48 hours in Kazakhstan ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฟ

Here is how to spend 48 hours in Kazakhstan, a beautiful country in Central Asia that is part of the Silk Road. In 48 hours I flew into the current capital Nur-Sultan (formerly Akmola and then Astana) then travelled on to the old capital of Almaty and left Kazakhstan there. In 1997 Akmola replaced Almaty as the capital and became Astana in 1998 and then Nur-Sultan in 2019.

Kazakhstan, with a population of 18 and a half million, became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991, is the 9th largest landlocked country in the world (larger than Western Europe) and borders Russia, China, Krygzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

It is part of the silk road which went through the the south of the country and started in Xian in China and finished in Rome in Italy. It also went through Syria, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Krygzstan and Pakistan. The Silk Road was and still is a network of trading routes that connected the east of the world to the west and was central to most economic, cultural, political and religious interactions between all of these regions from around the 2nd BC up until the 18th century.

The name came from the lucrative trade in silk that was carried out the full length of the Road. China took a big interest in protection of its trade products and even extended the Great Wall of China to ensure protection of the trade route!

Nur-Sultan is the 2nd coldest capital in the world with Ulaanbaatar being the first. The weather is different all over the country and can change very quickly. I visited in May and found it to be a lot colder than I expected. Check out the weather apps on my Handy Travel Apps page to keep updated on Kazakh weather.

Top Tip: If travelling on a UK passport then no visa is needed to enter Kazakhstan if you are only going to be there around 48 hours. This was before covid 19.

Nur-Sultan (capital city)

  • Baiterek Tower

Baiterket, which translates to ‘tall poplar tree’ is a a monument and observation tower at 105 metres tall that located in a square off Nurjol Boulevard. The square is people go to relax on benches and children go to play.

The tower is meant to represent a folktale about. mythical tree of happiness and a magic bird of happiness. The bird, whose name is Samruk, laid her golden egg in the crevice a the top of the tree (see picture below).

Top Tip: Open daily from 09:00 – 21:00

  • The Golden Towers

These are 2 cylindrical golden towers (also known as beer cans!) which seem to guard Ak Orda (the Presidential Palace) are cladded in glass and steel and are home to governmental offices. These beer cans could be part of the reason why Nur-Sultan is known as a strange capital city, stuck between a Soviet past and a modern present and future.

Golden towers
  • Nur-Astana Mosque

This 40 metre high mosque is the third largest mosque in Central Asia and one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The height symbolises the age that the prophet Mohammad was when he received the revelations and the minarets are 63 metres tall which was the age Mohammad was when he died.

Top Tip: Take a pashmina to cover your head

  • Palace of Peace and Reconciliation

This 62 metre high pyramid whose name also translates to the Pyramid of Peace and Accord is a non-denominantional spiritual centre and an event venue. It is just across the road from the Nur-Astana Mosque.

Top Tip: Visit at night as it is beautifully lit up

  • Fish Bridge

This wonderful bit of modern architecture, also known as Atyrau Bridge that spans the Ishim bridge, was built to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Astana and resembles a small piece of fish and the oil kingdom of Kazakhstan.

Top Tip: Try and go early to get a picture without many people in!

Fish Bridge
  • Khan Shatyr

This is a shopping mall in the shape of a tent! It has the regular shops with a huge open space in the middle where I had a very enjoyable 10 minutes listening to the choir. The name translates to Royal Marquee, which is exactly what it looks like; a huge metal tent.

This mall isn’t just a mall though. As well as shops and a food court it also has a cinema, a play area that features a chamber of horrors and a sky beach, which is a covered aqua park complete with tropical plants. If you feel like a break from sight seeing and want to try something different have a look at the full range of what is on offer at Khan Shatyr.

  • Triumphal Arch

This symbolises the achievements of the Kazakh people and was opened in time for the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence, which it gained in 1991.


Where to eat

In my opinion the best restaurant in Nur-Sultan is Vechnoye Nebo on the 25th floor with an amazing 360 degree view. The restaurant itself is beautifully decorated, the seating is very comfortable and the staff are so friendly and can’t do enough for you. The food is absolutely fantastic! I can recommend the lamb kebabs. and the iced tea.

360 degree views
iced tea with a view

Almaty (old capital city)

This is the largest city in Kazakhstan, was the capital until 1997 and is set in the foothills of the Trans-lli Alatau mountains. Almaty is the place to visit to see some beautiful landscapes.

  • Issyk Lake

There are some stunning lakes around Almaty but the one I found with the most breath taking scenery was Issyk lake. It is an hour and a half drive from Almaty but worth it once you get there. There is a viewing platform (a bit rickety) but climb up for an amazing view of the lake with the Tian Shen mountains in the background

Top Tip: Take a jumper as it can get a bit chilly!

  • Poppy Fields

In and around Almaty the steppes are filled with beautiful poppies. Take some time to wonder through and admire this beautiful ‘red carpet’.

Top Tip: Poppy season is late April to early May

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  • Charyn Canyon

This is the little sister to the Grand Canyon in USA and it is absolutely spectacular! Take a guide as they will know the best paths as it is very easy to lose your way in the canyon.

It is approximately a 3 hour drive from Almaty so it might be possible to go via Issyk Lake as well.

Be very careful as there are lot of places where you can walk off the path and over to rocks where there are no safety railings and a long drop.

Top Tip: Take water!!

Charyn Canyon


Brit girl on a bummel. A solo female traveller accompanied by her camera, aiming to see as much of the world as possible and sharing what she's learnt along the way!

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