Aral (Арал) or Aralsk (Аральск, formerly, and in Russian) is a city in Kazakhstan.
Aral is a former fishing village located in Western Kazakhstan near the Aral Sea. In 1920, Lenin famously asked the people of Aral to give fish to feed starving Russians, which they did. The story is commemorated by a mural in the Aral train station. Aral has suffered in recent years due to the retreating Aral Sea. Many tourists come to Aral in order to visit ship cemeteries, which, like the Aral Sea itself, are quickly disappearing. Many locals use the metal from the abandoned ships to build fences and walls, and in many ship cemeteries all that is left are skeletons of ships.
The closest major city to Aral is Kyzylorda, which is 8-10 hours away by train. Turkestan is 16 hours away by train. Trains leave from Astana and Almaty to Aral. The train from Astana does not, however, stop in Almaty. Trains from Astana to Aral will take about 2 days to reach their destination.
Aral is a very small city to walk around in; there are taxis but they are basically unnecessary. The train station is about a 15 minute walk from the main hotel. There are two main streets: Makhataeva, on which you will find the hotel and Aral Tenizi office, and Abilhayir Han (Абилхайыр хан), on which you can find some small shops and internet, this is also the road to follow north to get to the train station. Абилхайыр хан was formerly called Gorky and may still be called as such in some travel guides.
Aral does not have many attractions and most tourists are not interested in the town itself. The old harbor is located just outside the hotel and it is possible to walk out to abandoned ships on the dry seabed from there. Jeep tours can be booked, and in an hour you can reach a ship cemetery on the Aral Sea at Zhalanash. As of August 2013, only one hull remains at the ship cemetery. Chinese scrap dealers have stripped the other two ships. However, jeep tours will still take you to see it. You can also take a jeep tour to the dam to see the retuen of the lake. Plenty of birdlife.
For information on sights and tours contact Aral Tenizi. The Aral Tenizi office is located a few houses down from the hotel on 10-12 Makhataeva.
Jeep tours can be arranged to various places along the Aral Sea, including various ship cemeteries.
There are very few shops in Aral. A main market is housed west of the main square and past the train tracks. Here you can find fresh fruit and vegetables. Other smaller shops can be found near the center of town by the hotel. These shops sell bread, jam, candy, soda, noodles, etc.
Aral does not offer much diversity in dining. One restaurant is located across the street from the hotel and serves a variety of Kazakh dishes. This is the largest restaurant in town and able to make a wide variety of dishes. Other restaurants can be found around town (many of them with the name Chin Son) that offer less options, so be prepared to eat manty and shashlyk here. All menus will be in Russian.
There are also a few other hotels in town. One is halfway between the train station and town centre just back from main road on rail side (not a great area) and one on the exit road from the highway (looks brand new). Two brand new small hotels opened around the train station. In one of them, prices between 3000 (3 beds, toilet outside9 and 6000 (big bed, TV)
Homestays are available and for this you should ask around. If you do not speak Russian, try looking lost and asking for komnaty (комнаты, "rooms").
To leave Aral, buy tickets at the train station for your desired destination. Be sure to include what class you would like to travel in. Kupeyny is second class and has four berths and a closing door. Third class has six berths and no doors, for a long train ride it is not the most comfortable but is good for meeting locals, who will most likely be very curious about you.