With an area of 2,700,000 square kilometres (1,000,000 sq mi), Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country and the largest landlocked country in the world. It is equivalent to the size of Western Europe. In the Soviet Union period, Kazakhstan lost some of its territory to China's Xinjiang and some to Uzbekistan's Karakalpakstan. It shares borders of 6,846 kilometres (4,254 mi) with Russia, 2,203 kilometres (1,369 mi) with Uzbekistan, 1,533 kilometres (953 mi) with China, 1,051 kilometres (653 mi) with Kyrgyzstan, and 379 kilometres (235 mi) with Turkmenistan. Major cities include Astana, Almaty, Karagandy, Shymkent, Atyrau and Oskemen. It lies between latitudes 40° and 56° N, and longitudes 46° and 88° E. While located primarily in Asia, a small portion of Kazakhstan is also located west of the Urals in Eastern Europe.
The terrain extends west to east from the Caspian Sea to the Altay Mountains and north to south from the plains of Western Siberia to the oases and deserts of Central Asia. The Kazakh Steppe (plain), with an area of around 804,500 square kilometres (310,600 sq mi), occupies one-third of the country and is the world's largest dry steppe region. The steppe is characterized by large areas of grasslands and sandy regions. Important rivers and lakes include: the Aral Sea, Ili River, Irtysh River, Ishim River, Ural River, Syr Darya, Charyn River and gorge, Lake Balkhash and Lake Zaysan.
The climate is continental, with warm summers and colder winters. Precipitation varies between arid and semi-arid conditions.
The Charyn Canyon is 150–300 metres deep and 80 kilometres (50 mi) long, cutting through the red sandstone plateau and stretching along the Charyn River gorge in northern Tian Shan ("Heavenly Mountains", 200 km east of Almaty) at 43°21′1.16″N 79°4′49.28″E / 43.3503222°N 79.0803556°E / 43.3503222; 79.0803556. The steep canyon slopes, columns and arches rise to heights of 150–300 metres. The inaccessibility of the canyon provided a safe haven for a rare ash tree that survived the Ice Age and is now also grown in some other areas. Bigach crater is a Pliocene or Miocene asteroid impact crater, 8|km in diameter and estimated at 5 ±3 million years old at 48°30′N 82°00′E / 48.5°N 82°E / 48.5; 82.
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