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About Kazakhstan / Geography

 Seas and lakes

The Republic of Kazakhstan is located in the central part of Eurasia, almost at the same distance from the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

Kazakhstan is located at the junction of two continents, Europe and Asia, between между 45 and 87 degrees of the eastern longitude, 40 and 55 degrees of the northern latitude in Central Asia. Kazakhstan occupies the territory equal to 2724.9 thousand km2 and spreads to the east from the Caspian Sea and Volga valleys to mountainous Altai, from the foothills of the Tien Shan in the south and south-east to the Western Siberian lowland in the north. The length of its territory from the west to the east exceeds 3,000 km, and from the south to the north it exceeds 1,700 km. Kazakhstan has borders in the north with Russia, 6,467 km, in the east with China, 1,460 km, in the south with Kyrgyzstan, 980 km, with Uzbekistan, 2,300 km and with Turkmenistan, 380 km, in the west Kazakhstan is washed by the Caspian Sea. Total length of the borders is 12,187 km including 600 km of borders along the Caspian Sea. By the territory, Kazakhstan is in the 9th position in the world and in the 4th position in the continent.

Occupying the middle geographical position between Europe and Asia, almost at the same distance from the oceans, already in the Middle historic times the territory of Kazakhstan was an arena for brisk commercial and political relations, and now it plays an important role of the connecting link between Europe, Central Asia and rapidly developing Asian-Pacific region.

The largest part of the territory of Kazakhstan is occupied by the valley framed with mountains in the east and south-east. Mountains along the border with Kyrgyzstan rise almost up to 5,000 m above sea level, and Karagiye (Batyr) depression in Mangyshlak is located at 132 m below sea level. In the west there is Caspian lowland. In the south-west there is Mangyshlak peninsula. In the central part there is Kazakh Low Hill Land, in the north there is the southern part of the Western Siberian lowland, in the east and south-east there are mountains of Altai, Tarbagatai, Zhungar Alatau and Tien Shan.

In Kazakhstan there are 8.5 thousand large and small rivers. The length of seven rivers exceeds 1,000 km. The largest are the Ural and Emba that flow into the Caspian Sea; Syrdariya that brings its waters into the Aral Sea; Ili that flows into the lake of Balkhash; Irtysh, Ishim and Tobol cross the country and flow into the Arctic Ocean. In Kazakhstan there are 48,000 large and small lakes. The largest amongst them are Aral Sea, Balkhash, Zaisan, Alakol, Tengiz, Seletengiz. The largest part of the northern shore and half of the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea (the largest lake in the world) belong to Kazakhstan. The length of the shore of the Caspian Sea in Kazakhstan is 2,340 km. 26% of the territory in Kazakhstan is occupied by steppes. 167 million ha constitute deserts (44%) and semi-deserts (14%), forests occupy 21 million ha. There are several large mountain ranges on the territory of Kazakhstan. The highest peak is Khan-Tengri peak (Saryzhaz ridge) – 6,995 meters above sea level.

The Republic of Kazakhstan possesses the unique and rich biological landscape diversity. Its natural zones are represented with the landscapes from northern deserts to alpine meadows and eternal snows.

Kazakhstan’s fauna is also diverse. On its territory there are 853 species of vertebrate animals (178 species of mammals, 512 species of birds, 49 species of crawlers, 12 species of amphibious animals, 102 species of fish and cyclostomes). Fauna of invertebrate animals is diverse, there are at least 50 thousand species including 30 thousand insects. In the steppes there are flocks of koulans and goitered gazelles (Atlantic antelope). Deserts are inhabited by gigantic lizards, snakes and spiders. Tops of the mountains are inhabited by snow leopards. In the precipices of mountains one can hear the voice of whistling thrush – Indian thrush. There are birds, marmots, Ustyurt wild sheep, Turkestan lynx, Tien Shan brown bear, flamingo and swans in Kazakhstan. All of them are unique and disappearing animals.

Vegetation is rich with various species. 5,754 species of higher plants grow on the territory of the Republic. High level of endemism (up to 14%) is specific for Kazakh flora. The most peculiar is the flora in the Western Tien Shan and in the mountains of Karatau.

The Red Book of the Republic includes 125 species and subspecies of vertebrate animals, 96 species of invertebrate animals and 303 species of plants.

Protection of the biological and landscape diversity is carried out by 115 specially protected natural territories of national significance and 60 local natural territories.

Currently there are 10 reserves, 8 national parks, 2 natural reservations and 3 natural parks operating in Kazakhstan.

Typical plants of Kazakhstan

Blue Spruce: blue royal Tien Shan spruces are natural artistic decoration of mountain ridges of Ile Alatau. Like candles they rise reaching the heights of 40-50 meters. Covered with fog, these giants rise above the deep precipices of the mountains. Their tolerant needles can survive cold alpine winters and proudly live in bare rocks.
Saxaul (Latin: Passer ammondendri): You can meet a unique plant in the steppes of Kazakhstan - saxaul, a bush with soft leaves. During unusually dry periods, saxaul loses all its leaves that fall onto the sand like long curls. But as long as the rain comes, the plant starts growing actively again. If there are several rainy periods during the summertime, it can help forming a small forest. The bush mainly grows in the desert and semi-desert areas.

Typical animals of Kazakhstan

Snow leopard (Pantera unique): In Kazakhstan people would always respect leopard as the strongest and the proudest animal. Beautiful wild cat is the ideal rock-climber and its favourite habitat is located on the mountain tops where glaciers are contiguous with the alpine belt. Although very seldom it can be found in many most distant areas of Tien Shan. Without natural enemies snow leopards usually live till very old age.
Saker falcon: In ancient times, Kazakhs used saker falcons for fowl-hunting. Golden eagles are professional hunters. Kazakhs took chickens of falcons from the nests and trained them for hunting. This tradition still exists at present. One of the best places where you can see falcons in the wilderness is located in Altai, in north-eastern Kazakhstan, in Ile Alatau.
Koulan (Latin: Eglius hemionus): Strong, with light gait, these Asian animals would always amaze people with their elegance and beauty. Not a long time ago innumerable flocks of koulans roamed in the steppes of Kazakhstan. But unlimited hunt for these animals led to their disappearance. Animals were again brought to the right riverbank of Ili River from the Aral Sea.

Besides exclusive and various natural sights, Kazakhstan possesses great reserves of mineral resources. In the subsoil of the country there were found 99 elements from the periodic table. About 6,000 deposits of natural resources are known in Kazakhstan. Thus, with regard to oil reserves, Kazakhstan is amongst the first ten countries of the world. Uranium deposits opened in Kazakhstan are approximately the third in the world. With regard to gold Kazakhstan occupies the sixth place in the world.

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