Trans Eurasia travel

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Kazakhstan is farther from any of the world's oceans than any other country on the planet. As a result its climate has a pronounced Continental character: extreme fluctuations in seasonal temperatures and poor precipitation. Like the rest of Central Asia, Kazakhstan has hot summers and very cold winters. Hot, dry summers almost skip autumn to become cold, mostly dry winters with little snow, followed once more, almost overnight, by fast-rising temperatures.

Average January temperatures range between -19°C and -4°C, average July temperatures between 19°C and 26°C. During the hottest months, July and August, average daily maximums reach the high 20°Cs in Almaty and Astana. In Almaty, temperatures typically remain below freezing for much of December, January and February. The ground is snow-covered for an average 111 days a year. In sub-Siberian Astana there’s frost from October to April, with temperatures lurking between -10°C and -20°C from December to February.

These values, however, say nothing about the extremes. In the northeast and the central steppe and desert areas especially, winter temperatures of -40°C are not exceptional. Summer temperatures in these regions also reach record highs, 40°C being far from rare. In the south, in the shelter of the Tien Shan, the climate is somewhat milder with less contrast.

In the regions bordering Uzbekistan, winters are relatively mild, with January temperatures averaging -1°C, spring comes early and summers are hot, with temperatures in July averaging 30°C. As a result, vegetable and fruit cultivation yields several harvests per year.

There is a considerable variation between north and south, with summers warmer and winters milder in southwestern parts of Kazakhstan. Rainfall is low across most of the country, from around 400mm in the north to 150mm in the south, meaning that irrigation is usually required to support crop growth. Rainfall levels are higher in the Tian Shan and Altai mountains, reaching 1,500mm in some parts of the latter. By comparison, the average annual precipitation in Germany is 800mm. High winds are a notable feature of Kazakhstan's wide expanses of steppe and semi-desert. Total annual sunshine in some areas reaches 3,000 hours. 

The low level of humidity makes the extremes in temperature more bearable for travellers. Even at temperatures in the order of 40°C, a stay in the steppe can be pleasant due to refreshing breezes and use of shade. Also, it's worth noting that a dry atmosphere with a temperature of -20°C often feels much better than a humid one at 3°C, provided the air is still. However, when the Buran-the long-lasting northeasterly wind that sweeps across northern Central Asia-rages, comparative studies of fresh air are simply unviable.

You can travel at any time of year with the right preparation and logistics, but the most comfortable months are May to September. July to September is best for trekking in the southeastern and eastern mountains.