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Wonders of Kazakhstan

Horse riders near Markakol Lake, Kazakhstan
Horse riders near Markakol Lake / Dmitry A. Mottl, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

Kazakhstan belongs to the world’s largest countries and its vast steppes, deserts, and mountains hide numerous wonders. Its natural and cultural heritage is comparatively little known, but here are found quite a few important landmarks.
Most interesting is the rich archaeological heritage. In Kazakhstan are found outstanding wonders left by the Bronze Age and early Iron Age cultures – giant mounds (kurgans), megalithic monuments, and petroglyphs.

Map with the described wonders of Kazakhstan

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WorldViolet Top 25 wonders of Kazakhstan

Geological wonders

Singing Sand Dune

Almaty Province

An enormous sand dune that often emits a strong, booming sound that is created by the friction of sand grains. Sandy ridge is up to 300 m high and 1.5 km long.

Singing Sand Dune, Kazakhstan
Singing Sand Dune / Jonas Satkauskas, Wikimedia Commons / copyleft
Aksu Canyon

South Kazakhstan

15 km long and up to 500 m deep canyon in Tian Shan mountains. Canyon contains some forest fragments with Malus sieversii apple trees – ancestors of domesticated appletrees and pears. Here are found also petroglyphs.

Aksu Canyon
Aksu Canyon. / Tomiris, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0


An unusual mountain that looks like a giant sculpture. The mountain is 332 m high. On the top are remnants of fortification built by Dzhuchi, son of Genghis Khan. The summit can be accessed through an old tunnel.

Sherkala. / Valeria Bolotova, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Valley of Castles in Charyn Canyon

Almaty Province

A spectacular part of Charyn Canyon. Here the canyon is some 20 – 80 m wide and has beautiful cliff formations. Charyn Canyon contains relict stands of Fraxinus sogdiana – relict species from the Paleogene period. The area of this stand is 800 ha. Here are found numerous burial mounds – kurgans.

Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan
Charyn Canyon / Leon Hart, / CC BY 2.0
Zhamanshin crater


Large impact crater, with a diameter of 14 km, 270 m deep. The impact took place some 900 thousand years ago and was the latest impact of such a magnitude that could cause an effect of nuclear winter.

Stone Balls Valley


The floor of this valley is covered with giant stone balls – concretions of minerals.

Shunak crater


2.8 km wide and 400 m deep impact crater, some 45 million years old.



Very impressive granite formations, a sacred place to native people.

Kokkol Falls

East Kazakhstan

Possibly the most beautiful waterfall in this part of Kazakhstan, some 60 – 80 m tall.

Kokkol Falls in Altai Mountains, Kazakhstan
Kokkol Falls in Altai Mountains / Петербургская школа йоги, / license comparable to CC BY 2.0

Archaeological wonders


South Kazakhstan

Ruins of a once important medieval city that was founded established sometime around the 1st century AD. Ruins are very extensive and encompass remnants of several cities – Altyntobe, Dzhalpak-tobe, etc. Abandoned since the end of the 18th century.

Sawran (Sauran)

South Kazakhstan

Ruins of a historical trade city on the Great Silk Road, founded in the 1st millennia BC and abandoned since the 17th century. Remnants of two mosques have been found. The city is surrounded by remnants of a wall that is up to 3 – 6 m tall.

Tamgaly petroglyphs

Almaty Province

A large group of petroglyphs with some 5,000 etchings on stones and cliffs. Petroglyphs were created in the time period between the second millennium BC and the early 20th century. Many petroglyphs show Buddhist symbols. Nearby are remnants of settlements and burial grounds with stone cists.

Petroglyphs in Tamgaly - most likely drawing shows Sun (two Suns?), animals and dancing humans, Kazakhstan
Petroglyphs in Tamgaly – most likely drawing shows Sun (two Suns?), animals and dancing humans / Ken & Nyetta, / CC BY 2.0
Shu-Zhaissan sanctuary


Group of stone steles, carved and erected by ancient Turkic people in the 7th century AD.

