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Borovoye National Park (Kazakhstan)

Borovoye Lake, near Astana

This landscape of lakes, hills, weathered granite outcrops, and pine and birch forests offers some of the most picturesque scenery in northern Kazakhstan, and attracts gushing tourist agency labels such as 'Kazakhstan's Switzerland' and 'the pearl of Kazakhstan'.

Borovoye, now renamed Burabay, lies over 200 kilometres to the northeast of Astana and almost 100 kilometres to the south of Kokshetau-which by Kazakh standards makes it very accessible. It's a name that is treasured by all Kazakhs, referring not only to the famous lake that lies in the middle of the mountains, but to the whole Burabay-Kokshetau National Park. Only 630 square kilometres in size, it is one of the country's smaller nature reserves.

Named, since 2000, the Burabay National Nature Park (, in Russian), the western boundary of this landscape is formed by the boomerang-shaped Kokshetau Mountains, which run roughly north to south. The 'Blue Mountains' do indeed take on that hue when viewed from afar across the surrounding steppe. Around the foothills of the Kokshetau Mountains lie several lakes, and most of the area's tourist infrastructure lies along the shores of two: Lake Schuche and Lake Borovoye. The Kokshetau Mountains are covered with forests, and the carpet of forest continues across the lower hills lying to their east.