Thankfully, there still exist some places on Earth where you can escape from the outside world. 

Life today is highly interconnected, and it's changed the way we experience travel. Back in the days before the internet revolutionized the world, travel was a lot more of an unknown adventure, and a risk. Today you can transport yourself to a faraway place before even buying your plane ticket, and 'see' the destination beforehand from the comfort of your living room. In some ways this helps people make decisions, but it also takes away some of the thrill of the unknown.

There are few places left in the world where technology has not extended its long, all encompassing, all knowing arm. Kazakhstan is one of those places. 

The 9th largest country in the world, and the largest landlocked country in the world, adventurous tourists are always amazed by Kazakhstan's sheer amount of endless open space. The country's name means 'Land of the Wanderers', and nomadic tribes indeed still roam the vast, wide open steppes where wild horses run free. You can drive for hours and not see a single building. There are towering mountains, geological wonders, ancient petroglyphs, and desert ruins from the days of the Silk Road. Kazakhstan is the real thing.

But, if you are the kind of person who clings to a smartphone for step by step directions to guide you, then you may not enjoy visiting Kazakhstan, because once you leave the big cities, you must surrender yourself to the unknown. Vague directions lead you down desolate dirt roads where caravans once criss crossed the land. GPS often doesn't work. There is no Street View in many places. And searching for a driving route often gives you the strange result - 'Sorry, your search appears to be outside our current coverage'. It can even be hard to figure out the correct name of a place in English.

Nope, there are no Google Street Cars out here in this vast landscape. It's just you, the yurts, and the nomads. So check out these 20 truly remote places, that are off road, and offline.

20 Tien Shan Mountains - A Sight to Make you Believe in Heaven

Described on one blog as 'THE place to go for hikers seeking solitude', the Tien Shan Mountains stretch along the borders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and the Xinjiang region in northwest China.

'Tien Shan' in Chinese translates to 'Heavenly Mountains' and indeed the scenery is something spectacular, with snow capped peaks, deep valleys, rivers and lakes.

Some peaks can only be reached by helicopter. Though this is one of the least visited mountain ranges in the world, find your little piece of paradise while you can, as it is becoming more famous and attracting more tourists, due to its unbelievable untouched beauty.

19 Dzungarian Gate - Walk in the footsteps of Genghis Khan

The border between the Kazakh steppes and China was once a key point of the Silk Road, and according to the history books, Genghis Khan passed through a valley referred to as the Dzungharian Gates during his conquest of Central Asia.

This remote highland, which can only be reached via a very rough off-roading expedition, is dotted with ancient ruins of villages long abandoned. According to Wikipedia, writings about the Dzungaria region can be found in ancient texts dating back to roughly 150 BC, when Emperor Wu of Han sent Chinese diplomats to investigate lands to the west.

18 Tuzbair Salt Land - A vast and bizarre landscape

Sometimes referred to as Sor Tuzbair, the Tuzbair Saline Land, Salt Banks, or Salt Mountains are a surreal geologic wonder deep in Western Kazakhstan. Surrounded by the mountains of the Utstyurt Plateau, the landscape of clay and limestone has been carved away over millions of years by erosion, leaving behind bizarre channels, canyons and rock formations, in a ghostly white color.

Amazingly, this area was once under the sea, as evidenced by a variety of ocean fossils, including shark teeth.

17 Torysh - The mysterious Valley of Balls

The Wikipedia entry for this places has a grand total of three sentences, so you know it's really remote when Wikipedia draws an almost blank. Deep in western Kazakhstan, strange round boulders dot the arid landscape, some as small as marbles, and some as big as cars. These spherical concretions - mineral formations found in sedimentary rocks - are believed to be some 120 million years old and the area is rife with fossils of bygone ocean life.

16 Tamgaly Petroglyphs - Ancient art carved in stone

Possible as a day trip from Almaty city, but best done with a guide, as road signs are scarce once you turn off the highway onto a long, never ending dirt road.

But it is well worth the trip to visit this incredible sight with 2,000 year old rock carvings of ancient Kazakh life, including hunting scenes, animals such as horses, whimsical figurines dancing, and strange sun-headed gods which look like something from outer space.

