Baikonur (Kazakh: Байқоңыр Bayqongyr, Russian: Байконур Baykonur) is a city in Kazakhstan.
Baikonur is famous worldwide for its cosmodrome, the site of many spacefaring feats including the first operational ICBM, the launch of Sputnik and the launch of the first manned orbital flight by Yuri Gagarin. The modern town of Baikonur was built near the existing village of Tyuratam (Тюратам), the name still used by the railway station, and was known as Leninsk (Ле́нинск) until renamed in 1995 by then-president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin.
The easiest way to visit Baikonur, and the only way to visit the cosmodrome, is by guided tour. Prices vary wildly but are always steep: a one-day tour starting from Almaty starts from US$700 per person, while a multi-day excursion from Moscow can cost US$5,000. as the cosmodrome area (6000 sq.km.) is rented by Russia, no Kazakh visa is needed if you fly in directly from Moscow.
Baikonur's two airports, Krainiy (in city) and Yubileyniy (in cosmodrome) serve only semi-regular chartered flights from Almaty and Moscow. The nearest town with scheduled service is Kzyl-Orda (267 km away), which has scheduled daily flights to Almaty and Astana on Air Astana.
Baikonur's station, Tyuratam, is on the Moscow-Almaty main line. The station is 1445 km from Almaty and the trip takes around 27 hours on an express train.
- Baikonur Cosmodrome. A large quantity of Russian's exploration of space was launched from here. Permits are necessary and must be arranged at least 45 days in advance; the only practical way of doing this is through a specialist travel agency. Visits during space launches are particularly popular, but scheduling is subject to unpredictable delays.
- Baikonur Cosmodrome Museum
- Sputnik Hotel, ☎ . The only modern, Western-run hotel in town, with luxuries such as the only pool in town. US$250.