Somehow, even with the crowds of bikepackers and cycle tourists pedalling through Tajikistan and across Kyrgyzstan, amazingly few people seem to make it over the border into neighbouring Kazakhstan.
More’s the pity: Almaty Oblast, centred on the city of Almaty, also has incredible riches to be explored, rivalling anything in Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan but with zero tourist factor.
This route, The Kazakh Corner, is a bite-sized four day ride with an incredible amount of diversity. Starting or ending in Almaty, it’s perfect both for those wishing to extend a foray through northern Kyrgyzstan, or for those overlanding to or from China (though Xinjiang Province, with its paranoid and oppressive police-state atmosphere, is not a fun place to be these days).
It takes in Central Asia’s most cosmopolitan city, as well as high yurt-dotted grasslands and snowcapped mountains, dramatic river gorges, an abandoned Soviet astronomical observatory, a remote lake and even its own incredible miniature Grand Canyon, with heaps of fun gnarly descents thrown in for good measure.
Independently researched and documented in 2017 during a four-month bikepacking journey through Tibet, China and Central Asia, this short-but-oh-so-sweet section route is my single favourite ride from that time. Take a look at the embedded map below if you’re interested in the Kazakh Corner section alone, or at the second map if you’re curious about joining the Kazakh Corner up with bikepacking.com’s Tian Shan Traverse route in northern Kyrgyzstan (via the Karkara Valley and Tegen — Kup/Tensu border, open roughly May-Oct each year).
With southeastern Kazakhstan’s amazing landscapes, easy travel, low costs and ridiculously friendly people, it’s a place ripe for adventurous exploration, and a welcome change of pace from the bikepacker tourist trail just next door.