Kazakhstan, a vast country of Central Asia, has a markedly continental climate, with very cold winters almost everywhere, while summers are warm in the north and definitely hot in the south. There are no obstacles that could protect the country from cold air masses of polar or Siberian origin, while in summer, hot winds from the Iranian deserts can blow. In addition, because of the huge distance from the oceans, the Asian continent cools down a lot in winter and heats up in summer, so, both the highest and the lowest records are noticeable. In fact, in the north, the temperature can reach -50 °C (-58 °F) in winter and 40 °C (104 °F) in summer, while in the south, it can go from -35 °C (-31 °F) in winter to 45 °C (113 °F) in summer. The clash between different air masses can give rise to strong winds and dust storms, especially in spring and in the south, while in winter, the northern wind can cause snow storms, but without great accumulation on account of the scarcity of precipitation.
The distance from the sea is also the cause of the aridity of the climate; in fact, the country is almost entirely covered by steppes and deserts. The rainiest part in the vast lowlands is the north (roughly above the 50th parallel), where precipitation exceeds 300 millimeters (12 inches) per year, mainly because of afternoon thunderstorms that occur in summer, while in the center and south, it drops to around 150/200 mm (6/8 in) per year, and to as low as 100 mm (4 in) or so in the area of the Aral Sea. Snow is quite common in the long winter months, but it's often light and not abundant. There are approximately a hundred days with snowfall each year on the plains of the far north (see Petropavl), about 60 days in the central region, and about 20 days in the southernmost part.
The mildest area in winter is the south-west, along the coasts of the Caspian Sea: here, the average temperature in January is -6 °C (21 °F) on the northern coast (see Atyrau), it reaches 0 °C (32 °F) on the east coast (see Aktau), and slightly exceeds 0 °C (32 °F) near the border with Turkmenistan. There is also a small portion in the south-central part of the country, near the border with Uzbekistan, where the average in January is around freezing as well. In general, at a given latitude, the winter temperature decreases as you proceed towards the east.
In the following map, we can see the average temperatures throughout Kazakhstan in January.

January average temperature in Kazakhstan

In summer, temperatures are more uniform, and vary mainly according to latitude, as well as to altitude (but most of the country is flat): in July, they are on average around 19 °C (66 °F) in the far north, and around 25 °C (77 °F) in the center-south, while they reach almost 30 °C (86 °F) in the far south.
As mentioned, precipitation varies from north to south as well: the northern part, the rainiest one, is occupied by the Kazakh steppe (or Kirghiz steppe), while the central and southern regions are semi-desert or desert. However, precipitation rises again in the southeastern mountainous area.

Now, let's see in detail the climate in some areas and in the major cities.

The north


Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, is located in the north, where the temperature in summer is not so high, but it's pleasant: the daily average in July is 21 °C (70 °F). But even here in the north, heat waves in summer are possible, with peaks of 38/40 °C (100/104 °F). Summer, aside from the thunderstorms, which in any case are not very frequent, is sunny. On the other hand, winter is really cold: the average temperature in January, -14 °C (6.5 °F), makes it one of the coldest capitals in the world. In the worst moments, the temperature can plunge to -50 °C (-58 °F). During winter, snowfalls are frequent but not abundant, however, the snow covers the ground for long periods. Spring and autumn are very unstable seasons: in April and October, the temperature can drop below -20 °C (-4 °F), but it can also exceed 25 °C (77 °F). The clash between different air masses can also cause strong winds.
Here are the average temperatures.
Astana - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-18-18-120813151370-9-16
Max (°C)-10-9-211202627251910-1-8
Min (°F)001032465559554532163
Max (°F)141628526879817766503018

In the north, we are in the steppe area, which can experience some thunderstorms in summer and therefore receives some additional rain in comparison with the center and the south. Precipitation amounts to 320 mm (12.5 in) per year, with a relative minimum in winter, when it's around 15/20 mm (0.6/0.8 in) per month, and a relative maximum in summer, with a peak of 55 mm (2.2 in) in July. Here is the average precipitation.
Astana - Average precipitation

In Astana, the sun does not shine often from November to January, while in summer, apart from afternoon thunderstorms, it shines regularly.
Astana - Sunshine


In the far north, in Petropavl (formerly Petropavlovsk), the climate is similar to that of Astana, just a bit colder, and a bit rainier in summer: precipitation amounts to 350 mm (13.8 in) per year.
In the eastern cities of Semey (Semipalatinsk) and Oskemen (Ust-Kamenogorsk), the climate does not differ much from that of Astana.

