The worlds ninth-biggest country is the most economically advanced of the stans, thanks to its abundant reserves of oil and most other valuable minerals. This means generally better standards of accommodation, restaurants and transport than elsewhere in Central Asia. The biggest city, Almaty, is almost reminiscent of Europe with its leafy avenues, chic cafes, glossy shopping centres and hedonistic nightlife. The capital Astana, on the windswept northern steppe, has been transformed into a 21st-century showpiece with a profusion of bold futuristic architecture. But it Is beyond the cities that you will find the greatest travel adventures, whether hiking in the high mountains and green valleys of the Tian Shan, searching for wildlife on the lake-dotted steppe, enjoying home-spun hospitality in village guesthouses, or jolting across the western deserts to remote underground mosques.
Republic of Kazakhstan
Unitary dominant-party presidential republic
The nation's largest ethnic group are the Kazakh, who comprise 64.4% of the population. Russians are the 24% and other ethnic groups include Uzbeks, Ukrainian, Uyghurs, Tatars, Germans and other ethnic minorities.
Kazakhstan is officially a bilingual country, with Kazakh, a Turkic language spoken natively by 64.4% of the population, and Russian, which is spoken by most Kazakhstanis, used routinely in business, government, and inter-ethnic communication, although Kazakh is slowly replacing it.
70% of the population is Muslim, 26% Christian, 0.1% Buddhists, 0.2% others (mostly Jews) and 3% Irreligious. According to its Constitution, Kazakhstan is a secular state.