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Kazakstan Regions

Introduction   The South   The Rest of the Country   Nature Reserves


The Rest of the Country

CENTRAL KAZAKHSTAN : Central Kazakhstan has one of the largest lakes in the world. The unique Lake Balkhash is one-half saline, one-half fresh water. Some archaeological and ethnographic 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, located 5km (3 miles) from the garrison city of Leninsk and 230km (143 miles) from Kzil-Orda, is the Central Asian answer to Cape Canaveral - tours are available, during which visitors can witness space launches. It was from here, on 12 April 1961, that Yuri Gagarin, the world’s first cosmonaut, took off and it is still a point of departure for space launches.

THE WEST : West Kazakhstan marks the southern convergence of Europe and Asia in the basin of the Caspian Sea. The region’s Karagie Depression, 132m (433ft) below 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.

THE NORTH : Astana was made Kazakhstan’s new capital in 1997, as its location was thought to be more accessible to Russia and less earthquake-prone than Almaty (the former capital), where foreign embassies and consulates are still based. Although a small and friendly town and an important centre for the production of grain, it has little else to recommend it. The nature reserve of Kurgaldjino in the north of Kazakhstan houses the most northerly settlement of pink flamingoes in the world, while another nature reserve, Naurzum, offers a rich landscape of geographical contrasts - salt lakes ringed by forests, the remains of ancient pines strewn amongst sand dunes, pine forests growing out of salt-marsh beds, vast meadows, and rare animals such as hisser swans and grave eagles.

East Kazakhstan offers a colourful landscape of snow-capped mountain peaks, plunging forested canyons and picturesque cedar forests. Lake Marakol rivals Baikal in beauty. It is 35km (22 miles) long and 19km (12 miles) wide and lies 1449m (4754ft) above sea level. The city of Semipalatinsk, 30km (19 miles) from Siberia, was a Russian place of exile; Dostoyevsky was exiled here from 1857-1859 and his house is preserved as a museum - exhibits include notes for Crime and Punishment and The Idiot. Other museums in the city include the Abai Kununbaev Museum, commemorating the Kazakh poet, and the History Museum. Nuclear tests were carried out southwest of Semipalatinsk until 1990, although today background radiation is easily within reach of internationally accepted levels. 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 a 1000km (620 miles) into Mongolia. Rakhmanovski in the Altai Mountains offers a turbaza (see Accommodation section) and is renowned for its cross-country skiing.

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Information provided by Kazakstan Tourism Board.


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