Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi
Bayterek Tower, Astana
Trace the span of Kazakhstan’s history from Bronze Age carvings to futuristic city landmarks
Explore Silk Road connections at the UNESCO site of Turkistan, home to a famous Timurid Imperial mausoleum
Discover Kazakhstan’s remarkable landscape and geology, including the awe-inspiring ‘Valley of the Castles’ at Charyn Canyon
“Steve is an excellent tour expert, I really enjoyed his guiding and talks; the tour was significantly enhanced by his breadth of knowledge and experience”
- ACE customer on a 2022 tour led by Steve Mastin
A vast country harbouring immense cultural wealth, Kazakhstan is a land of crystal lakes and soaring mountains, ancient Silk Road monuments and 20th century cathedrals. To visit is to experience a staggeringly rich geological landscape, some of the most stunning scenery in the world, and a historical and cultural heritage that stretches from the Bronze Age petroglyphs at Tamgaly, through the Timurid mausoleum at Turkistan, to Sir Norman Foster’s futuristic creations in Astana.
Our tour explores the depths of these cultural and historical layers, balancing city-based visits with excursions into the countryside to discover ancient archaeological sites and places of stunning natural beauty.
We will begin in Kazakhstan’s historical former capital of Almaty, its name famously meaning ‘father of apples’; indeed the domestic apple’s wild ancestor, ‘Malus sieversii’, continues to grow on the slopes of the nearby Tien Shan mountains. After familiarising ourselves with aspects of Kazakhstan’s history and geology, including its religious culture, we will make an excursion to one of its most magnificent and remote sites: often considered as impressive as the Grand Canyon, Charyn Canyon’s array of rare and characterful formations is a testament to millennia of wind and water erosion.
Following further explorations within Almaty – including a visit to the Green Bazaar, overflowing with diverse produce from across Asia – we will make an excursion to one of the country’s five UNESCO World Heritage sites, the archaeological landscape of Tamgaly. This remarkable place is home to 5000 ancient rock carvings (or petroglyphs), the majority dating from the Bronze Age.
Leaving Almaty behind, we will fly to the southern city of Shymkent, originally founded as a caravanserai connected with a nearby Silk Road settlement. From here we will discover Kazakhstan’s trading heritage with a visit to Turkistan, home to the 14th century mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best preserved monuments from the Timurid Empire.
Our final journey will transport us forward in time to Kazakhstan’s strikingly modern capital of Astana, site of several astonishing buildings by Sir Norman Foster, including his pyramid-shaped Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. As in Almaty, we will seek to understand the religious history and culture of Kazakhstan with visits to the city’s cathedral and mosque, while also tracing its extensive history at the new National Museum, which houses exhibits ranging from ancient ornaments (including the armour belonging to Kazakhstan’s mysterious ‘golden man’) to artwork and ethnographic artefacts. The country’s recent history as part of the Soviet Union will also be explored through a visit to ALZHIR Memorial Museum, formerly a labour camp for women and children whose lives are both documented and commemorated at the site.
We will stay at several hotels throughout the tour, including centrally located four or five-star establishments in Almaty, Shymkent and Astana, with simpler accommodation for our stay in Turkistan. Please note the hotels are subject to final confirmation.
Tour Director Steve Mastin, MA, PGCE, FHA, studied history and classics before working as a schoolteacher for 17 years. A fellow of the Historical Association, Steve is a regular speaker at history conferences both in the UK and overseas. He has travelled widely, and spent seven years living and working in Kazakhstan. Steve will lead us through three key stages of Kazakhstan’s evolution: its ancient history, its more recent Soviet-era past, and its vision for the future – mirroring our journey from Almaty and Shymkent to the modern capital.
Steve writes: “I discovered Kazakhstan over ten years ago when I helped to train teachers in Astana. They came from all over the country and their stories of the history of their land increased my fascination to explore beyond the impressive capital city. The vast unending steppes, the canyons, lakes and mountains make this a land of remarkable natural beauty. The Bronze Age remains, ancient cities built along the Silk Road, the reminders of the Soviet oppression, and the modern architecture of Sir Norman Foster combine to make this a land full of cultural and historical feasts. A people descended from Genghis Khan, Kazakhstan is both Western and Eastern with a yearning for tradition and modernity.”
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Fully booked - please contact us on 01223 841055 to be added to the waiting list.
Included: return airfare, accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, fourteen breakfasts, eight lunches (two packed), thirteen dinners with water & tea, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.
Not Included: travel insurance, double room for single use supplement £495.