Almaty city usually witnesses a dry and warm summer, and freezing snow-covered winters, therefore sightseeing during summer is more enjoyable. Almaty tourism particularly blossoms during the pleasant summer months of June to September when the temperature is around 20 to 30 degrees Celsius. If your Almaty tourism itinerary includes skiing and ice skating, then you can try visiting during the winter months of December, January and February.
You will require a Kazakhstan visa for your Almaty trip. A Kazakhstan visa for tourists grants entry into the country for 90 days. For Indians, a valid passport is required. Since Almaty tourism is still developing, it is advised that you contact a reputed and trustworthy travel agency with the details of your visa for the trip.
Kazakhstan is still one of the less travelled destinations of the world as a result of which, Almaty tourism hasn’t grown to its full potential. Despite that, Almaty has some of the most exquisite and interesting places.
Big Almaty Lake
Big Almaty Lake lies 15 kilometres away from the main city of Almaty and is a natural alpine reservoir surrounded by the Tien Shan mountain range. Being a major source of drinking water in Almaty, this milky turquoise lake is guarded by armed personnel and swimming here is prohibited. The view of the pristine lake surrounded by lush greenery and the snow-capped Big Almaty Peak is one of the major reasons behind the steady growth of Almaty tourism today. Even though it is easier to access the roads leading up to Big Almaty Lake during the summer months, this lake is especially alluring during autumn.
Kok Tobe Hill
Kok Tobe Hill should be the highlight of your Almaty trip. This place is the highest point of the city, situated at a height of 1100 metres. Kok Tobe offers a jaw dropping panoramic view of Almaty city guarded by the Zailiyskiy Alatau mountain range. A cable car ride will take you up to the Kok Tobe Hill with a breathtaking view of some of the oldest parts of Almaty down below. Kok Tobe Park is another attraction here with a roller coaster ride, a petting zoo, an art gallery and a ferris wheel. Not only that, Kok Tobe is the ideal place to try local and other delicacies as there are numerous restaurants situated here. Kok Tobe is a stunning location with exciting things to do and should definitely be a part of your Almaty tourism itinerary.
First President Park
Opened in the year 2011, First President Park in Almaty city is named after the first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. With a total area of about 73 hectares, this park is a magnificent spot surrounded by trees and flower beds with magnificent mountains in the backdrop. The fountain in this park is the largest in the city and is decorated with bright lights. The annual music festival of Almaty is hosted in this park every year, so do not miss it if you happen to be in the city during that time.
An Almaty trip is incomplete without a visit to Ascension Cathedral. This vibrant monument was constructed by architect Andrei Pavlovich Zenkov in the early 19th century. Known as one of the tallest wooden constructions of the world, this brightly painted cathedral is a spectacular sight, and is said to be earthquake proof.
Mahatma Gandhi Statue
Who would have thought that the picturesque city of Almaty would have a statue of Mahatma Gandhi? It is clear that the Father of the Nation is not only revered in his motherland, but in several different parts of the world. Constructed by the Indian Embassy in 2007, the Mahatma Gandhi Statue stands proud in Zhambul Park. Tourists and residents pay their respects to this great leader each year on 2nd October.
Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical Instruments
A music lover’s paradise, this museum in Panfilov Park is one of the most interesting places to see in Almaty. A trip to the Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical Instruments is a must if you are looking for an offbeat Almaty tourism experience. Displayed here are numerous folk instruments that you have never heard of, such as sazgen, zhetigen (both are types of wooden string instruments) and dombra (a stringed instrument), the national instrument. You can even watch these instruments being played in the musical programmes that are held to educate people on the rich culture of the Kazakhs. This museum is closed on Mondays so make your plans accordingly.
Sit back and relax in the Arasan Baths near Panfilov Park after a long day of sightseeing. Offering a luxurious spa experience at an affordable rate, Arasan Baths is the finest place to unwind in Almaty. Head straight inside to have the most peaceful time of your life! The dome shape of the exterior is reminiscent of the oriental style of architecture. The modern interiors are well lit and wonderfully decorated. You have the option to choose between a Moroccan bath, a Finnish sauna, and a Turkish or Russian steam bath.
Since Almaty tourism is still in its nascent stages, we advise opting for a walking tour of the city. This way you can find out more about the culture of this alluring Kazakh city.
Visiting the Green Market
It is said that the true essence of a city lies in its markets, and Green Market in Almaty is no exception. Bursting with life, Green Market sells fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, sweets, sausages, fish, meat, spices and herbs. Much like Indian bazaars, you can haggle here if you feel the price is too high for you. The most interesting part of this market is the section were horse meat is sold. Horse meat is a staple in Kazakhstan and is considered a local delicacy. We suggest trying out shubat (fermented camel milk) and kymyz (fermented horse milk) when in Green Market.