The rock carvings lay in the middle of nowhere in a vast steppe, with wild horses passing by. It only recently opened to the public and there is little in terms of an entrance fee, other than a few tenge to be paid at the 'front desk' yurt.

15 The Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasavi - A landmark in the desert

Okay, this is a bit of a cheat - this grand mausoleum is most definitely now on Google Maps, but deserves to be on the list of remote sites because it has been standing since the 13th century, despite efforts to destroy, replace and rebuild it.

Located in the city of Turkestan, the mausoleum is dedicated to a famous Turkic poet and Sufi mystic.

Today it is a World Heritage Site, and is a sight to behold, due to its unique architectural image and grand scale, rising out of the middle of nowhere.

14 Balayuk Cave - A true secret wonder

Scant information is available in English about this incredible cave, but according to Silk Road Adventures, which organizes tours to the site, this karst cave system is vast, with a length of more than 2km, and largely unexplored.

One of the biggest rooms of the cave has a blue lake, but the water is quite saline and undrinkable, though it is possible to swim. For the truly adventurous only!

13 Charyn Canyon - Take time to discover its secrets

Often compared to the Grand Canyon, though much smaller, Charyn Canyon is an incredible and impressive sight. In recent years it has become the #1 day trip from Almaty, though transportation remains a problem. Getting to the canyon requires a beautiful drive through mountains and valleys, but with a drive of 3 hours each way, visitors usually just get to snap a few pictures at the Valley of Castles.

However, the Canyon is incredibly vast, and deserves more than just a day trip. There are yurts where you can stay overnight, as well as rivers and incredible viewpoints, including the 'Stone Shelf', where at 250 metres above the river, the valley suddenly opens up below.

It is highly recommended to hire a guide for a day or two - preferably one that speaks English - to show you the best sights, rather than just act as a driver.

12 Burkhan Bulak - Enjoy the falls, watch out for snow leopards

At 2,000 metres above sea level, the Burkhan Bulak Waterfall is the biggest waterfall in Central Asia, and considered a sacred place in Kazakhstan, according to Kazakh TV.

The ice cold water pours down from 150 metres, and reaches its peak capacity in July when the glaciers are melting. Due to its remote location in the mountains of south-east Kazakhstan, the area supports a lot of wildlife, including bears, and a few very rare sightings of snow leopards.

For a true adventure, join a tour group that will organize tents for camping in a nearby gorge for the night.

11 Singing Sand Dunes - A feast for the eyes and the ears

It's an eerie sound - the low, cello-like whispering of the winds, earning this spot in the massive Altyn-Emel National Park the 'Singing Dunes'. The 'songs' made by the movement of the sand is not constant, it lasts for a few minutes, and then changes.

The dunes move constantly, with the tallest one estimated to be some 490 feet high and almost 2 miles long, which means you can walk along the top ridge, listening to this natural phenomenon,  but be sure to explore the other amazing attractions within the national park.

10 Sauran - One of many ghosts of the Silk Road

Once upon a time, roughly around the 10th century, the city of Sauran was the biggest and most important city in all of Kazakhstan.

If the old walls could talk, it would tell the tale of assaults by the army of Genghis Khan, how it became the capital of the northwest section of the Mongol Empire and a key point on the Silk Road.

Today, however, Sauran serves as a testament to the fact that even the most powerful empire in the world can, and will, eventually fall. With stunning stone ruins, ancient walls, and relics of the fortress, Sauran stands alone, in the middle of nowhere, a ghost lost in time.

9 Lake Kaindy - A turquoise treasure

This bizarre submerged forest some 30 metres deep was created by an earthquake which struck in 1911, when a limestone landslip created a natural dam.

The hundreds of trees that rise from the surface of the lake are perfectly preserved and make for an eerie and unique landscape.

The waters are always a bright turquoise blue, and with the steep cliffs and majestic mountains surrounding it, the scenery is unbeatable.

8 Urunhayka - Live like a local, forget the Best Western

Doing a homestay can be a great way to experience the true local culture of a country. If in Kazakhstan, there are many opportunities to stay with a host family rather than in a hotel.

