Explore the Best Places to Visit in Shymkent, Sayram & Turkistan: Kazakhstan’s Hidden Treasures in the Heart of Central Asia!

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Explore the best places to visit in Southern Kazakhstan’s Shymkent, Sayram and Turkistan. Uncover top attractions, from historical marvels to vibrant markets. Discover why Shymkent is a must-visit and get insider tips on things to do. Plus, plan your journey from Shymkent to Tashkent, Almaty and Nur Sultan seamlessly. Embark on your adventure today!

Wondering what are the best places to visit in Shymkent? Read this post.
Wondering what are the best places to visit in Shymkent? Read this post.

Table of Contents

Shymkent – The Jewel of South Kazakhstan

The famous adage, “Never judge a book by its cover,” rings true not only for individuals but also for nations. When I first visited Kazakhstan, my perception of the country was limited to its picturesque mountainous landscapes. However, upon revisiting in August 2023 and exploring the southern regions of Shymkent, Sayram, and Turkistan, I was pleasantly surprised by the country’s diversity. From snow-capped peaks to the sun-soaked plains of the Silk Road, Kazakhstan revealed a rustic and rural side that felt like discovering a whole new country.

Shymkent, Sayram, and Turkistan are some of the best places to explore in Southern Kazakhstan.
Shymkent, Sayram, and Turkistan are some of the best places to explore in Southern Kazakhstan.

But therein lies the beauty of travel—it has the power to exceed expectations and challenge preconceived notions. I found myself captivated by both the rugged beauty of the mountains and the rustic charm of the southern plains. In this article, I will share my impressions of south Kazakhstan and the best places places to visit in Shymkent, Sayram, and Turkistan.

Firstly, where is Shymkent, and what is it famous for?

Nestled amidst the rugged landscapes of southern Kazakhstan, Shymkent stands as the region’s third-largest city, following Nur Sultan and Almaty. Often referred to as the “Jewel of South Kazakhstan,” this vibrant city serves as a melting pot of cultures, traditions, and history. From its historical significance as a vital stop along the ancient Silk Road to its present-day status as one of Kazakhstan’s bustling urban centres, Shymkent offers a unique blend of past and present.

Location of Kazakhstan on world map
Location of Kazakhstan on world map
Where is Shymkent located in Kazakhstan?
Where is Shymkent located in Kazakhstan?

While exploring southern Kazakhstan, I learned fascinating insights about the country from my local guide, Yerzhan Orynbassarow. He enlightened me with the symbolic significance of Kazakhstan’s name, where “Kazak” signifies freedom, and “Tian” represents Tengri, the god of the blue skies. Despite its predominantly Muslim population, Kazakhstan proudly upholds secular values, making it one of the safest countries globally. The Kazakh prioritize humanity above all else, embodying a code of ethics that shuns drinking and stealing while emphasizing communal support, reflected in their unique approach to orphan care. Furthermore, as descendants of Genghis Khan, the Kazakhs hold a storied legacy, with “Mongol” denoting a thousand soldiers and Mongolians themselves being of Turkic origin. Kazakhstan’s rich heritage is further accentuated by being the birthplace of apples, tulips, horses, and blacksmithing—a testament to its cultural significance.

Is Shymkent Worth Visiting?

Without a doubt, Shymkent’s allure is undeniable. Its ability to seamlessly blend ancient mausoleums with bustling markets creates an atmosphere that intrigues and fascinates visitors. Whether strolling through the historical core or indulging in culinary delights, Shymkent leaves an indelible mark on all who venture within its borders. 

Is Shymkent worth visiting in Central Asia
Is Shymkent worth visiting in Central Asia?

Best places to see in Shymkent:

The third-largest city in Kazakhstan, Shymkent, is not to be overshadowed by its counterparts Nur-Sultan and Almaty. In Shymkent, the possibilities for exploration are boundless. Here’s a closer look at some of the city’s best places to see and top attractions that you should not miss in Shymkent:

Citadel of Shymkent

Shymkent is one of Kazakhstan’s most ancient cities, dating back to the 12th century and situated at the crossroads of the Great Silk Road. While much of the old city has faded into history, the Citadel of Shymkent remains a testament to its storied past. Perched atop a hill, with a height of up to 25 meters, the citadel occupies an area of approximately 4 hectares and was once surrounded by defensive walls and moats.

The Citadel of Shymkent was an important stop along the Silk Road and is definitely among the best places to visit in Shymkent.
The Citadel of Shymkent was an important stop along the Silk Road and is definitely among the best places to visit in Shymkent.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the citadel was crucial in safeguarding Sayram, an important stop along the Silk Road. While the exact date of its construction remains unknown, historical records first mention the citadel in 1366. In 1864, the citadel witnessed a significant turning point when Russian troops captured it under General Cherniaiev after a fierce battle. This event marked a dramatic shift in the city’s landscape, leading to the construction of the modern city centre and the establishment of Shymkent as the region’s capital.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the citadel was crucial in safeguarding Sayram, an important stop along the Silk Road
Archaeological evidence suggests that the citadel was crucial in safeguarding Sayram, an important stop along the Silk Road.

