Route: Taraz - Sairam - Shymkent - Otrar Settlement - Turkestan - Aksu-Zhabagly (South Kazakhstan)
Season: March - October
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
Day 1. Taraz - Sairam - Shymkent
Arrival to Taraz by morning train from Almaty. Meeting at the railway station and transfer to Taraz. Sightseeing at History Museum, Karakhan and Dautbek Mausoleum, Tekturmas Historical Complex.
Taraz is one of the oldest cities in Kazakhstan, the remains of which are hidden under the buildings of the modern city. Taraz, the ancient and the largest commercial and administrative center on the Silk Way in VII - VIII centuries, is dating back more than 2,000 years. There are more than 70 monuments of archaeology, history, architecture and monumental art in Taraz and surrounding area. Thus, a unique monument of medieval architecture of XI-XII centuries - Aisha Bibi Mausoleum - the only monument not only in Kazakhstan, but in the Central Asia, which is entirely decorated by terracotta and included in the UNESCO list of the most valuable historical and architectural monuments of mankind.
Transfer to Sairam Settlement (160 km). Sightseeing at Ibrahim-Ata Mausoleum, Karashash-Ana Mausoleum, medieval minaret.
Sairam Settlement is located near Shymkent, at the place of Ispidzhab - one of the largest centers of the Great Silk Road in the Middle Ages. It was first mentioned in Chinese manuscripts of the year 629. In the XIII century it gets a new name - Sairam. The settlement keeps the remains of buildings of XIII-IXX centuries. But this is not the only reason of Sairam's fame, it is also known as the birthplace of the great enlightener of XII century - Khoja Ahmed Yasawi. Mausoleums of his father and mother, Ibrahim-Ata and Karashash-Ana, are also located here.
Transfer to the foot of Kazygurt mountains to Kamekalgan natural sacred stones, sanctifying rocks "Adam and Eve", stone statues of animals, "Noah's Ark", the magic stone "Dastarkhan".
Kazygurt is mountain massif having altitude of 1776 meters above sea level, located in the northern spurs of Talas Alatau. Externally mountain consists of two hills, enclosed between with a saddle. Despite its small height compared to the other mountains, Kazygurt has a legend, that in former times it was higher all the mountains of the universe. During the flood, when the world had disappeared under the water, the top of Kazygurt was left undrowned. And it was the place where the Noah's Ark landed. Today the symbolic Noah's Ark, created by contemporary artists in wood and metal, is constructed at the top of the mountain.
Transfer to Shymkent (35 km). Accommodation in the hotel. Overnight in Shymkent.
Day 2. Shymkent - Otrar Settlement - Turkestan - Shymkent
Breakfast at the hotel. Departure to Otrar Settlement (220 km). Sightseeing at Arystan-Bab Mausoleum (teacher and spiritual mentor of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi), archaeological site of the ancient settlement of Otrar.
Otrar is the city where medieval philosopher and scientist Al-Farabi was born and lived. Otrar settlement was founded in IV century BC. This center of trade and craftsmanship was the main point of the caravan routes between Eastern Europe and China. In the late XIII century Mongolian troops razed the city to the ground. But, despite the catastrophic devastation, Otrar risen from the ashes and in a relatively short time economically developed. The remains of the citadel and other large buildings, as well as the main gate and rabad, covering an area of about 10 square kilometers, have survived to the present days.
Transfer to Turkestan (70 km). Sightseeing at "Azret-Sultan" historical and architectural complex, Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi (Necropolis, a fragment of the fortress wall, citadel with gates, Hammam, Hilvet underground mosque).
Turkestan was founded around 500 AD at the crossroads of caravan routes from Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva in northern Kazakhstan. The city was known as the spiritual and political center of the Turkic-speaking people in the XVI-XVIII centuries, and was the capital of the Kazakh Khanate. Turkestan has gained wide international reputation due to preaching activity of the famous Sufi sheikh and philosopher Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, who was buried in a small mausoleum here in 1166. The existing mausoleum was erected after 233 years after his death by the order of an outstanding military leader Emir Tamerlane, and today it is a masterpiece of medieval architecture and one of the main places of worship for Muslims. According to legend, all the attempts to build a wall of the mausoleum failed: in one version it was demolished by the big storm, in another version – it was a green bull who came and destroyed everything. A saint, appeared in Tamerlane’s dream, said that at first you ought to build a mausoleum over the grave of Arystan Bab (teacher and spiritual mentor of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi), and only then - over the tomb of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, what Tamerlane did. That is why pilgrims primarily visit the mausoleum of Arystan Bab, and then Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi. Pilgrims say that three trips to Turkestan equal small Hajj to Mecca.
Transfer to Shymkent (170 km). Overnight in Shymkent.
Day 3. Shymkent - Aksu-Zhabagly Reserve
Breakfast at the hotel and check-out. Transfer to Aksu-Zhabagly Reserve (125 km). Horseback tour in the reserve.
Aksu-Zhabagly is the oldest natural reserve in Kazakhstan, located at the spurs of the Western Tien-Shan Mountains at an altitude from 1000 to 4280 meters above sea level. The basic high-altitude zones are represented here: semi-deserts substitute dry motley grass of steppes, luxurious plots of meadows give way to thickets of creeping juniper. Patchwork of colorful alpine flowers adorns the base of rigorous peaks with dazzling snow and bluish tongues of glaciers. The reserve is a rich treasury of rare, endangered and endemic species of animals and plants. It is home for argali and ibex, deer and roe deer, lynx and snow leopards, wolves, foxes, bears, porcupines and ermines. Bearded vultures, griffons and golden eagles are flying high in the sky...
Transfer to Tulkubas railway station (25 km). Departure to Almaty by evening train.