Finnair launches direct Helsinki-Astana flights

ASTANA – Finnair launched June 19 direct Helsinki-Astana-Helsinki flights. The flights will be Mondays and Fridays on modern Airbus 319 airliners.

The new flights initiate a partnership between the Astana airport and the national carrier of Finland – Finnair and are the result of cooperation between the countries, Astana airport and Finnair. The flights are expected to promote tourism flows in both directions and increase Finnish visitation to EXPO 2017.

Finnair became the 22nd client airline of the Astana airport, renamed Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport by the Kazakh Government on June 21,  offering regular flights to the capital. The airline’s route network covers Europe, Asia and North America. Passengers from Astana will be able to take advantage of a transfer at the airport in Helsinki within the same terminal.

It is planned that the Astana-Helsinki direct flights will be replaced by Almaty-Helsinki after Aug. 10.

The Astana Airport implemented the project of building a new passenger terminal. The uniqueness of the project is in the landing bridges, which contain two mobile approaches for landing. When servicing aircraft, two gates will be used simultaneously. Thus, one bridge can serve two aircraft simultaneously, regardless of arrival or departure.

Finnair is the only Scandinavian airline, having four stars in the Skytrax rating. The airline received the World Airline award and has been a leader for the last seven years as the best airline in Northern Europe. Finnair is a member of Oneworld alliance of leading airlines of the world.



Daytrip from Astana: Borovoye summer highlights

ASTANAThe period of EXPO 2017 coincides with peak holiday season in Kazakhstan. In Astana, for most of the population, that will mean trips to Borovoye.

Borovoye, a village built around a lake of the same name, is Astana’s closest getaway destination and probably its most visited. The area is a lovely getaway both for those who like to simply relax and look at great views on their vacations and for people who need to burn off energy swimming, hiking or otherwise actively engaged in their surroundings.

Photo credit: borovoe.cityshow.me

“Tour operators have developed seven tourist packages that cover more than 30 routes in the Shchuchinsk-Borovoye resort zone and the Korgalzhyn nature reserve,” said head of the Tourism Department of Akmola region Shynarbek Batyrkhanov.

Tour packages include an excursion to the best sites in Borovoye, including historical sites like Abylai Khan meadow with its famous granite throne. Kazakhstan’s strangely delicious national fermented milk product, kumis, is sold at the tour stops for 600 tenge ($2), as are other dishes like baursaks (fried doughnuts), as well as souvenirs.

Another historical site nearby is Zhailau ethnographical village. Zhailau recreates the life of nomadic peoples who lived in yurts (nomadic mobile felt houses) and raised stock. The open-air tour offers one-hour horse rides far from the city bustle.

Lake Borovoye is only one of several lakes close to the village, but it is considered the most beautiful and distinguished by its size. Located 70 kilometres from the city of Kokshetau, the blue waters of the lake are extremely popular among locals and foreign tourists.

Burabai National Park, the zone of mountains that surrounds Lake Borovoye, is perhaps Borovoye’s major destination. The mountains that ring the lakes offer fun for hikers and climbers.


Photo credit: borovoe.cityshow.me

A stunning panorama of Borovoye and Big Chebachie Lakes, Zhumbaktas Rock and Okzhetpes Mountain opens from Bolekau Mountain at a height of 147 metres. Those who travel by car can park their vehicles in specially designated parking lots. Climbing Okzhetpes Mountain, with a height of more than 300 metres, requires special equipment. The highest mountain in Borovoye, 947-metre Kokshetau Mountain, however, is walkable. It takes about four to five hours to go to the top and back.

Summer in Borovoye is not as hot as in other places in the country because of the nearby water and the mountains that provide shade and protection from the wind.

The lakeside offers a variety of accommodations with numerous hotels in all price ranges, spas and rest houses. The soft mountain climate, clean air and curative mud make relaxing here not only pleasant but also beneficial for one’s health, locals believe. There are also hostels and houses and apartments for rent. One-day accommodation cost starts from 10,000 tenge (US$31), but usually not higher than 35,000 tenge (US$110) for two people, according to booking.com.

