Shymkent in Kazakhstan was one of my favorite places, just because it’s such a homey city where I could relax and unwind after a few days of intensive traveling. But there’s not that much to see and do there to be honest, and I felt a bit bored after 2 days there. So I decided to go to Turkestan, one of the places I really wanted to visit in Kazakhstan. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that I could do a one-day trip from Shymkent to Turkestan quite easily. If you’re thinking of doing the same thing, here’s a little guide to make it easier for you.
Go to Samal Bus Station
Wherever you are in Shymkent, you need to go to Samal bus station first and from there get a mashrutka to Turkestan. Make sure to go inside the bus station, don’t go with the private cars. They’ll ask for at least double the price. The mashrutka fills up faster too. You shouldn’t pay more than 800 to 1,000 tenge for it (approx. 2,5$). Just ask for Turkestan and they’ll direct you to a taxi. I think the earliest goes around 7 am, but not completely sure. I went at 9 am.
The taxi ride takes about 2 hours, maybe a bit more depending on traffic and how many times the driver decides to stop (mine stopped at least 4 times randomly).
What to do in Turkestan
The main thing to see in Turkestan is the mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi. The bus station is about 2 km away from the mausoleum. I walked because I wanted to see a bit more of Turkestan, but there wasn’t anything special to be honest. But the mausoleum is beautiful and since I’ve never seen anything like it, I was deeply impressed. But I’ve heard from people who went to Uzbekistan and Iran first that they thought it wasn’t worth it, so it all depends on you. Entrance to the mausoleum cost 500 tenge by the way, if you’re a foreigner (yawn).
I stayed at the mausoleum for about 2 hours before heading back to the bus station by walking and took a mashrutka back. I didn’t eat in Turkestan because I couldn’t find one single restaurant who could serve me vegetarian food and I prefer Shymkent city, so I just went back straight away. I came home at about 17:00.
That’s it! It’s super easy to get there. Just download maps.me and pin the mausoleum. Otherwise, just ask locals. They’ll know for sure where it is. But the way from the bus station in Turkestan to the mausoleum is quite straight forward.
I didn’t stay in Turkestan and wouldn’t recommend it either since it’s quite a small city with not much to do. I’d recommend staying in Shymkent and do a day trip since it’s a much nicer city and it’s so easy to get to Turkestan. It only cost me 2,000 tenge going and returning, so it was worth it.