When is the best time to visit Kazakhstan?
There is no need to time it for crowds: it’s never really busy. Weather-wise, though, the picture is more complicated.
Breakdown per season
Spring and fall
Spring and fall last for about a month, in April and October in the south, and May and September in the north. The temperature is a pleasant 20 degrees Celsius. Ideal for sightseeing the steppe and the cities.
The shoulder season is perfect if you plan to combine Kazakhstan with a trip to other low-lying countries like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
On the other hand, it’s a bad time to visit the mountains, either in Kazakhstan, or across the border in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan: the beautiful winter season is over, but you cannot go hiking yet because the passes are still covered in snow.
Spring kicks off with the Nowruz festival on March 21, and is followed by the flush of wild tulips and poppies that take over the meadows. October is wonderful for the autumn foliage around Almaty.
Summer and winter
Summer sees the most visitors: most people combine Kazakhstan with a hiking trip in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Book your train tickets in advance, and if you are particular about your accommodation, book that in advance as well.
Winter is really quiet, tourism-wise. Makes sense at first sight: it’s really cold. But have a second look. You can do unique things like ice fishing or horse riding in the snow. It’s also the season for kokpar and eagle hunting.
Most of all, Kazakhstan shows its spiritual side in winter. The silence of the snowy steppe is immense and overpowering. Traveling in the depths of winter is a challenge, but there lies the adventure.
Hiking: June to September is generally good for hiking in the Tien Shan mountains. July and August are preferred for the Altai, and if you are planning to spend the night on the higher reaches (above 3000 m) of the Tien Shan.
Horse riding: April to October is the best time.
Cycling: Since the summers are so hot in Kazakhstan, and the winters so cold, all-day cycling is best in spring and fall: April – June and September – October.
Skiing: December to March.
Rafting: Depends on the river, but generally August – October is best as the glacier melt is highest then. Easy-going kayaking can be done throughout spring, summer and fall.
Eagle hunting: November to February.
Kokpar: Your best chance to see a game is around a national holiday. Finding village games in Kazakhstan will involve a lot of luck and patience, or a tour operator who can help you.
Check our calendar of notable events and festivals in Kazakhstan you might want to consider while planning your trip for details.
The weather in Kazakhstan is predictable. Cold in the winter, hot in the summer, little rainfall overall. There are however, regional differences.
Nur-Sultan, Aktau and the steppes in the heartland of Kazakhstan see the most extreme temperatures, while the Altai region gets more rainfall than average in summer, with up to 20 rainfall days. Southern Kazakhstan (between Almaty and Shymkent) sees a less harsh climate than the rest of the country.
Note that the bar charts above are averages. For instance, it is absolutely normal to have an afternoon in July in Almaty where the heat soars above 40°C, or a January in Astana where temperatures don’t go over -30°C for the whole week.
Climate bar charts courtesy of World weather online