With the exception of the settlement and Buddhist monastery in the Kent mountains near Karkaralinsk, all important sites for those interested in “Silk Road” and Bronze Age/Scythian history are located in the South of Kazakhstan, along the Syr Darya or in the fertile Zhetisu region around Almaty. We made a map with precise locations of the sites.
For those somewhat interested, the ruins at Sauran and the Yasawi mausoleum at Turkestan are the most captivating sites in the South, easily visited in 1 day from Shymkent or on the way from Kyzylorda. Travelers with a large appetite for history can append an extra day to visit the ruins of Otrar, the mausoleum of Arystanbab and the Timurid leftovers in Sayram.
Taraz was always an important trading city. Only a few buildings stand testament to its long history today. The history museum is one of the more interesting in the country. West of Taraz stands the mausoleum of Aisha Bibi. 45 km east lies mysterious Akyrtas. The softly undulating plains beyond Taraz are quiet now, but in 751 were the scene of the epochal battle between Chinese and Arab armies that defined the reach of China until this day.
In the east, around Almaty, Tamgaly is the best place to see petroglyphs in Kazakhstan. Similarly named Tamgaly Tas testifies of the Buddhist wanderers of centuries past. Esik (scroll down for info on the museum) is the place where the famous Golden Man was found, and it’s the heartland of Saka/Scythian archaeology.
Definitely also have a look at our hot-spots for Soviet-lovers in Kazakhstan for more recent history.