With its mosaic of hills, steppes, forests and lakes, Burabay National Park is an ideal place to immerse yourself in the beauty of Kazakhstan’s great outdoors.
At 250km north of Astana, it’s not just one of the country’s major tourist draws, but also a favourite destination for visitors from the capital, with many escaping the city at weekends to soak up the scenery, take an energising trek, picnic or go wildlife spotting.
Stretching out for 835 square kilometres, Burabay National Park’s beautiful scenery, in particular the lakes and pine trees, has earned it the nickname "the Switzerland of Kazakhstan". It’s home to an abundance of wildlife, with deer, moose, wild boar, wolves and badgers among the creatures living in the dense green forests.
One of the park’s most popular spots to visit is Kenesary Cave, named after famous Kazakh ruler Kenesary Khan, a keen hunter who is said to have often taken shelter in this yurt-shaped natural cave. The route up there is relatively easy, with stone steps leading to the cave and satisfying views of the Auliekol Lake once you reach the top.
For those looking for an even more adventurous way to explore the park, a day on horseback is a particularly memorable option.
Yerzhan Ilyasov, along with his young son, Alan, offers just that. The horse-riding guide regularly takes tourists through the national park on horseback and is confident that it’s an experience that anyone can enjoy.
"Tourists appreciate the fresh air and being in contact with an extraordinary beauty, the lake, the mountain, nature, riding a horse," he says, adding that anyone can ride a horse after just 10 minutes’ instruction.
Getting the chance to explore the park in traditional style, as Kazakh horse-riders have done for centuries, also gives visitors a chance to connect with the region's rich heritage as well as the environment – an unforgettable experience in anyone’s book.