The World Economic Forum (WEF) released its 2013 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index on March 6th.
At spot number 88, Kazakhstan was the highest ranked among the five Central Asian republics. Kazakhstan also moved up five spots from the 2011 Index, when it was ranked as the 93rd most attractive tourist destination.
To compare, the number one spot is held by Switzerland (but who can compete with those famous Swiss alps?). Kyrgyzstan ranked 111th, Tajikistan was 114th, while Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan were not ranked. Russia held the 63rd spot on the list.
Kazakhstan also ranked 18 out of 25 as a tourist destination for the Asia Pacific region. Singapore and Hong Kong were the front-runners in the region.
Methodologically, the WEF ranks countries across a variety of indicators including policy rules and regulations, environmental sustainability, safety and security, health and hygiene, priorization of travel and tourism, air transport infrastructure, ground transport, tourism and ICT infrastructure, price competitiveness, human resources, affinity for travel and tourism, and natural and cultural resources.
So what tourist attractions does Kazakhstan offer?
For the nature lovers, try hiking, biking or horse back riding through the Tian Shan mountains.
Medeu and Chimbulak are popular tourist destinations that offer skiing and ice skating during the winter and pristine views during the summer. Medeu and Chimbulak are just a short bus ride away from Almaty. You can also tour some of the waterfalls in the Tian Shan Mountains.
For the history lovers, check out the Central State Museum in Almaty and the Presidential Museum in Astana. There are tons of beautiful artifacts from the time of the Scythians through the Mongol invasions and from the Soviet period.
Definitely visit the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi in Turkestan, a town in Southern Kazakhstan. Yasawi was a distinguished Sufi master who lived during the 12th century. The Mausoleum that bears his name is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most sacred historic sites in Kazakhstan. It was built during the time of Timur between 1389 and 1405 in the signature Timurid architectural style with coral-blue tiles and dome. While the Mausoleum was never fully completed, it is nonetheless a breathtaking building. In the main atrium of the mausoleum, you will find a bronze kazan (cauldron). The kazan is a symbol of unity and hospitality. Legend has it that the kazan in Yasawi’s mausoleum is a source of good luck and those who provide a charitable contribution and make a wish at the site will have that wish fulfilled.
When you visit the mausoleum, be sure to tour the surrounding buildings and exhibits. One museum was built on top of the underground dirt cell where Yasawi lived beginning at age 63, when he retired to a life of deep contemplation, worship and prayer. There is also a museum built in the town in honor of President Nazarbayev’s 70th birthday a few years ago. When in Turkestan, pay a local cab driver a few thousand Tenge to visit Aristanbab, the mausoleum of Yasawi’s mentor.
Finally, for the really adventurous and scientifically-inclined, check out the National Nuclear Center: Baikonour Cosmodrome
This is just the tip of the Kazakhstan tourism iceberg. Kazakhstan’s tourism industry is developing and the country offers something for all types of travelers.
Travel tip shared by KazkhWorld