Kazakhstan

Weekend in Almaty

June 8, 2017

Almaty is surely one of the less explored travel destinations. You won’t see it in the list of the «top 10 places you have to visit before you die» and you won’t see the most popular bloggers doings hundreds of check-ins from the area. But that is so wrong!

Having spent a long weekend in Almaty I can assure you that this is one of the world’s most underrated destinations.

Almaty, formerly the capital city of Kazakhstan, is very young. Kazakh people historically lived the nomadic life and only one hundred years ago, the Soviet regime started building the city located at the footsteps of gorgeous Tian Shan mountains.

Today, Almaty is a modern, elegant, cosmopolitan city with a charming soul that kept both Soviet and nomadic traditions.

On the first day I arrived at Almaty, the weather became more November than May – cold, rainy and dull. So I decided to go up into the mountains hoping to see some weather change there.

Medeu and Shymbulak

Almaty is located right at the footsteps of the mountains that are also the city’s main attraction. Over the years, the city created great infrastructure for winter sports and later for summer outdoor activities as well. Apart from that, the mountains are just beautiful.

The Natural Boundary Medeu that is located in the upper part of Almaty, at the footsteps of Altau mountains at 1961 meters above the sea level, has become a world-known place for the most alpine skating ring Medeu. It is also famous for hosting over 120 world records.

Medeu is also the lowest station of a cable car that goes up to Shymbulak, Almaty’s ski-resort. There are three segments of the cable car and the third segment takes you up to 3200 meters.

Once I sat in the cable car I wanted to make thousands of shots. Nature and the weather were changing every 100 meters as we went up. Soon my cable car cabin went into the clouds and by the time when I reached the last station I realized I was above the clouds. Well, actually I was in between the two levels of clouds separated by a strip of the bright blue sky.

The ski season in Almaty begins in November and ends in May, so here is another great reason to visit this city. While European ski resorts are not operating, you can get amazing slopes in Almaty. In summer this area is perfect for hiking.

The infrastructure is really great – modern cable cars, sun terraces, restaurants, ski schools, etc. I highly recommend this modern and elegant ski resort for the next season.

Kok Tobe

In the afternoon the weather became better and the sky became clearer. That was it! I knew I would have the opportunity to watch the sunset. The best spot in Almaty to watch is Kok Tobe Mountain, which is the highest point of the city.

The mountain has a beautiful view of the Tian Shan mountains and the city. I had half an hour before the sunset would begin so I went around to see what this place has apart from the view. Today Kok Tobe is a family amusement park with alleys, small zoo, souvenir shops and a restaurant.

Where to eat in Almaty

The Kazakh national cuisine is simple, high-calorie and nutritious and contains a lot of meat and flour. The famous traditional dishes of Kazakh cuisine are Beshbarmak, Kuyrdak, sausage from horse meat Kazy, all types of fermented milk products.

 

If you are visiting Almaty for a weekend, here is my list of the restaurants to go to:

  • Rumi – perfect to try national cuisine
  • Tyubeteyka – perfect for plov and pilaf (plov)
  • Angel-in-Us – best coffee in Almaty
  • LT Bar & Grill at Ritz-Carlton Almaty – Located on the hotel’s 28th floor, LT Bar and Grill impresses guests with stunning views of the city and the Trans-Ili Alatau Mountains. Thanks to its panoramic view and the outstanding creations concocted by the restaurant’s celebrated chef, LT Bar and Grill has become one of the most popular places in the city for romantic dinner.

Where to stay in Almaty

Almaty is an elegant city so I decided to stay at a very elegant hotel Ritz-Carlton Almaty that is located in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau. The hotel occupies the top 10 floors of Esentai Tower, the tallest building in Almaty, offering magnificent views of the mountains.

I arrived late so I couldn’t see the mountains. But when I woke up, I was in awe because the mountains were covered with snow and were just near. Then I went to explore the hotel and it is truly amazing. The main theme of its design is horses. Kazakhstan is land of horses and historically a horse was a nomad’s friend, means of transportation and food.

The breakfasts at Ritz-Carlton are amazing. Everyone will find their favorite meal and you can also try many traditional foods during the breakfast.

How to get to Almaty

There are several airlines that fly to Almaty and I chose Air Astana for the first time and I must admit that it is one of the best airlines I flew with. First of all there is enough of leg space even for tall people like myself. The meals are great and so is their service.

They play elegant music during the take-off and landing, I felt like I was sitting in a lobby of a luxurius hotel. These airlines were awarded as Asia’s best airlines and I totally understand why.

Almaty is a perfect destination to travel for a weekend or as a starting point to explore the mountains, steppes, lakes, and canyons as I did. Read about visiting the Sharyn Canyon in my next post.

If you like to see more pictures from my adventures, follow me on Instagram

Pin this post to plan your perfect weekend in Almaty.