In recent years, efforts to revitalize the old heart of Shymkent have breathed new life into the citadel. The ruins are undergoing extensive reconstruction, with the citadel opening its gates to the public in 2021. Restored to its former glory, the citadel now features landmarks such as the Stairway of Hope, the Tower of Love, the Tower of Alchemists, and ancient ovens used for firing and cooking. As I explored the Citadel of Shymkent, I was transported back in time, getting a crash course in this ancient city’s rich history and heritage. I learned the food habits of the people, their dressing style, marriage traditions, and a lot more.

Sayram and its mausoleums

Located just a short distance from the Citadel of Shymkent lies the historical city of Sayram (also spelt as Sairam), an essential stop for those seeking to uncover the hidden gems of southern Kazakhstan. 

Karashash Ana Mausoleum is one of the most popular mausoleums in Sayram near Shymkent, Kazakhstan.
Karashash Ana Mausoleum is one of the most popular mausoleums in Sayram near Shymkent, Kazakhstan.

Nestled 10 kilometres south of Shymkent, Sayram boasts a history spanning over 3000 years. It once served as a bustling centre for trade along the Silk Road and played a pivotal role in the spread of Islam in Central Asia. Captured and destroyed many times, today, it stands as a suburb of Shymkent, yet its significance remains undiminished.

Sayram is renowned for its exquisite mausoleums, including those of the revered Sufi poet Khoja Ahmed Yasawi and his relatives. Pilgrims from Kazakhstan and beyond flock to Sayram, drawn by its spiritual ambience and historical resonance, earning it the “Mekkah of Kazakhstan.”

Minaret Khyzyr

Within the heart of Sayram lies the enigmatic Minaret Khyzyr, a hidden gem that offers a glimpse into the city’s storied past. Tucked behind a school and accessible by requesting a key from a nearby house, the minaret is a silent witness to centuries of history. Despite its modest stature (45 feet/15 meters tall), the minaret’s ruins from the 10th century exude a sense of mystery and intrigue, inviting visitors to climb its ancient steps and admire panoramic views of Sayram. 

One of the best places to visit in Shymkent is Minaret Khyzyr near Sairam (Sayram)
One of the best places to visit in Shymkent is 45 feet (15 meters) tall Minaret Khyzyr near Sairam.

Independence Park

Independence Park is a beloved destination in Shymkent. It was constructed in 2011 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence. The park’s central monument is composed of 137 steel pillars, each representing one of the 137 nationalities that exist in the country. The park is particularly popular in the summer because of its musical fountain show and the blooming flowers that cover the grounds. Visitors can relax under small pavilions that are distinguished by their blue roofs. The park also has two notable monuments: the Arch of Independence and the Monument of the Opening of a Yurt.

Independence Park is one of the best places to visit in Shymkent
Independence Park is one of the best places to visit in Shymkent.
 The park's central monument is composed of 137 steel pillars, each representing one of the 137 nationalities that exist in Kazakhstan.
The park’s central monument is composed of 137 steel pillars, each representing one of the 137 nationalities that exist in Kazakhstan.

Ordabassy Square

The Ordabassy Square is one of the main squares of Shymkent. The Ordabassy Square connects three main streets named after three wise men and leaders: Tole Bi, Ayteke Bi and Kazybek Bi. These three tribe leaders united their tribes in the 18th century in the village Ordabassy – just around 80 kilometres away from Shymkent. In the centre of the square is a 34-meter-high monument with an 8-meter-high female figure, Mother Earth (Kazakh: Zher-Ana). The three-edge red granite monument, a gift from a local Kazakh businessman, symbolizes national unity and was inaugurated in 2009. The designers were Nasir Rustemov and Bakhytzhan Ashirbayev. The fountains around the monument spend fresh air on the hot summer days in Shymkent, so Ordabassy Square is an excellent starting point to discover the famous sights of the city – the Koshkar-Ata River, the old citadel and the Independence Park. All these places are just around the corner. A large iron pedestrian bridge connects Independence Park to Ordabassy Square, symbolizing the transition from the city’s historical past to its modern history.

The Ordabassy Square is one of the main squares of Shymkent.
A large iron pedestrian bridge connects Independence Park to Ordabassy Square, symbolizing the transition from the city's historical past to its modern history.
A large iron pedestrian bridge connects Independence Park to Ordabassy Square, symbolizing the transition from the city’s historical past to its modern history.

Abay Park or Park Abaya

The Abay Park is located in the heart of Shymkent. It is a serene, calm war memorial site where one can go for long evening walks or an ice cream break in summer. Within its proximity, you can find the Museum of Modern Arts, the Khakim Abay Museum and impressive monuments of World War II and the Soviet-Afghan War. 

