Kazakhstan

Astana in winter – a real winter wonderland

(Last Updated On: 13/05/2020)

Astana (now Nur-Sultan), the capital of Kazakhstan is the second coldest capital in the world, after Ulaanbataar (Mongolia). And by cold I mean really cold – the temperatures here can be as low as -40C.

But since I believe there is no such thing as the cold weather, only the wrong clothes, I visited Astana in winter for the second time and it was beautiful.

If you are looking for a perfect and magical winter wonderland Astana might be your answer. Make sure to include it in your next trip to Kazakhstan.

astana in winter

Weather in Astana in winter

Astana in winter is really cold but with a few layers of clothes and some good luck, you will be just fine.

The key to success is good preparation. Check the forecast before you go and then add one more layer to what you would wear in that weather as often the felt temperature is even lower. When I visited Astana in November 2015 the temperature was -7C but it felt like -18C… If it’s not too windy you will be just fine!

The average weather in winter months in Astana is around -10C in the day and -18C in the night, with December, January, and February being the coldest months. That’s also when you can expect most of the snowy days. If you decide to visit Astana in these months you can be pretty sure to find a winter wonderland there!

Very rarely you can encounter a thick fog in Astana – the city is located in the steppe and can be very drafty. But every now and then you might be (un)lucky to see fog in Astana and it changes the city completely, into the mysterious metropolis.

astana in winter

Why you should visit Astana in winter

If you would like to experience a real winter but also enjoy a city life then Astana is a perfect destination for you.

All the trees are covered in frost and snow, river Ishim is frozen and everything looks straight from the fairytale! When you walk around you can hear the snow creaking under your shoes and the frost nibbling your cheeks. It’s a bit surreal and so beautiful!

To be honest, I don’t remember when I saw such a beautiful winter wonderland in the city for the last time, it must have been in my childhood (and in Almaty, Kazakhstan a few years ago).

astana in winter

Things to do in Astana in winter

Astana is such a weird city! It was built almost from the scratch some 20 years ago when the capital was moved here from Almaty in 1997.

That’s when the rapid development of Astana took place. As a result, we can now admire there some really spectacular modern buildings that look even more beautiful in the winter.

Some of the best architects in the world were invited to create a modern look of Astana. Seeing their works is like walking through the 21st-century architecture textbook and that’s actually one of the best things to do in Astana, regardless of the season.

astana in winter

Don’t miss Baiterek Tower – the symbol of modern Kazakhstan. You can go up to the observation deck at 97 meters (the reference to 1997 when the Astana became the capital city) to see the panorama of the city but also to watch local people paying respect to the first president of Kazakhstan – Nursultan Nazarbayev.

You will find here his right hand imprinted – you are more than welcome to join the locals to put your hand in the imprint and make a wish, or you can watch people approaching the pedestal with pride and dignity.

astana in winter

Other gems of modern architecture in Astana include Palace of Peace and Reconciliation (in the shape of a pyramid), Ak Orda (the Presidential Palace), The Nazarbayev Center, Kazakhstan’s Central Concert Hall (looking a bit like a rose, or a cabbage), KazMunayGas Headquarters, Astana Palace of the Arts, Saryarka Velodrome in the shape of racer’s helmet or Ministry of Finance in the shape of waving Kazakh flag (or the US dollar).

astana in winter

Once you are done with the architecture you should go for a walk along or even on the Ishim river. Since it’s fairly shallow it freezes completely, usually between November and March. If you ever wanted to try walking on the frozen river you can do it in Astana! You might also try ice skating on the river, there are also slides made of ice for kids. It seems like people in Astana know how to enjoy winter and all the outdoor activities.

astana in winter

If it’s too cold you will find plenty of things to do inside too. Head to Khan Shatyr shopping mall – not only it has the unbelievable architecture in the shape of the drunken tent, but it also offers lots of activities beyond shopping. You can play mini-golf here, enjoy the beach with the sand imported from the Maldives or walk the cobbled streets. Khan Shatyr can suck you in for the whole day!

astana in winter

astana in winter

Astana is also home to an amazing museum where you can spend a few solid hours and learn so much. In 2017 the city was the host of the Expo exhibition. It was yet another reason to build some spectacular modern architecture, with the Kazakhstan pavilion shining above all. Nur-Alem pavilion (as it is locally known) is a huge, 8 – floors, 80-meter-diameter structure in the shape of a ball.

