Travel to Astana, Kazakhstan

Astana skyline

Previously, I posted a guide with general travel tips for visiting Kazakhstan and the city of Almaty. This post will give some more detailed information for visiting the city of Nur-Sultan (formerly called Astana when I visited in 2018). Astana was the capital of Kazakhstan between 1998 and 2019. In March 2019, Astana was renamed Nur-Sultan after the former Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Additionally, the airport, Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport, is named after the same president.

We arrived in Astana by an internal Air Astana flight from Almaty, which took 1 hour 20 minutes. The train could have been an option but the estimated time was nearly a whole day. In fact, Astana is about 1200 kilometres north of Almaty, so almost on the opposite end of the country. In contrast to Almaty, we found Astana to be a very modern city with less history. There were some nice buildings to visit and we enjoyed our two days there, but overall we found Almaty more charming. The short stop in Astana was on the way further north to Burabay Resort for our friends’ wedding.

Baiterek tower
Baiterek tower
Baiterek tower view at sunset
Baiterek tower view at sunset
Shiny architecture in Astana
Shiny architecture in Astana

Highlights

  • National museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan – interesting mix of history, art and politics
  • Baiterek tower – go up for the view especially around sunset
  • Palace of independence
  • Palace of peace and reconciliation and the surrounding park
  • Nur Astana Mosque
  • Zhk Northern Lights fountains
  • Arch of Triumph
  • Atameken Ethno-Memorial Map of Kazakhstan (Miniature museum of places); we didn’t get a chance to go but it was recommended

Before you go

  • Central Astana is walkable but it is useful to get an Uber to the general area you want to get to. We walked but sometimes found we had to cross busy roads or walk in areas that did not feel very safe as they were empty
  • English is spoken at some of the big restaurants but not at supermarkets or in the Ubers. I recommend to get a translation app like Google Translate to make communication easier
  • Astana is now called Nur-Sultan since March 2019
  • The weather in August can be hot, close to 30C
Astana Presidential Palace
Astana Presidential Palace
20 years of the capital of Astana
20 years of the capital of Astana
National Museum of Kazakhstan
National Museum of Kazakhstan

Transport

  • Travel internally with Air Astana is comfortable and they serve a meal even on the short flights
  • We used Uber for all of our city travel and that was easy, safe and quick. It also meant that we did not have too many communication issues about where we wanted to go, since most drivers did not speak English

Accommodation

  • In Astana, we stayed at the Hilton and it was quite luxurious, comfortable and spacious. The upper floors have some great views of the city so I suggest you ask for a room with a view!
Soup and bread at Chalet in Burabay
Soup and bread at Chalet in Burabay

Food

Unfortunately my friend and I both had upset stomachs while in Astana so we did not try the local cuisine as much as we would have liked. And we also forgot to take photos.

Daredzhani Georgian restaurant was recommended to us by the locals and was close to the hotel

We picked up interesting local foods to try from the deli at Magazin “Latifa” supermarket. This included beet salad, meat dumplings and delicious fruit cakes.

We learned about the local cure for stomach bugs. A double shot of vodka mixed with salt. I tried it out and it did seem to make me feel better!

Palace of Independence Astana
Palace of Independence Astana
Zhk Northern Lights Fountains
Zhk Northern Lights Fountains
I love Astana and me
I love Astana and me

FAQs

Q: Do I need a tour guide?

A: No, you can probably just use Uber to get to the points of interest around the city and the points of interest are visible on Googlemaps

Q: Do people speak English?

A: At the hotel, tourist sites like the Baiterek tower, and larger restaurants people speak English. However we found that people did not speak English in the Ubers, supermarkets

Q: Is it a walkable city?

A: It is walkable once you are in the centre, but I would recommend using Uber to get to the general area you want to walk around. Sometimes the paths are not very clear and suddenly end. Also, we found the busy roads very empty because few people were walking.

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