About half the size of the 48 neighboring US states Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world with extremely diverse geography and shortage of places to visit. The northern forests are gradually turning into broad flat steppes to drier areas and finally to deserts to the south. Kazakhstan is rich in minerals and has large reserves of oil and gas.
Islam and Christianity are the dominant religions, although religious tolerance is a widely recognized norm and, as a retention from the Soviet era, many people do not profess any religious affiliation at all. The national characteristic of the Kazakh people is hospitality. Stimulating the country's long-standing nomadic culture, strangers are treated as honored guests. Respect for guests and the elderly, as well as tolerance and tranquility are rooted in childhood.
Almaty, to the east, is the largest city and commercial capital of the country. The house of origin of apples in the world is traced to this region. In fact, "Alma" means "apple". Large silk road caravans have come through this ancient city, carrying spices, porcelain, silk, and civilized influences from the cultivated Orient to the more barbaric west.
A train trip at night to the west will take you to the Baykonur cosmodrome, the home of the Russian Space Program. Once securely guarded, Baykonur is open to visitors where it is possible to travel around the birthplace of the space flight, visit the complex where the original cosmonauts were trained, and where Russian flights to the International Space Station were launched.
About 100 kilometers (160 kilometers) east of Almaty are the natural wonders of the Altyn-Emel National Park. The area contains rare animals such as Siberian goats, ancient Scythian mounds, rock paintings of 3500 years ago, and the Kyle-Aauze Gorge, where the "stone tree" is growing so hard that it pulls an ax. The park also contains other world lunar landscapes and unforgettable songs that make the sound of an organ in dry weather. The immobile movement of sand sliding down the face of the dune in dry weather creates vibration that becomes electrified under dry conditions, which, coupled with resonant conditions in the vicinity, creates powerful sound waves that can be heard in miles.
Here is also Charin Canyon, called the younger brother of the Grand Canyon of America, with deep colorful gorges, spectacular rock formations and some of the finest tours, canyons and water rafting in the world.