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- Welcome To Almaty
- Things To Do In Almaty
- Where To Stay In Almaty
- Getting To Almaty
- Getting Around Almaty
- And That’s A Wrap
Welcome To Almaty
I’m all for Almaty’s vibes! Almaty’s a modern metropolis in Central Asia, quietly situated in the midst of the Zailyisky Alatau mountains. The city life here is both chic and laid-back, boasting incredible restaurants, bars, and cafes. It gave me the feel of a classic Western European city minus the tourist bustle. Now isn’t that the dream?
And when it comes to nature, there’s a reason why Kazakhstan is known as the Switzerland of Asia. This country has some mountainous landscapes that will blow your mind!
Honestly, I’d say that Almaty is one of those hidden gems for tourists, digital nomads, and solo travellers worldwide. And I have a feeling this place will continue to stay a hidden gem for a while so let’s try and keep this place our little secret.
If you plan on visiting Central Asia, I’d say spending 4 days in Almaty before exploring other parts of Kazakhstan or Central Asia is a great idea.
Now let’s jump into the (horse) meat of this article and see what’s popping for travellers in Almaty!
Things To Do In Almaty
Make Your Way Up To Big Almaty Lake
Big Almaty Lake is a stunning lake amidst the mountains that is just a quick hour drive away from Almaty. I had made my way to the lake in early April when lake was completely frozen over giving it an icy natural beauty that made my trip!
The drive up to the Big Almaty Lake is absolutely gorgeous highlighting Kazakhstan’s nature at best.
However take note as the road is currently seemingly closed due to some ongoing maintenance. I'd advise you to check the latest updates to see if the repairs are complete before visiting.
However, the route up to the lake is walkable! So if you’re up for a challenging hike, go for it!
Check out some of the tours you could book to visit Big Lake Almaty via the GetYourGuide widget below.
Take A Stroll Down Panfilov Street
Panfilov Street is a pedestrian-only street where creativity, culture, and life converge. This street is undoubtedly the heartbeat of Almaty. You’re bound to find a ton of art installations, photographers, local artists, musicians, restaurants, pubs, and shops while here.
Almaty has access to a lot of amazing restaurants and has an amazing international food scene, most of which is located around Panfilov Street. Be it during the day or night, Panfilov Street is full of life!
Take The Cable Car To Koke Tobe For Sunset
Koke Tobe is the hands-down the best sunset spot in the city, especially the cable car journey to the top. Once you've ascended to the summit, Koke Tobe welcomes you with an unmistakably touristy and festival-like atmosphere.
It's got everything from thrilling rides to classic carnival games. It's like stepping into a lively carnival where the good times roll. And trust me, the views from up here are a definite must-see – I promise, they're worth the trip!
Sample Horse Meat & Local Dishes At Sandyq
No matter where I go, I try to samples the depths of all the local cuisine I could get my hands on. Kazakh culture is relatively new hence a lot of the traditional dishes aren't easily accessible in the city. Traditional Kazakh food is usually found in people's homes whereas the city streets are covered in some of the best restaurants and global cuisine.
However, locals highly recommended we visit Sandyq for an upscale experience of the local Kazakh cuisine. Safe to say that the cuisine at Sandyq absolutely blew our mind! When we were at Sandyq, we tried a horse meat stew alongside beef liver lavash.
Horse meat is a large part of the diet in Kazakhstan, due mainly to the nomadic roots of the population. As a result, Kazakhstan is the second biggest producer of horse meat in world after China, producing over 125,000,000 kgs of horse meat in a year!
Now you’re probably wondering what horse meat tastes like, aren’t you? Well, to put it simply, it tastes like a chewer version of lamb to me with a distinct flavour. If you’re an experimental eater, I’d say it’s definitely worth trying!
Grab A Drink At Barfly, Atop Hotel Kazakhstan
If you're on the lookout for spectacular nighttime vistas of the city paired with equally exquisite cocktails, look no further than Barfly, perched on the upper floors of Hotel Kazakhstan.
Now, Hotel Kazakhstan happens to be one of the tallest skyscrapers in Almaty, which automatically makes Barfly the undisputed champion of high-altitude bars in the city.
Don't let a free evening slip by without paying this spot a visit – it's an experience that'll quite literally take your night to new heights!
Pay A Visit To Zenkov’s Cathedral
Zenkov’s Cathedral, also know as The Ascension Cathedral, is a Russian Orthodox cathedral located in Panfilov Park in Almaty. It is a beautiful golden glittering cathedral in the heart of the city that is also said to be the second tallest wooden church in the world.
