Kazakhstan sits atop a unique intersection: modern space exploration technology, ancient Silk Road history and former U.S.S.R influence all meet and meld, and the result is a country packed full of wonders.
Perhaps not the first country you would think of when you ponder modern space exploration, Kazakhstan is the site of a thriving space programme and should be high on bucket lists for those interested in the cosmos. In southern Kazakhstan, Baikonur Cosmodrome is the world's first and largest space launch facility. Indulge the curiosity of your inner cosmonaut and visit Baikonur with us. Here you’ll have the opportunity to tour the Integration and Test Facility complex, visit the Space and Spaceport History Museums and see cottages inhabited by astronauts Gagarin and Korolev.
It's not all about what's over our heads, though. We’ll take you deeper into Kazakhstan on a 'journey through time', delving into the country's ancient past. Admire the huge lakes that sit cradled by snow-capped mountains, and visit the archaeological sites at 12th-century Aisha-Bibi and Karakhan Mausoleum. Head on to Turkestan, where you’ll tour the impressive mediaeval fortress at Sauran, once a massive walled city that was a major trade and cultural hub along the Silk Road.
Bringing you back to more modern times, we will end this tour in Almaty. Kazakhstan's former capital boasts a wealth of Soviet Era architecture and beautiful buildings. Take a day trip to the countryside around the city and witness the stunning beauty of the mountains and lakes, and learn about traditional Kazakh hunting at a falcon farm.
Depart London Heathrow and fly direct overnight to Astana.
Arrive in Astana where you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel. Explore this futuristic capital city, full of innovative buildings such as the Palace of Peace and the iconic Bayterek Tower. We will ascend the Tower for stunning views over the city, and then continue on to more sights such as the Presidential Palace and the Khazret Sultan Mosque. (B,L,D)
After an early breakfast, check-out of the hotel and transfer to the airport for a flight to Kyzylorda, from where we will head out for Baikonur. The drive across the steppe takes approx 3.5 hours and will give you an appreciation of the sheer size of Kazakhstan.
On arrival at Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome, cross into what is technically Russian territory - so expect a short wait as passes are issued, and remember to bring Russian roubles if you want to buy souvenirs! (B,L,D)
Baikonur is the world's oldest and largest space launch site. Its list of launches are peppered with some of the most famous names in the history of space travel: Sputnik, Yuri Gagarin, even through to Tim Peake in 2016 who landed at Baikonur after six months in the ISS.
Enjoy a tour of the major points of interest at Baikonur, including the Integration and Test Facility complex, the cottages of Gagarin and Korolev and the Spaceport History Museum. (Please note that access to some sites is subject to Roscosmos permits and subject to change).
Tonight, take the overnight train to Turkestan after dinner. (B,L,D)
On arrival into Turkestan enjoy breakfast at a local restaurant/cafe, then travel to the mediaeval settlement of Sauran. This is one of the most important sites in Kazakhstan. Once a great walled city, it features underground water conduits that were cutting-edge for their time, and you can still see evidence of the magnificent settlement that once stood here.
Later return to Turkestan and visit the Azret-Sultan historical and architectural complex, the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yawasi, and many of its other most interesting sights before carrying on to Shymkent, where we will spend the night. (B,L,D)
Have breakfast and drive 180km (approx 3 hours) to Taraz and see the 11th and 12th century monuments of Aisha-Bibi Mausoleum, Babaja Hatum and Karakhan Mausoleum as well as the Tekturmas Historical Complex before making the return drive to Shymkent. (B,L,D)
Spend the morning exploring Shymkent. Visit the bazaar, Abai Park and the museum of history. After lunch have the afternoon free to explore at leisure before meeting for dinner in the evening. (B,L,D)
After breakfast transfer to the airport for the short flight to Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan. After a busy few days spend the afternoon relaxing in the hotel or exploring the city under your own steam. (B,L,D)
Spend the day enjoying a tour of Kazakhstan's former capital city. Visit Panfilov Park and Zenkov Catherdral (the second largest wooden building in the world, built entirely without the use of nails), the Green Bazaar, Kok-Tobe Hill and many more of Almaty's most interesting and impressive sights. (B,L,D)
Head out of the city to the countryside outside of Almaty. Start by visiting Big Almaty lake. Sitting at an altitude of 2,510 metres, this is one of the most picturesque lakes in Trans-Ili Alatau. Continue higher to an altitude of 3,300 metres, to the base of Big Almaty peak. Here you can enjoy a fantastic panorama of the lakes and mountains, the slopes covered with fir-trees, aspen and juniper. On the way back to the city visit a falconry and see a demonstration of the traditional way of hunting before returning to the city. (B,L,D)
*If you would like a private compartment on the overnight train there will be a supplement of approximately £135 for a single and £90 for a twin—please enquire when you book.
Please note that this tour will operate with a minimum of 8 persons and maximum 14 persons.
This tour can also be combined with our Back in the USSR tour.