Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan. The city is right in the middle of mountain ranges and wide plains, and that sight alone is enough to call the city beautiful.
However, the city offers more than just a spectacular view. Almaty is a collection of modern architecture, refreshing fountains, and relaxing parks and squares that make a trip to this picturesque city very worthwhile.
The New Square in Almaty is the location often used national parades and ceremonies. The southern President’s Residence overlooks the square.
Almaty also boasts of several business centers, cafes, theaters, art galleries, casinos, restaurants – you name it, they have it.
Museums in particular are featured in Almaty, with the Museum of Kazakh National Instruments, the Central State Museum and the State Art Museum. The State Art Museum hosts exhibits of traditional Kazakh items such as rugs, jewelry, and clothing.
Korgalzhyn National Park
The Korgalzhyn National Park is the largest reserve zone in the country. The centuries-old natural state of Kazakhstan is preserved in this 258.9 million hectare park, with 198,000 hectares of this being wetlands – considered to be the most biologically diverse form of ecosystem.
The wetland area of the Korgalzhyn National Park by itself is home to exotic Kazakhstan species of wolves, marmots, and saiga. The steppes and lakes in this area are natural wonders that have retained their beauty through the years. However, the birds are the main attractions – and, in particular, the pink flamingoes that roam and frolic in the area.
The park includes two big lakes inside – the Korghalzyn Lake and Tengiz Lake. Home to roughly 350 species of plants and 82 species of birds, the Korgalzhyn National Park is truly a sight to behold, and a fitting break from the towering structures and convenient technology found in the urban areas.
Astana is the capital of Kazakhstan and the second largest city in the country, just after Almaty. The city is currently experiencing an economic boom, with building projects being constructed practically everywhere. What was once a small mining town is now a bustling metropolis filled with modern-day structures such as malls, restaurants and casinos.
Astana was made the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997. The change was made because Astana was more accessible to the Russian Federation than the previous capital, Almaty. The city is also less earthquake-prone, making investments in the city much more attractive.
The city literally glows at night, filling the night sky with neon lights symbolizing the progress that Astana has undergone. Most of the modern structures in Astana have become tourist attractions as more and more people are excited to see what the little mining town has become.
The Zenkov Cathedral, also known as the Ascension Cathedral, is both a religious and structural wonder that has stood the test of time in Almaty. Its 54 meter frame towers over the city. It is one of the tallest wooden structures in the world.
Built between 1904 to 1907, the cathedral is one of the few buildings from the Tzarist-era that endured a massive earthquake in 1911. The Zenkov Cathedral is a prime example of Orthodox Church architecture, with multiple domes, sharply colored wall paintings, and murals and icons in the main chapel.
During the Soviet era, the Zenkov Cathedral also functioned as an exhibition and concert hall. After the revolution, it became a museum and cultural center. In 1990, it was given the Russian Orthodox cathedral status.
Another unique fact about this wooden structure is that it was built without the use of a single nail. With the Zenkov Cathedral still standing today, it is a building worthy of awe and amazement.
One of the biggest mosques in all of Kazakhstan, the Central Mosque has a maximum height of 47 meters in its biggest minaret. It is the central building of Islam worship in Almaty.
The Central Mosque is most popular for its trademark blue turquoise dome, which has a diameter of 20 meters and a height of 36 meters. There are also five towering minarets surrounding the mosque, each with a blue dome as well.
The mosque is an example of Timurid architecture, which was largely based on ancient Persian architecture. One of its defining characteristics is axial symmetry, which the mosque clearly follows.
Around 7,000 people can fit inside the Central Mosque, which was built on the site of an older mosque. Its construction started in 1993, and under the supervision of two Kazakh architects, was completed in 1999. The Qur’an verses that decorate the mosque’s large dome was added by Turkish calligraphy artists in 2000.