Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan, bordered by snowcapped peaks to the south and sitting at 900 metre elevation. The city is the major commercial and cultural centre, and it functioned as the country's capital city during several periods in the 20th century. Sloping downwards from the southerly Trans-Ili Alatau mountain range, the city today is a bustling metropolis of modern cars, sky-scrapers and has previously been known as one of the top 30 most expensive cities for travel and living.
Although it has been settled in one form or another since the 9th century BC, the city as it is known today was founded in 1854. Many centuries of history, re-settlement and wars give Almaty a social and cultural diversity evident throughout the city's many museums, theatres and palaces. Be sure to check out the National Museum to get to know some of this history and relax in the traditional Arasan Bathhouse before heading out to see Big Almaty Lake, 30 minutes drive from the city and one of the most beautiful places in the country.
During March, visitors can join in on Nauruz celebrations: a festival of drinking, dancing and good food, while in August the city hosts the Four-E yoga and meditation retreat in a beautiful mountain setting.
Things to Do
The ambiance of wealth and youthfulness in Almaty gives it a sophisticated air -- but don't be fooled! There are many fun things to see and do in this historic city.
The National Museum is a must-see, with guided tours in both Russian and English that take you through the country's prehistoric past to the Mogul empire and the Soviet Era. A great way to learn about the city you're visiting and get to know more about the people and places you'll visit on your trip.
Spend a few relaxing hours at the Arasan Baths, commonly known as the best bathhouse in Asia. Beautiful marble surroundings and a variety of services such as spas, saunas, steam-rooms and massages await you!
See the nature.
Only a 30-minute drive from the city, Big Almaty Lake offers visitors the opportunity to hike and picnic in one of the most beautiful places in the country. The lake's crystal-clear water changes colour depending on the season and it is surrounded by beautiful lush forest.
Calendar of Events
Almaty is one of the most culturally active cities in Central Asia, and no matter when you visit, there will definitely be something exciting to take part in.
The Nauruz celebrations. At this festival in March, celebrate the beginning of springtime with singing, dancing and drinking. There are many free concerts in public areas around the city.
Four-E Festival. In August, enjoy this a 3-day new age yoga and folk-music retreat in differing mountain locations. Enjoy relaxing in the mountain air, meeting new people and listening to the nightly concerts.
Biker festival Preserve Balkhash. This event is held annually to bring attention to the ecological and climatic issues facing the nearby lake reserve as well as to develop responsible and sustainable tourism in the area. A bike parade, food stalls, a bike wash and BMX competition draw an international crowd.