Kazakhstan: An Undiscovered Gem for the Stressed-Out Traveler

There are a lot of misperceptions about Kazakhstan, a large, landlocked country in Central Asia.  Most people hear “-stan” at the end of the name and figure it’s an extension of one of those countries that you wouldn’t be caught dead in, much less choose for a vacation destination.  Wrong… Kazakhstan is a delight, a place worth the verrry long plane ride and the few words of Russian you’ll need to make your way around the city.  Love peace and quiet?  Hate tourist crowds? Want good value for your travel money, and to meet wonderful locals who are some of the nicest hosts in the world?  Want to discover a place after Europe, East Asia, and the tropics are getting their “been there, done that” feeling?  Try Kazakhstan.  Yes, it is cold, as I found out in the snow flurries of early October, and there’s no Hop-on Hop-off bus service (yet) — all the more reason to gear up and stay warm by taking a brisk walking tour.  Just don’t be like me and take 500+ photos in one day.  But, do enjoy this virtual tour.

The Central Mosque

The Central Mosque in Astana

The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation beckons across the river in Astana

The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation beckons across the river in Astana

Astana has much of the glitz of a casino city -- without all the temptations to gamble.

Astana has much of the glitz of a casino city — without all the temptations to gamble.

The Khan Shatyr megamall stands tranquilly on the steppe, disguised as a yurt.

The Khan Shatyr megamall stands tranquilly on the steppe, disguised as a yurt.

Inside, the inspiring structure and upscale shops offer some serious (retail) therapy.

Inside, the inspiring structure and upscale shops offer some serious (retail) therapy.

Here's Ms. Nara herself, dressed for some 37-degree October weather.

Here’s Ms. Nara herself, dressed for some 37-degree October weather.

Need a beautiful place to be alone together?  There's plenty of that in Astana.

Need a beautiful place to be alone together? There’s plenty of that in Astana.

Almaty, Kazakhstan's more cosmopolitan city, is a site of domes, white buildings, and pretty blue skies.

Almaty, Kazakhstan’s more cosmopolitan city, is a site of domes, white buildings, and pretty blue skies.

Want a great aerial view of the Himalayas, without taking the hike of a lifetime?  Take a flight from Delhi to Almaty instead.

Want a great aerial view of the Himalayas, without taking the hike of a lifetime? Take a flight from Delhi to Almaty instead.

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