THE CITY OF Astana was only designated as Kazakhstan’s capital in 1997 but is nevertheless the country’s second largest city. Its main industries are oil, gas and energy and its designation as capital has given it a powerful economic boost.
Many big-name groups have properties in Astana. The Hilton Garden Inn Astana (hiltongardeninn3.hilton.com) is centrally located in the newest part of the city, close to business and government offices. Located between the old and new city along the River Isham is the Radisson Hotel Astana (radissonblu.com). As a part of the retail and services centre, the Arman complex, it offers convenient access to restaurants, boutiques, a spa and business centre.
For the best traditional cuisine in town, the restaurant Satti (arka.kz) offers authentic Kazakh cuisine mixed with European dishes and Italian specialities. It also features a traditional cultural show. Farhi (arka.kz) is a traditional restaurant with an interior resembling a yurt. Line Brew (line-brew.kz) is a popular western-style restaurant housed in a castle-style building and reputed to serve the best steak in town as well as being well known for it’s good beer.
Venturing away from the hotel bars, The Barley (barley.kz) has a trendy atmosphere, live music and dancing. It also serves good food. Brewery (brewery.kz) is a popular beer destination and has a Bavarian feel to it. For a mash of UK and USA culture try the lively pub/club The Rocks (therocks.kz).
Getting thereAir Astana operates three flights a week from London Heathrow to Astana. One-stop options include Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, UIA via Kiev, Aeroflot via Moscow and Lufthansa via Frankfurt.
The trip downtown from the airport takes around 30 minutes. Buses run every 15 minutes from the bus station to the airport though the preferred option is a taxi, costing around 2500 KZT (about £5). Hotels can arrange private transfers ahead of arrival.
Astana is GMT +5hrs. The currency is the Kazakhstani Tenge (£1 = 437.12 KZT). visitkazakhstan.kz
Astana's city skyline is comprised of striking modern architecture and one of the best ways to view it all is from the top of the Bayterek Tower. The extraordinary Khan Shatyr entertainment centre is also a mustsee. This 150m-high structure is made of a heat-absorbing material, producing summer temperatures even when it’s below zero outside. The glass and steel Palace of Peace and Accord opened in 2006 and the Hazrat Sultan Mosque is also worth checking out.
A return flight from Heathrow to Astana covers 10,465km and produces 0.91 tonnes of C02. You can offset this with The Carbon Neutral Company for £9.10.