The country's new capital has risen fast from the northern steppe and is already a showpiece for 21st-century Kazakhstan. Astana (Астана) is scheduled to go on rising and spreading into a city of over one million people by 2030. Its skyline grows more fantastical by the year as landmark buildings, many of them by leading international architects, sprout along the wide boulevards in a variety of Asian, Western, Soviet and wacky futuristic styles. Several spectacular structures are open to visitors and it's hard not be impressed by the very concept of this 'Singapore of the steppe'.
Though characterised by its bitter, windy winters and hot, dusty summers, Astana is a pleasant city with a young, forward-looking vibe. Kazakhstan's ambitious and talented youth are increasingly drawn here, and if you spend a few days, the capital will really begin to get under your skin, too.