Kazakhstan is the world's ninth largest country by size, thus it covers a huge area. Each corner of the country has a different vibe. Kazakhstan is a diverse country with beautiful people, a good nightlife, nice cities and lots of unspoiled areas.
Places of interest are spread out over the entire country. Due to the large area, it can take a long time to travel by land between the different places. Overnight train travel is very cheap as is traveling around by minivans, the so-called “marshrutkas” that are affordable for travel in Kazakhstan. For tourists who are on a tighter schedule, it is also possible to fly between the cities.
In Kazakhstan's main cities, there are many different hostels available. A hostel can easily be chosen based on the traveler’s budget, location or need for certain facilities. Especially in Almaty and Astana, a lot of hostels can be found. In the smaller cities on your itinerary, the availability of hostels might be limited.
Most travelers arrive in Almaty or Astana as these cities have a large international airport. Almaty is also located close to the Kyrgyz border. Astana is unlike every other city in Kazakhstan. The city centre has a very modern and prestigious architecture. It's a great place to wander around for those who are very into architecture. Many travelers, however, also claim that the city lacks a soul as the city centre is very quiet. The vibe of a city can only be seen in the suburbs and centre.
Almaty is Kazakhstan's former capital and the most popular city among travelers. It is a pleasant city to spend some time in, has a few sights to see and offers many hiking opportunities in the surrounding mountains. It's a city that does have the vibe of a typical former Soviet country. The hiking opportunities are plenty and easily can be reached by marshrutka from the city. Beautiful mountains and lakes can be explored. Almaty is also the gate to the Charyn Canyon, the Grand Canyon's little sister which is just as impressive to visit. A stop at the Charyn Canyon can easily be booked as a tour, possibly via your hostel.
In the southwest of Kazakhstan is an Uzbek majority. This means that the vibe in those places is different from the rest of Kazakhstan. If you wish to experience a city that is not as developed as Almaty and Astana and has an Uzbek vibe, then Shymkent is a good place for you to see. Shymkent is close to the Uzbek border and may be used as gateway to or from Uzbekistan. The city of Turkistan is only 1.5 hours away by marshrutka. It features several important historical monuments since it once used to be an important place on the Silk Road. This city can be visited as a day trip; alternatively, you can book an overnight stay in a hostel in Turkistan in order to explore the place for several days.
Although it may not be the first thing you think about when you hear about Kazakhstan, it is also possible to spend some days at the beach. Aktau, in west Kazakhstan located on the Caspian Sea, is a beach destination. Nice beaches and a good nightlife can be found here. For those that don't mind traveling far into the country side, the Baikonur Cosmodrome is located in Kazakhstan, too. Baikonur is a Russian spaceport where rockets are launched into space.
Hi, I'm Martin Straatman,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Kazakhstan hostels. Welcome.