This blog will be slightly out of order, as our visit to the Caspian Sea was part of the Aktau city tour but, as it was my favourite bit, it can have its own section!
It was fantastic to finally dip my toes in the sea. And given the amount of walking we had done during the week, the fact the sea was rather cool was the perfect way to make them feel better.
We didn’t spend long here, unfortunately, so I cannot really expand on the experience particularly, but I will say that sitting with my feet dangling in the sea was probably the most relaxing experience of the entire week up to this point. With the blue skies and clear water, it would have been the perfect opportunity to get the deck chairs out, and let the sound of the waves lull me to sleep.
The beautiful Caspian Sea
A seagull fishing in the Caspian Sea
As for the rest of Aktau, it is ok.
The sea front is very nice, and has clearly had recent investment; with the promenade a very pleasant location for a walk, and an ideal spot for al fresco dining.
The town as a whole is quite the mish-mash of conflicting styles, with the old Soviet buildings looking decidedly shabby compared to their modern siblings. Aktau’s age (60 years young) plays a part in this, as there is no ‘historic centre’ as you get with many cities, making their oldest buildings the stereotypical Soviet tower blocks that were designed with practicality in mind, not aesthetics.
There was one particularly interesting feature, though, and that was the lighthouse. Due to its location getting a photo was troublesome, but rather than allowing it its own building, it had been sat atop a block of flats; which seemed a rather unique way of going about it.
A statue to the exiled poet Taras Schevchenko
Our only other major stop, beside the Caspian Sea, on our tour of Aktau was at the Historical Museum. Guiding visitors through the geological, biological, social and cultural history of the area, the museum does a great job of packing a lot of information into a pretty small space.
In particular, the museum has managed to squeeze more dioramas into its limited space than any other museum I can think of. They may not have been of the highest quality, but they certainly brought a smile to my face. This certainly made it stand out among the many museums that I visited over those eight days.
One of the many dioramas in Aktau Historical Museum
Alongside the many dioramas were models and recreations of the wildlife that either lives, or has lived, in this area. Some of them were clearly fake, others looked like they may have seen the inside of a taxidermist. With some, it was difficult to tell one way of the other. Particularly when they were as terrifying as this …
Its eyes follow you …
If you are in Aktau, I would certainly suggest visiting the museum. And not just because there are few others places within the city to visit.
Before I move on, I thought I would throw this in there. There was a lot of fuss made about the facilities provided in Sochi at last year’s Winter Olympics. Particularly over the provision of two toilets in one cubicle. Well, Sochi is not alone.
Oh yeah, they share one toilet roll …
So, that was that for the Aktau and the wider Mangystau region. Next up was a four hour flight back to Almaty, ready for dinner and sleep before our last day in Kazakhstan. My favourite day in Kazakhstan. Our week up to now had just flown by, making it all the more frustrating that I missed the first day!
So come back soon to read about Charyn Canyon, located between Almaty and the Chinese border. It will be worth it just for the photos. The place was incredible.