Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, served as the country’s capital city until 1997. Still a center of business and commerce, Almaty is a spectacle of modernity set against a backdrop of impressive natural beauty. Located at the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau mountain range, Almaty is believed by some to be the Garden of Eden. It’s certainly the apple capital of Central Asia, with a name meaning “city of apple trees” and the variety of apples grown in the region.
The Central State Museum of Kazakhstan, the largest museum in Almaty, is also one of the largest museums in Central Asia. It’s where you want to go for the most significant collection of Kazakh artifacts. The Presidential Palace, is also a good sight to take in as you’re walking about the city. Though visitors are not allowed inside the palace, the architecture and scenery is worth a look. While you’re there, stop by the National Museum just across the Presidential Palace. It’s another site to lean more Kazakh history, al the way back from prehistoric times. For an afternoon stroll, head to “Arbat” street, or formally known as Zhybek-Zholy (Silk Road). This street leads to the Silk Way Mall, where you’ll find everything from unique, self-made goods to international chain stores. The Almaty Zoo is a great stop for travelers with children. The state zoo is one of the oldest in the country, and has about 6,000 different animals from more than 350 species. Medeu is an Olympic-sized ice stadium where more than 180 world records were made. It’s open to the public all year round, and skaters can enjoy music and lights in the evening in addition to high-altitude skating during the day. For more entertainment, see if the Kazakhstan English Language Theater has an ongoing show or workshop. It’s an English language theater that holds only two shows a year, but is still a popular attraction in the city.
Kök Töbe is a green hill just southeast of Almaty accessible by bus or a cable car. It costs about KZT100 to gain entrance, but at the top of the hill there’s an amusement park, a small zoo, cafes and souvenir shops. It’s a great location to take in a panoramic view of the entire city. A winter trip to Almaty means you can take a day trip to one of the ski resorts nearby. Chimbulak is around 25 kilometers from the city center, and visitors can go skiing or snowboarding, or take a cable car ride. Hiking is also a recreational activity outside Almaty. The city is surrounded by mountains, and a day trip exploring the natural landscape is well within reach. The Big Almaty Lake has good hiking spots, and it’s easy to reach by bus or a taxi. Turgen Gorge is a bit further away, but the national preserve has plenty of hot springs, waterfalls and fir-woods to enjoy. Plan a day trip to Charyn Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world. It’s located 200 kilometers east of Almaty, but its remarkable features and breathtaking vista are well worth a trip.
Whether you’re a budget traveler or a big spender, Almaty has the lodging space to fit your price range and needs. The hostel scene is pretty big in Almaty, ranging from the most inexpensive, basic accommodations to those providing a big more amenities. Booking a space within a dorm room is ideal for those wanting to save, and who don’t mind sharing space with other travelers. Private rooms are also available in some hostels, for a higher price. Apartments are also available for rent, for those who prefer a larger space for themselves and/or their travel party. Plenty of mid-range hotels and motels can be found in Almaty as well, for a budget of about $80 to $150. If you can afford to splurge, check out some of the best Almaty as to offer. The city’s high-end accommodations will immerse you in a world of luxury, class and comfort.
Almaty International Airport, located 25 kilometers from the city, provides air service to and from the region. Trains are another option to get in and out of the city, with two railway stations located in the city center. There are direct trains for travel to/from Russia, Shymkent, China, and more. Metro is one option to get around within the city itself, but the system is ongoing construction and expansion. Each trip costs KZT80, regardless of the length of the trip. Though there are no single-day ticket options for visitors, Metro cards or tokens can be purchased at the stations. Buses and trolleybuses have an extensive network throughout the city, with a fare of KZT80 paid through transport cards or paper tickets purchasable at the airport or railway and bus stations. Taxis, both official and informal, can be booked in advance or hailed in the city. Fares can vary from KZT200 to KZT1000 For unofficial taxis, travelers are recommended to negotiate the price and direction in advance.
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