The center

In the west of the country, the area of the Caspian Sea is arid, and on the north coast, it's continental, with freezing winters and hot summers.


In Atyrau (formerly Guryev), the average temperature ranges from -6 °C (21 °F) in January to 27 °C (81 °F) in July, when the days are often scorching. Here are the average temperatures.
Atyrau - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-9-10-3613182119125-2-7
Max (°C)-3-26172531333225155-1
Min (°F)161427435564706654412819
Max (°F)272843637788919077594130

Precipitation is definitely scarce: about 165 mm (6.5 in) of rain or snow fall per year. Here is the average precipitation.
Atyrau - Average precipitation

In Atyrau, the sun is not very frequent in winter, while summer is very sunny.
Atyrau - Sunshine

Aral Sea

East of the Caspian Sea, we find the area of the Aral Sea, a former large lake, which was once fed by the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, but has partly dried up in recent decades on account of the exploitation of the same rivers for agricultural purposes. Here, the climate is desert, with around 150 mm (6 in) of rain or snow per year. Winters are freezing, with a January average around -10 °C (14 °F), while summers are hot, with highs around 32/34 °C (90/93 °F) in July.
In Aral (formerly Aralsk), which was a port before the lake shrank, the lowest recorded temperature is -38 °C (-36 °F), while the highest is 47 °C (117 °F).
Here are the average temperatures.
Aral - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-14-14-6512182118113-4-11
Max (°C)-7-54182632343225154-4
Min (°F)7721415464706452372512
Max (°F)192339647990939077593925


About 200 kilometers (120 miles) east of the Aral Sea, we find the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which used to host the Soviet space program and continues to operate under the Russian administration; here, the climate is similar to that of Lake Aral, that is, continental and desert.

Lake Balkash

In the east of the country, north of Almaty, in the area of Lake Balkhash, a large lake, half fresh water and half saline, located at 340 meters (1,100 feet) above sea level, the climate is strongly continental, with an average temperature raingin from -13 °C (8 °F) in January to around 24 °C (75 °F) in July. In a year, only 140 mm (5.5 in) of rain or snow fall. Here are the average temperatures.
Balqash - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-18-17-831116181692-6-14
Max (°C)-9-72142228302822133-5
Min (°F)011837526164614836217
Max (°F)161936577282868272553723

In Balqash, the sun shines very often in summer, but it shines for a good number of hours also in winter.
Balqash - Sunshine

The south

On the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea, winter is not as cold as in the northern part, in fact, the average temperature in January is -2 °C (28 °F) in Aktau, and 0 °C (32 °F) on the border with Turkmenistan. Also, here the climate is even more arid, in fact the annual precipitation is around 150 mm (6 in).

About 200 kilometers (120 miles) south-east of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, we find the offshoots of the Kzyl Kum desert, which is very hot in summer. In Turkestan, the maximum temperature in July is normally around 36 °C (97 °F).
Turkestan - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-7-518141820181240-6
Max (°C)251422283436352920113
Min (°F)192334465764686454393221
Max (°F)364157728293979584685237

East of the Caspian Sea, the Ustjurt Plateau is desert, with very little precipitation, about 100 mm (4 in). It is cold in winter (in January, the average temperature is around the freezing point or a few degrees below) and hot in summer, when average highs are around 35 °C (95 °F), but with peaks of scorching heat, around 45/47 °C (113/117 °F).


Almaty (formerly Alma-Ata), the most populous city and the former capital of Kazakhstan, is located in the south-east, on the first slopes of the Tian Shan, and its altitude varies depending on district, however, the center is at 800 meters (2,600 feet) above sea level. Here, the average temperature ranges from -4 °C (25 °F) in January to 24 °C (75 °F) in July; there is often a large temperature range between night and day. Summer is hot, but the altitude makes the heat more bearable than at sea level, and it's sunny as well, although there can be some occasional thunderstorms in the afternoon, especially in the first part of the season (June-July). During winter, there can be cold waves, sometimes prolonged, and the temperature can plunge to -30 °C (-22 °F) in the worst moments.
Almaty - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-8-7-1611161817125-1-6
Max (°C)1291722283029241682
Min (°F)181930435261646354413021
Max (°F)343648637282868475614636

