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Homeland of Tulips

Discovery of Kazakhstan: New Horizons

Visit the Homeland of Tulips

Located in the center of Eurasia, Kazakhstan, one of the countries with rich historical heritage and breathtaking nature, opens up amazing travel opportunities for tourists. Located in a unique region, the panoramic Zailiyskiy Alatau, snow-capped Mount Belukha, the singing barkhan and the castles of the Charyn Canyon attract travelers.

The Katon-Karagai National Nature Park and the mysterious Shaitankol Lake are famous for their rich and diverse nature. In the north of Akmola region there is the national natural park Burabai, which occupies 25 hectares. The picturesque lake in this park has become the center of the resort, which is called Kazakhstan’s Switzerland. Sanatoriums and resorts are enveloped in the resinous aroma of coastal forests and are famous for therapeutic muds. The largest national natural park is Katon-Karagai in the East Kazakhstan region, spread over 6 thousand kilometers. Historical burial mounds and petroglyphs can be found on its territory. 

Many people know that brand ambassadors of Kazakhstan are juicy aportes, steppe horses, national dishes and the ‘Kazakhstan’ chocolate bar recognizable by all. But not everyone knows that the territory of Kazakhstan has long been the birthplace of tulips. And though Holland is considered to be the birthplace of these spring tulips, it was on the lands of Kazakhstan more than 10 million years ago that the sprouts of wild tulips broke through. To be more precise, in the Berikkara Gorge in Zhambyl region. This has been recognized by the world community.

About 500 years ago, the first tulip bulbs from Central Asia were brought to Turkey and then to Holland, where selection began. From there they spread all over the world. Most likely, this is why the birthplace of tulips is considered to be Holland. There are wild tulips in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, the Mediterranean, the Caucasus, but the most wild species in the Republic of Kazakhstan are the most unique.

By the way, the etymology of the word tulip refers us to the famous oriental headdress –  turban. This is due to the fact that the flower petals create an interesting shape, which is similar to a turban.  

Now, with the start of the spring season, these flowers are already starting to break through the sprouts in the warm southern lands. In total, there are almost 40 species of tulips in the country, 18 of which are listed in the Red Book.

The most popular and commonly seen are Greig’s and Kaufmann’s tulips, from which eight lines of cultivated tulips have descended.

This flower can often be found on the ornaments of many Turkic peoples. There are known evidences of tulip worship in Kazakhstan: carved ornaments and colorful drawings on facing tiles and bricks of the mausoleums of Aisha-Bibi (XII century) and Khoja Ahmed Yassaui (erected in 1405). Elongated red tulips with pointed petals were depicted on saddles, fur belts, rings, bracelets, staples of camisoles, wooden furniture, and carpets of steppe peoples.

Common flower for Kazakhstan and the Netherlands

Only sophisticated travelers and botanists know: the richest in species diversity of tulips are the mountains of Southern Kazakhstan: the ranges of the Western Tien Shan and Syr Darya Karatau. Therefore, lovers of rare flowers discover Kazakhstan as an important tourist point on the map. Hence the opinion that the country can find its niche precisely in the field of so-called ‘popular science tourism’.

The steppe strewn with yellow, white, red, orange, purple, pink tulips is a stunning sight. Botanists and photographers from all over the world come to Kazakhstan to see this beauty. Experts say: in our country from the desert to the mountains you can live five springs. And in spring you can see tulips blooming in different climatic zones.

It is worth noting that interest in Kazakhstan tulips is growing day by day. It is especially popular among tourists from Western Europe and Japan. Interest, of course, is also shown by residents of the Netherlands. After all, tulips are a link in the culture of our countries. Emphasizing this, the Netherlands even presented Astana with a tulip sculpture in honor of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

Tulips are grown and cultivated more and more, but not all tourists from Holland manage to see this beauty with their own eyes. However, the tulip blooming season in Kazakhstan is no worse than the Dutch seasons, if not more beautiful.

