Central Asia

Essential Kazakhstan

Photo credit: Ana Filonov

7 Days
From $3,195
Trip Type
Group Size
Your choice
Activity Level
Flexible Private Trip — Book Your Dates for You & Yours

From the New Capital to the Old


This itinerary takes you to the two worlds of Kazakhstan. The principle cities are distinctly modern; Almaty has a sophisticated European air, while Nur-Sultan is filled with cutting-edge architecture that gives it the feel of a mini Dubai. Out in the steppe and the mountains, history and nature prevail. You’ll see the ruins of a once-prominent Silk Road oasis, a canyon filled with gorgeous variegated rock formations, and a UNESCO-listed medieval mausoleum with the largest dome in Central Asia.

Travels to: Kazakhstan



  • Days 1-2: Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan), Chimkent

    Begin in the new city of Nur-Sultan, capital of Kazakhstan only since 1997, and under its current name only since 2019. (Prior to that it was known as Astana.) Take in its impressive modern architecture including Baiterek Tower, inspired by a Kazakh folk tale, and the Khan Shatyr Complex, the “World’s Biggest Tent.” Fly to Chimkent on the evening of your second day.


    • The ultramodern architecture of Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s purpose-built capital
    • The viewing platform of 344-foot Baiterek Tower
    • Khan Shatyr Complex, a shopping and entertainment center topped with a 490-foot-tall transparent tent, blending Kazakhstan’s tent-dwelling culture with neofuturist design
  • Days 3-4: Chimkent, Otrar, Turkistan

    Begin the day at the vibrant bazaar of Chimkent, Kazakhstan’s third-largest city. In the afternoon, set out through the desert to visit the excavated remains of Otrar, once a major Silk Road oasis with a hilltop fortress. Continue to the historic city of Turkistan, where a tour the next day features a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the mausoleum of revered Sufi sheikh Khoja Akhmed Yasavi, the first Turkic Muslim holy man.


    • Colorful piles of produce, spices, and handicrafts at Chimkent’s booming bazaar
    • Evocative ruins at Otrar, a town with roots dating to the first century
    • Turkistan’s UNESCO-listed Mausoleum of Khoja Akhmed Yasavi, commissioned by Tamerlane in the 14th century and topped with the largest dome in Central Asia
  • Days 5-7: Almaty, Charyn Canyon

    Today, arrive early in Almaty – the country’s largest city and a thriving business center, situated amid the majestic Tien Shan mountain range. Visit Panfilov Park, a hub of the city and home to Zenkov Cathedral; explore the Museum of Musical Instruments; and then head to the Tien Shan foothills for a falconry demonstration. The following day drive through spectacular Charyn Canyon, with its striking rock formations and colorful strata, before returning to Almaty for a final overnight.


    • Panfilov Park, a green oasis where locals meet to stroll and unwind
    • Colorful Zenkov Cathedral, one of the tallest wooden structures in the world and an impressive feat of engineering that survived a massive 1911 earthquake unscathed
    • The beautifully handcrafted traditional instruments at the Museum of Musical Instruments — particularly the lute-like dombra, which features significantly in the music of Central Asia
    • Hunters on horseback giving a private demonstration of traditional Kazakh falconry
    • Charyn Canyon, known as the “Valley of Castles” for its spectacular rock formations carved out of a deep, 50-mile path through the Kazakh steppe

Dates & Prices

Please note:

  • Private trip prices vary by season and are subject to hotel availability for your travel dates.
  • Listed prices below are based on double occupancy and a 2 traveler minimum.
  • Hotel upgrades, additional nights, and solo traveler prices are available on request.

Land tour price, per person, starting from:

  • 2024 Dates
    Available: April - November
    Tour, double occupancy
    Plus internal airfare
    Single supplement

What's Included

  • Tour Includes
    • Accommodations as noted in the itinerary. All room types, even in upgraded properties, are standard entry-level doubles or twins. Please call for room category upgrade pricing and information.
    • Meals, as noted in the itinerary: 6 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 1 dinner.
    • One arrival and one departure airport transfer. (Additional arrival and departure transfers available at additional cost.) MIR will arrange for travelers to be met upon arrival and seen off on departure, whether we make your air arrangements or not.
    • Ground transportation throughout itinerary by private vehicle (size of vehicle depends on number of travelers in your group).
    • Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees as outlined in itinerary.
    • Services of experienced, English-speaking local guides, drivers, and other staff.
    • Complete pre-departure information including detailed packing list, reading list, Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
    • Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements (on request; please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
    • Final document packet including a travel journal, luggage tags, final updates, and more.
  • Not Included
    • Internal airfare (internal airfare is quoted separately and is subject to change by airlines).
    • International airfare or taxes/fuel surcharges.
    • Meals not specified as included in the itinerary.
    • Single supplement charge, if requested or required.
    • Baggage handling.
    • Items of a personal nature (phone calls, email, laundry, alcohol, excess baggage, etc).
    • Gratuities to local guides and drivers.
    • Visa/passport fees, airport departure fees.
    • Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
    • Travel and trip cancellation insurance.

Activity Level

Level 2: Moderate, but Customizable

This ‘Essential’ itinerary, which is designed for private travel, features long days walking and standing, and some possibly long days in the touring vehicle. Only those fit to travel and who accept the local conditions should consider joining this program.

There is a significant amount of touring on foot, and those travelers planning to take the program as written should be able to walk one to two miles a day comfortably. Footing can be an issue and travelers should be able to negotiate cobblestones, uneven surfaces (possibly steep and/or wet), and deal with situations without handrails or ramps. In the hotels, you may find that showers/baths have steep steps up or ledges, which can become slippery and require extra caution. Some attractions are only accessible via steep staircases. Museums rarely have elevators and hotels may not have elevators as well.

Past travelers have also encountered challenges with plumbing, bureaucratic service, variety of locally available foods, and availability and quality of public restrooms.

Accommodations in the basic program are generally three- to four-star hotels, some quite small with basic amenities and services. Upgrades may be available, please call for details.


Traveler Reviews

  • "Excellent introduction to a part of the world unknown to most travelers."

    R. Merlo

    Glendale, CA

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