Peak tourist season in Astana is during the local summer months of June to August when the weather is warm and mild. Savings can be made by visiting in the shoulder season from September – October or April – May when the weather can still be mild enough to enjoy the city. Astana celebrates its city birthday each year in early July and those visiting at this time should book accommodation in advance to avoid higher prices.
The futuristic and bold new capital of Kazakhstan is an architectural law unto itself. This isolated capital city features a number of awesome new buildings and a burgeoning cultural scene. Astana is Kazakhstan’s second biggest city and one of the world’s newest capitals.
The major highlights of the city are certainly in the form of its unique buildings. Once a quiet town in the middle of the Kazakh Steepe, serious investment has transformed this city into a place like nowhere else on earth. The architectural style is varied and borrows inspiration from Soviet, Western, Oriental and Islamic styles. Buildings of particular note include the iconic Baiterek Tower which features a glass ball held up by an aluminium frame. Visitors can take the lift to the top of the building and enjoy panoramic views of the city and beyond. Another awesome landmark is The Khan Shatyr, an amazing feat of architecture and engineering. The see-through tent like structure is made from a material that keeps the inside warm all year round where there is a huge shopping mall complete with restaurants, cafes and entertainment. The pyramid shaped Palace of Peace and Accord designed by Norman Foster is another iconic city building.
The National Museum is one of the largest museums in the world and is made up of a series of mini museums, or halls, that cover everything from Kazakh geology and gold to culture and ethnography. To get the most out of the National Museum it’s usually necessary to visit more than once during a stay. Those visiting with families should head to the Duman Entertainment Centre which houses a 5D cinema and the Astana Aquarium, said to be one of the world’s furthest aquariums from an ocean.
Located far from other major towns or cities, day trips from the city tend to be to one of the countries natural parks. The vast Korgalzhn State Nature Reserve is 106 miles (170 km) to the southeast and boasts of the world’s most northernly colony of pink flamingos. The Burabay National Park is 150 miles (250 km) away to the north and thanks to its stunning forest, lake and hilled scenery the park has earned the title of ‘Pearl of Kazakhstan’.
The bus network in Astana is fairly extensive and offers a cheap way to get around. Passengers need to sit down and wait for a conductor to buy a ticket. Taxis are another very common way to travel. Official taxis are one of the safest and most comfortable ways to get around the city although they cost significantly more than the unofficial taxis which can be hailed down from street corners.
Astana International Airport (TSE) is located 11 miles (18 km) from the city centre. There are a number of regular bus routes which depart from the airport to various stops within the city centre, each taking around an hour. Taxis are also available from the airport although it’s advisable to agree a price beforehand.