Guides advise staying at the Kokshetau, Zhekebatyr or Dostyk hotels, all of which have modern rooms, saunas, swimming pools, bars and cafes, cosy restaurants and parking facilities.

Borovoye is also the one of the country’s main gaming area. Cash Ville Casino is located in Borovoye’s Rixos Hotel. Cash Ville is one of the biggest and most luxurious casinos in Central Asia, according to boora.info, promising to provide European-level service. It has 50 gaming tables, where visitors can play American roulette, black jack, baccarat and the most popular forms of poker. The hotel provides discounts for casino visitors.

You can get to Borovoye by car, bus or minibus and electric train. The journey takes three or four hours. Buses and route taxis leave from the Saparzhai-Astana bus station.



Wizz Air launches direct Budapest-Astana flights

ASTANA – Wizz Air, the largest low-cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe, has launched a new route between Budapest and Astana, according to the press service of Kazakh Ministry for Investments and Development.

The flights are carried out two times per week on Thursdays and Sundays by an Airbus A320. The first flight on June 8 brought a Hungarian delegation headed by the country’s Minister of National Economy Mihaly Varga.

The opening of the new route is significant, particularly within EXPO 2017, which will contribute to strengthening international cooperation, diplomatic and business relations between Kazakhstan and Hungary, according to the statement.

Last November, following the results of negotiations between aviation authorities, both countries received the right to carry out up to seven flights per week along the Astana-Budapest route. One-way tickets start at 40 euros, including a carry-on bag. Additional baggage is extra.

Officially the launch of the route was announced in early April.

“This became real thanks to many years of painstaking work by the governments of the two countries and it is timed to the 25th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and Hungary,” Nurbakh Rustemov, ambassador of Kazakhstan to Hungary said at an April 3 press conference.

The new route is Wizz Air’s latest destination network expansion, according to Tamara Vallois, head of Communications at Wizz Air Hungary Ltd.

“The low cost of the airline’s tickets on the Astana-Budapest route establish a potential to encourage trade, business and tourism between the two countries. Budapest is also a natural connection point for Kazakhstan passengers who wish to explore alternative destinations with a very low rate,” Vallois said at a briefing in the Central Communications Service in Astana on April 3.

She believes the opening of the Astana-Budapest route is significant for Wizz Air.

“This is a debut of our airline company in Kazakhstan. This route also ensures the first low-cost service with the European Union for Kazakhstan by offering a total of 62 destinations from Budapest, which makes available more than four million passenger seats in 2017,” she said.



Tourism company offers double-decker bus sightseeing tours

ASTANA – The private company Visit Astana with the support of the city’s akimat (administration) is providing city sightseeing tours on double-decker buses, according to the akimat’s press service.

The Hop-on, Hop-off double-decker buses pass the city’s main attractions, including the territory of EXPO 2017. Buses are equipped with audio guides with the six available languages, including Kazakh, Russian, English, Chinese, Turkish and German.

Tickets cost 3,000 tenge (US$9) for adults, 2,000 tenge (US$6) for students and pensioners, 1,000 tenge (US$3) for children 6-14 and free for youngsters under five. The bus ticket is valid for 24 hours. Tourists can get off at any stop to walk around and get on the next bus. The interval between buses is 30-35 minutes.

The starting and ending point of the route is a stop in front of the Duman entertainment centre along the Kurgaldzhin Highway. The route includes the Duman entertainment centre, Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre, Mangilik Yel Arch, Mega Silk Way Shopping Mall, the National Museum of Kazakhstan and the Baiterek monument.

The project was launched last year.

“As the evenings are becoming colder, we offer plaid blankets for our guests. We also provide services for wedding catering. The wedding tours in our buses are now gaining popularity. There are a lot of tourists and visitors from Russia who are interested in the city’s development and architecture,” said Project Administrator Larissa Vostrova in an interview last year with The Astana Times.

Additional information is available at sightseeing-tours.kz.



UNESCO and ISESCO national commission holds annual meeting

ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s national commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO), dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the nation’s accession to the international organisation, met at the end of May at the country’s national museum.

