At sea in Kazakhstan! 6 ideas how to make your vacation in Aktau unforgettable

1. Lie down on the beaches of the Caspian Sea

In fact, the Caspian Sea is a lake. It is called the sea because of its salty water and size – it is the largest enclosed body of water in the world. But such formalities do not affect the quality of rest. The Caspian Sea is warm and calm, and the entrance to the water on the beaches of Aktau is gentle. This is especially important if you are planning to travel with children or are afraid to swim in deep water.

The beaches of the Caspian are suitable not only for a relaxing holiday. Here you can stand on a SUP board, ride a yacht and even scuba dive. The flora and fauna of the sea is perhaps less diverse than in other resorts, but it also has something to surprise. For example, only here you can encounter the Caspian seal listed in the Red Data Book.

Image: ANEX Tour

You can stay in Aktau in a hotel with its own beach, spa and Ultra All Inclusive system. All this is at Rixos Water World Aktau , a hotel of the Turkish Rixos chain, which opened here in 2020. There are four swimming pools, eight bars, two A’la Carte restaurants, sports grounds, and a hammam on the territory. In addition, hotel guests receive unlimited access to the Tetysblu amusement park for the duration of their stay.

ANEX Tour will help you choose the ideal accommodation option. On the website or at the offices of the tour operator, you can purchase a trip to Aktau lasting from 3 to 21 days. PCR tests and vaccination certificates are not required to enter Kazakhstan. Guaranteed seat blocks on direct flights to Aktau are available from Moscow, Yekaterinburg and Ufa. There are also connecting flights from Kazan and St. Petersburg. ANEX Tour specialists will help you book a hotel, find cheap air tickets (including those for connecting flights) and arrange insurance, as well as organize a comfortable transfer to the hotel.

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2. Walk along the Rocky Path

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This is the name of the picturesque walking route along the coast, which runs between a sheer cliff and the sea. The length of the trail is 1.5 kilometers. It is better to walk along it in the evening, when the colored lights and music turn on – the road then becomes even more beautiful. But still, it’s better to come a little before dark in order to have time to admire the sun setting over the sea.

There are also 24 viewing platforms on the Rocky Path at once, from which you can see the city and the endless water surface with passing ships. Here you can sit on a bench and slowly watch the amazing landscapes.

3. Look into underground mosques

Aktau is a small and young city, a little over 60 years old. Therefore, there are not many sights on its streets. But there are plenty of them around.

So, not far from Aktau there are several underground mosques at once: Sultan-epe, Shakpak-ata, Beket-ata, Karaman-ata. They were carved right into the rocks in the 9th-12th centuries and are considered sacred places. Therefore, to visit them, you should choose closed clothes, but made of light breathable fabrics so that the heat does not interfere with the walk.

Outside, the “walls” of mosques are not smooth, in some places they even have an interesting porous structure, similar to a sponge or chocolate. And at Sultan-Epe they are completely lined with stone. The rooms inside are also interesting: you can see decorative columns, carpets, light wells, ancient drawings and texts.

Near the Karaman-ata mosque there is another attraction – the medieval necropolis of the same name. Ancient burial places of different tribes and eras have been preserved there: Turkmen steles, Kazakh saganatams, mausoleums and stone monuments.

4. Marvel at the nature of Kazakhstan

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A couple of vacation days should definitely be devoted to studying the landscapes of western Kazakhstan. The nature here is fascinating, full of mysteries and truly unique places. Traveling to them is easy to turn into a real adventure. Here are some ideas.

  • Unravel the secret of the Torysh valley. In this place, a lot of stone balls of different sizes have been collected: from tiny to meter in diameter. They are already millions of years old, and there are several versions of their appearance. Maybe the formation of the spheres was facilitated by faults in tectonic plates, maybe the plankton that lived in the ancient Tethys ocean, or maybe one of the local legends is true, and the balls are the nuclei of a huge giant cannon? Get to the valley and decide what you believe in.
  • Look at the “sleeping lion”. Sherkala mountain, standing alone, has such an unusual shape, its name is even translated as “lion’s fortress”. And under the rays of the sun, the top of the mountain looks golden, like an animal’s mane.
  • Count the layers of Mount Bokty. Its top is surrounded by circles of different shades of brown and beige, and the bottom shimmers with red, yellow, blue, pink and white. Therefore, from afar, Bokty resembles a cake or a layer cake.
  • Look into the Zhygylgan depression. This hollow several kilometers in diameter was formed here due to the collapse of soft clay rock. You can also look at the depression from above, but it’s more interesting to go down: there you can see huge rocky walls and hidden traces of saber-toothed tigers. And not far from Zhygylgan there is a small salt lake Kuzdakary, sometimes taking the shape of a heart.
  • Explore Kapamsay Canyon. This is a huge corridor of high chalk walls of different shades of white and beige. It is believed that once a large deep river flowed here. Now it is dry in the canyon, but the plants are still alive – in one place a grotto with a green grove has even formed.

It is better to explore the nature of Kazakhstan with a guide. Doing it on your own can be tricky, as most attractions require an off-road jeep to get to. Organized excursions from ANEX Tour take place on just such cars: experienced drivers-guides who know the road perfectly sit behind the wheel.

The tour operator’s catalog contains seven excursions in Kazakhstan, each of which lasts a whole day and includes several natural and historical monuments at once. If you stay at Rixos Water World Aktau , you can save on these trips. For accommodation in Deluxe Rooms for a period of 10 days or more, you will receive a 50% discount on one excursion, and when staying in other rooms for 7 days or more, one excursion is free.

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5. Try fishbarmak

This is an unusual version of the traditional beshbarmak, which is prepared in the west of Kazakhstan. Instead of meat, fish caught in the Caspian Sea is added to it. The rest of the recipe remains unchanged: potatoes, layers of dough and onions. By the way, the main fish in Aktau is sturgeon. Steaks, burger patties, soups, saji and, in fact, fishbarmak are cooked from it here.

In addition to fish, you should try other local dishes during your vacation:

  • Kurt. A salty fermented milk product that looks like a white ball. It can be added to soups and salads or eaten on its own as an appetizer.
  • Shubat. Camel milk drink. It quickly deteriorates, so it is not exported – it will be very difficult to try it outside of Kazakhstan.
  • Koumiss. Also a fermented milk drink, but from mare’s milk.
  • Kazy and shuzhuk. Horsemeat sausages. The first is prepared from a whole piece of meat, the second – from chopped. Another horsemeat appetizer is sur-et, dried meat.
  • Desserts and sweets. Zhent, balkaimak, baursaks, kustil, chak-chak, irimshik – and this is not a complete list.

6. Bring home kurak korpe or oy korpe

Image: Vladimir Konstantinov / Shutterstock

Kurak korpe is a traditional patchwork quilt, and oyu korpe is a quilt with national patterns, such as “ram’s horns”, “stars” or “camel’s eyes”. Both are sewn from plush, velor or velvet, manually forming a colorful mosaic, and then filled with wool, cotton wool or down.

Such a blanket, according to legend, is not just a beautiful interior detail. It brings good luck, wealth, prosperity and helps to unite the family. If a whole korpe does not fit into a suitcase, you can take smaller national textiles instead, but made using the same technique. For example, pillowcases or a rug. Or look at other traditional souvenirs: silver jewelry, skullcaps or felt slippers.

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