Among Kazakhstan’s endless grasslands on the windswept northern steppes, the forward-looking modern city of Astana has sprouted. With a skyline punctuated by gleaming new skyscrapers that seem to defy the laws of physics, the capital is an eye-catching showcase of international, 21st-century architecture and a glimpse into a city of the future.
A pleasant, leafy city that would seem more at home in central Europe than Central Asia, Almaty is stocked with museums, cafes and nightlife. But Kazakhstan's second city (and its former capital) is also a great base from which to explore the country's wild southern landscapes. The city itself is a manageable size, and on its doorstep are numerous natural attractions.
A crowd roars as a favourite local wrestler pins his opponent for the championship. A rumble of shock as a single horse-and-jockey fall to the back of a long field of galloping racers. Tense anticipation as kok boru captains astride their horses struggle for possession of a goat carcass and control of the game. For the Central Asian nations, language and history are not the only ties that bind.