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Kazakhstan? You like!

27th April 2012

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It might have depicted the country as a nation of moustache-touting, anti-Semitic chicken obsessives and incest-friendly prostitutes, but it looks like Borat has done amazing things for Kazakhstan’s tourist industry.

For reasons that TNS can’t entirely fathom, Borat and his Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan have caused visa applications for the central Asian country to increase tenfold since 2006.

Despite the Kazaks originally banning the film and threatening to sue Borat’s creator Sacha Baron Cohen for all he was worth (they didn’t), the Foreign Minister is now ‘grateful’ to him for ‘helping to attract tourists’.

No, TNS does not understand this either.

In the spirit of Kazakhstan’s newfound status as a tourist hotspot, however, we decided to track down its most popular visitor attractions. Just in case you ever feel like visiting. Thank us later.

Big Almaty Lake. The lake, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, isn’t really that big, despite the bravado that its name suggests. This doesn’t stop it from being Kazakhstan’s number one tourist destination, though. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot else to say about it. It has a watchtower in the middle. And some birds.

Mausolem of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi. Take a trip south to Turkestan to visit the 14th century dedication to this Sufi leader. Apparently, it’s a national symbol and one of only three UNESCO World Heritage sites in the country. Tripadvisor does not provide a picture, but a quick Google tells me that it isn’t finished, and sits on the site of an ancient centre of caravan trade. So there you go.

Zenkov Cathedral. A poor man’s version of Russia’s Saint Basil’s, in Red Square? It would seem so. It’s a bit smaller, and a bit more yellow. Tripadvisor reviewers recommend it as being ‘the best orthodox church’ they’ve ever visited.

Abai’s Theatre. Or the National Academical Theater of Opera and Ballet. It has been called ‘an awesome gem of soviet era culture!’ (thanks again, Tripadvisor). Which is probably good, if you’re in the mood to soak up some central Asian history and/ or opera and/ or ballet. Tickets are cheap.

Aksu-Zhbagly Nature Reserve. It’s recommended that you go on a tour if visiting this national park. It’s all sweeping canyons, snow-flecked mountains and greenery. 

Almaty. Kazakhstan’s most tourist-friendly area is also the music capital of central Asia. Almaty’s booming music scene can boast of appearances from such pioneers of modern music as Craig David, Atomic Kitten and the Black Eyed Peas. Clearly, you should forget everywhere else. The musical reputation of Almaty is unrivalled.

Duman Entertainment Centre. Includes an aquarium – despite being curiously located over 3000km away from the sea. At the aquarium, you can see 100 different types if sea fauna. As if this wasn’t enough there is also a theatre, where, If you so wish, you can simulate being locked up in a dungeon before taking a trip to the era of the dinosaurs, accompanied by a troll. ‘It’s interesting in winter,’ says one Tripadvisor reviewer.

Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve. ‘It’s totally wild,’ says another reviewer. Also, ‘nice view.’ There is no further information.

Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. A whole three people have rated the Palace as ‘excellent’. It is pyramid shaped, and the general consensus is that it’s best viewed from outside, because inside has been converted mainly into offices. You can go inside and have a tour, though – but it will cost you 443 Kazakhstani Tenge (£1.80).

Zelyony Bazaar. Named as the number one place to shop in Almaty, which also appears to be the cultural capital of Kazakhstan. You can buy meat at the bazaar, and probably some other things. TNS isn’t sure what else you can buy; there are only pictures of meat.

So, there you go. Top ten tourist pulls of Kazakhstan. It makes you want to book a flight straight away, doesn’t it? Unfortunately you won’t be able to see the filming locations of Borat, which is obviously the treason you're yearing to visit, because it was filmed in Romania.

You can fly from Heathrow to Kazakhstan for as little as £362 one way with Kazak’s premier airline Air Astana. TNS thinks it’s a good call. We’ll be booking our flights on payday, and we think you should too.


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