Astana, Kazakhstan's forward-thinking contemporary metropolis, has arisen amid the limitless grasslands of the windswept northern steppes of Kazakhstan. With a skyline interrupted by sparkling new buildings that appear to defy the laws of physics, the capital is an eye-catching exhibition of modern, 21st-century architecture as well as a look into a future metropolis.
The Nur-Astana Mosque is the largest in Central Asia and can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers. It is a stunning example of Islamic architecture, with a blue and gold dome, four minarets and a spacious courtyard. The interior of the mosque is equally impressive, with intricate carvings, paintings and chandeliers. The mosque is open to visitors of all faiths, however, dressing modestly and removing your shoes before entering is advisable.
One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of Astana is to take a stroll along the waterfront of the Ishim River at night. You will be amazed by the dazzling lights and colours of the city’s landmarks, such as the Bayterek Tower, the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, the Khan Shatyr shopping mall, and the Nur-Astana Mosque. Enhance your visit with a scenic boat ride on the river or relax at the various cafes and restaurants dotting the promenade, which have the best of both local and international cuisines.
The Bayterek Tower is the symbol of Astana and the most recognisable landmark of the city. It is a 105-meter-high monument that represents a mythical tree of life and a golden egg. Astana’s crown jewel, The Bayterek Tower, has an observation deck at 97 meters, which offers a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding landscape. Don't miss placing your hand on the first president Nursultan Nazarbayev's handprint to make a wish.
Designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster, The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation is a unique and striking building. This 77-meter-high pyramid serves as a congress centre, museum, library, and opera house that can seat 1500 people. The palace is a symbol of the harmony and diversity of Kazakhstan, as it hosts the triennial Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. The palace also has a glass atrium at the top, where you can see stained glass artwork depicting doves of peace.
The Presidential Palace, also known as the Ak Orda, is the official residence and office of the President of Kazakhstan. It is a majestic and elegant building that stands on the banks of the Ishim River, surrounded by a park and a fountain. The palace is not open to the public, but you can admire this architectural marvel and take photos from a distance. The palace also hosts the annual military parade on Independence Day, which is a spectacular show of the country’s armed forces’ abilities.
The Khan Shatyr is a giant transparent tent that covers an area of 140,000 square metres and is the largest of its kind in the world. It is a shopping and entertainment centre that offers a variety of shops, restaurants, cinemas, and attractions. You can find everything from luxury brands to local souvenirs, from fast food to fine dining, from Hollywood movies to Kazakh folk shows. The Khan Shatyr also has an indoor beach, a water park, a mini-golf course, and a skydiving simulator.
The National Museum of Kazakhstan is the largest and most modern museum in the country and a must-see for anyone interested in the history and culture of Kazakhstan. The museum has nine halls displaying exhibits ranging from ancient artefacts to contemporary art, from nomadic traditions to space exploration, ethnography to ecology. The museum also has interactive displays, multimedia installations, and a 3D cinema.
If you want to escape the city crowd and enjoy the nature and wildlife of Kazakhstan, you can visit the Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve, which is about 130 kilometres from Astana. The reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Ramsar wetland of international importance. It is home to more than 300 species of birds, including the rare and endangered Siberian white crane and the pink flamingo.
You can also see other animals, such as wolves, foxes, antelopes, and marmots. The reserve offers guided tours, hiking trails, and eco-lodges for visitors.
The Ethno-Aul Complex is a cultural and entertainment centre that recreates the traditional lifestyle and atmosphere of a Kazakh village. You can see authentic yurts, wooden houses, crafts, and costumes, and learn about the customs and rituals of the Kazakh people. You can also taste the delicious and hearty Kazakh cuisine, such as beshbarmak, kazy, kurt, and baursak. The complex also organises folk performances, horse shows, and national games, such as kokpar, audaryspak, and kyz kuu.
If you are looking for some fun and amusement in Astana, you can visit the Astana Park and the Duman Aquarium, which are located next to each other. The Astana Park is a large and green park that has a ferris wheel, a roller coaster, a carousel, and other rides and attractions for children and adults.
The Duman Aquarium is the only aquarium in the world that is located more than 3,000 kilometres from the ocean. It has more than 2,000 fish and marine animals, including sharks, rays, turtles, and piranhas. You can also see a 3D movie, a tropical forest, and a mini-zoo at the aquarium.