“Kazakhstan is happy to celebrate such a great event,” said Kazakh Minister of Culture and Sports and commission chairperson Arystanbek Mukhamediuly. “The head of state, Nursultan Nazarbayev, repeatedly spoke with great initiatives at UNESCO sessions that really lead to positive responses in the development of world civilisation.”

He also thanked those in Kazakhstan who contributed to developing relations with UNESCO.

“I would like to express my deep gratitude to the people who stood at the origins of the formation of the national commission. These are Olzhas Suleimenov and Murat Auezov. The present Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Russia Imangali Tasmagambetov also made a huge contribution to the promotion of the idea of UNESCO and he was the initiator of magnificent events, which we, Kazakhstan, happily held,” he added.

Mukhamediuly noted that during the 25 years of cooperation Kazakhstan has promoted such initiatives as the 2010 Year for Rapprochement of Cultures and the International Decade for Rapprochement of Cultures in 2013-2022. The country is an active participant in the activities of UNESCO’s working bodies.

“In the past year, significant work was carried out regarding ISESCO. The main event in the framework of our cooperation was holding the Asian intergovernmental forum on science, technology and innovation in Astana in September, which was organised at the initiative of ISESCO with the support of the Mazhilis (lower house of parliament) of Kazakhstan. As a result of the forum, the Astana declaration on strengthening inter-parliamentary Islamic cooperation in the fields of science, technology and innovation was developed and adopted,” he said.

During the plenary part of the meeting, the national commission summed up the results of the last year, as well as set priority directions for 2017.

The 5,000-kilometre section of the Great Silk Road entered the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2014.

“Next in line is the Syr Darya section [of the Great Silk Road] and it has our legendary cities of Otyrar, Turkestan, Syganak and Sauran. It should be said that it took nine years for the nomination, research and preparation of the first section. We have already acquired experience and we have very good experts. We work closely with UNESCO. I think that the most important thing is the completion of the list of UNESCO. Since Kazakhstan is the ninth country in the world by its territory, we do not accidentally call it a huge open-air museum. Mangystau, Semey, Zhetysu, South Kazakhstan – all of them have outstanding monuments of cultural heritage,” said Doctor of Historical Sciences and Professor Karl Baipakov at the event, according to informburo.kz.



LOT Polish Airlines launches direct Warsaw-Astana flight

ASTANA – LOT Polish Airlines conducted its first flight from Warsaw to Astana, Poland’s first ever air link to Kazakhstan, and held a flight presentation ceremony May 30 in Astana.

LOT’s Boeing 737-800 NG will operate four weekly return services. The first flight from Warsaw to Astana took off at 10:50 pm, and after five hours, having covered a distance of 3,500 km, landed in the Kazakh capital. This is the longest LOT’s B737 route.

“This direct flight will connect a country located in the centre of Europe with a country that is located in the centre of Asia. I believe that this step will be good for expanding cooperation between our two countries,” said LOT Polish Airlines Chief Executive Officer Rafał Milczarski at the presentation ceremony.


Photo credit: Facebook page of Askar Abdrakhmanov

The flights will also provide increased convenience for travel from Kazakhstan to other European countries and North America. Astana is the seventh new destination for LOT Polish Airlines this year and the first in Central Asia.

“We did not have a direct link between Poland and Central Asia. Today, Kazakhstan is the most dynamically developing economy in the region. Export to the Republic of Kazakhstan plays an important role in Poland’s foreign trade, making it a strategic economic partner for Poland in Central Asia. The Polish-Kazakh trade is at a stable high level; in 2016, it amounted to $759.4 million. I am sure that thanks to direct flights between Warsaw and Astana, this figure will grow soon,” said Milczarski.

He also presented free Astana-Warsaw-Astana roundtrip tickets to three finalists of a ticket lottery sponsored by the airline.





Mangystau archaeologist makes geoglyph gallery to stimulate local tourism

ASTANA – Mangystau archaeologist and historian Andrei Astafiyev has made a gallery of geoglyphs reflecting nomadic arts, the first in the region’s Airakty-Shomanai mountain valley and in Kazakhstan.


