Route: Almaty-Taraz-Zhymkent-Turkestan-Almaty (South Kazakhstan)
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
Day 1. Almaty, Arrival
Arrival to Almaty, the Southern capital of Kazakhstan. Meeting and greeting at Almaty International airport. Transfer to the hotel. Accommodation. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 2. Almaty
Breakfast at the hotel. Almaty Grand Tour (6 hours):
The tour starts with sightseeing in central part of Almaty. You will know more about history and development of the South capital of Kazakhstan and see its major attractions. You will visit a popular place for townspeople - the Green Bazaar, where it is impossible to refrain from shopping. It is the great chance to experience an atmosphere of the real Central Asian market, its colors, smells and crowds. There you can obtain famous Asian sweets, but don't forget to bargain... Then the tour will continue in one of the oldest Almaty park – Panfilov Park, where you will see one of the unique wooden building in the world – Zenkov Cathedral and also visit the Memorial of Glory and Eternal Flame, dedicated to the memory of the fighters who died for freedom and independence of the country. After the park you will continue to explore sport, cultural and business areas of the city. You will go to the Medeo Gorge, where the highest mountain skating rink in the world is located, as well as the dam, protecting the city from dangerous mudflow. Next destination is the Kok-Tobe hill where the tallest TV tower in the world is located (if to count from the sea level) and where you will go by the picturesque winding mountain road. In the national restaurant of Kok-Tobe park you will have opportunity to try traditional dishes of Kazakh cuisine sitting inside the real Kazakh yurt. After the lunch you can stroll along the winding paths of the Kok-Tobe park, admire the magnificent panorama of the city from the special observation deck and visit the shop of national souvenirs. The tour ends with the short ride from the top of the hill to the center of the city by the famous Almaty cableway.
Return to the hotel. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 3. Almaty Region
Breakfast at the hotel. The Big Almaty Lake Tour (6 hours, at 13:00) or The Issyk Lake Tour (7 hours, at 11:00) depending on season.
The Big Almaty Lake Tour:
The tour starts with driving to the Big Almaty gorge, where at an altitude of 2,510 m above sea level located the Big Almaty lake - one of the most picturesque lakes in Trans-Ili Alatau. The lake is very beautiful, especially when its blue surface is absolutely calm, and it reflects the sky and surrounding mountains. The Big Almaty lake was formed as a result of movement of an ancient glacier. Thanks to high-mountain location the water in the lake is always cool - even in July the water temperature does not exceed 10 degrees. The lake is a source of potable water for Almaty city, that is why the access of tourists to the lake is limited. The tour route lies higher the Big Almaty lake to the altitude of 3300 meters above sea level, where scientific premises for astronomical and space researches have settled down. Here, at the basis of the Big Almaty peak, you can enjoy a fascinating panorama of mountains and the Big Almaty lake, surrounded by the picturesque mountain peaks covered with Tian-Shan fir-tree, aspen and juniper. On the way back to the town you will visit the Falcon Farm, where you will enjoy a spectacular show with specially trained hawks - hunting with them is one of the most unique features of the Kazakh way of life.
The Issyk Lake Tour:
The tour route to one of the most beautiful gorges of Trans-Ili Alatau - Issyk Gorge lies along the Kuldja tract, where hundreds of years ago the trade caravans travelled. On the way you will learn a lot about nature and history of this region and see the burial mounds of Saka period, where the famous "Golden Man" was found, which has become the state symbol of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Also you will visit the State Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve “ISSYK”, where you will see the expositions dedicated to the history and culture of the Saka period, including a copy of Golden Man and golden items, ancient ceramics, weapon, elements of horse equipment, as well as the model of Saka burial mound. Then the tour route will take you to an altitude of 1756 meters above sea level, to the beautiful mountain lake Issyk, located in the valley with the same name. The lake was formed about 10,000 years ago due to colossal landslide, resulted in formation of the natural dam of 300 meters in height. On the lake you will enjoy the majestic beauty of its turquoise water surface and the Issyk Gorge, as well as listen to the details of the natural disaster of 1963. Also at the lake you will have a picnic and free time for recreation at nature.
Return to the hotel. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 4. Almaty Region - Taraz
Breakfast at the hotel. The Charyn Canyon Tour (9 hours) at 09:00:
Charyn Canyon is one of the unique natural monuments of Kazakhstan. The canyon is about 12 million years old and surprises with its vertical cliffs, reminding the ancient castles, created by wind, sun and rain. It will take about 3 hours to reach the canyon. Meanwhile, you will hear a lot of interesting about the history and nature of the region, about Kazakh people, their life and traditions, as well as have a lunch in a local cafe. And as soon as you see Charyn Canyon you will forget about this long way at once - so much you will be impressed with the beauty and splendor of the canyon. You can admire the grand panorama and then have a walk through the maze of the Castles Valley with its inaccessible walls overhanging you. Anyone who has ever been to the Charyn Canyon, falls in love with it forever!
Return to Almaty and transfer to the railway station. Departure to Taraz by evening train. Overnight in the train.
Day 5. Taraz - Shymkent
Arrival to Taraz by morning train from Almaty. Meeting at the railway station and transfer to Taraz. Sightseeing at Karakhan 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 Shymkent. On the way sightseeing at architectural monuments of XI-XII centuries: Aisha-Bibi Mausoleum and Babaja-Hatum Mausoleum. Arrival to Shymkent. Accommodation in the hotel. Overnight in Shymkent.
Day 6. Shymkent - Shaulder - Turkestan - Almaty
Breakfast at the hotel and check-out. Departure to Otrar Region, Shaulder Settlement. 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. Sightseeing at "Azret-Sultan" historical and architectural complex, Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, Turkestan ancient settlement, 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 railway station. Departure to Almaty by evening train. Overnight in the train.
Day 7. Almaty
Arrival to Almaty in the morning. Transfer to the hotel. Accommodation. Breakfast at the hotel. Free time in Almaty. Overnight in the hotel.
During this day you can visit shopping malls of the city, including the oldest one - TSUM (Central Department Store), which is the best and the most convenient place for handicrafts and antique Kazakh jewelry. The top floor of this department store is a treasury of small stores selling different souvenirs, like felt slippers, toys, bags, dolls, mini yurts and so on. If you want to buy some souvenirs – this is the place to go. You can also have a walk along Zhybek Zholy Street - the pedestrian street in the heart of the city, so-called “Almaty Arbat”, with comfortable benches and fountains, shops and cafes. This place is chosen by professional and amateur artists offering their work for sale.
Day 8. Almaty, Departure
Breakfast at the hotel. Check-out at 12:00 noon. Transfer to the airport. Departure.