|02 Jun - 14 Jun|
Few countries are as vast, yet as shrouded in mystery as the Republic of Kazakhstan. Once part of the USSR, it became an independent nation in 1991, yet it still retains many of the traditions and features of its Soviet past.
It has had a turbulent and fascinating history from its early times as part of the Silk Road and the skirmishes and conquests between the Central Asian Khanates; to becoming a key location in what became known as “The Great Game” – the 19th Century cold war between the British and Russian Empires. However, fate and history sent the country on the path of the far better known Cold War, and it is possible to see the route of this path through the monuments and museums charting this. The country bore witness to the darkest episodes of the Civil War and Collectivisation, and experienced the terrors of the Purges and Gulag system.
Kazakhstan was also the backdrop to the courage and skill of the first pioneers of space, and the ambitions and idealism behind the “New Soviet Man” through the vast agricultural and industrial projects started in the middle of the 20th Century. On this small group tour see how some of these projects also took a more sinister turn as the country once again played a role in the development and testing of the USSR’s nuclear deterrent and the legacy it left.
Please note that this tour will operate with a minimum of 8 persons and maximum 16 persons.
Depart London Heathrow and fly via Astana to Almaty.
On arrival in Almaty you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel where you will have time to freshen up and relax after yor flight. After lunch embark on a half-day tour of Kazakhstan's former capital city. Visit the Park of the 28th Panfilov Guardsmen, with several of the city's most important monuments, as well as Zenkov cathedral - a wooden building built without the use of nails. Also visit the museum of national instruments, housed in the building known as the House of the Officers and housing a collection of traditional Kazakh instruments. Have dinner at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)
After breakfast continue your exploration of this fascinating city. Visit the Old Square and the Opera and Ballet Theatre. See the classic Soviet architecture of the Kazakhstan Hotel and Commissariat of the People's Committee Building along with the Palace of Pupils and Central Museum. Head up to Kok-Tobe Hill where the viewing deck offers sweeping views over the whole city, with various attractions and, bizarrely, a bronze monument dedicated to the Beatles. (B,L,D)
An early morning start to transfer to the airport for the flight to Ust-Kamenogorsk (07:05/08:35). On arrival transfer to the city of Semey (approx. 3.5 hours) founded in 1718 as a Russian fortification against the Zhungars, in the heartland of the Kazakh Middle Horde, noted for their eloquence and intellect. The area has produced several major Kazakh writers and teachers, notably the poet Abai Kunanbaev (1845-1904), and Semey was also a home in exile to the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. Visit museums dedicated to both writers as well as the monument to the victims of nuclear testing, known as "Stronger than Death". (B,L,D).
Today travel from Semey to Kurchatov (approx. 3 hours) which was the home of the Soviet nuclear testing programme. En route visit the abandoned town of Chagan, once home to the troops serving the nearby airforce base and today a series of empty blocks gradually being taken over by nature. (B,L,D)
This morning visit the museum of the test site. With such a rich history Kurchatov was the centre of the Soviet nuclear testing programme and the town's environs provide an educational, if sobering, experience about the legacy of nuclear weapons testing. After visiting the museum you will be driven into the Opytnoe Pole test site itself where you can see the concrete instrument towers rising from the steppe. The residual radiation levels now make it safe to visit (it would take about 400 hours to receive the same dose as a single x-ray) but as a precaution you will provided with safety equipment and your guide will have a dosimeter to monitor the radiation levels. After visiting the epicentre of the first test you will visit various other areas depending on what your local guide is permitted at the time to show you, as this remains a restricted area. (B,L,D)
Today travel to Pavlodar, stopping for lunch in the small town of Aksu where you can visit the statue park full of monuments from the Soviet period including a copy of the famous 'Worker and Kolkhoz Woman' statue by Mokhina. Cotinue on to the city of Pavlodar, a large industrial, economic and cultural centre in Kazakhstan. (B,L,D)
Spend a day sightseeing in Pavlodar, visiting the Regional History and Military Glory Museums, the Checkov Teatre, Cathedral of the Annunciation as well as the Monument ot Victims of the Famine. (B,L,D)
Transfer to the airport for the flight to Astana (12:00/13:00) where you will be met and transferred to the city of Karaganda, stopping for lunch en route. Located in the hear of the Kazakh steppe, Karaganda is known for two things: coal and labour camps. The two are connected, as the vast "KarLag" network of Stalin-era camps around the city was established to provide food and labour for the mines, and prison labour also built much of Karaganda itself. Visit the Spassk memorial to the victims of Soviet repression. (B,L,D)
Today visit the former centre of the KarLag correctional labour camp in the village of Dolinka. The newly restored former main administrative building shows photos, personal images and stories from the Gulags, and visits the nearby children's cemetery. In the afternoon undertake a city tour of Karaganda visiting the Miners' cultural palace, Stanislavskiy theatre, Nurken Abdirov monument and the cosmonaut and war memorials. Few tourists visit Karaganda so this is a good chance to see a normal Kazakh city going about its business. (B,L,D)
After breakfast transfer to capital city of Astana (approx 3 hours). Drive to the village of Akmol to visit the Museum of Soviet Repression at the former ALZHIR prison camp. ALZHIR, which stands for "Akmolinskiy internment camp for the wives of the betrayers of the homeland" was one of the largest prison camps for women in the Soviet Union and was opened at the beginning of 1938. This is a really fascinating and well-presented museum. (B,L,D)
Today visit the modern part of Astana taking in the Norman Foster designed Khan Shatyr shopping and entertainment centre with its indoor beach and distincitive "tent" design, walk up Green Water Boulevard to the iconic Baytarek tower and and ascend to the golden glove for stunning views across the city. From there head to the area surrounding the Presidential Palace and the Palace of Peace and Accord as well as the Khazret Sultan Mosque. (B,L,D)
Transfer to the airport for your flight back to the UK. (B)
No single room supplement Please note that this tour will operate with a minimum of 8 persons and maximum 16 persons.
This tour can also be combined with our Beyond the Cosmodrome tour.
|Itinerary Dates||From Price||Single Room Supp.|
02 Jun 2018
14 Jun 2018