Tselinograd was re-named Akmola by the Kazakh authorities in 1992, and in December 1997 Akmola became the new Kazakhstan' s main town ( Almaty had the honour before). The name Akmola was changed to Astana in May 1998, a Kazakh phrase that means "the capital". The Astana, a proposed town like Washington D.C., Canberra or Brasilia, was rebuilt more or less from scratch.
Situated on the Ishim river / Esil River, you can find remains of the old town on the right side of the stream.... but the right side is the one that has won worldwide acclaim. Baiterek is on the right shore, where all the contemporary architectural style is at home.
It aroused my interest when years ago I thought about Kazakhstan and chose to go there one of these days (I finally went there, but that's another story). As I travelled to Astana, I get a lot of queries from other travellers asking if they should go to Astana, Kazakhstan.
I' ve chosen to openly share my experience and views about my stay in the Kazakh capitol and hopefully take the opportunity to do a thorough research before you go there or have any expectation. In this article I will tell you about my experience in Astana, how I learned to appreciate Almaty (and later moved there!), and what you can do in the town when you are there.
Coming from Astana, Kazakhstan, if you don't have hard skins, you might want to stop posting this article now. American and many other nationals no longer require a visa to Kazakhstan if they stay less than 30 days). Recognizing all this, I also found that two of my buddies had just started moving to Kazakhstan to do their work.
Thought that this journey would be a good opportunity to see them both and see a little Kazakhstan. Kasachstan visa are also $160, but there is no LOI needed and I could remain where I wanted throughout the entire length of the journey. Finally, I would like to say that my journey took me to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
I had one friend in Kostanay and another in Almaty. Kosstanay is a very isolated town with about 200,000 inhabitants in the north of the county near the Russian part of Siberia. From Bishkek, the least expensive way to Kostanay was to go to Astana and then take the 13-hour long railway to the town.
That was the first time I had to drive through Astana. And the second one was on the way back from Kostanay before I drove to Karaganda (a town about 3 hrs from Astana) to take a plane to Almaty. Kazakhstan is enormous for those of you who don't know.
Northern Kazakhstan (where Astana is located) is known for being harshly chilly in winters, with winds of -40C / -40F regular when the winds blow through the Kazakh steppes. Southern Kazakhstan (where Almaty is located) is a little warm and bordered by high mountain ranges.
So my route in Kazakhstan ended with Kostanay, Astana, Karaganda and the Kazakh part of my journey with a whole weekend in Almaty. I' ve skipped other places due to lack of urgency and know that one of these days I want to go back to see things in warm weather sometime.
Almaty's Planet is one I would like to be living on, and Astana's Planets is one I would like to see drawn into a dark pit forever. Without a moment's hesitation, Astana is the most terrible town I have ever been to. Honestly, Almaty's cooler than Astana when I was there.
But Astana was just counterfeit, impolite and inviting. Visiting both the right shore (the old part of the city) and the newer, Dubai-like part of Astana. They were both little inspiring and in my view leave much to be wished for. Admittedly, my pre-departure period to Kostanay was full of fun at the railway terminal, as I had to spend about 12hrs waiting to take my overnight from there.
l abandoned Astana in horror. About four and a half years later I returned to the town with a totally open spirit and was prepared to relish the place. When I asked them to recommend restaurants, I was spoiled with expensive, terrible foods. And I still think they played a prank on me.
I had some lovely little ladies in my backyard, but the most rude person I've ever seen in my life. Often I asked them what there was to do in Astana besides going to the shops, and I was often said that there was a covered "beach" on the top of Khan Shatyr, a big commercial centre.
It was also considered attractive by the Russian capital to reproduce renowned monuments all over the globe, such as the Seven Sisters' Houses in Moscow. Now, on the leftside, they are building a high turret, like some of those who adorn the Dubai sky. On my last one in Astana I went on a deliberate adventure through the town to find three things I liked about it.
Served also as a sanctuary from the policemen who harassed humans in the central railway area. And Astana had no spirit. I' m not in the mood to go back to town. Astana, I abandoned with such horror that I was just not sure whether Kazakhstan as a whole could save itself.
