It is not too far away from Europe, it has a futuristic skyline and a rich history and it could become one the world’s hottest travel destinations.
The city of Astana may be difficult to place on a map, but the capital of Kazakhstan is already becoming a hype destination in travelling circles.
The former Soviet city, which has undergone a huge makeover, is launching itself as a new Singapore at the heart of central Asia.
Architect Norman Foster, whose London-based company is known for its high-tech architecture, has worked to design the city’s Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre, an award-winning tented-shaped steel structure, which echoes Kazakh history.
The city’s blend of old and new architecture will no doubt be an attraction to the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to attend the 2017 Expo.
The world fair, which in the past gave London its Crystal Palace and Paris its Eiffel Tower, is designed to showcase each country’s strengths and vision for the future with this year’s theme being “Future Energy”.
“Nur Alem”, Kazakhstan’s national pavilion has been described as the largest spherical building in the world and promotes wind energy. The pavillion has already attracted close to 100,000 visitors since the Expo, which brings together 115 countries, opened on 10 June. It will run until 10 September.
For the Kazakhstan Government, the Expo is the opportunity to put Astana on the map and continue to attract tourists from around the world.
But there are plenty of other things to see in Astana, which is seven hours from Heathrow.
In a travel review, written for The Independent in 2010, Astana is described as “rising up of nowhere”.
“You fly for an hour over a flat dry emptiness and then, suddenly, without any hint of outlying farms or suburbs, there it is: the Presidential Palace, a blue-domed version of America’s White House, and behind it the Pyramid of Peace (likened by some New Age bloggers to a device for communicating with aliens), and the Bayterek, a bird’s nest viewing platform 318ft high,” it reads.
Surrounding by steppe, looking beyond Astana is like “looking straight to the edge of the world,” the author wrote.
Astana is also an open door onto the rest of Kazakhstan, the world’s largest landlocked country. Between Europe and Asia, the Kazakhstan has a complicated and rich history, a unique and authentic culture and landscapes where east and west meet.
The Kazakh tourism board boasts about the diversity of the country’s tourism industry, which range from cultural excursions to skiing and trekking in the mountains, and water sports in nearby lakes and rivers.