Formerly called Leninsk, Baikonur, Kazakhstan, was renamed by former Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1995. It is 590 mi/950 km northwest of Almaty.
Considered the launching pad to the stars, this settlement is home to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, a vast Russian-controlled piece of land used for manned and unmanned space voyages. It was from there that the Mir Space Station was launched and controlled.
The site used to be open for tours, but the government now prohibits most visits. Those who do adventure out to this remote space center can explore the museum of history of space travel and the austere cottage of Yuri Gagarin. There's not much else to see in the area—the setting is quite bleak.
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