12 Awesome Places To Discover In Almaty

Formerly the capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty is easily one of the most underrated cities I have ever been to. It is a hidden gem that hasn’t been overrun with tourists, yet. Located in the southeastern part of Kazakhstan, it is the cultural heartbeat of Kazakhstan. Like the rest of Central Asia’s countries, the city was hugely soviet-influenced with plenty of parks, large squares, broad avenues, socialist architecture and huge memorials. Yet at the same time, it is modern, vibrant, resilient, and has so much to offer travellers. 

Getting in and out of Almaty


Almaty International Airport is the largest and busiest airport in Central Asia region. From Almaty, there are regular flights to other Central Asian capitals if you want to save travelling time. There are also low-cost flights from Europe and the Middle East to fly into Almaty.


Almaty is also relatively close to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan and it takes about 5-hours by bus to travel between the cities.


An inexpensive and comfortable way to travel in Kazakhstan. China has a train connection between Urumqi and Almaty, and Uzbekistan has direct train from Tashkent to Almaty. Do consider that the cost of the train ride may be almost the same as flight ticket.We took a 12-hours overnight sleeper train ride from Shymkent to Almaty for 3,300 KZT (US$8).

Getting around Almaty

By Foot

Almaty may not the best city to travel around in by foot as Most attractions are quite a distance from each other. But that doesn’t stop us from walking around in some of the neighborhoods to see the Soviet architecture.

By Bus

Buses cover many major routes in the cities and out to the suburbs for 150 KZT (US$0.35) or 90 KZT (US$0.20) if you use a local transport card. They run at intervals of 5 minutes or less. Bus information for Almaty can be found here.

By Taxi

Taxis around the city cost about 1000 KZT (US$2.40). It is easier to use Yandex Taxi Hailing app as most drivers do not understand much English. It also save time and effort from haggling the price as well.

By Metro

Unlike Tashkent, Metro systems are relatively new in Almaty. It is not widely coverage of the whole city, but enough to get you around to some places of interest. For only 80 KZT (US$0.19), they are cheap, clean and efficient ways of travelling in the city centre. Metro information for Almaty can be found here.

Ascension Cathedral

Also known as Zenkov Cathedral, this ornate and vivid Russian Orthodox design is the perfect instagrammable spot. Completely built entirely of wood, it is the second tallest wood structure in the world with no nails used in the construction at all. Men cannot wear hats inside the cathedral and women must cover their heads with a scarf.

Nearest Metro Station: Zhibek Zholy

Panfilov Park

The park is a popular stop place for families and people who want to relax and have a picnic. It is named to commemorate 28 soldiers from Almaty who died fighting the Nazi’s outside of Moscow. We passed by a few times and always got amused by the local families feeding the pigeons.

Nearest Metro Station: Zhibek Zholy

Arasan Bathhouse

With the Soviet’s came their bath and spa culture. Arasan is one of the largest bath houses in Asia and is the best place in Almaty to experience this. The women’s section has 2 floors with different sauna cabins, showers, peeling rooms, massage rooms and a pool. At first I felt a bit lost in this huge complex among fully naked Kazakh and Russian woman. They were all wearing felt hats and I stood out for not having one, until I realized it is compulsory to have one to be inside the pools. In the Russian’s sauna, women also beat each other with leafy branches called veniks as a form of massage.

Nearest Metro Station: Zhibek Zholy

Green Market

The Green Market is an excellent place to do some shopping and to experience a Central Asian bazaar where you can buy souvenirs, dried fruits, spices and fresh vegetables. This is where to head to get a taste of daily life and get a feel for the real bustle of Almaty. There are some excellent little canteens located around the market where you can try tasty laghman (noodle soup with tomato and peppers) and beshbarmak (Kazakhs national dish of boiled noodles with horse meat). If you’re a vegan, be aware that the meat section can be graphic.

