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Rocket Launch Expedition Kazakhstan
A trip of extremes! Pair one of the most ancient trading routes on Earth with the most futuristic human endeavours – a rocket launch.
On this small group adventure you’ll travel through Kazakhstan visiting phenomenal places including the Aral Sea, ancient Turkistan, Shymkent, and Sayram – all stops along the Silk Road. In the middle of all that, you’ll find yourself in Baikonur, the home of the Russian space program. Situated in the middle of the dusty Kazakh steppe, you’ll have the chance to witness a rocket launch. This is a fascinating and unique adventure through one of the least explored countries on Earth.
- Visit the Cosmodrome and watch a live rocket launch
- Explore the cosmopolitan city of Almaty
- Visit the World War II monument at Panfilov Park
- Enjoy a rural homestay at Aralsk
Everything kicks off in Almaty, Kazakhstans former capital. You’ll love the the juxtaposition of the urban city with the dramatic Tian Shan Mountain range that surrounds the city. There’s plenty of time to explore and visit Central Square, Zenkoff Cathedral, and the huge outdoor ice skating rink at Medeo. The exploration ends high up on Kok Tobe Hill with awesome views of the city below.
The next stop is Baikonur and you’ll spend a day exploring the desert steppe as well as the town itself. You’ll see the Cosmodrome which was designed to send cosmonauts to the International Space Station. This is the same station that launched Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin – the first human in space. You can even visit his cottage, which has been turned into a museum. The day ends on the launch pad to witness a Soyuz rocket launch into space. Be one of the few to get an up close view of such an incredible event.
Travel through Aralsk and enjoy a rustic homestay here. There’s also a chance to explore this area by 4WD. You’ll take the overnight train into Turkistan – a city that contains more cultural sites and relics than anywhere else in Kazakhstan. The tour of the city takes you to Kozha Akhmed Yasaui Mausoleum, the most recognizable and iconic building in the entire country. The adventure winds down in Sayram and Skymkent – both located along the preserved Silk Road. There are lovely mosques and mausoleums to visit as well as lively bazaars and people watching.
Very few adventures are as phenomenal as getting to watch a rocket launch. But when you pair that with the history and culture of a spectacular and little known country like Kazakhstan, you’ll be making some of your greatest adventure holiday memories. Enquire today!
Day 1 Almaty
Welcome to Almaty, Kazakhstan. Your expedition begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm in your centrally-located hotel. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you’re going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We’ll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
If you arrive early, perhaps get your bearings with a walk around town. Until the recent transfer of the capital to Astana, Almaty was Kazakhstan’s foremost city. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Tian Shan Mountains, it is still very much the country’s commercial and cultural centre and perhaps Central Asia’s most cosmopolitan city.
Day 2 Almaty
Today, embark on a full-day guided city tour of Almaty. The development and wealth you’ll see on display as you walk the streets comes from the country’s main export – oil (Kazakhstan is one of the world’s top five oil-producing nations). Visit Central Square, the colourful Zenkoff Cathedral and Medeo, a huge outdoor ice-skating and bandy rink in a valley outside the city.
We’ll also head to historic Panfilov Park, dedicated to the 28 guardsmen who died defending Moscow against German tanks in WWII, and check out the Museum of Kazakh Musical Instruments and the State Historical Museum, which features a great collection of ancient relics. Finally, summit Kok Tobe Hill for great views over the city.
Day 3 Kyzyl Orda/Baikonur
Rise early this morning and board a flight to Kyzyl Orda, a small city in south central Kazakhstan. From here we’ll transfer to Baikonur (263 kilometres) and spend the rest of the day sightseeing. Located on the desert steppe of Kazakhstan, Baikonur has been leased out by the Kazakh government to the Russian Federation until 2050. The town was constructed to service a huge Cosmodrome that dispatches astronauts the International Space Station. Known during Soviet times as Zvezdograd (Star City), it was renamed Baikonur by Russian president Boris Yeltsin in 1995.
Day 4 Baikonur Space Launch
Get ready for a full day of exploration today. Guided by your leader, visit the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world’s first and largest operational spaceport (Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite, was launched from here). Visit a nearby museum where you’ll see a range of space artifacts, and check out the cottage once occupied by Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human to every venture into outer space.
Afterwards, we’ll transfer to the launch pad for one of the highlights of the expedition: witnessing a Soyuz rocket launch into space. Very few people ever have the opportunity to experience such a spectacle!
Day 5 Aralsk
Today, leave Baikonur and transfer to Aralsk (221 kilometres). Aralsk was the main fishing port on the Aral Sea, once one of the world’s largest lakes before the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects in the 1960s. The devastation caused – both environmental and humanitarian – was colossal: huge numbers of people lost their livelihoods, and the local climate and landscape was drastically changed.
A number of NGOs are now working in the region to restore water (and life) to the communities that once thrived here. During our stay in Aralsk, we’ll visit one such organization – Aral Tenizi, where you’ll have the unique opportunity to hear about their projects and support the work they do. The town still has very limited infrastructure, but the locals are keen to share stories with travellers.
You’ll spend the evening in a local home stay. Depending on the group size, the group may be split between a few houses. Accommodation is basic but cosy and comfortable, with electricity and mattresses on the floor serving as beds. Showers and toilets are located outside.
Day 6 Aralsk/Overnight Train
Take a tour of the local area by 4WD today. Drive along the former seabed then continue to Tastubek village where you’ll see glimpses of what used to be the biggest body of water in Kazakhstan. Watch locals fishing; if you feel like it, you can even take a dip yourself. In the evening, after returning to Aralsk, board an overnight train to Turkistan (approximately 13 hours).
