Are you thinking about visiting Kazakhstan, but don’t know where to go? Though Almaty isn’t Kazakhstan’s capital city anymore, it still remains as one of top destinations in the country. The question is: what should you do once you arrive to this beautiful city? Though there is a wide array of places to see and things to do in Almaty, narrowing it down to these 10 things to do seems pretty helpful:
1. Medeu Skating Rink: Situated approximately 5,548 ft. above sea level (that’s 1,691 meters) Medeu is considered to be the highest skating rink on earth. This skating rink and ski resort is a favorite for locals and visitors alike, and offers enough room for people to figure skate, speed skate, play hockey, and have a ton of fun. Be sure to do your stretches; not only for ice skating, but also for the 842 step staircase that leads to Medeu. The climb is worth it.
2. Zenkov Cathedral: This is a place where you surely want to use your “inside voice.” Zenkov Cathedral is over a century old and is still a functioning place of religion. Located in Panfilov Park, Zankov Cathedral is a popular tourist destination. Besides the breathtaking beauty that brings people to this site, the interesting history is enough to make you want to see the cathedral for yourself. During Soviet Times, Zenkov Cathedral was used as a museum and concert hall, but in 1990 it was restored to its original state. Want to know one of the coolest pieces of information about this place? It is one of the only wooden cathedrals in the world and it was built without using any nails. Crazy, huh?
3. City Tours: What better way to learn Almaty than to follow an expert around the city to learn all the ins-and-outs? There are several great tours in Almaty such as Almaty City Tour and Center Smart Tourism. However, Walking Almaty, a walking tour with our friend Dennis Keen, is an awesome way to learn about Kazakhstan. Dennis is an American who has lived and studied in Kazakhstan for several years, and can’t seem to leave. His tours include unique looks at the city, and he takes what some may consider to be “mundane” and tells the interesting stories behind them. Join Dennis (who is very friendly, by the way) on a walk around Almaty and you will not be disappointed.
4. Kolsai Lakes: These three lakes are very popular destinations near Almaty. Surrounded by all of nature’s beauty and rare wildlife, visiting these lakes is a great option if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a serene atmosphere. It is possible to reach the first lake by car, but you have to park there and travel to the other two lakes either by foot or on horseback. It is said that it takes approximately one day in order to travel from the first lake to the third lake and back. Sounds like an awesome adventure!
5. Panfilov Park: Located in Central Almaty, this park is a welcoming spot for people of all ages. This park is named after a group of brave Almaty soliders who died fighting off Nazis in WWII. There was 28 of these soliders, and they were called the Panfilov Heroes. These heroes, along with many other Soviet war heroes, are honored at a memorial adjacent to the Zenkov Cathedral.
6. Big Almaty Lake: Big Almaty Lake is approximately 18 miles (28.5 km) from the city of Almaty. The lake is considered part of Alatau – Eliy National Park, and is quite a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Big Almaty Lake is surrounded by three gorgeous mountains, creating a stunning, tranquil atmosphere. Though the lake is used for water supply and hydroelectric power for Almaty, this does not disturb its natural aesthetics. Go to Big Almaty Lake to hike, picnic, take photographs, or just be in nature. You will never forget it.
7. Kok-Tube Hill: Take a fun-filled cable car ride to the top of Kok-Tube Hill where you will witness the city of Almaty from a bird’s-eye perspective. While at the top of the hill, gaze at the mountains or look longingly at the vineyards below, imagining what those grapes will taste like as a wine. The view is not the only great thing about Kok-Tube Hill, though. Guests will find shops, restaurants, a small zoo, children’s playgrounds, and more here. Come for the view, for the food, or just to relax. We guarantee you will never want to leave.
8. Almaty Central Park: Once known as Gorky Park (named after Russian author Maxim Gorky), Almaty Central Park has grown to be one of the best attractions in the city. Boasting 247 acres (100 hectares) of land, Almaty Central Park is great for all ages and offers a variety of activities. Sure, you can come here and go for a nice walk, have a picnic, read a book, and just relax. But Almaty National Park also provides an on-site waterpark called Aqua Park, a movie theatre called Rodina, and right across the street from the park is the Almaty Zoo. Be sure to set aside a good amount of time for Almaty Central Park.
9. Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical Instruments: The ancient and folk music of Kazakhstan is pleasing to the ear and unique in sound. So what are those instruments called that are responsible for such beautiful music? The Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical Instruments, located in Panfilov Park, displays all of the rare and unique folk instruments that are present in Kazakh culture. Come to this museum to view the instruments, or try your hand at playing them. You can also watch live performances by ethno-folk group Turan, or throw your child a birthday party here. If you love music, then this is definitely a place to put on your agenda.
10. First President’s Park: This popular place to visit is the home to the famous annual festival “Almaty- My First Love.” Located in the southern part of Almaty and surrounded by breathtaking mountain views, this park boasts natural features as well as attractions. Enjoy a concert at the amphitheater, go for a calming walk, or sit and enjoy the nature of Almaty. Be sure to pack your own food and drink if you come here, as there are no stores or food vendors in First President’s Park. Be sure to take lots of pictures of the perfectly planted flower beds. The trees, however, are not so big, as First President’s Park was originally opened in 2011 for President Nursultan Nazarbayev, but it has since been open for the public’s enjoyment.
Well, readers, there you have it. This list of places only scratches the surface of interesting and fun places to visit in Almaty, so let this serve as just a guide for when you’re making your plans of what to do when you visit. Though you will most likely enjoy any of the places on this list, one thing is guaranteed: no matter what you do in Almaty, you will love every second of it.
Sources: Medey.kz; Almaty-kazakhstan.net; Wikitravel; Lonelyplanet.com; Kazakhstandiscovery.com