I have no expectations for Kazakhstan. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything about it only a few months ago. I knew it was the 9th largest country by landmass, yet its population ranks 65th in the world with only 17 million people. Looking at pictures on google of Astan, the capital, and Almaty, the largest city, Kazakhstan appears to be a city from the future. But why have we never heard of it? And how does it look so modern? And what hidden gems does this country behold? Going far off the beaten path of most backpackers, we have embarked on that journey to lands less known and learn what they have to offer.
Only an hour into our ride through Kazakhstan, I was already squirming in my seat. There was so much beautiful nature whizzing by our window that I had to ask the driver to stop. Fields filled with red flowers covered the vast landscape leading up to the mountains. Upon leaving the car we ran into a wonderful scent of the beautiful Mak flower. Everywhere you looked, the fields were alive with vibrancy. You couldn’t help but just run through these fields flailing your arms in the air. I felt like Dorothy, wanting to just lazily lay in the fields all day and let its beauty entrance me.
As we continued our drive, the rolling hills flashed colors of purple and yellow and white, but red remained the most dominant color. Homes were built into these fields, where peoples back yards were an oasis of color. It was unlike anything I had ever seen and everything I had always hoped to see. In the distance, the white capped snow peaks that line the Issy Kul lake of Kyrgyzstan are visible as the foothills fold right into the base of them. The drive from Bishkek to Almaty parallels the border and takes you further west to Kazakhstan’s biggest city of 1.5 million people. What a beautiful surprise Kazakhstan has been so far and its only been the first day!