A three-day holiday in Shymkent will be one of your most vivid memories of Kazakhstan. With its rich history, culture and amazing nature, the possibilities are almost endless
Of course, there is no limit to your stay in this beautiful city whether it is for a long period of time or just a quick getaway. But we just want you to know that, there are so many interesting things for you to do here that you will not be able to get around to all of them in just a week. So we have considered the time of our guests, being that it is very valuable, and have come up with a three day schedule that will not only keep you entertained but will also show you the wonderful nature of this great city and its people. It is very important to see not only the city sights, but also to leave the borders of Shymkent, where the wonderful nature of the Turkistan Province begins. Unfortunately, many tourists (and sometimes even the people of Kazakhstan) have the wrong idea of the landscape around this ancient city. Yes, it is surrounded by the steppes, but there are nearby mountains, rivers, and gorges with caves. There are many sacred and historically significant places which travelers from all over the world come here to see.
How best to plan a vacation?
Let’s say that your vacation time is limited to only three days. What do you do in those three remaining days? First, you visit Shymkent, that is what you do! We have developed a travel guide that will allow you do and see as much as possible, while have the time of your life all in the wonderful city of Shymkent. When you arrive in the city it is best to try and devote your time and attention to exploring the sights and seeing all the vibrant places. We have to say that Shymkent is one of the three major cities of Kazakhstan and is literally replete with historical and cultural monuments. These monuments make amazing memories and can be seen all in a day.
Waking up after traveling for so long, is exhausting, and you may want to take it easy. And the best way to do that would be to take a tour of the most sacred and holy locations in Central Asia. There are too many of these sacred places to visit in a day but, it's worth a try. It will be very convenient to use the services of travel companies that can arrange a day trip, and successfully schedule a visit to see as many of these interesting sights as possible. This will save you time and you can learn in detail the rich history of the places, that you are visiting (usually guide services are included in the cost of excursions).
For your last day in Shymkent, we recommend that you spend your time outside of the city in the countryside. The untouched nature is amazing - for the sake being surrounded by such natural beauty, it is worth getting up early to get out of the city and see as much of this as possible. It is noteworthy that almost everywhere you will find everything you need for a comfortable picnic or even an overnight stay (in case you still change your mind about leaving). Locals are very careful about their land, so the garbage here is a rather rare phenomenon, and nature seems completely untouched by man.
If you decide to follow our advice and want to devote your first day to exploring the city sights, pay attention to the list of the most interesting places in Shymkent. We tried to collect everything that would really impress you:
Museum of Victims of Political Repression. This place leaves an indelible mark on the soul of everyone that visits. The museum contains hundreds of exhibits, installations, documents, photographs, which tell about the horrors of the Red Terror and Stalinist repression. For 30 years (from 1921 to 1953) the number of human lives killed in the camps of the Gulag reached 5.5 million!
Shymkent Museum of Local History. With over 40 years of operating this museum, contains a vast variety of relics and valuable objects that have been gathered here, which clearly reflects the rich history of this ancient region.
Shymkent Opera and Ballet Theater, Russian Drama Theater, Puppet Theater and Theatre for Young Audience. Here you can take a breath after visiting museums and just enjoy the magnificent art and creativity of the most talented people in the country.
The Central Cosque. Since Shymkent is a very cultural and fabulous city, it is necessary to visit its most famous religious center. The mosque is the largest and most beautiful in the region, striking in its scale and interior decoration.
Ken Baba Ethnic Theme Park. This is one of the most popular place for leisure activity both for local people and city guests. It is located almost in the very center of the city. To enter one has to pass under the gable roof of the main entrance, and then you will find yourself in a completely different world, surrounded by blooming greenery, swan reservoirs, fountains and there’s even a waterfall! And there are many more attractions and themes, for example, safari on the sand, an amazing miniature of Kazakhstan, a gallery of talented artists, a village of craftsmen, many souvenir shops and cozy cafes.
In order to feel real oriental flavor, one should go to the enormous and noisy Shymkent bazaars. The most famous of them are: the Upper Market, where rave of bright colors and scents of spices and herbs , endless rows full of oriental sweets and fruits will leave you in awe; Bekjan Bazaar is constantly pleasing its customers with clothing for every taste and budget (besides, there is a truly huge selection of fabrics, yarn and sewing accessories); and of course, Samal Bazaar, which shimmers attractively with exquisite gold and silver ornaments.
In addition to all of the above, there are many bazaars in Shymkent and also large shopping centers, several water parks, as well as many cafes, restaurants, bars and places to play billiards.
Let's go through the sacred places …
In fact, their number in the Turkistan Province around Shymkent is so great that pilgrimage tours have been catered just for tourist here. But since we are on a tight schedule, we want to offer you several sacred sites that are closest to Shymkent and have great historical significance.