Day 7 Turkistan
After arriving into Turkistan this morning, transfer to your hotel and freshen up for the day ahead. Located in southern Kazakhstan, the city of Turkistan contains more historical relics and cultural sites than any other place in the country. Head out on a guided city tour, the highlight of which is a visit to the Kozha Akhmed Yasaui Mausoleum, Kazakhstan’s most iconic building.
The stunning blue and while tiled Mausoleum is the final resting place of a great Turkic holy man and Sufi. Built by Tamerlane, it is said that three visits here are equal to one visit to Mecca. As it is a religious site, we recommend that women wear a headscarf when entering. In the surrounds you’ll find a rose garden, other monuments, an archeological museum and a mosque, which are all included in the ticket price.
Day 8 Sayram/Shymkent/Overnight Train
Today, depart Turkistan and transfer to Shymkent via the preserved Silk Road town of Sayram. Sayram is one of the oldest cities in Kazakhstan (indeed, in the world), and retains much of its ancient architecture. While here, you’ll visit various sights including mosques, mausoleums and minarets, before continuing onto Shymkent, our base for the night. Packed with bazaars, Shymkent is the liveliest city in Southern Kazakhstan. In the evening, why not head out for dinner with the group and sample an icy local beer, such as Shymkentskoe Pivo?
Day 9 Almaty
After arriving into Almaty this morning, you’ll have the rest of the day free to further explore the city, or relax in one of the many leafy parks or cafes dotted around the place. The Arasan baths are well worth a visit for a true Soviet sauna experience. Almaty has always been heavily influenced by its connections with Russia and was once one of the USSRs regional capitals. You’re likely to hear more Russian spoken here than Kazakh, but now that the nation is independent a resurgence of Kazakh language and culture is underway.
In the evening, head out for a final dinner with your group and leader.
Day 10 Almaty
Today your expedition comes to an end after breakfast. As no activities are planned, you are free to depart your accommodation at any time. If you wish to extend your stay in Almaty, we’d more than happy to book additional accommodation for you, subject to availability. Please enquire at the time of booking.
1. We require a completed Baikonur Permit Form and clear, scanned colour copy of your passport at the time of booking, no later than 60 days prior to departure.
2. Many nationalities do not require a visa for Kazakhstan for stays of under 15 days. Please check with your nearest consulate for specific information.
3. Please be aware that there is a possibility that the space launch may not occur on the scheduled date. Our permit for the area will be dates specific, so if this does occur we will continue to visit Baikonur as planned but may not be able to witness the launch.
4. During this journey the group will spend time in remote areas without home comforts or easy access to quality medical facilities. Although a high level of physical fitness is not required, travellers should be comfortable with the realities of an off the beaten track adventure, and prepared for some very basic conditions at times.
5. Please make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
6. A Single Supplement is not available on this trip – all hotels are twin share, homestay and overnight trains are multishare.
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
Homestay (1nt), Hotel (8nt), Overnight sleeper train (2nt)
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
While travelling with us you’ll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other’s company. There’s no obligation to do this though.
9 breakfasts, 2 dinners
As a general rule most countries expect that your passport has a minimum of 6 months validity remaining. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking and airline tickets. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Your consultant will contact you when this is required.
Take a copy of the main passport pages and other important documents with you, and leave another copy at home with family or friends.
Many nationalities, including Australia, Germany, USA and United Kingdom do not require a visa for stays of up to 15 days. Please check with your local consulate for the most up to date requirements.
As this trip is yet to depart for 2016 some itinerary changes may be made in response to traveller feedback. New departures have been added based around the 2017 launch schedule. This is, as always, subject to change. Please avoid booking flights until 2017 in case date changes are necessary.
- 8 Mar 2017 17 Mar 2017 from £2,265
- 27 May 2017 5 Jun 2017 from £2,265
- 27 Sep 2017 6 Oct 2017 from £2,265
- 27 Nov 2017 6 Dec 2017 from £2,265
Please get in touch for live availability and prices.
9 breakfasts, 2 dinners
Minibus, plane, train
Homestay (1 night), Hotel (8 nights), Overnight sleeper train (2 nights)
- Almaty – Central State Museum
- Almaty – Museum of Kazakh Musical Instruments
- Almaty – Kok Tobe Hill
- Almaty – Panfilov Park
- Almaty – Medeu
- Almaty – Zenkov Cathedral
- Baikonur – Cosmodrome
- Baikonur – Space Museum
- Baikonur – Space Launch Viewing
- Baikonur – Yuri Gagarin Museum & House
- Aralsk – Aral Sea 4WD tour
- Turkistan – Yasui Mausoleum
- Sayram – City Tour incl. Mosque, Mausoleum & Minaret
We love this operator for the freedom and flexibility they give travellers to get off the tourist trails and really experience local cultures. Their grassroots style of travel ensures the impact on the communities they visit is minimised. They use local leaders, local accommodation & transport and support local community projects, ensuring sustainability is at the centre of everything they do.
This operator is committed to operating in a responsible manner, incorporating the principles of sustainable development in the way they provide travellers with real life experiences. However, these values are more than just words on a page; they are ingrained in the culture and daily operations of every office and tour. In addition, they expect their staff and travellers to demonstrate the principles of responsible travel – respecting people, cultures and local environments; in the distribution of wealth; in good will and cross-cultural sharing; and in contributing to sustainable development.
Rocket Launch Expedition Kazakhstan
- Trip Code: AWA354
- Dates: Various
- Price: from 2,265 GBP
- Depart: Almaty, Kazakhstan
- Arrive: Almaty, Kazakhstan
- Length: 10 days
- Adventure: Visit the Russian spaceport of Baikonur and explore the Silk Road on this unique Kazakhstan expedition