Just over half the population of Kazakhstan is classified as urban, living and working in towns and cities spread across the Central Asian nation.
Although much of the country remains rural, there are several cities offering amazing experiences in Kazakhstan. The futuristic capital Nur-Sultan illustrates the development and evolution that many areas of the country have undergone in recent years whilst the ancient city of Turkestan acts as a reminder of its fascinating history.
Travelers will find a list of Kazakhstan cities below plus information about the most visited cities in Kazakhstan to help plan their trip.
Foreign nationals who would like to see any of the cities should first check the Kazakhstan visa requirements and, if necessary, apply for the relevant permit for their trip. Citizens of most countries can now apply for the visa online, print it at home, and present it on arrival.
List of Cities in Kazakhstan
Each of the Kazakhstan cities listed below has a population of at least 50,000 people. Many place names have changed at least once during the last 100 years, this list shows the modern-day name of each city.
Which Is the Largest City in Kazakhstan?
Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan. It has a population of around 2 million people, making up close to 11% of the country’s entire population. Almaty is located in the southeast of Kazakhstan and was previously known as Alma-Ata and Verny.
Almaty was the capital of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic and then served as the capital of independent Kazakhstan from 1929 until 1997. Although the capital was moved to Astana (now Nur-Sultan), Almaty remains an important urban center.
A cosmopolitan city, Almany is a popular choice amongst tourists. Visitors can enjoy museums, parks, and some of Central Asia’s best restaurants serving traditional Kazakhstan food and modern international cuisine. In addition, the mountains are easily accessible for hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities.
What Is the Capital of Kazakhstan?
The capital of Kazakhstan is Nur-Sultan. The city has changed name twice in recent times, becoming Akmola in 1998 and then Astana in 2019. The name Nur Sultan was chosen in honor of departing president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Nur-Sultan is in north-central Kazakhstan, in the Akmola Region. With an estimated population of around 1.16 million, it’s the nation’s second-largest city.
Since becoming the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997, Nur-Sultan has undergone significant development and is today one of the most modern cities in Central Asia. Nur-Sultan now boasts many architecturally impressive buildings including Kazakhstan Central Concert Hall, the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, and the Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center plus futuristic sky-scrapers.
Ak Orda, the Presidential Palace is also located in Nur-Sultan. The grand building features a blue and gold dome and a spire. As the official workplace of the President of Kazakhstan, visitors are not able to enter Ak Orda but they may admire it from the outside.
Nur-Sultan is on the banks of the Ishim River, many tourists opt for a river tour to see the capital from the water.
The Ancient City of Turkestan
Turkestan is another city well-worth visiting Kazakhstan. Turkestan is an ancient city in southern Kazakhstan and once the center of the nation’s caravan trade.
Home to the 12th century Sufi (Muslim mystic) Ahmed Yesevi, the city became an important religious center. The Mausoleum of Khawaja Ahmed Yasawi is Turkestan’s main monument and major tourist attraction. The mausoleum was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003 and is a significant example of Timurid architecture.
Hilvet Semi-Underground Mosque with the cell where Akhmed Yasaui withdrew towards the end of his life is another interesting historical site in Turkestan.
Kazakhstan Cities with International Airports
There are many international airports in Kazakhstan however, travelers who wish to take advantage of the Kazakhstan eVisa system must enter through either:
- Almaty International Airport, Almaty
- Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport (previously known as Astana), Nur-Sultan
As the 2 most visited cities in Kazakhstan, these are also the most convenient ports of entry for tourists. Travelers who apply for a Kazakhstan visa online in advance can avoid waiting in line for a visa on arrival.
Foreign citizens who do not qualify for the electronic visa, and do not have a Kazakhstan embassy in their country, can get a visa on arrival at:
- Aktua International Airport
- Almaty International Airport
- Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport
- Atyrau International Airport
- Oral Ak Zhol International Airport