“I always consider natural sights from a perspective of a tourist attraction. The Airakty table (a flat-topped) mountain is a unique phenomenon for Mangystau,” he said in an interview with The Astana Times.

One can climb Airakty Mountain; it has a good panoramic view, but there is not much to see. As a result, Astafiyev devised the idea of creating geoglyphs two years ago when a question arose about ways to attract more visitors the Adai Ata historic and cultural centre and the peak of the Otpan Tau Mountain.

“Why doesn’t our desert have geoglyphs? Why not make them in the Airakty-Shomanai valley? It has a spacy and a free area and a natural observation deck. I decided on the drawings very long ago and was always attracted to the genius simplicity and ease of plot lines of the petroglyphs of local nomads,” he said.


The drawing of a Sacred Argali. Photo credit-lada.kz.

The selection of drawings was not random, as it went “through the prism of my conscious and subconscious vision of the world,” he added. Astafiyev put together several past nomadic symbols of universal semantics in one plot line.

The 150×110-metre drawing of a sacred argali (mountain sheep) is based on another drawing on the wall of the Beltoran necropolis, a 17th century mausoleum.

“Kazakhs and Turkmen consider this animal as sacred. Bringing argali’s horns to a grave of a holy [person] was considered a charitable deed. Specifically, the horns of this animal are an essential element of Asian ornament. Drawings of an argali are one of the favourite subjects of Mangystau’s petroglyph arts,” he said.

Astafiyev also included drawings of the mythical creature centaur of the steppes based on an illustration on the wall of the Kenty Baba necropolis. The 330×280-metre drawing served as the prototype for the Mangystau region logo.


Ancestor’s palm

A 270X350-metre sunshiny camel, the main symbol of Mangystau nomads, is based on a rock carving in Airakty Shomanai valley and on the wall of the Kalipan necropolis. The area also includes a drawing of a shanyrak (a symbol of home).

Based on a sketch of a portal arch at Shakpak Ata rock mosque, the 150X160-metre ancestor’s palm is the fourth geoglyph in the gallery. The cosmogonic (foundational) deity, measuring 415×170 metres, is the last geoglyph on the list. It is based on a drawing in the 19th century Karashashty Aulie necropolis.

“Everyone has his or her own world and universe and has a right to unveil the hidden context of geoglyphs or not do that,” said Astafiyev.

The drawings are symbols of Mangystau, Kazakhstan and the great steppe. There are not many geoglyphs in the world and those that exist have become tourist attractions.


Centaur of the steppes.

“They are memorial signs facing the future. Generations change, signs remain… In Kazakhstan, only the Turgai swastika is known from real historic geoglyphs. Airakty geoglyphs are a product of the modern age, but with the propaganda of historic-cultural heritage of our region and country,” noted Astafiyev.

To create the gallery of geoglyphs, the archaeologist applied a navigation system, special orientation, quad copter for adjustment, car, some appliances for churning vegetation and a plain shovel. The drawing process took nearly five months, while the process of creating a stable line required a minimum of six folds of a brush passing the same spot.

“We tried teamwork when making the first drawings. My son, Artyom, was one of my main assistants. But further experience has shown one person has access to the creative process as well. The total length of the car run on one of the big drawings amounted to 30 kilometres,” said Astafiyev.
























Kazakhstan improves four slots to 81st in WEF’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index

ASTANA – Kazakhstan improved its position by four spots to 81st in the latest World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index.

The index is published biannually and compares 136 economies on factors and policies enabling sustainable travel and tourism development, which contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country, according to the WEF report.

The index is based on the four sub-indexes, 14 categories and individual indicators.

The top 10 countries in this year’s index are Spain, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Italy, Canada and Switzerland respectively.

Approximately 4,559,500 people visit Kazakhstan annually and spend an average of $336, according to the report. Kazakhstan’s travel and tourism industry GDP is approximately $3 billion, which is 1.6 percent of the total GDP. Approximately 150,585 people are employed in the industry, which is 1.7 percent.

The index ranks Kazakhstan sixth in health and hygiene, the country’s highest ranking in the index. Kazakhstan’s low HIV-positive population and absence of malaria contributed to the high-ranking in that category.