According to, the distant village of Urunhayka, in Eastern Kazakhtan,  'is not so easy to get to... The only way is to drive on the mountain Old-Austrian road built by prisoners a hundred years ago. The nearest big city, Ust-Kamenogorsk, is located 430 kilometers away."

So rest assured, if you decide to try this lodging, you are getting a truly remote and authentic experience.

7 Tuyuksu Glacier - Snow, stone, and starry nights

Shymbulak ski resort is a popular spot close to Almaty city, but venture away from the slopes and you'll find a vast glacier trekking area (guide required). Through a narrow gorge and up into the hills, you'll find the Tuyuk Su Glacier, and gorgeous views of the snow capped mountains that surround the valley, where the highest peaks reach some 4,000 metres.

Those who truly love the great outdoors, and have sufficient gear to go trekking around on a glacier, can stay overnight in a local alpine lodge, where at night, due to the total lack of light pollution, you have the most incredible dark starry nights.

6 Aral Sea - Or what's left of it

Once one of the largest lakes in the world, the Aral Sea is now only 10% of its original size, after decades of Soviet irrigation projects, according to Wikipedia.

The eastern part of the Aral Sea has become the Aralkum Desert where camels now roam, and a tour guide can drive you across what was once the bottom of the sea.

In the 'Graveyard of Ships' rusty old tankers dot the landscape, a grim reminder of man's lasting impact on the environment. It's truly a unique sight to behold, and you may even get some friendly locals of the non-human variety popping by to say hello.

5 Katon-Karagay National Park - Travel like a nomad

As we mentioned, the word 'Kazakhstan' means 'The Land of Wanderers', and for a truly unique experience, join up with one of the handful of tour guides that let you wander the land like the nomadic tribes once did.

Unicorn Trails takes visitors on multi-day trips into the wilderness of the Katon-Karagay National Park in the Far East of the country, on the borders with China and Russia.

According to their website, because this park is an 'undiscovered paradise', the trips are 'as non-itinerised as possible', and exploratory in nature.

You never know what the day will bring when travelling by horseback in remote Kazakh countryside!

4 Khan Tengri - For the hardcore hiker only

Considered to be one of the most beautiful peaks in the world, at more than 7,000 metres, this is a place only for experienced mountaineers.

High in the Tien Shan mountains, on the Kazakh-Kyrgyzstan border, intrepid guiding companies have begun offering tours of this remote and challenging area, with a base camp to overnight, and travel by helicopter.

But getting to this remote location doesn't come cheap - better start saving up if you want to do this $5000 trip to the top of the world.

3 Shakpak-Ata - The hidden underground mosque

An ancient and abandoned town dating to the Stone and Bronze Age, an underground mosque, a city of caves and a vast cemetery all await you at Shakpak Ata, in southern Kazakhstan.

While not as vast as the underground cities of Cappadocia, this area has a number of necropolises and caves, and are worth a visit. According to Lonely Planet, the eerie bumpy rocks that the caves have been carved into were once on the bottom of the ocean, and there are more than 2,000 tombs in the necropolis below the mosque.

2 Bayabaul Rock Formations - Baba Yaga is watching you

The strange rock formations inside this national park, the first established in Kazakhstan, were formed by the slow forces of erosion. The beautiful landscape is a sight to behold, but none of the formations are more popular than the profile of a man's face, called 'Baba Yaga' by the locals.

There are other interesting ones that resemble certain body parts (think Cappadocia) and animals, but Baba Yaga is the star of the show, and worthy of a shutter or ten on your camera.

1 Ulytau Mountains - Painted with the colours of the Earth

This ancient steppe in Central Kazakhstan was once a popular place for nomadic tribes and settlements, and today you can still see the 2000-year-old petroglyphs once carved into the rocks.

The red, orange, yellow and sometimes even pink and white hues of the layered landscape are a sight to behold as they change colours in the sunlight.

Yet this natural wonder has no tourist infrastructure, and getting here will require hiring a driver/guide to get you there and back from the nearest town. One can only stand in awe and imagine what it would have been like, living amongst this landscape, thousands of years ago, in the middle of nowhere.