British Magazine Ranks Kazakhstan’s Katon-Karagay Top Travel Destination  

Photo: Wanderlust

The Katon-Karagay district in Eastern Kazakhstan has been included in Asia & the Middle East’s top sustainable travel destinations for 2024 by the British magazine Wanderlust.

The district is home to Katon-Karagay National Park. Spanning over 643,000 hectares, the park was designated a Kazakh-Russian transboundary biosphere reserve in 2017 by the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

In promoting the reserve, Wanderlust stated: “Five years ago, residents of the Katon-Karagay district – a sweep of lonely steppe, mountains and forests in far eastern Kazakhstan – faced a dilemma. Though home to the country’s largest national park and around 275 bird species, its 48 villages attracted few visitors, and there was little work available. As a result, its population had almost halved since the turn of the century, many residents having moved to cities in search of employment.

So in 2019 the Sustainable Rural Development Fund was launched, with the aim of improving the quality of life in three remote districts, including Katon-Karagay. Key to this effort was the creation of sustainable community tourism opportunities, including training guesthouse owners and opening a hospitality school. Money has also been allocated to trail maintenance, signs and a tourist information centre, making it easier for travellers to explore a region whose communities and culture are finally being appreciated.”