Fortunately, the jobs were given to Almacy, the biggest town in terms of number of inhabitants and former capitol. Albaty rock. Really I really like it here, really (I'm still here!) Folks are friendly and supportive, building have histories to tell, and there are no indigenous sandy shores that have been brought in from Dubai or the Maldives that I know of.
All the food I had in Almaty was tasty. This town definitely knows a good café. lmaty is one of those towns that actually inspired me to start writing. A lot of my travels in 2013 were not mentioned here because they made me totally indifferent and apathic after my visit.
Fortunately, Almaty broke my vein and inspire me to even start writing about the towns I suddenly couldn't find words about. Maybe Almaty isn't really that great and I just got here at the right moment and have the feeling that it's bigger than it actually is.
Maybe it's just a really amazing town. Almaty has become one of my favourite towns in the whole widead. I loved Almaty so much when I went there that I decided to move there for three month at the end of 2016 because I did not have a Schengen visum.
And I can say that the town is still amazing and merits every little appreciation and affection it has. Astana worth your while? I' ve never tried to lead a person away from a goal in this blogs before. I am a strong perpetrator that different places can have different experience and that you should make your own judgements about a place.
But it is very hard for me to propose Astana as a place for travellers to the area, for some reasons: Perhaps a trip to Astana is a good suggestion if you are interested in the country's state. When you do not have the means to go to Astana, you must really make an attempt to do so.
Almaty can be a whole days long railway. Astana is a town that is within an eight-hour drive from Almaty or other places in Central Asia, and I would strongly recommend this route as it provides contrast and different architectural styles. If I was in town for two whole week?
I would have said in 2013 that I should stay away from Astana at all cost. However, having stayed in Kazakhstan in 2016, I would like to urge you to leave when you have enough to. I' ve always said that I would not return, but the town has the Expo 2017, and it seems to have done well with it, and it seems to have brought a new lease of life and a new sense of hope to the inhabitants of the town.
So, you found yourself in Astana... well, what are you gonna do there? There are several monuments in the town that are well known to the architecturally adept traveller. There are plenty of gardens and museum sites to show travellers and tourists the town' s rich past. They can also try the right shore, where the Soviet side of the town still is.
There are definitely some things to do in Astana when you are there. Astana' s most evident thing to do is to explore its contemporary and future architectur. There' s no lack of the coolest building in town, but the ones below are the ones I think are most valuable.
It has a 5,000 inside and 2,000 outside storage space.... and is therefore a must, if only for its scale, in Astana. Astana' s Presidential House is a magnificent place that is the office of the President of Kazakhstan. A few folks will tell you to go to the Palestine of Peace and Reconciliation or to the Triumph of Astana over this edifice, but I really liked this edifice because it shimmered under the untouched sky and blues.
Astana' s most popular symbol, this 97 metre high lighthouse (and yes, you can see it!), is called "Chupa Chups" by the locals. Don't dine in the revolving diner no matter how many guys tell you to go up there. and it was just terrible.
The Line brew is a place where I have been too often to be counting in Almaty, and they make their own beers, cooking delicious Kazakh and foreign foods right in front of your eyes. It' not really the best place for vegans or vegans in Almaty or Astana, but it's definitely a good place to try - and your beers are good!
Astana is located at Kenesary St. 20. There was no special cup of tea when I was in Astana! Think of my agitation when my boyfriends tell me that there is good cup of tea in the town. Since its opening in Astana, the Ministry ofoffee ( or ???????????? ???? ) has been offering excellent coffees.
This place where I used to live doesn't seem to be in the shop anymore (not really surprising - that's how living is in Kazakhstan). Anstana has the default Marriotts and the luxury Rixos Hotel, but there are many cheap hotels and rooms nowadays (definitely different than when I was there!), and you can find them on Booking.com.
So I didn't like the town. In the meantime, I have been living in Kazakhstan. I have talked to some of my Kazakh boyfriends about the town and I even have some boyfriends who live in the town. When you have a suggestion about what you can see or do in the town, or would like to give an idea about your stay there, please do so in the commentaries!