Perhaps, if direct flights from the Netherlands to Kazakhstan were resumed, the tulip fields of Kazakhstan could welcome hundreds of thousands more tourists every year.

One of such airlines in the future could be KLM, the Dutch airlines. KLM first started flying to Kazakhstan in 1995. In 2016, the carrier moved two of its four weekly flights to Kazakhstan from Almaty to Astana. However, in 2017, the airline ‘left the skies’ of Kazakhstan for economic reasons.

The resumption of flights will be a good reason for the development of eco-tourism in both countries. Nevertheless, Dutch tourists still show active interest and find ways to get to the beauties of Kazakhstan.

Where to see tulips in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan tulips are protected in many reserves and national parks of Kazakhstan: Korgalzhynsky, Aksu-Zhabaglinsky, Berkara, Krasnaya Gorka and others. By the way, the national parks and reserves officially celebrate Tulip Day in May.

At the same time, national tulip festivals are held in the country. Almaty is unofficially considered the ‘city of tulips’, where hundreds of thousands of tulips are planted every year. And it is in Almaty that you can fully enjoy the beauty of these beautiful flowers, namely in the Main Botanical Garden of the southern capital. A special section ‘Alpinarium’ was created there, which has been functioning since 1979. The exposition presents 13 of the rarest species of tulips. And the annual city holiday ‘Kөktem kөrki – kyzgaldak’, the main task of which is the preservation of a unique flower, continues to educate a careful attitude to nature.    


Nature-loving tourists can certainly be attracted by the fact that only in Kazakhstan grow many endemic species of tulips – Greig and Kaufman, Regel and Shrenk, Borschov, Ostrovskaya and many others. And also, in Kazakhstan you can admire huge fields of blooming tulips.

Travel agencies in Kazakhstan are already practicing itineraries to visit places where tulips grow during their blooming period. But such organized routes are still few. Mostly, individual amateurs travel around the country in search of tulip beauty. But many domestic and foreign tourists would be happy to make a series of selfies against the background of endless flowering steppes and mountain gorges, to breathe clean fragrant air.

Protected places of tulips blooming are also in the vast desert Betpak-dala, spread between three regions – Karaganda, Zhambyl and Turkestan, between Lake Balkhash and the rivers Sarysu and Chu.

And even in the northern regions of our country you can admire the blooming of tulips, despite the late spring and cold – these are the steppe expanses from the Caspian Sea to the Eastern Shallow Soil, from the northern borders of Kazakhstan to Lake Balkhash.

Let’s take a closer look at the most popular and familiar tulip species.

The Greig’s tulip has probably the largest flowers of all and is the most valuable in breeding. Its petals are up to 15 centimeters long. When unfolded, the flower looks like a bowl. In warmer parts of the country it begins to bloom in late March. In the modern classification from the Greig’s tulip there are more than 200 varieties. A wide range of varieties, from scarlet to black, belong to the Greig lineage that exists today.

Another low-growing species, the Kaufmann tulip, stands out in bright colors. Most varieties have petals colored in two or three or more shades. They are characterized by early flowering and an abundance of forms. Through the efforts of breeders, about 200 new varieties of Kaufman’s tulip have been developed, but in the wild it can be found only in the mountains of the Western Tien Shan and Karatau.

The Shrenka tulip, which grows in Kazakhstan, originated in Ottoman gardens and was widely cultivated during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to 1566. It also made history as the first tulip species to reach Europe.

Regel’s tulip

The most unusual of the wild tulips found only in Kazakhstan is the Regel’s tulip (túlipa regelii), the oldest representative of the flora of the Chu-Ili Mountains. It’s pure-white flowers, uniquely shaped leaves and subtle spring fragrance defy the gray and brown colors of fields and mountains in late March or early April.

Buhseana tulip

Tulip Buhseana (T. buhseana). Widespread in the southern regions of the country – from the Aral Sea region to the Balkhash-Alakol Basin (southern part of Aktobe, Kyzylorda, Turkestan, Zhambyl and Almaty regions). It blooms in late March-April and bears fruit in late May-June.

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