Central Asia: An Underrated Destination

When planning your next holiday destination, Kazakhstan is probably not the first country that comes to mind. But perhaps it should be. The economic powerhouse of Central Asia has plenty to offer, and planning a trip there is easier than you might think!

AFF member Mattg recently visited Kazakhstan, and he was seriously impressed.

Kazakhstan especially was just so different to anywhere else I’ve been before. I would say that it’s one of the most underrated tourist destinations out there! The capital, Astana, is a modern city with some astounding architecture. Meanwhile Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, is full of history and some spectacular scenery.

Many will associate Kazakhstan with the 2006 film Borat. But this is not at all an accurate representation of the region!

Our member’s first stop was Almaty. This is Kazakhstan’s largest city and was the capital until 1997. There is plenty to see in Almaty, from colourful churches, to museums, and plenty of Soviet-style architecture. The city is also surrounded by mountains. As well as great views, these offer some exciting day trip options.

The next day I took the bus to Shymbulak, which is a ski resort on one of these mountains and around 25 minutes from Almaty. As it was summer there was no skiing during my visit. At Shymbulak I took the cable car right up to the top. There were some fantastic views of the mountains from there, and you could look down over Almaty from right at the top.

After Almaty, our member had an enjoyable flight to Astana on Kazakhstan’s flag carrier, Air Astana. The capital city is surprisingly modern and architecturally stunning.

While Almaty was full of history, Astana was almost the polar opposite. The city is brand new and architecturally stunning. Astana was purpose-built in the 1990s, almost from scratch, to replace Almaty as the capital. It’s a planned city, similar to Canberra or Brasilia. The vast majority of the buildings were built in the last 25 years.

From the moment I arrived in Astana I was hit by a “wow-factor”. The city’s architecture is seriously impressive!

This year is Astana’s 20th anniversary as the Kazakh capital and the city happens to be hosting a three-month world expo on “Future Energy”. Over 100 countries are represented, though Australia is not one of those.

At the end of their trip, our member was only too happy to recommend a visit to Central Asia. Finding flights to Kazakhstan can be somewhat of a challenge. Luckily, that’s the hardest part of planning a trip to this part of the world. Australian tourists do not require a visa to visit Kazakhstan. And the Australian government’s Smart Traveller website classifies it as a safe destination, giving it the same advice level as New Zealand.

If you ever have the chance to visit this country, do it! It’s safe, beautiful, the people are friendly, the food’s good, and it’s not at all expensive! The language barrier can be a little difficult, but I got by without too many problems.

Mattg also visited Georgia, Sri Lanka and a range of other countries on this trip. Read the full trip report HERE.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]