Don't miss the chance to visit this piece of history that is a glimpse into the soul of Kazakh spirituality and religion.
Explore The Kazakh Art Scene At The State Museum Of Arts
I had a wonderful time visiting the Abylkhan Kasteev State Museum Of Arts and exploring the culture through all the visual art pieces they had on display. The museum has a balanced blend of traditional historical pieces as well as modern creative pieces. If you’re a visual person like me, you’re bound to enjoy the Almaty Art Museum!
Also, one thing you’ll notice here is the sheer amount of horses that this museum has on display. Horses, those iconic symbols of Kazakh culture, make a prominent appearance throughout the museum. Their presence serves as a powerful reminder of the deep connection between the Kazakh people and these majestic animals.
Learn About Kazakh History At The Central State Museum
If you want to learn about the history of Kazakhstan, the Central State Museum of Kazakhstan stands as an unrivalled institution of knowledge.
This museum covers multiple aspects of Kazakh history from its nomadic roots to the country it is today. It's a bridge between the past and the present, an invaluable resource for anyone looking to connect with Kazakhstan's extraordinary heritage.
Explore Almaty's Green Bazaar
Green Bazar, also known as, Kök Bazaar is a local market area that currently sells spices, prepared foods, produce, textile, furniture, and a wide variety of different objects, including antiques. Established way back in 1875, this market has been a cornerstone of Almaty's trading heritage, enduring through the ages and retaining its significance among the city's residents.
Be sure to carve out some time in your itinerary to enjoy this historical and culturally rich market – it's a journey through time and tradition.
Take A Stroll In First President’s Park
Conveniently positioned on the route from the city centre to the majestic Big Lake Almaty, First President’s Park serves as a convenient stopover for travellers on their way to or from the peak.
First President’s Park pays homage to Kazakhstan's inaugural President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, by bearing his name and providing a serene urban escape. The park has a few small food stalls and some fun architectural pieces scattered amidst its big green space.
Take A Trip To Charyn Canyon
Now, granted we didn't get the time to do this, but I hope to return to Almaty to visit Charon Canyon another time in my life. It's said to be absolutely mindblowing and if we had planned better, we would've definitely booked a full-day or two-day trip here.
Check out some of the Charon Canyon tours you could book via GetYourGuide below 👇
Ski Down Almaty’s Snowy Slopes at Shymbulak
Almaty is a sunny place in winter, not too cold either, which makes for delightful days on the slopes. And if you're in Almaty, Shymbulak Mountain Resort is just an hour away for the perfect ski adventure!
In addition to being the largest ski resort in Central Asia, Shymbulak offers tons of other snow activities such as riding horses, driving snow mobiles, and ziplining.
If you manage to make it there ensuring ski season between December and March, consider blocking out one day for skiing.
Flying In & Out Of Almaty? Take In The Views
I’m usually an aisle person, but if you’re flying in and out of Almaty, you must book the window seat!
Though the airport itself is a bit of a disappointment, the views from Almaty’s airport are make up for everything the airport lacks! Open skies in the midst of the snowcapped peaks.
Where To Stay In Almaty
When it comes to selecting the ideal place to stay in Almaty, look no further than the city center area near Panfilov Street. It's a strategic choice that offers the best of everything.
Staying in this vibrant hub means you're within easy walking distance of most of the city's top attractions, ensuring that you can make the most of your time exploring Almaty.
Getting To Almaty
Almaty has its own international airport that's very well connected to a handful of big cities in Asia and Europe. Even if you don't find a direct flight, you’ll be sure to find a connecting flight via a major transfer hub like Dubai.
Check out some of your flights options below with Skyscanner 👇
Getting Around Almaty
Download Yandex Go to ensure the best taxi experience in Almaty!
There's no Grab and Uber here, but Yandex is your option here. It's equally fast and convenient and also budget-friendly compared to American and Western European cab prices.
Yandex maps is also preferred to Google Maps here by locals though Google Maps worked perfectly fine for me in my experience.
And That’s A Wrap
If you're considering a trip to Central Asia, don't miss the opportunity to spend some unforgettable days in Almaty. From the beautiful mountains to the city’s metropolitan buzz, Almaty will impress you for a city you wouldn't have otherwise considered visiting. Its beauty, culture, and warm hospitality will surely leave an indelible mark on your travel memories. Embrace the unexpected, and let Almaty surprise you with its hidden treasures.