Today you can find there the Museum of Future Energy, a truly fascinating place. Each of the floors is dedicated to different kinds of energy: space, sun, wind, biomass, kinetic or water. Everything is super interactive and fun to visit!

astana in winter

astana in winter

If you are looking for a more spiritual experience there are two major mosques you can visit: Nur-Astana and Hazrat Sultan Mosque. The second one is a real masterpiece, a gift to Astana from Qatar. It used to be the largest mosque in Central Asia (now this title belongs to the mosque in Turkmenistan) and can fit up to 10.000 people.

Even if you are not a Muslim you can visit the mosque inside and I definitely recommend doing so as it is so beautiful and so huge!

astana in winter

Winter in Astana in pictures

To prove to you that Astana in winter is actually a good place to visit here is a bunch of pictures I took during my last trip to Astana.

I used the new mirrorless camera from Nikon, Z50, and I can definitely recommend it for all travelers. It’s small (can fit into the pocket of your jacket), fast and had no problems working in the cold weather.

It’s also very easy to use so even if you are just a beginner at photography you can take amazing pictures with it. You can download the photos directly from the camera to your phone and easily share them with everyone.

The trip to Kazakhstan was my first encounter with this camera and I figured it out right away! Just take a look.

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Astana in winter

Is it worth to visit Astana in winter?

You might remember that I didn’t really fall for Astana during my first trip there. It was cold, grey and I found the city to be a bit soulless.

I didn’t think of returning to Astana but I still ended up there, even longer than I planned due to the canceled flight. And this time I actually enjoyed the city much more.

I think the snow and fog did a trick, Astana looked so much better – mysterious, intriguing and surreal. Now I can definitely recommend visiting Astana but only in the wintertime as I can’t vouch for the city outside of the cold months.

In the times of global warming, Astana is one of the last bastions of a beautiful winter wonderland.

Astana in winter


Travel resources

With over 15 years of independent traveling, I’ve learned which websites and services are the best when planning a trip. I always use and trust the following websites:

Money – My number one tip for everyone is to start using Revolut bank card to save money when traveling.

You get the card by mail within a few days and you can use it all over the world. You top up the card in the app on the phone, where you can also have accounts in different currencies and exchange money between them, for no extra fee and at very favorable rates.

Everything is super easy and fast, you only need an internet connection to manage your accounts in the app.

Revolut supports over 140 currencies and offers free withdrawal from ATMs all over the world. In the first 6 months I’ve used Revolut card in 12 countries, including Kazakhstan, in 3 continents and had no issues at all. And I saved a lot of money in the exchange rates!

Click here to learn more about the service and order your own Revolut card!

Accommodation – I always book my accommodation through Booking.com.

They have really good deals (especially with their “Genius” program that you become a member of after few reservations) and in most of the cases, if your plans change, you can cancel the reservation without any extra costs.

I also value them for a really good customer service that I had to use a few times.

Check the best deals on accommodation in Astana here!

Insurance – I never travel without the insurance as you never know what might happen on the road and better safe than sorry (I’ve learnt my lesson).

I can recommend World Nomads that offer the insurance dedicated to travelers just like you and me.

Click here to get the insurance policy for Kazakhstan here.

Day tours – I do go for a day trips when I travel as often they are the most convenient way to see the place that saves you time and money.

I most often use Get Your Guide that offers a variety of tours all over the world. Click here to check all the best tours you can take during your travels!

Offline maps – For years I’ve been using MAPS.ME app and I can’t recommend it enough!

It’s free, works offline perfectly fine and saved me many times. You can easily transfer Google Maps with all the bookmarks to maps.me and use them offline wherever you are.

Click here to download it to your phone before your next trip!


For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:

  • If you don’t want to miss new posts and news from me click here to sign to my newsletter! You can also follow me on Bloglovin!
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  • I’ve included a few handy links of services and products I personally like and use so you can plan your own trip to Kazakhstan too. They are often affiliate links. This means I will get a small commission if you book/purchase anything through my links, at no extra costs for you. If you like what you are reading and seeing here and would like to support me and my blog please consider using those links. It would be like getting me a virtual drink that you don’t have to pay for! Thanks!

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winter in Astana       winter in Astana


Disclaimer: my trip to Kazakhstan was in partnership with Nikon to test their new camera Nikon Z50. As always all opinions and experiences described above remain my own.


love, kami 2

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Anna
    17/12/2019 at 11:52

    Absolutely magical city! Too cold for an Australian to visit in winter I think but it would be an experience to see all that snow that’s for sure! Your photos are great!

    • Reply
      kami
      13/01/2020 at 12:09

      Thank you! I can imagine it’s a bit too cold for Australians but still, that would be one of a kind experience and Astana (and Kazakhstan) is worth it!

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