Dark tourism is quite popular among the travellers coming to Central Kazakhstan. The ruins of Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and Saryshagan anti-ballistic missile test site attract the Cold war and Arms Race enthusiasts. Some of the abandoned industrial sites, for instance, mines, plants and factories, date back to the middle of the 19th century (the time when British industrialists came here), but most of them are from the Soviet Union time (the Mine Museum in Karaganda is a must see). Stalin’s era GULAG camps include Steplag, ALZHIR and Karlag (its administration building in Dolinka serving as a memorial museum nowadays is arguably the most popular sight for the tourists in the Karaganda surroundings). Ordinary examples of the Soviet legacy such as Lenin monuments can still be found all over the region as well.
Ancient history of the region, or better said, its most prominent and tangible material evidence dates back to the Bronze Age. Begazy necropolis in Kyzylarai and Karazhartas burial ground in Taldy valley are to be named among the most impressive examples. The rock carvings of the same period (Zheltau, Shunak, Terekty and many others) are no less interesting. The age of early nomads, i.e. Saka or Scythian tribes, is represented by numerous barrows, including the huge ones which belonged to the chieftains. Turkic era has left behind the memorial sites with stone statues of lords and warriors. Mongol invasion and the Golden Horde centuries are represented by the glorious mausoleums of Genghis Khan’s descendants in Ulytau, including the mausoleum of his eldest son — Jochi.
Community-based tourism has been steadily developing in Central Kazakhstan. As a result, you can enjoy the cozy homestays in Kyzylarai (Shabanbai Bi village), Buiratau (Algabas and Karagaily villages) and the town of Karkaraly. Warm hospitality is in the blood of Kazakh people, while the way of life in the countryside is still quite authentic and traditional. You will be able to see how cows are milked and sheep are herded as well as have a unique chance to witness Baiga (horse racing), Kokpar (goat pulling which westerners usually know as Buzkashi) and other traditional Kazakh sports games. The local cuisine is one more attraction point, especially if you prefer sour-milk products and enjoy eating meat in all its forms.
The landscapes of Central Kazakhstan — Saryarka in Kazakh — are various and colorful. Here you may see the vast steppes and the so-called mountain and forest oases scattered across them, small cozy lakes and huge wetlands, and even deserts with sand dunes. You can climb Aksoran in Kyzylarai and feel the breath of the desert in Zhetykonyr sands.You may also encounter wildlife. In Kyzylarai and Buiratau, you may come across Argali, Roe deer and Elk, in the steppes of Ulytau you are likely to see Saiga antelope, while in the wetlands of Korgalzhyn nature reserve Greater flamingo and Dalmatian pelican are quite common. A number of Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) suitable for birdwatching is situated here, and the region has been even designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name of «Saryarka – Steppes and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan».
Our tours mainly cover Karaganda, Ulytau, Akmola and Abai oblasts of Kazakhstan. However, we can go beyond them, if necessary.
Our tours usually start in Karaganda and Astana, but Priozersk, Balkhash and Semey are sometimes used as starting points as well.