Kazakhstan’s second-best ranking, 8th, was in price competitiveness. That category examines ticket taxes and airport charges, hotel prices, purchasing power parity and fuel prices level.

The WEF ranks Kazakhstan’s business environment 36th in the world. Out of many indices in that category, Kazakhstan showed good results in time required to receive construction permits, costs to start a business and tax rates.

Kazakhstan’s information and communications technologies (ICT) readiness was ranked 52nd with safety and security 58th. Human resources and the labour market ranked 47th.

The three worst results were reached in international openness at 113th, environmental sustainability at 99th and tourist service infrastructure at 97th.

International openness included visa requirements, openness of bilateral air service agreements and the number of regional trade agreements in force.

Environmental sustainability was assessed poorly mainly due to low indicators in environment treaty ratification and baseline water stress.

The report shows that within the tourist service infrastructure pillar, quality of tourist infrastructure and the presence of major car rental companies dragged it down.

In the Eurasian region, Kazakhstan is in fourth place after Russia (43rd in the global rank), Georgia (70) and Azerbaijan (71). The country is followed by Armenia (84), Tajikistan (107) and the Kyrgyz Republic (115).

“The Eurasian sub-region [the report refers to the whole region as Europe and Eurasia] faces issues relating to international openness and transport infrastructure. Yet this sub-region boasts more qualified and efficient human resources while, at the same time, providing more price competitive options, thanks to lower hotel prices and fuel costs,” stated the report.



Turgay geoglyphs can help reveal nomadic secrets, says discoverer

ASTANA – “Perhaps there are no monuments of global significance on our land like the Egyptian pyramids or the Colosseum, but the role of nomads in world history is undeniable,” said Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in June 2008.

Dmitriy Dey

More than a year had passed since mysterious structures were discovered across Northern Kazakhstan in March 2007 by Kostanai resident Dmitriy Dey, but the lack of information on dating and belonging to an archaeological culture prevented making statements about finding ancient monuments of global importance. Meanwhile, their size, geometric accuracy and historical value fully deserve to be classified as such.

The Turgay geoglyphs triggered great interest among foreign archaeologists, scientists, mass media and even esotery scientists. During the past 10 years, Dey and a team of archaeologists and scientists made 14 expeditions and discovered 344 geoglyphs, or large elements produced on the ground. According to the working hypothesis, the earliest geoglyphs date as far back as 8,000 years.

“During the research, we collected and studied many published materials and scientific papers related to the Turgay trough. Our team analysed processes of geological changes over the past 50,000 years, including natural disasters, which led to various changes in the Turgay trough. However, the answers to the questions of who, when and why built the geoglyphs were not answered until the beginning of 2012. By this time, the team studied the work of Harvard University Professor Anatole Klyosov in the field of DNA genealogy and the discovery of Chankillo, the oldest solar observatory, made by an archaeologist from Catholic University of Peru, Professor Ivan Ghezzi,” Dey said in an interview for this story.20140522193105

The ancient monumental complex in Peru is similar to the Turgay geoglyphs, which led to the idea of applying the method of tracking the yearlong movement of the sunrise at Chankillo to the Turgay sites. StarCalc, the professional astronomy planetarium and star mapping programme, allowed modelling the annual sunrise and sunset point observation cycle and applying it to the Turgay objects’ latitude and longitude coordinates. Calculations showed the Turgay geoglyphs can be used as solar calendars. Dey, however, needed to verify a rule on the Turgay site: objects should be located above the horizon line relative to the calculated observation point to work according to the principle of the solar observatory.

Financial support from Rinat Naimanov, general director of AllianceStroyInvest, provided the funding to equip and complete five reconnaissance expeditions in 2012. In the course of field research, 14 of the 19 objects found at that time were examined. At each facility, Dey gained visual confirmation that the objects are located above the horizon line relative to the calculated observation points and can be used as solar calendars. Artefacts from the Mesolithic and Neolithic epochs (10,000-6,000 BP) were discovered not far from 10 of the 14 investigated structures, particularly artefacts related to the Mahanjar culture. In the following years, five more objects were inspected, which also gave confirmation of the location above the horizon line relative to the calculated observation point.

