Is Astana a paroxysm of late capitalism, or a glorious tribute to a nation and its leader? Both, I would say.
The newly built capital of Kazakhstan is one of the world’s foremost exponents of Dubaization: the act of building a city relying on spectacular, non-contextual architecture.
Planned without the slightest regard for the area’s harsh climate, its mad buildings, imploding or catching fire at unexpected intervals, have fully earned Astana its nickname of Fuckingnutsotropolis.
Architecture is a built representation of a certain time in history, and as such, Astana eloquently represents the values of Kazakhstan in the Nazarbayev era: untethered greed, vacuous morals, and shoddy workmanship.
As such, it makes an excellent tourist destination.
I have not spent enough time in Astana to be able to give good travel advice. When following the advice of others, keep in mind the city is evolving at a rapid pace and what was true yesterday might no longer be true today.
After several years of searching, we do finally have a knowledgeable and reliable city guide to recommend in Astana, Anastassiya. Contact her if you are interested in a general city tour of Astana or something more tailored to your interests.
At least 2 full days can be spent agreeably marveling at the architecture and visiting the different museums of Astana.
After that, it is time to get out. The Burabay (Borovoye) resort area is now a type of Astana-on-Sea. Nature lovers might enjoy the Naurzum and Korgalzhyn reserves (I have not been myself). These are in any case destinations best reached with a tour guide or your own transport.