Visiting Nomad’s Land: The Abandoned Movie Set in the Kazakhstan Steppe

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During my week in Almaty, I took two-day trips. One to Big Almaty Lake and one to Tamgaly Tas, the Buddhist petroglyphs, which included a stop at the super cool abandoned film set called Nomad’s Land. Like most of the activities, I did while in Kazakhstan, I didn’t really know what to expect before I arrived, but I left blown away.

 

What is Nomad’s Land?

Nomad’s Land sometimes referred to as the City of Nomads, is the abandoned movie set that has turned into a tourist destination on the edge of the Ili River in the Tamgaly Gorge. Originally built for the 2005 movie Nomad, hence the name, but it’s actually been used for several movies. During our visit, the site was being restored for the next film project.

 

Walking up to the film set Nomad's Land
Walking up to the film set Nomad’s Land

 

 

A Photographer’s Paradise

The main reason to come to Nomad’s Land is for photography. Since it’s not a historic site, just a big replica of a historic town crunched together for cinematic effect, it’s not the same experience as walking through a historic fortress. Instead, you get to indulge your sense of imagination as you wander the “town’s” streets.

 

Approaching the front gates, it’s incredible to think that something this massive was built purely as a film set. Here are some of my favorite photographs of Nomad’s Land from my visit:

 

View of the complex from the top of the ramparts
View of the complex from the top of the ramparts

 

 

One of the most iconic photographs of Nomad's Land is this little street corner
One of the most iconic photographs of Nomad’s Land is this little street corner

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gates are all coated with a fresh coat of pink paint
The gates are all coated with a fresh coat of pink paint

 

 

 

 

The fabrics and paint jobs are being refurbished to get ready for the next film
The fabrics and paint jobs are being refurbished to get ready for the next film

 

 

You can tell it's all just for show by the fact that inside the buildings are a mess.
You can tell it’s all just for show by the fact that inside the buildings are a mess.

 

 

The bright overhead sun made for some fun starburst action
The bright overhead sun made for some fun starburst action

 

 

The details on the buildings are meant to look period and lush on screen, but up close their styrofoam and wood.
The details on the buildings are meant to look period and lush on screen, but up close their styrofoam and wood.

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone else in the film set was busy taking photographs, either of the scenery or of each other
Everyone else in the film set was busy taking photographs, either of the scenery or of each other

 

 

 

 

Things to Do Near Nomad’s Land

I visited as part of a day tour to Tamgaly Tas, the Buddhist Rock Art Sanctuary. The two sites are just a short boat ride across the river from each other. For a full list of things to do in the area, read my longer post about visiting Tamgaly Tas, which includes a section on “Things to do in Tamgaly.”

 

Read:  Tamgaly Tas – How to Visit Kazakhstan’s Enchanting Buddhist Rock Art Sanctuary

 

The entrance to Tamgaly Tas
The entrance to Tamgaly Tas

 

How to Visit Nomad’s Land from Almaty

You have a few different options to visit Nomad’s Land from Almaty. Some are more convenient than others.

 

With a Local Tour Company

The easiest way to visit is to go on a group tour. I went with the company Steppe Spirit, which you can contact via their Instagram account. I paid 5000 tenge (about $14 USD). This included transportation. The entire day went something like this:

  • 9:00 Depart Almaty
  • 11:00 Dance Class
  • 11:30 Explore Tamgaly Tas
  • 1:30 Lunch Break
  • 2:30 Boat Ride to Nomad’s Land
  • 3:00 Explore Nomad’s Land
  • 6:00 Boat Ride back to the Tour Bus at Golden Hour
  • 6:30 Drive Back
  • 8:30 Arrive Back in Almaty

 

A day tour complete with a dance class.
A day tour complete with a dance class.

 

 

By Taxi

You can use the Yandex taxi app to plan a day trip for yourself with estimated costs (excluding the added costs of wait time). I explain the process of using Yandex to plan a day trip to Tamgaly Gorge in my post about Visiting Tamgaly Tas. I also break down how to use it to plan a day trip to Big Almaty Lake, complete with screenshots. This will be more expensive than going on a group tour, but it might be a pretty good deal if there are three or four of you.

 

Our taxi out to Big Almaty Lake
Using Yandex to plan a day trip out to Big Almaty Lake

 

 

By Car

If you have access to a car and a local friend to travel with, this might be a great way to go. However, I would caution against renting a car in Kazakhstan or going without a local driver. The Kazakhstan police are notorious for hassling foreigners.

 

While I didn't go the whole way by boat, we did take the last leg of the journey and arrived at Nomad's Land by motor boat.
While I didn’t go the whole way by boat, we did take the last leg of the journey and arrived at Nomad’s Land by motorboat.

 

 

Tips for Visiting Nomad’s Land

  • Bring your own snacks and drinks. The only place you can buy them is the small magazine outside.
  • Drink lots of water. The sun is bright and there are no shaded areas in the complex.
  • Bring cash. Nowhere takes credit cards.
  • Bring a bathing suit if you want to swim in the Ili River.
  • If you want to go with a group tour, check with multiple tour companies. Not every company runs this tour consistently. (I went with Steppe Spirit).
  • Be respectful of the other people on your tour. Most, if not all of the other tourist will be Kazakhs. The trip may seem very economical if you’re coming from a country with a strong economy, but it’s priced to be affordable to locals. Many will be spending what is a large chunk of change to a local to experience their own culture and history. Do not be an ugly American (or wherever).

 

Waiting to take the boat back down the river to our tour bus.
Waiting to take the boat back down the river to our tour bus.

 

 

5 Things to Pack for a Visit to Nomad’s Land

 

  • Lonely Planet Central Asia which is available as a paper copy or in a Kindle edition.
  • Food and Drinks for the Day since most day tours won’t provide them and the small magazine out front may not be open.
  • Your Cell Phone and Camera to get that Insta Pic you know you’re dying to come back with.
  • Trekking Poles for anyone planning to do the hikes nearby or while in Kazakhstan, especially if you have knee issues.
  • Travel Insurance Policy information, because things happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’re going to be doing any hiking or trekking while in Kazakhstan.

    I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for two years, and I happily recommend them.  It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’re going to be doing any adventure sports like horseback trekking, hiking, or traveling off-road. Even in Almaty, you’ll be happy when you’re able to replace your stuff if it’s lost or stolen.

     

The dock on the Ili River below the magazine at Nomad's Land
The dock on the Ili River below the magazine at Nomad’s Land

 

 

 

 

Pin this For Your Trip to Kazakhstan

 

Visiting Nomad's Land: The Abandoned Movie Set in the Kazakhstan Steppe
Visiting Nomad’s Land: The Abandoned Movie Set in the Kazakhstan Steppe

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