The best places to visit in Shymkent are Abay Park, the Museum of Modern Arts, the Khakim Abay Museum, and other monuments of World War II.
The best places to visit in Shymkent are Independence Park, Abay Park, the Museum of Modern Arts, the Khakim Abay Museum, and other World War II monuments.

Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts (Khudozhestvennaya Galereya) is located close to the north entrance of Abay Park. It has many collections of local artists from South Kazakhstan, with modern portraits and architectural, historical, and landscape pictures.

Khakim Abay Museum

The Khakim Abay Museum is located at the south entrance of Abay Park. It has a detailed collection of personal items of Kazakhstan’s national poet and philosopher Abay Qunanbaiuly.

Techno Park “Kiyal Alemi”

Do you need a little bit of amusement in the centre of Shymkent? Go to the Fantasy World (Kazakh: Kiyal Alemi), also known as Techno Park. It offers a Ferris Wheel, a Roller-coaster, an Upside-Down House, Sleds and other attractions.

Historical and Cultural Complex “Shymkent Arbat”

The Arbat is the new heart of Shymkent and is located next to Techno Park. Step back in time as you wander through the bustling streets of Shymkent Arbat. Lined with traditional houses, restaurants, cafes and vibrant shops, this pedestrian-friendly area offers a glimpse into Shymkent’s past while showcasing its modern charm. The colourful light installation of flying angels and umbrellas above the head transforms the Arbat at night into a street anywhere in Europe. You can often listen to local musicians who show their skills and performance and play live music. One stand-out feature for me was a larger-than-life wall art in Arbat that came alive as you used a QR code. The area had a lot of multi-cuisine restaurants, including an Indian restaurant called Taj Mahal Kafesi.

Arbat is the beating heart of Shymkent, lined with traditional houses, restaurants, cafes and shops.
Arbat is the beating heart of Shymkent, lined with traditional houses, restaurants, cafes and shops.

Tulip Fountain

The Tulip Fountain is an emblematic monument of Shymkent and is located in the city centre, at the corner of Tauke Khan and Momyshuly avenues. The Tulip Fountain refers to the region of Shymkent as the cradle of the Tulip Flowers. The shape of the Tulip fountain is modelled after the wild tulip Greigii, which grows naturally around Shymkent in Aksu-Zhabagly and Sayram-Ugam National Parks. During spring, thousands of wild tulips pop up from the ground in the wild meadows, the steppe and the mountains around Shymkent. But also, the city of Shymkent is doing a great job, and you will see tulips in the flowerbeds along the streets and parks. The huge red tulip with green leaves and blue basin also gives nice fresh air to their visitors during the hot summer days of Shymkent.

The Tulip Fountain is one of the best places to visit in Shymkent, Kazakhstan.

Shamshi’s World

The Park Shamshi’s World (Russian: Мир Шамши) is a beautiful place for the music lovers. The park is dedicated to the Kazakh composer Shamshi Kaldayakov. He is called the Father of the Kazakh Waltz and Kazakh Pop. He is also the composer of My Kazakhstan: The National Anthem of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The centrepiece is a golden statue of the composer, and next to it starts a Walk of Fame of famous Kazakh musicians who followed in the footsteps of Shamshi Kaldayakov. The park also offers a lovely water fountain and trees to protect visitors from the intense Kazakh sun.

'Shamshi's World' Park is dedicated to the Kazakh composer Shamshi Kaldayakov.
‘Shamshi’s World’ Park is dedicated to the Kazakh composer Shamshi Kaldayakov.

Bajdibek Monument or Baidibek Bi Monument

The 23m tall Bajdibek Monument is the largest statue in Kazakhstan. Walking up the hill to the monument takes a lot of work. But after hundreds of steps, you will be happy to do this walk. The Bajdibek Monument is one of the best places to view Shymkent, the Karatau, and the Western Tian Shan Mountains.

The 23m tall Bajdibek Monument is the largest statue in Kazakhstan
The 23m tall Bajdibek Monument is the largest statue in Kazakhstan

White Mosque

The Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Mosque is well known as the White Mosque (Kazakh: “Ak Mechit”), which can accommodate 6,000 worshipers. It is the largest mosque in Shymkent. The mosque was opened in 2013 and is a gift from the President of the United Arab Emirates. It is located west of Shymkent between the city centre and the International Airport. The modern architecture inside and outside is worth a visit. 

Shymkent's largest and most popular mosque - Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Mosque, is known as the White Mosque.
Shymkent’s largest and most popular mosque – Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Mosque, is known as the White Mosque.

Qyrgy Bazaar

Shymkent’s biggest and most popular bazaar is the Qyrgy Bazaar between Ordabassy Square and Shamshi’s World. It is definitely one of the best places to visit in Shymkent if you want to glimpse how the Silk Road bazaar looked in the bygone era. You can watch the merchants trade with their customers about the price and the best goods. You can buy practically anything here – from clothes and bags to shoes and food items – cooked and raw. The best items to buy here are dry fruits, fresh fruits, honey, souvenirs, and local dairy products such as Qurt (dried cheese), Chak-Chak or Kumis. 

