

2. It’s hosting the World Nomad Games for the first time

Traditional archery is one of the many sports showcased at the World Nomad Games (Shutterstock)

Central Asia’s biggest sporting event, the World Nomad Games is a vibrant celebration of nomadic culture and a showcase for traditional sports like yurt building, table games, kurash (wrestling) eagle hunting and more. And, for the first time in the country’s history, Astana in Kazakhstan will play host to this biennial event from 8-15 September, 2024. More excitingly, due to the coronavirus pandemic it will be the first full-length Games since 2018, so the anticipation will be high. It’s a valuable opportunity for visitors to soak up nomadic traditions first-hand and see how this coming-together of Central Asia helps preserve their culture for future generations. Alongside the main sporting events, there will be plenty of music, traditional dancing and handicrafts, too.

3. Saty has been named ‘Best Tourism Village’ by UNWTO

Saty is the ideal place to live like a local in Kazakhstan (Shutterstock)

Leaf through any tourism brochure for Kazakhstan and you’ll likely be greeted by the milky blue hues of Kaindy Lake and its javelin-like Asian spruce trees piercing the water. Just 12km away from Kaindy and the wider Kolsay Lakes National Park lies Saty. But this village is far more than just a handy pit-stop for one of Kazakhstan’s most eye-popping natural wonders – it’s a worthy destination in itself. For it’s become a model of community-based tourism, where the lure of the nearby lakes has been built upon in the best way possible. That’s why it’s been named as the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) Best Tourism Village for 2023. In Saty, rural farmers and villagers have been trained in hospitality to host visitors in everything from guesthouses to traditional yurts, while also becoming expert guides so travellers can make the most of this destination. Ho hiking along trails that connect Saty with Kolsay Lakes, hop on horseback, enjoy a guided tour of Saty itself or join a cooking workshop where rustle up the likes of beshbarmak, Kazakhstan’s national dish.

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