Nearest Metro Station: Zhibek Zholy

Kok Tobe

Kok-Tobe is a 1,1000-meters tall mountain with amusement park in the middle of the city. There is a Ferris wheel, Toboggan slide, a mini zoo and various activities at the top. Of course, it has a wonderful view over Almaty and don’t miss a quick snap with The Beatles’ statue.

Getting there:

The best way to access the top of the mountain is via cable car for 1000 KZT per way (US$2.40) near Abai station. Alternatively, you may take Bus #95/#99 to the bottom of Kok Tobe. From there, you can either walk up, or take a mini-van for 300 KZT per way (US$0.70).

Metro Tunnels

Like Tashkent, Almaty has beautiful Metro stations too! Each station is architecturally intriguing with Kazakh patterns and symbols. Opened in 2011, the stations are built to impress and although they are no match to the Moscow metro, it is among the fun things to do in Almaty. On top of that it is a cheap way to travel around the city!

Michelin-Starred Hawker Chan

Yes! We were as surprised when we saw this in Dostyk Plaza’s food court. Ironically, I had not try Hawker Chan in Singapore before, so that was my first time trying Michelin-starred hometown food all the way in Kazakhstan.

Nearest Metro Station: Abay

Central Mosque

Being the dominant religion of the region, the central mosque is the largest mosque in the middle of Almaty. The mosque is relatively new, but it was built on the site of an older mosque that was burned down in 1987. Foreigners are free to enter so long as dressed appropriately.

Nearest Metro Station: Zhibek Zholy

Independence Square

The main square in Almaty has been used for festivals, celebrations, military parades and mass demonstrations. The Independence monument is a statue of a golden warrior on top and at the bottom of the monument is a hand print of former President Nazarbayev. The bronze panels surrounding the monument show important events from Kazakhstan’s history.

Nearest Metro Station: Zhibek Zholy

Shymbulak and Medeu

Shymbulak and Medeu are among the most accessible places near Almaty to visit the snow-capped mountains. Medeu is home to the world’s highest ice rink where you can skate in winter. There are also some great hiking around Medeu to experience the wilderness.

From Medeu, you can take cable car to the ski resort higher up the mountain at Shymbulak that bring you straight into nature. At an altitude of 3,194-metres above sea level, it has an excellent views across the Tian Shan and down to Almaty. Be advised that even in summer it can get very cold up there with wind and snow, so make sure to bring warm layers if you want to go to the top.

Getting there: 

Bus #12 from across the Kazakhstan Hotel goes every 30 minutes to the entrance of the Ice skate ring in Medeu. To go further up to Shymbulak you can take a cable car for 4000 KZT return (US$9.50) or a minivan (cheaper) up the mountain.

Charyn Canyon

Charyn Canyon is located in Charyn National Park about 215-kilometres away from Almaty near the border of China. It was one of our highlights of in Almaty and thanks to our hostel’s host, we managed to join a weekend tour which mainly chartered for locals. The day-trip cost 4,500 KZT (US$10) with return bus ride and a guide. The beauty and rocky landscape felt like we had landed on Mars.

Big Almaty Lake

Less than an hour by taxi is the Big Almaty Lake in the middle of the mountains. Big Almaty Lake is located at 2,511-meters above sea level, and there are unofficial trails around various parts of the lake. It is totally worth a visit if you’re looking for a short half-day trip and are a fan of nature. Bring plenty of water and some food to picnic near a giant alpine lake!

Getting there: 

The best way to get to Big Almaty lake is by finding other people and sharing a taxi. It cost us 3,600 KZT (US$8.50) for Yandex taxi to get there.

Lastly, if you want to keep a track of all my photos and travels, remember to follow @wanderrsaurus on Instagram!

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Aloha! I'm Bunzy, a curious dreamer who is passionate about roaming around the world getting lost, experiencing new cultures and meeting the locals. My superpower is to be able to sleep anywhere, anyhow!

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