Having reviewed the results of studies of various scientific disciplines (archaeology, geology, climatology, DNA genealogy, etc.), the team formulated a working hypothesis of the origin and mission of the Turgay geoglyphs.


About 45,000 years ago, homo sapiens tribes (the ancestors of modern humans) with the haplogroup K(xLT) Y-DNA came to the territory of Southern Siberia, which at the time was inhabited by Neanderthals and the newly-discovered Denisov man (both extinct human subspecies). This haplogroup became the ancestor of haplogroups K, M, N, O, Q, R1a and R1b, R2 and S.

Known carriers of haplogroup R1b are the House of Steward (Scottish monarchs), House of SaxeCoburg and Gotha (German dynasty), Windsor royal house of the United Kingdom, Romanov dynasty from Peter III, Kings of Denmark and Norway, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and several other U.S. presidents.

“According to the testing results of royal families’ members of the Western world, the haplogroup R1b appears in the male line. That is, according to the working hypothesis, their ancestors laid the foundations of the civilisation of the modern European world in the Turgay trough from 9,000 to 6,400 years ago,” said Dey.

He announced the Jan. 1 start of an international Turgay Discovery project, encouraging people throughout the world to make their own contributions by visiting the website turgay.kz. The international project aims at raising funds for research, as well as further interaction with foreign scientific institutions to organise expeditions to the Turgay sites.

“In June this year, we are planning to hold expeditions to the geoglyphs of the Turgay trough. Our team will carry out scientific research and make high definition photo and video shootings of the geoglyphs using a drone. All data and research results will be submitted to the project participants. We will shoot missing footage and edit the documentary popular science movie ‘Puzzle Vremeni’ (Time Puzzle). Nina Burleigh, a journalist from the American weekly news magazine ‘Newsweek,’ is ready to visit Kazakhstan this summer to participate in the expedition,” he said.



Ancient Saraishyk settlement to be reconstructed

ASTANA – The Kazakh Ministry of Culture and Sports has allocated 100 million tenge (US$319,400) for the first stage of reconstructing the ancient settlement of Saraishyk, reported Tengrinews on Apr. 3.

“After the construction work, where a dam will be installed in order to preserve the natural site of the settlement of Saraishyk, we will start restoration work. One hundred million tenge (US$319,400) was allocated for the restoration work; this is the first stage. Each year step by step, we will move forward,” said Minister of Culture and Sports Arystanbek Mukhamediuly.

Saraishyk is located on the right bank of the Ural River, 55 kilometres from modern Atyrau. The ancient settlement measures more than 100 hectares, according to archaeologists.

The biggest challenge for the work is the fact that most of the ancient settlement has been destroyed by the river’s floods and a modern Muslim cemetery with new burials was built on the surface.

Due to the change in the river channel, the shore washed up and the remains of the ancient city’s ruins were submerged, according to the ministry. As a result, structures have disappeared forever, taking valuable items with them. Each year, the Ural destroys about five-seven metres of the coast where Saraishyk is located. To solve the issue, 1.6 billion tenge (US$5.1 million) was allocated earlier from the Atyrau region local budget, according to Kazinform.

Mukhamediuly added the dam construction, which will protect the settlement, is almost half completed.

“About half of the works have already been done, despite the winter time. As soon as the construction works that are needed for restoration work are completed, we will start restoration work,” he said, adding that archaeological excavations will be carried out before the restoration to find the most significant parts of the ancient city.

“The excavations will be guided by academician Zeinolla Samashev. There is no need to cover the whole city with restoration work. Archaeologists should establish the main streets of the city, as well as where the central streets and the eastern and northern gates are,” he added.

Saraishyk is officially dated to the 13th-16th centuries. Based on the results of archaeological research, during its existence the city was an important trade and cultural centre on the Silk Road and its roads connected the East and West. This is evidenced by the numerous objects of everyday life discovered during the excavation, such as ceramic items decorated with various texts of Arabic script, as well as fragments of bowls made with Chinese porcelain and a large number of objects created from bone, iron and bronze. The rich numismatic material testifies to the development of active trade in the city.