The South

South Kazakhstan is a focus of Central Asian history and culture and there are many famous monuments in the region. It is a scenically diverse region in which all four seasons can be experienced in the space of a day, as the snow-capped peaks, lakes and glaciers of the Tien Shan range give way to steppe and desert land which stretches for thousands of kilometres. The mountains serve as a centre for mountaineering and skiing and there are resorts offering a wide variety of winter sports. The desert is home to the Singing Barkhan - a sand dune 80m (260ft) high and 3km (2 miles) long, which, as it crumbles and shifts, produces a peculiar sound reminiscent of loud singing.

ALMATY : Almaty (formerly Alma Ata) enjoys a beautiful setting between mountains and plains. It is a city of modern architecture, wide streets, cool fountains, parks and squares and spectacular mountain views and, particularly in spring and autumn, is an attractive place despite the inevitable legacy of Soviet architecture. Attractions in the city include the Panfilov Park, which is dominated by one of the world’s tallest wooden buildings, built at the turn of the 20th century without using a single nail and the Zenkov Cathedral. This served in Soviet times as a concert and exhibition hall, but is currently standing empty, whilst the Christians of Almaty worship at St Nicholas Cathedral. Other sights include New Square, which is usually the location for national ceremonies and parades and is overlooked by the City Hall (the President’s official residence) and the Obelisk of Independence. Almaty boasts several fine museums including the Museum of Kazakh National Instruments, the Central State Museum and the State Art Museum which has among its exhibits traditional Kazakh rugs, jewellery and clothing. The Arasan Baths, in the western area of Panfilov Park, have Eastern, Finnish and Russian saunas.

The 4000m-high (1310ft) Zaili Alatau Mountains near Almaty offer numerous opportunities all year round for sports and recreation. The Medeu ice rink is situated 15km (9 miles) outside the city in a stunning gorge (see Sports and Activities section). There are large areas of unspoilt nature among the mountains which attract many walkers and climbers to the region in summer and skiers in the winter.

The Tien Shan Mountains in the southeast of Kazakhstan stretch for more than 1500km (932 miles). The highest peaks are Pobeda Peak (7439m/24,406ft) and Khan-Tengri Peak (7010m/23,000ft), a snow-white, marble-like pyramid. The huge Inylchek Glacier, reaching almost 60km (37 miles) in length, splits the summits and at its centre lies the beautiful Mertzbakher Lake. The Kolsai Lakes are three blue mountain lakes, known as the ‘pearls of the northern Tien-Shan’, that lie within the ridges of the Kungei Alatau range at heights of up to 2700m (8858ft) above sea level. The Khan-Tengri International Mountaineering Camp provides experienced mountain guides to take visitors on organised climbing and trekking programmes. Other facilities include horseriding, a souvenir shop and bar.

ELSEWHERE : The city of Chimkent is an industrial city, producing the largest amount of lead in the CIS. 160km (100 miles) away (travel time - 2 hours 30 minutes) is the 14th-century Kodja Ahmed Yasavi Mausoleum in Turkestan; built under Tamerlane, this mausoleum has the largest dome in Central Asia. Dzhambul, too, is an industrial city in the region with some reproductions of ancient remains from when it was known as Taraz - these are housed in the Karakhan and the Daudbek Shahmansur Mausoleums. The nearby village of Golovachovka, 18km (11 miles) to the west, has authentic remains from Taraz, including the 11th-century Babadzi-Khatun Mausoleum and the 12th-century Mausoleum Aisha Bibi. Another ancient historical centre is Taldikorgan. Much of this region was crossed by the Great Silk Road.

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Information provided by Kazakstan Tourism Board.


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