Qyrgy Bazaar is one the best places to visit in Shymkent for shopping.
Qyrgy Bazaar is one the best places to visit in Shymkent for shopping.

Another local market worth visiting is Aina Bazar, located at Zhusipbek Aymauytov St 143, Shymkent, KZ.

Fontan Aquapark, Shymkent

Beat the heat and make a splash at Fontan Aquapark in Shymkent. It is said to be an international-level water park in the very centre of Shymkent, located in the same complex as the Shymkent Grand Hotel. With thrilling slides, relaxing pools, and fun-filled attractions, this aquatic paradise is perfect for visitors of all ages. Another water park worth checking is Waterpark Dolphin.

One of the best places to beat the heat and make a splash in Shymkent is Fontan Aquapark.
One of the best places to beat the heat and make a splash in Shymkent is Fontan Aquapark.

Shymkent Zoo

Although I am not a big fan of animals in captivity but if you have young kids, then maybe they would;d like getting up close and personal with various exotic animals at Shymkent Zoo. From majestic lions to playful monkeys, the zoo offers a unique opportunity to learn about wildlife conservation while enjoying a day of family fun.

Mega Planet

Immerse yourself in a world of entertainment at Mega Planet. This sprawling complex features an array of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, making it the perfect destination for a day of shopping and leisure.

Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve

Embark on a journey into the heart of nature at Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve. Home to diverse flora and fauna, including rare and endangered species, this pristine wilderness offers endless opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and photography.

River Koshkar Ata and Mausoleum

Are you looking for a way to cool down during a hot day in Shymkent? Do you want to take your kids swimming for free? If so, you can head over to Koshkar Ata, the river that flows through the city. The best spot to swim is at the Central Mosque near Independence Park. There are public bathing places with cabins to change clothes along the crystal-clear river, but remember that the water is fresh and cold! After your swim, we recommend visiting the small Koshkar-Ata Mausoleum, located on the left bank of the river halfway between Ordabassy Square and the spring of Koshkar Ata River.

Ethno Park “Ken Baba”

Ken Baba Park is a lovely recreational spot located in the heart of Shymkent. It offers various attractions for children, including a small pond with a beautiful waterfall and four elegant swans. Additionally, you can enjoy delicious Kazakh cuisine at some of the nearby restaurants.

Dendropark

The Dendrological Park, or simply the Dendropark, is a massive park located in the South of Kazakhstan that emulates a natural forest. Visitors are required to pay a small entry fee before entering the park. As you stroll along the small river, you’ll come across several stations that offer pedal boat rentals, providing a chance to unwind and relax after a busy day exploring Shymkent.

One of the best places to visit in Shymkent for a leisurely nature walk is Dendropark.
One of the best places to visit in Shymkent for a leisurely nature walk is Dendropark.

Metallurgists’ Park

The Metallurgist’s Park is a beautiful attraction in Shymkent, founded in 1934 by Metallurgist workers who lived and worked nearby. This small yet beautiful park is home to giant old trees and is the oldest park in Shymkent. Visitors are particularly drawn to the ancient giant Lenin statue, a popular attraction among foreigners. In many former communist cities, statues of communist leaders were dismantled; however, the statue still stands in this park, serving as a reminder of when workers tried to improve their environment during their free time, known as Subbotniks. But the Lenin statue is one of many art pieces worth seeing in the park. There are many other attractions in the Metallurgist’s Park.

Lenin statue in Metallurgist's Park, Shymkent, Kazakhstan.
Lenin statue in Metallurgist’s Park, Shymkent, Kazakhstan.

Beyond Shymkent: Exploring Nearby Destinations

While Shymkent offers a wealth of attractions and experiences, venturing beyond the city limits unveils even more treasures waiting to be discovered. Here are some nearby destinations worth exploring:

Shymkent to Sairam-Ugam National Park

Located just a short distance from Shymkent, Sairam-Ugam National Park is a must-visit national park for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Explore the park’s extensive network of hiking trails, which wind through lush forests, verdant meadows, and towering mountains. From leisurely strolls to challenging treks, there’s a trail for every skill level and interest. Be sure to watch for the park’s abundant wildlife, including rare and endangered species such as snow leopards, lynx, brown bears, wolves, and many rare birds. Sairam National Park is the perfect destination for a day of outdoor adventure and exploration with its stunning vistas and serene atmosphere of more than 1,600 species of plants, including 62 from the Red Book of Endangered Species. The park has 604 kilometres of equestrian and hiking routes – 187 hiking trails, 231 kilometres of horseback, and 186 car routes.

 Sairam-Ugam National Park is a must-visit national park for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers near Shymkent and Tashkent.
Sairam-Ugam National Park is a must-visit national park for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers near Shymkent and Tashkent.