Issyk kurgans

Almaty Province

Group of 45 enormous burial mounds that are up to 15 m tall, made during the 4th – 3rd centuries BC. Famous due to a find of very interesting burial that contained more than 4,000 golden items. The grave contains inscriptions, possibly in Scythian language.

Architecture and culture wonders

Khoja Akhmet Yassawi mausoleum

South Kazakhstan

Mausoleum to Turkic poet and Sufi mystic Khoja Akhmet Yassawi (1093 – 1166), the first known Turkic poet. The structure was ordered by Timur and left unfinished in 1405. Nevertheless, it is one of the best-preserved Timurid structures and now serves as a national symbol of Kazakhstan. Its dome is the largest in Central Asia.

Khoja Akhmet Yassawi mausoleum
Khoja Akhmet Yassawi mausoleum. / Marcia Newton, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Shopan-Ata underground dwelling and mosque


Cave complex – old dwelling and the shrine of Sufi mystic Shopan-Ata, who lived some 800 years ago. The rock-cut cave was built in the 10th – 12th centuries. The site is surrounded by thousands of burials. The symbolics in Shopan-Ata sacred caves show a fusion of earlier, animistic religion and Islam.

Almaty Tower


The tallest free-standing tubular steel structure in the world, 371,5 m tall. Constructed in 1975 – 1983.

Almaty Tower
Almaty Tower. / Tore Khan, Flickr / CC BY 2.0


Underground mosque and burial of Sufi saint, a pupil of Khoja Ahmed Yassaui.

Saray-Jük (Saraychik)


Ruins of a medieval city that was established in the 10th – 11th century and was a major trade center in the 13th century. Ruined in 1580.

Kok-Kol Lake and Aidahar


An unusual montane lake that, reportedly, emits sounds – long whistles or sighs. This could be explained by emissions of gas from the bottom of the lake. According to stories of many locals sometimes here is seen a monster – Aidakhar – that comes out from the lake and hunts sheep. This monster was been observed also by some scientists but there is no evidence of whether it exists in reality.

Shakpak-Ata mosque


Possibly the most impressive rock-carved shrine – mosque in Mangystau. The premises are large enough to have rock-cut columns holding the ceiling. Most likely built in the 10th – 11th centuries. Interesting are the petroglyphs on the walls of the cave.

Bayterek Tower


Spectacular observation tower, constructed in 2002. The monument is 105 m tall and is topped with a 22 m large ball. The tower symbolizes the transfer of capital to Astana.

Bayterek Tower
Bayterek Tower. / Vyacheslav Bukharov, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
Aisha Bibi


An ornate mausoleum, built in the 11th or 12th century to commemorate the life of a noblewoman. Now it serves as a symbol of love and faithfulness.

Gagarin’s Start in Baikonur Cosmodrome


The launchpad where the first human spaceflight took place in 1961. The site still is in use for launches of spacecraft.

WorldYellow Recommended books

Kazakhstan (Bradt Travel Guide)

Landlocked between Russia and China, and surrounded by the shimmering Caspian Sea shores and the Altai and Tian Shan mountains, a trip to the exotic wilds of Kazakhstan will erase any association Westerners may have with the film Borat. Visit in May and find the slopes of the Tian Shan carpeted with tulips, base yourself in cosmopolitan Almaty, and a day trip to the nearby mountains and forest (where the pious may encounter the legendary Buddhist kingdom of Shambala), or sample a glass of kumiss at a Kazakh dastarkhan.

Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared

A funny and revealing travelogue of Kazakhstan, a country rich with wild tulips, oil, nomads who hunt with golden eagles, and a disappearing landlocked sea.

Closed to foreigners under Tsar and Soviet rule, Kazakhstan has remained largely hidden from the world, a remarkable feat for a country the size of Western Europe. Few would guess that Kazakhstan—a blank in Westerners’ collective geography—turns out to be diverse, tolerant, and surprisingly modern, the country that gave the world apples, trousers, and even, perhaps, King Arthur.

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