Domalak Ana Mausoleum. Located about 90 km from the city, it is a majestic architectural monument from the XI century. Women often come here to pray for children, marital happiness and well-being.
Ancient city of Sayram. Just 10 km from Shymkent, one can see the excavations of a large medieval city that was called Ispijab thousands of years ago. Rich caravans of the Great Silk Road went through this post, where culture and trade flourished. The greatest reminder of this ancient center of nomadic civilization’s existence has been immortalized in the minaret of the prophet Khizir, whose name is mentioned in the holy book of Islam, the Koran.
The Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi. It is the central object of the museum-reserve in Turkistan (about 170 km from Shymkent). This globally famous theologian, sophist and philosopher lived in XII century and was highly respected among local Muslims at that time. The mausoleum built by the most talented architects of the time as per ameer Tamerlane’s order amazes with its architecture and design.
Ibrahim Ata Mausoleum. Majestic and very ancient, is located in the middle of a green oasis, attracting thousands of pilgrims and travelers. The original building was erected in the XI-XII centuries in honor of Father of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi (a famous theologian and philosopher), but was destroyed under the influence of time. In ХVІ - ХVІІ the mausoleum was rebuilt, and it became one of the most vivid examples of medieval architecture.
The mausoleum of Karashash Ana. It was built in honor of the noble mother of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, whose kindness and wisdom earned her national love and respect. You can find this near the mausoleum of Ibrahim Ata.
Boraldai petroglyphs. Just 70 km from the city you can see a unique monument from the Bronze Age, with pictures of rock paintings. On gigantic stones along the bend of the river, there are depictions of all sorts of artwork: from hunting scenes, to life and tribal signs of nomads.
Kazygurt Mountain Range. Locals consider this massif to be the second cradle of mankind, because ancient legends say that this is where Noah's Ark came to rest. This is the same place, where thousands of years ago stood the first ship in the world that saved people and animals from the universal flood, and its very plausible model is still embedded in that mountain. It is best to complete your trip by visiting this sight, since in the evening the Ark begins to glow with hundreds of lights, creating a very touching and at the same time mysterious atmosphere.
We also advise you to visit the ancient city of Otrar, the Mausoleum of Arystan Bab, the ancient city of Sauran, but all of them are more than 100 km away from Shymkent.
For relaxation away from civilization, we picked up a few picturesque spots so you definitely would not want to leave these places! The incredible beauty of this nature is simply fascinating: it would seem that only endless steppe is around, but far away it unexpectedly connects with mountain peaks, with their eternal snow, blue rivers and bright greens.
Burguliuk Gorge. Just 50 km from the city stretches a majestic mountain range, that is impregnable and beautiful in its own right. At its edge lay the gorges, where numerous recreational areas have been built, to offer travellers goods and services.
Sayramsu Gorge. It is located on the bank of the namesake river. Here you can comfortably get settled in a holiday house and then challenge yourself with a complicated trekking route that mountains have set for the adventurer, or simply enjoy the river, while having a picnic with the beautiful backdrop of the landscapes.
Upper Sairamsu Lake . In this same gorge, at an altitude of about 3000 meters, the glacial lake with its water of incredible color is hidden from the eye, and it is so blue and transparent that seems as if it is illuminated from the inside.
Akmeshit Cave. Several thousands of years ago there was an underground mosque here which can be attributed to the many sacred places, in the region. The passage to the cave was discovered only a few decades ago, when its dome collapsed. Now travelers and pilgrims from all over the world come to see this amazing miracle of nature in all its glory. This wonder even has its own microclimate and ecosystem (trees grow inside the cave and even animals are found).
April bloom. On the way to the Boralday Gorge in early April, a real “fire” breaks out in the steppe. Here, as you approach closely, you can lose your breath as you gaze at the endless fields of blooming tulips of all shapes and colors. Although the scarlet flames can be seen from afar, you need to drive close enough to walk in these fields, and it will definitely become a life-long memory for you.
Poppy Valley. 180 km from the town there is a fishing village where you can fish all year round. If you decide to devote the last day of rest to fishing, then on the way to this fishing destination, there is a very pleasant surprise that awaits you - a surprisingly red, even slightly purple poppy valley that extends into the horizon! For the sake of such a spectacle many travelers fly here every year just for the amazing photos.
To visit all of these natural sights in one or even three days is almost impossible. Therefore, you can choose several places that attract you the most and go there to enjoy leisure time and savour emotions gained from such an impressive adventure. This is what would make you want to come back to Shymkent for another visit or to tell your friends about your three days in Shymkent and how this land filled you with life, enthusiasm and experiences, while creating pleasant and deep memories. Certainly, these three days will become for you one of the most vivid and warm memories that you will keep of Kazakhstan, of its rich history, culture and amazing nature.