The park also encompasses several important cultural and historical sites, including ancient petroglyphs and stone monuments. The Great Silk Road passed through the park’s territory, leaving a trail of historical monuments along the entire route of the caravans.  

The most convenient way to get to Sayram-Ugam National Park is by car, taxi, or on an organized tour from Shymkent, which is 70 km away.  

For a day trip to the park, including the transportation, guide and entrance fee, we paid 60,000 tenge ($133) for a small group tour of 3 people. The entrance fee to the park is approximately 500 tenge ($1) per person. The best time to visit the Sayram-Ugam National Park is from May to October when the cool mountain temperature is approximately 20 degrees Celcius. Although, Let me warn you, it gets super hot in summer. We had severe sunburns hiking in August.

Shymkent to Turkistan

Another place that you must explore from Shymkent is Turkistan, a historic city steeped in legend and tradition. History buffs like me love to visit its ancient monuments, including the mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its storied past.

Just a short walk from the Yasawi Mausoleum lies Karavansaray, a crossover between a shopping mall and a theme park that will remind you of Dubai or Venice. Its canals have earned it the moniker of Kazakhstan’s Venice. Karavansaray has a shopping mall, luxury restaurants, two hotels, and an entertainment centre. It is especially popular among local day trippers and people from Tashkent, Bishkek, Almaty and Astana. 

Turkistan is a must-visit one or two day tour from Shymkent, Kazakhstan
Turkistan is a must-visit one or two-day tour from Shymkent, Kazakhstan

There are multiple entertainment programs – I loved watching the daily show “Parade of Boats”, which presented a famous love story of Tolegen and Kyz Zhibek, a Kazakh poetic folklore from the legend of the 16th century. 

Karavansaray also features Kazakhstan’s first-ever multi-sensory 8D flying theatre in the Golden Egg cinema. The experience lasts about 15 minutes, and the mythical bird known as Samruk takes you on a thrilling ride through time, helping you relive the whole history of Kazakhstan.

Turkistan warrants at least two days of exploration to fully appreciate its main attractions. Owing to its location at the heart of Kazakhstan’s Silk Road, Turkistan is one of the best places to see the Silk Road architecture. It is an easy day trip and one of the top things to do near Shymkent. From Shymkent, Turkistan is accessible by both road and rail. You can take a bus or hire a taxi for a scenic journey that typically takes a few hours. 

Don’t forget to visit the Ruins of Otrar, located 120 km northwest of Shymkent and 50 km from Turkestan. The Otrar archaeological site is a unique monument of ancient Turk archaeology, history, and culture. Otrar played a significant role in the history of Central Asia and was situated on the borders of settled and agricultural civilizations. It was the centre of a large oasis, a political district, and strategically connected Kazakhstan with China, Europe, the Near and Middle East, Siberia, and Ural. 

Shymkent to Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Cross the border into neighbouring Uzbekistan and explore the vibrant capital city of Tashkent. Discover its bustling bazaars, magnificent mosques, and rich cultural heritage as you delve into the heart of Central Asia. Tashkent is a larger city with numerous attractions, so plan to explore its main sights for at least a few days. From Shymkent, you can reach Tashkent by train or bus, with the journey taking several hours, depending on the mode of transportation.

Shymkent to Almaty, Kazakhstan

Travel north to Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, and discover its cosmopolitan charm and natural beauty. From its bustling markets to its stunning mountain vistas, Almaty offers a wealth of attractions for visitors to enjoy. Almaty is a major urban centre with numerous attractions, so plan to spend several days exploring the city and its surroundings. From Shymkent, you can reach Almaty by air or take a long-distance train or bus.

It’s very easy to travel to Almaty from Shymkent via road or flight.

Where and what to eat in Shymkent, Kazakhstan?

Indulging in the culinary delights of Shymkent is an essential part of experiencing the city’s vibrant culture and rich flavours. Shymkent offers diverse options to tantalize your taste buds, from traditional Kazakh dishes to international cuisine.

Beshbarmak, a traditional dish made with dough bread, horse meat, and vegetables, is a must-try in Shymkent.
Beshbarmak, a traditional dish made with dough bread, horse meat, and vegetables, is a must-try in Shymkent.

During your stay, explore the city’s dining scene and sample some of its most mouthwatering creations. One notable establishment is the “Piala” Restaurant in Sairam, where you can savour the flavours of plov or pilaf, an oriental dish based on boiled rice. The pilaf’s distinctive friability, achieved through meticulous rice-cooking techniques and adding animal or vegetable fat, ensures a tantalizing culinary experience.

must-try food in Kazakhstan - Beshbarmak, Samsa, Pilaf (pilov), local bread, and fresh fruit.
Must-try food in Kazakhstan – Beshbarmak, Samsa, Pilaf (pilov), local bread, and fresh fruit.

Beshbarmak, a traditional dish made with dough bread, horse meat, and vegetables, is a must-try in Shymkent. The city is also known for other famous dishes such as şaşlık kebab, Kazak soup, Kazakh mantı, Uzbek Pilaf, and Lagman. If you’re looking for a local drink, try camel milk or kumiss, as they are the fundamental beverages of Shymkent.

