Our article on the trip we did in Kazakhstan consists of 4 parts. This part describes the first 3 days we spent in Almaty, the former capital of this Central Asian country.
Start with Part 1 - the introduction to this article. Here you'll see our whole itinerary for the 7 days trip in Kazakhstan:
Day 1 – 3
We arrived at Almaty airport at 3:30 am and we weren’t quite sure what we’d do at such an impossible time of the night. This hotel is a 2minute walking distance from the airport, you’ll be looking right at it when you walk out of the arrivals hall.
So when we saw it, we went straight there and checked in for a few hours of needed rest. The hotel is basic, but its distance from the airport makes it an ideal place to stay before or after a flight. You can pay for a half day stay (11 USD) or a full day (20 USD).
After a few hours we got a taxi to the city, which was a mistake as we later found out because they overcharged us, even
though it was proper airport taxi. We paid 26 USD a ride that should have been about 7 USD. To avoid making the same mistake download Y.Taxi (the local Uber) on your phone before your arrival here and call a ride through the app, or arrange transportation with your hotel ahead of time.
We stayed at L.E.S. Hostel the first 2 nights, great place with friendly English speaking staff which we can only recommend.
Almaty has an underground metro system with 1 line. You can get to most sights with it and a ticket only costs about 0.20 USD. We also used Y.Taxi a few times but there are many traffic jams on the roads, so go for the metro if you can.
Sights we visited in Almaty:
Kok Tobe Hill
– A hill with a great view on the city with lots of fun things to do: Ferris wheel
fun activities for kids, restaurants, and we even stumbled across a Beatles sculpture. Take the funicular (cable car) from Dostyk Avenue to get there. (5 USD return ticket).
Panfilov Park – Big, green park with many war monuments
and Zenkov Cathedral, a cathedral made entirely from wood.
An indoor market with local produce
fresh home-made dairy products, dried fruits, meat.
The restaurants upstairs serve local meals, the menus are all in Russian so we just pointed at something on the menu. We got soup.
Sairan Lake – A lake close to the centre where locals go to hang out. Nice to walk around if you are in need of some peace and quiet.
Central Park – A huge park with lots of fun things to do for kids, they basically turned it into an amusement park. Nice to walk around and watch the locals having fun
Half day tour from Almaty to Big Almaty Lake – This lake has the city’s drinking water so you can’t swim in it, but most of the time it’s too cold for that anyway. Definitely worth visiting for the view though. It’s about a 30 minute drive from the city through the hills, towards the Kyrgyzstani border. I wouldn’t recommend driving here on your own as the roads are pretty bad once you get out of the city. We found a driver through L.E.S. hostel for this trip and paid 15 USD each.
Places to eat and drink in Almaty:
Boconok Restaurant: Right next to L.E.S hostel, nice international foods and drinks.
Gosti Restaurant for Russian food
Vakhtangury Restaurant for Georgian food
Most restaurants will only have a Russian menu and the waiters don’t speak English. It helps to download Google translate with Russian language, that way you can just hover over the words with your phone and it will automatically translate them to English (or your chosen language).
Part 3 is about the 2 days we spent in Shymbulak Ski resort: