Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country and former Soviet republic, extends from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Altai Mountains at its eastern border with China and Russia. Its largest metropolis, Almaty, is a long-standing trading hub whose landmarks include Ascension Cathedral, a tsarist-era Russian Orthodox Church, and the Central State Museum of Kazakhstan, displaying thousands of Kazakh artifacts.
Almaty is also a gateway to the popular ski resort Shymbulak and to Medeu, a high-altitude outdoor ice-skating rink. The capital, Astana, is defined by modern architecture like the futuristic, 97m-tall Bayterek tower. Beyond Astana are Saryarka's lake-filled nature reserves, which protect endangered birds and other wildlife. To the south lie the "singing" desert dunes of Altyn-Emel National Park and the canyons of Tamgaly, featuring nearly 5,000 prehistoric petroglyphs. The city of Turkistan is home to the 14th-century Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, a popular Muslim pilgrimage site.
Baikonur, It is from this remote city in southern Kazakhstan that humans first sent a satellite, is now famous worldwide for its cosmodrome. Baikonur is officially a "closed city", but unlike the Cold War era, it is possible to get in, you'll just need to book a tour with a tour operator of the cosmodrome and have them take care of the permits.