Here are some of the famous places where you can try the local flavours of Shymkent:

– Bozjyra Shymkent: a national cuisine restaurant

– Ulttyq Tagamdar

– “Kebeje” Restaurant: a must-visit for those seeking traditional Kazakh cuisine. Here, you can indulge in a syringe from horse meat, a beloved Kazakh delicacy that offers a unique blend of flavours and textures.

– Kazakhasia

– Bar Villa

– Kok Saray

If you want to dance until the wee hours with excellent DJ sets, delicious dishes, and drinks, visit Craft Terrace at Torekulova, 183 Shymkent.

For a taste of international cuisine with a stunning view, don’t miss “Chechil Pub – Terrace Pub.” This charming establishment offers a variety of vegetarian dishes alongside breathtaking vistas, providing the perfect setting for a memorable dining experience.

Best places to visit in Shymkent - for delicious international cuisine with a stunning view, don't miss "Chechil Pub - Terrace Pub."
Best places to visit in Shymkent – for delicious international cuisine with a stunning view, don’t miss “Chechil Pub – Terrace Pub.”

Suppose you want to try some local beer; give Shymkent beer a chance. Our local guide explained that the Shymkent Brewery plant has continuously produced beer in Kazakhstan since 1976. The production capacity of the plant is 20 million decaliters per year. Today, the company produces four varieties of draft beer and one variety of bottled beer.

If you are a dairy product lover, try Borte Milka products. I visited their milk plant in the industrial area, away from the city centre.

Whether you’re savouring the rich flavours of Kazakh cuisine or exploring international fare, Shymkent’s culinary scene promises to delight even the most discerning palate.

Practical Travel Tips for Shymkent, Sairam and Turkistan:

Before embarking on your journey and exploring the best places to see in Shymkent, here are some practical tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience:

1. What Visa is required to travel to Kazakhstan from India?

Travellers from India can enjoy visa-free travel to Kazakhstan for short stays, simplifying the entry process for Shymkent and other destinations in the country. However, checking the latest visa regulations and requirements before planning your trip is advisable.

2. When is the best time to visit Shymkent in Kazakhstan?

If you plan to visit Shymkent, it’s best to go during spring (April to June) or autumn (September to November), when the weather is mild and perfect for outdoor activities. Both seasons offer unique charms and exploration opportunities. If you’re visiting in March, make sure to catch Kazakhstan’s spring festival, Nowruz, which takes place towards the end of the month. Shymkent hosts the largest celebrations in the country, complete with traditional horse games at the Hippodrome. While it may rain in April and May, this is also the time when Aksu Zhabagly comes to life with blooming wild tulips.

It is advisable to avoid summers as they can get scorching, winters can be very cold, and it will be challenging to visit nature parks.

3. What language is spoken in Kazakhstan?

While Kazakh and Russian are widely spoken in Shymkent, English may be less prevalent. Therefore, you could face problems in simple day-to-day life, such as ordering food at a restaurant or buying something at a mall. Consider learning some basic phrases in Kazakh or Russian to facilitate communication with locals. And, definitely keep Google Translate handy.

4. What currency should you carry to Shymkent, Kazakhstan?

The currency used in Kazakhstan is the Kazakhstani tenge (KZT). Be sure to exchange currency before your trip or withdraw cash from ATMs upon arrival.

5. How to reach Shymkent?

Shymkent has direct flights to six international destinations: New Delhi, Istanbul, Antalya, Moscow, Kutaisi, and Dubai. And, within the country, it has direct flights with four regions of Kazakhstan – Astana, Almaty, Aktau, and Atyrau. 

The fastest way to get from India to Shymkent is to Fly Arystan, which takes eight hours and 46 minutes and costs ₹12,000 – ₹35,000. However, this low-cost airline flies directly from Delhi to Shymkent only once a week, and the airport is tiny. So, baggage collection takes time. Many Indian students go to Kazakhstan for medical studies, so don’t be surprised if you find a flight full of Indian students.

If you come from within Kazakhstan or neighbouring countries such as Uzbekistan, it’s best to travel to Shymkent by train. There are overnight trains to most cities in Kazakhstan, including Nur-sultan (20 hours high speed) and Almaty (13 hours high speed). From Astana, there is a daily night train leaving at 23:35 and arriving at 15:30 the next day. 

If you are travelling to Tashkent, you can take the Kaznetwork bus from Shymkent in Kazakhstan. There are daily buses between Shymkent and Tashkent, and the journey takes 5 hours. The border is easy nowadays without too much hassle.

6. How to travel in and around Shymkent, Kazakhstan?

Getting around Shymkent is relatively easy, with taxis, buses, and private cars available for hire. It is easily navigable on foot. Consider downloading a transportation app or obtaining a map of the city to navigate its streets more efficiently. If you prefer to travel by taxi, you can use Yandex—the Russian version of Uber.

