Kazakhstan, a widespread country with many enemies
Kazakhstan is the largest country in the world with no sea access. With its vast steppes, it is sandwiched between the superpowers Russia and China. After centuries of foreign domination, the Kazakhs finally have an independent territory. The recent past shows that it is difficult to deal with this in a autonomous way. To give some examples; moving the capital from Almaty to Astana (nowadays called Nursultan) and changing the alphabet to Latin. Funny enough, you hardly notice anything yet while travelling in the country.
Kazakhstan as continental hub
Kazakhstan is located on the geographical border between Europe and Asia. The two continents come together at the city of Atyrau. Although this symbolizes the border between Europe and Asia, this border has never been officially recognised anywhere. However, fact is that Kazakhstan is increasingly profiling itself as a hub between the two continents. For example, a transfer point for goods from China to Europe has been built in Khorgos and the infrastructure of the country has improved enormously in recent years.
Most of Kazakhstan is vast steppes where there is little to be found other than grass, pipelines, bad roads and stray camels. The population here still lives traditionally from livestock farming or still lives in traditional yurts. In the east and south of Kazakhstan it becomes more mountainous. Most of the natural (literal) highlights can also be found there. The highest point of Kazakhstan is the tip of the Khan Tengri, which is 7010 meters high. Almaty is beautifully located in the north of the Ala Tau Mountains and borders the Altai Mountains to the east with China and Russia. A nice given fact is that if you zoom in on Google Maps, you can exactly see that Kazakhstan does not border Mongolia.
A country with extreme temperatures
With Kazakhstan having no access to an ocean or sea, the entire country has a pronounced continental climate. You could say that Kazakhstan is the land of the extremes. In winter it can get bitterly cold, especially in the northern steppes. On the other hand, it gets very hot in the summer. The exception is the utterly most south where the Kapchagai Lake and the Issyk Kul Lake (in Kyrgyzstan) provide a milder climate than elsewhere in the country. Also, especially in winter, there is considerably more rainfall in the form of snow. The coast of the Caspian Sea is extremely windy and barren. This is unfortunately due to the extraction of oil and gas in that area.
The Kazakhs are originally descending from Turkish nomadic people. Living the Altai region, these people fled from Mongol invasions. The Mongols were so cruel that some of these Turkic tribes fled as far as the Balkans. Fortunately, some Kazakhs have also remained. The ethnic Kazakhs are closely related to the Kyrgyz and for a long time they were considered as one race. Due to Russian (and Soviet) rules, Kazakhstan has a large Russian-speaking minority. The official language is still Russian, especially in the large cities Almaty and Nursultan. Nursultan Nazarbaev, the president of Kazakhstan between 1991 and 2019, has taken a number of measures to curb Russian influence. He moved the capital from Almaty to Astana, which he named after himself (Nursultan) in 2019, and changed the official alphabet from Cyril to Latin. Funny enough, you barely notice it while travelling.
The “Black Gold” of Kazakhstan
The economy of Kazakhstan is largely depended on the extraction of oil and gas. Under the basin of the Caspian Sea there lays great amount of the so called “black gold” (oil and gas). In 2018, almost 80% of Kazakh export was related to oil or gas. With this money, the futuristic capital Noersultan was built. However, huge investments were also made in the modernization of the country. Kazakhstan has made a number of multi-year plans to ensure that Kazakhstan will connect with the Western world. Current policy is mainly aimed at becoming an important link for overland transport from Asia to Europe. The construction of roads and railways can significantly shorten the travel time between China and Europe compared to sea transport.
Agriculture, livestock and trade are becoming increasingly important sectors for Kazakhstan. Combining with the abolition of the visa requirement (for many European and American countries) in 2015, Kazakhstan has taken a good step to develop the country and tourism. As Ryce Travel, we hope to contribute to this growing economy with offering trips to Kazakhstan.
For a long time, tourism played a limited role in the life of the Kazakhs. The tourists who came were mainly from the countries of the former Soviet Union. They did not need a visa. In 2015, the visa requirement was abolished for many countries, with figures showing strong growth as a result. Most tourists visit the attractive south of the country, because here is where the mountains are, the climate more pleasant is and the economy the strongest is. In this south, Kazakhstan made many great steps to impove their winter sports facilities. To name a few examples; roads and hiking trails have been refurbished and the organization of the Winter Universiade in 2017 has made Almaty more accessible.