Are you ready to begin our journey through Asia? In the previous blog post, we talked about some of the tips for a successful backpacking trip through the Asian continent. Now it is time to start laying out our route, beginning in Western Europe. Starting in Western Europe gives us easy access to the Asian continent by way of European rail.
Before departing, there is one last word of caution: make sure your passport and any other paperwork you have with you is in order. Parts of Asia can be dicey if border officials suspect there is something wrong. Having said that, let us begin.
Western Russia makes a great starting point because it gives you so many options. You can continue straight across to the eastern region before heading south toward China; you could turn south out as soon as you enter Russia to make your way through portions of the Middle East; you could go into Russia's interior before heading south toward Kazakhstan. We recommend the third route.
There are some great things to see in countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. However, with the political turmoil in that region of the world, it is probably best to avoid those countries for now. A good first destination is the city of Smolensk, near the border of Belarus. Smolensk is known for its architecture, beautiful parks, and vibrant youth movement. Young people are revitalising this town, which many thought was destined for failure after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Next in line is the capital city of Moscow. You will be very impressed by the architecture, history, and economic prosperity of this city. One of the nicest things about Moscow is that its size makes it easy to find affordable accommodations. Plan to spend at least several days in Moscow, if not a full week.
From Moscow, it is best to head south into Kazakhstan. If you head toward the Caspian Sea, you will eventually arrive at the city of Atyrau. This beautiful trade city has an impressive mosque that draws visitors from all over the world. There is also a natural history museum with a lot of fascinating information about the pre-Russian history of the region.
Almaty is a good target to set your sights on once you leave Atyrau. Public transportation in Kazakhstan is not the greatest, but Almaty is a large enough city that you should have no trouble finding options for getting there. While in Almaty, be sure to see the beautiful Kolsai Lakes, the Almaty Central Park, and the First President Park. If you happen to be there in the summer, spend a day at the Aqua Park water attraction. It is a small water park featuring several different slides and unique water features.
This concludes our travels for today. When we pick it up in the next blog post, we will continue heading south toward India. We will look at Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan along the way. It should be fun!