7. How is the weather in Shymkent and Turkistan?

The weather in Shymkent and Turkistan can vary depending on the season, with hot summers and cold winters. Be sure to pack appropriate clothing and accessories based on the time of year you plan to visit. It can be super hot and humid in August, so be sure to wear sunscreen. And, super snowy in winter. So, pack appropriately.

8. How safe is it to travel in Shymkent and Turkistan?

Kazakhstan is considered one of the safest countries in Central Asia, with low crime rates and a welcoming attitude towards tourists. However, it’s always wise to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings while exploring Shymkent and its environs.

9. Where to stay in Shymkent and Turkistan?

If you’re planning a trip to Shymkent, there are several hotels to choose from, ranging from budget-friendly options to luxurious accommodations. Some popular hotels in the city include Rixos Khadisha Shymkent, Hotel Shymkent, Saraichik Hotel, and Aksunkar Hotel. Each hotel offers comfortable rooms, modern amenities, and easy access to the city’s top attractions. Whether you’re a budget traveller or looking for a luxurious stay, you will find a hotel in Shymkent that fits your needs.

I stayed at the Megapolis Hotel, known for its excellent service and modern amenities. My room was spacious, clean, and well-equipped, with everything you need for a comfortable stay. The hotel is conveniently located near many popular attractions and restaurants, making it an ideal choice for travellers exploring the city. Overall, I highly recommend the Megapolis Hotel Shymkent to anyone looking for a pleasant stay.

To visit the best places in Shymkent, it's important you stay at a hotel that's centrally located, like Megapolis Hotel Shymkent.
To visit the best places in Shymkent, it’s important you stay at a hotel that’s centrally located, like Megapolis Hotel Shymkent.

In Turkistan, you can choose from a variety of accommodation options to suit your preferences and budget. For a comfortable stay in the city centre, hotels like Hampton by Hilton Turkistan and Hotel Samruk offer modern amenities and convenient access to major attractions. Budget-conscious travellers may opt for guesthouses like Aruana or hostels such as Hostel Samal, providing affordable accommodation with a communal atmosphere. For a more immersive experience, homestays with local families or yurts in the surrounding countryside offer a glimpse into Kazakh hospitality and nomadic life. Utilizing online platforms like Booking.com or Airbnb can help travellers find the perfect accommodation option for their stay in Turkistan.

10. What to shop from Shymkent or Turkistan?

In Shymkent, travellers can immerse themselves in the vibrant atmosphere of the Qyrgy Bazaar, Aina Bazaar or Zelenyy Bazaar, where they’ll find a diverse array of goods, including fresh produce, spices, textiles, and traditional Kazakh garments like the charmingly adorned Shapan robes. Artisanal items such as intricately woven carpets, colourful felt products, and beautifully crafted leather goods are also popular purchases, showcasing the region’s rich cultural heritage.

Shopping in Kazakhstan - Central Asian bread, different types of clay, fresh vegetables and fruit, qurt or kurt (dry cheese made of fermented milk), herbal teas, and exotic dried fruits. You must try their national drink, Kumys (Kumis), an alcoholic beverage made from fermented mare's milk.
Shopping in Kazakhstan – Central Asian bread, different types of clay, fresh vegetables and fruit, Qurt or Kurt (dry cheese made of fermented milk), herbal teas, and exotic dried fruits. You must try their national drink, Kumys (Kumis), an alcoholic beverage made from fermented mare’s milk.

Meanwhile, in Turkistan, visitors can explore bustling markets like the Chorsu Bazaar, renowned for its bustling energy and diverse offerings. Here, travellers can browse through stalls selling handmade ceramics, embroidered textiles featuring intricate designs, and locally produced rugs that reflect Turkistan’s artisanal traditions. Additionally, the bazaars offer an abundance of aromatic spices, fragrant herbal teas, and exotic dried fruits, providing a sensory delight for shoppers eager to experience the flavours of Kazakhstan. You must try their national drink, Kumys (Kumis), an alcoholic beverage made from fermented mare’s milk and Qurt (Kurt). A Central Asian dry cheese made of fermented milk, qurt is a versatile treasure of nomadic people’s ingenuity.

Wondering what are the best places to visit in Shymkent? Visit Qyrgy Bazaar for buying dry fruits, sweets and souveniers
Wondering what are the best places to visit in Shymkent? Visit Qyrgy Bazaar to buy dry fruits, sweets and souvenirs.

Both Shymkent and Turkistan boast a variety of culinary delights, with local specialities such as Baursaks (fried dough treats), Samsa (savoury pastries), and traditional Kazakh sweets like Chak-Chak and Kurt. These delectable treats not only make for delicious souvenirs but also offer travellers a taste of the region’s rich culinary heritage, making their visit to Shymkent and Turkistan a truly memorable experience.

Budget – Is it expensive or cheap to visit Shymkent?