Because of the location at the foot of the mountains, precipitation is more abundant than in other parts of the country, and amounts to 585 mm (23 in) per year, with a maximum in spring, between March and May, when intense clashes between air masses occur, which is why spring is also a windy season. Owing to the altitude, Almaty is more easily exposed to cold air masses, so there are 55 days with snow per year in spite of the southern location, and there could be late snowfalls in spring and early snowfalls in autumn. Here is the average precipitation.
Almaty - Average precipitation

In Almaty, sunny days can occur even in winter; in summer, the sun shines regularly, though a little less often than in the plains.
Almaty - Sunshine



Shymkent is located in the south as well, and at 500 meters (1,600 feet) above sea level, and like Almaty it's located at the foot of the mountains, but more to the south-west, in the South Kazakhstan Province, where mild air intrusions from southern Asia are possible. In fact, this is one of the least cold cities of the country in winter, since the average temperature in January is -0.5 °C (31.5 °F). However, this does not mean that it is not exposed to cold snaps, but only that they alternate with mild periods. Summer is hot, dry and sunny, with a daily average in July of 26 °C (79 °F). Here are the average temperatures.
Shymkent - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-5-338131719181372-3
Max (°C)471319253033322719126
Min (°F)232737465563666455453627
Max (°F)394555667786919081665443

This city is windy as well, both because of the clash between air masses and because of the proximity to the mountains. Precipitation amounts to 540 mm (21 in) per year, with a peak between November and April: being that precipitation is substantial also in winter, heavy snowfalls can occur.
Here is the average precipitation.
Shymkent - Average precipitation


Most of Kazakhstan is occupied by plains, or at most, by hills at an altitude below 500 meters (1,600 feet). The only mountainous areas are the Tian Shan in the south and south-east (towards the border with Kyrgyzstan and China), which also includes the highest peak of Kazakhstan, Khan Tengri, 7,010 meters (22,999 feet) high, and the Altai Mountains in the east (towards the border with China and Mongolia). In the mountains, precipitation is more abundant than in the plains; in fact, they are often covered by forests, although it depends on slope exposure (for instance, the Charyn Canyon, closed among the mountains, is arid). At high altitudes, above 3,500 meters (11,500 ft), there are large glaciers.

Best Time

Since there is no month that can be safe from either the cold or the heat, it's hard to find the best time to visit Kazakhstan. In the north and in Astana, in summer, from June to August, the average temperature is pleasantly warm, but you cannot rule out a few heat waves with peaks around 40 °C (104 °F). In the central and southern areas, where the heat is more common in summer, and it's scorching often enough, you may prefer spring and autumn, in particular, from mid-April to mid-May, and the second half of September. Around mid-April and mid-September, you can usually find acceptable weather conditions throughout the country.

What to pack

In winter: for Astana and the north, bring cold weather clothing, synthetic, thermal long underwear, a fleece, a parka, a wind jacket, gloves, and warm boots. In the southernmost cities, like Shymkent and Aktau, you can wear lighter clothes during mild days, but it's useful to bring a scarf for the wind.

In summer: for Astana and the north, bring light clothing, T-shirts, but also long pants, a light jacket and a sweater for the evening and for cooler days; a raincoat or umbrella.
For the vast southern plains (Ustjurt Plateau, Turkestan, Shardara), lightweight clothes, loose-fitting and made of natural fabric, a scarf or desert turban, and a sweatshirt for the evening.
For Almaty, Shymkent, the Caspian Sea, Baikonur, the Aral Sea, and Lake Balkash, bring light clothes, a sun hat, a scarf, and a sweatshirt for the evening.
In the southern mountains (Tian Shan), at middle altitudes, light clothes for the day, a sun hat, a sweatshirt and a jacket for the evening, and hiking shoes; above 3,000 meters (10,000 ft), a sweater and a warm jacket for the evening; above 4,000 meters (13,000 ft), a down jacket, a hat, gloves, and a scarf. In the mountains of the north-east (Altai), the cold starts at lower altitudes: at 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) you already need clothes for spring and autumn, like a sweater and a jacket.
It's better for women to avoid shorts and miniskirts, especially outside the big cities.

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