Walk down Arbat Shopping Street
Arbat Shopping Street is Almaty’s most prominent street with shops lined on either side of the road. Home to several branded and local shops, Arbat Street is the perfect location to let your purse strings loose. The walk down this street is made more pleasant by live local music and paintings by local artists. We suggest visiting during the evening when the streets are lit up with the vibrant chatter of the people. When here, do not forget to try the street food in the form of kebabs, berries and other lip-smacking items. Arbat Shopping Street is a great place to buy locally crafted items that serve as perfect souvenirs for your loved ones.
A lot of travellers are choosing Kazakhstan as their travel destination these days. The erstwhile capital of this country, Almaty is one such city visiting which is now on a number of tourists’ bucket list. Exploring the tourist attractions in Almaty is the best way to know more about the rich history and culture of the land. When visiting, it is important to stay at a place that makes your holiday memorable. Keeping that in mind and in an effort to promote Almaty tourism, many new hotels have been established. Given below are some hotels in Almaty that are guaranteed to make your trip more enjoyable.
Luxury Hotels in Almaty
Your trip to Almaty will remain with you for the rest of your life more when spent in the comforts of the following hotels:
Mid-budget Hotels in Almaty
Mid budget hotels offer not only comfort to travellers but aren’t too harsh on the pockets. Some of the best mid-range hotels in Almaty are the following:
Budget Hotels in Almaty
If you are looking for budget stays at Almaty, then these hotels are worth considering:
Hostels give you the opportunity to mingle with people of various nations.Mentioned below are some hostels that you might want to consider.
The best part about travelling to a new city is the wide variety of food that you can enjoy. Listed below are some of the best restaurants of Almaty that deserve to be tried out when visiting this lovely city.
This traditional Russian restaurant is the go-to place if you wish to enjoy top notch Russian cuisine. This mansion-turned-restaurant has a charming interior decorated in the bohemian style. Try the delicious solyanka soup (thick and spicy traditional Russian soup) or the classic borscht (beetroot soup).
Casual cafeteria-style food is served in this extremely popular eatery in Almaty. Especially loved by the younger crowd, Kaganat serves Kazakh cuisine in the form of fresh salads, kebabs, soups and sweets at affordable rates. Do not forget to try the lagman (traditional noodles) when here.
Darejani is a quaint restaurant best known for mouth watering Georgian food. It will be wrong to leave Almaty without visiting this restaurant that has the hearts of tourists and locals alike. Always crowded, we advise booking a table before visiting Darejani. There is no ‘must-try’ dish here. Anything you eat here is delicious.
Almaty is well connected by metro and buses. Local transport is quite cheap and always available. Locals are known to go out of their way to help tourists in case they need any help. You can always rent a car or book app cabs (such as Yandex Taxi and Uber).
Transportation cost in Almaty starts from around Rs.3000 if you choose to rent a car for a day. Luxury hotels should cost you about Rs.18,000, mid-range hotels can cost you about Rs.10,000 and budget hotels are usually no more than Rs.2500. Food will typically cost you anywhere between Rs.250 and Rs.3500.
Is Almaty safe?
Almaty is considered safe by travellers. Locals are very welcoming of tourists especially since Almaty tourism is on the rise. However, it is better that you avoid travelling alone at night.
Do locals speak in English?
No, most of the people in Kazakhstan do not speak English. It is an added bonus if you know Russian since most of the people there are fluent in it. The younger generation understand English better.
Is Almaty expensive for travellers?
Almaty is fairly expensive, but your expenditure depends on the type of traveller you are. If you want to experience staying at some of the luxury hotels of Almaty then yes, it can get quite expensive. However, if you are a budget traveller happy with co-living in a hostel then it is quite affordable.
How to dress in Almaty?
Almaty is a modern city with traditional roots so we advise against wearing anything that’s too revealing. Do not forget to cover up when visiting places of religious importance.
What are some etiquettes that I should keep in mind in Almaty?
If invited to dine with a local family, make sure you accept to avoid hurting sentiments. Kazakhs are not known to be punctual so you may take your time. It is good to leave a tiny portion of food on your plate as a clean plate is taken to mean that the guest is still hungry. Since most of the people in Almaty are Muslims, we advise against drinking openly.
How to make payments in Almaty?
There are plenty of ATMs for you to withdraw money from in Almaty. It is good to keep some cash at hand in case of emergencies.
How to keep in touch with family and friends back at home?
Keeping in touch with your loved ones at home is easy when travelling to Almaty. You can buy local sim cards with mobile internet or buy hotspot WiFi devices.
Will I find vegetarian or vegan food options in Almaty?
Food in Central Asia is mostly meat based. However, it would be wrong to say that there aren’t vegetarian options in the city of Almaty. Restaurants like Govinda’s and Namaste serve good quality Indian vegetarian food.
How many days should I spend in Almaty?
If you are more of a relaxed traveller and do not want a hectic itinerary then Almaty can be explored in four to five days. If you are fine with a packed schedule then a two-day trip to Almaty is sufficient to explore the magnificent city.
Written by Baishali Dutta. She finds solace in words and her ukulele, and would rather be living in the hills.