For a week-long trip to the best places to visit in Shymkent, Turkistan, and Sairam, budget wisely to maximize your experience without overspending. Here is what I spent on a 7-day trip to Shymkent, Turkistan, and Sairam. I stayed for five nights in Shymkent and one night in Turkistan, with a day trip to Sairam.

Accommodation: Budget accommodations in Shymkent range from $20-$30 per night, while mid-range hotels may cost $40-$80 per night. I stayed in a mid-range hotel costing around $75 per night in Shymkent and $85 per night in Turkistan. My total seven-night stay cost approximately 600$.

Transportation: Budget $50-$200 for transportation within each city and between destinations, including taxis, public buses, and intercity travel.

Food: Expect to spend $20-50 per meal (including drinks) for mid-range dining in Shymkent and Turkistan, totalling $200-$500 for the week.

Activities: Allocate $50-$100 for activities like museum visits and guided tours. Set aside $50-$100 for souvenirs and unexpected expenses.

Total Estimated Budget Range: $600-$1000 for a Shoestring budget, $1100-$1800 for Mid-budget and $2000 and above for a Luxury trip.

Please remember these are only rough estimates; expenses may vary depending on your travel style, preferences, and local prices. Planning and budgeting wisely allows you to enjoy a memorable and fulfilling trip to the best places to visit in Shymkent, Turkistan, and Sayram without breaking the bank.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it’s hard to pick the best city in Kazakhstan, but Shymkent and its neighbouring destinations, such as Turkistan and Sairam, offer a captivating blend of history, culture, and natural beauty waiting to be explored. From ancient mausoleums to bustling markets, there’s no shortage of the best places to visit in Shymkent and around this vibrant southern region of Kazakhstan. Whether you’re delving into Shymkent’s rich heritage or venturing beyond its borders to explore nearby destinations such as Sairam-Ugam National Park or Turkistan, the experiences you’ll encounter will leave a lasting impression. So pack your bags, embark on an adventure, and discover the wonders of Shymkent and its surroundings.

Further Reading For Central Asia

Are you looking to dive deeper into Central Asia? Here is a selection of travel guides and itineraries for travelling in Central Asia:

  1. Looking for things to do in Almaty, Kazakhstan?  Check out the Top things to do in Almaty: A 3-Day Adventure of Apples, Culture, and Snowy Thrills.
  2. Want to get off the beaten path in Kazakhstan? Shymkent is an excellent place to visit. Here are the Best Places to visit in Shymkent.
  3. Want to visit Turkestan in Kazakhstan? Check out our Complete Travel Guide to Turkestan.
  4. Intrigued by the capital of Azerbaijan? Check out Baku, Azerbaijan: a European destination that comes at an Asian price!
  5. You can watch all my travel videos from Central Asia here: KyrgyzstanKazakhstan, and Azerbaijan.

11 Comments

  • Kimberley Asante says:

    I visited your article on Travel See Write about exploring the best places to visit in Shymkent, Sayram, and Turkistan, and it’s absolutely captivating! Your detailed insights into Kazakhstan’s hidden treasures in the heart of Central Asia paint a vivid picture of the rich history, culture, and natural beauty waiting to be discovered. From ancient landmarks to vibrant markets, you’ve created an enticing itinerary for travelers seeking off-the-beaten-path experiences. Your passion for exploration and knack for storytelling shine through, inspiring readers to embark on their own adventures in this fascinating region. Keep up the fantastic work of showcasing the wonders of travel!

  • Jupiter Hadley says:

    There are so many interesting places to explore! Thank you for the helpful visa information and such too, it really helps for realistic planning.

  • Emily Fata says:

    Wow, this looks like an absolute DREAM TRIP! I have to go one day and see of these amazing things for myself. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

  • adriana says:

    WOW! I honestly had no idea there was so much to do there! This is such a great, complete guide! I’d love to see more of the other side of the world so I’ll definitely save this and hope I get over there one day! Awesome!

  • Richard Lowe says:

    I’ve written several articles about Kazakhstan (ghostwritten, so they are not under my name). It was nice to see the locations in your photos. Loved your writing.

  • Stephanie says:

    What a wonderful travel experience. Sounds like just the type of getaway we would enjoy – art, culture, food, activities, etc… Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Renata Feyen says:

    Looks like a great destination, and so much to do over there, but I fear the flight would be too long for me. The National park with snow leopards, lynx, brown bears, wolves, and the many rare birds, sounds like something I would love to visit, though.

  • Rosey says:

    I love when there is a high quality, busy market. Makes it easy to mingle with the locals.

  • Rosey says:

    I do like a bustling good market. It’s nice to visit new areas and places. Thank you for the photos.

  • Melissa Cushing says:

    Wow…. what stunning photos of these magical places that you visited there! I am so in awe of the beautiful architecture and the rich history! Loving the photos the most….as the pictures tell the story 😉

  • Jenny says:

    This part of Kazakhstan definitely sounds worth exploring one day, there is so much to see!

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