Horses have long played a central role in Kazakh culture. They were the main mode of transport for nomads crossing the land and are still relied on as a source of milk and meat. Today, horses help bring in tourism dollars too.
Here are two ways you can saddle up like a nomad in modern Kazakhstan.
Book a tour package
This is a preferred option for many travellers as everything is taken care of, from the itinerary and guides to the equipment, food and, of course, the horses. Never ridden a horse before? Fret not. There are packages for beginners that come with ever patient and helpful guides.
Ecotour Kazakhstan is one company that provides horseback riding tours. You can opt for a comprehensive 4-day tour that starts from the Charyn Canyon National Park, visiting famous landmarks such as the Ketmen ridge and the Dardamty Petroglyphs. The itinerary promises picturesque stops and animal sightings, and you have a chance to see golden eagles up close too.
There are also tour companies offering day-long horse riding trips. Tian Shan Expeditions offer a ten-hour day trip that takes travellers through Lakes Kolsai on a horse. Tour members break for a picnic by the stunning lake midway, with snacks and coffee prepared by the tour company.
Expect to pay about S$350 for day trips, and up to S$1,700 for longer tours.
Rent a horse
If you’re an experienced rider who has no qualms about exploring on your own,just arrange for a rental horse just as you would a car.
In the gorgeous Kolsai Lakes region, you can rent a horse at the ticket office. From there, you can ride around the pristine waters or venture into the forested areas. The terrain is sometimes muddy, making walking difficult, but would be a breeze to navigate on horseback. The sense of freedom and access promises to be exhilarating.
You can also rent a horse at the Aksu Zhabagly Nature Reserve, where you can gallop across the vast, open land.
For the less skilled or adventurous, the Almaty Horse & Polo Club lets you ride a horse in a more controlled environment against the dramatic backdrop of the Ile-Alatau National Park. This is recommended for beginners, as trainers are on hand to guide you.
Advance booking for horse rentals is recommended. Prices typically start from about US$60 a day.