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48 Comments

  • Reply Thelittlelai: Beyond limits June 8, 2017 at 11:39 am

    This is such a beautiful experience. I haven’t seen and touch a snow, but this seemed to be really fun for me. I haven’t heard about Almaty, and looks like a perfect haven for every travelers. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  • Reply Bhusha June 8, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    OMG! The place is soooo gorgeous! Very true, I’ve not heard of this place at all, not in any blog or travel magazines!!! Wow! Thanks for introducing such a paradise to me!
    So cold, rainy and snowy in May? I’m intriguied by the seasons there!
    Good to know Ritz opened up a hotel here!

  • Reply chantae June 8, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Stunning pictures and great tips as usual! Posts like these are exactly why I love following bloggers instead of mainstream media — it’s such a unique, beautiful place that few people have ever heard of let alone visit. I love the gondolas and the rugged feel. I’d be so interested to see Almaty and use it as a touchpoint for Sharyn Canyon (where are the pics! post already :P). Does that bathtub look out to the same view as the one of you sitting in the windowsill?

  • Reply Karen Morse June 9, 2017 at 7:14 am

    I have to admit, I have never given much thought about visiting Almaty. It sounds like a lovely place to explore and get lost in. Just look at that wonderful view! Aside from that, pampering yourself at the Ritz after a busy day exploring is a lovely idea! thanks for this guide!

  • Reply Blair Villanueva June 9, 2017 at 7:38 am

    Yeah it is the first time I hear about Almaty, too foreign for me but you presented it in a very relaxing and enjoyable way. And am sold with your little place on top.of the snowy hills and clouds!

  • Reply quirkywanderer June 9, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Looks like a fairy tale. That house in the snow! <3 Just too beautiful. What a lovely place and such a pity it isn't popular or documented! Loved your pictures. Too stunning! Thank you for showing this part of the world to me:)

    • Siniciliya
      Reply Siniciliya June 9, 2017 at 11:45 am

      If you get a chance, I really recommend you watching the movie called “Nomad/ The Warrior”. I believe it should be in English. It tells a lot about the Kazakh culture.

  • Reply Shoshana Sue (@suzycc) June 9, 2017 at 10:00 am

    I had never heard of Kazakhstan until I watched that stupid movie by Sacha Baron.I wouldn’t have guessed it was such a beautiful place until this article. I am beyond amazed at how stunning all is in Almaty. I am in awe, just like you were, when you saw the snow and mountains.

    • Siniciliya
      Reply Siniciliya June 9, 2017 at 11:42 am

      I just googled to find the movie you are talking about. Is it called Borat? I’ll watch it later today.

  • Reply Ana Ojha June 9, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    I didn’t know that Kazakhstan is a tourist destination! What a surreal landscape! Almaty looks like a winter wonderland! The view from the cable car is breathtaking and Ritz-Carlton Almaty looks like an ultimate place to stay in Almaty as your pictures speak for itself!

    • Siniciliya
      Reply Siniciliya June 9, 2017 at 3:44 pm

      Ana, I don’t want to show off, but when I look back at my trip I am sure that I had a perfect itinerary in Almaty 🙂

  • Reply NowThatsAHoneymoon June 9, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    Mountains! Snow! Your photos look amazing!!!!! I don’t know a lot about this place and you’re right that it’s underrated. Sometimes its best that way at least it doesn’t get spoiled by too much travelers or tourists. Thanks for the tips! Was it safe to go around?

    • Siniciliya
      Reply Siniciliya June 9, 2017 at 3:23 pm

      I should have mentioned that Almaty is very-very safe!

  • Reply theclutterboxblog June 9, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Oh gosh that bathtub is amazing!! Your pictures are lovely and I would totally go skiing there. I haven’t heard of this place but I’ll definitely add it to my destination list.

  • Reply fashionphases June 9, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    Almaty is such a beautiful place to visit! The views are spectacular and the room are fantastic!!

  • Reply Melissa Chapman June 9, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    That St.Bernard is so classic for a ski resort in winter. I had never heard of Almaty and I don’t ski but it looks like a great place to discover.

  • Reply Amanda Love June 10, 2017 at 1:31 am

    That is quite a weekend! I love that it’s all about exploring and relaxing! Your hotel room is simply gorgeous! It’s awesome to be able to stay there for a couple of days.

  • Reply laramaree June 10, 2017 at 5:44 am

    I applied for a job in Astana, Kazakhstan. I didn’t get it, but the country has been high on my list ever since.

  • Reply Ticket to Adventures June 10, 2017 at 6:16 am

    Sounds like you had such a lovely weekend! This place looks very exotic, I have never heard or read about this place before, but really tuns on my wanderlust. Thank you for sharing, I learned lots of new things.

  • Reply Jalisa Harris June 10, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Those pictures are amazing. It sounds like you had an amazing weekend. This place looks like a bucket list place to go to. Thank you for sharing. My mom is big on cold weather spots.

  • Reply Seattle Travel Blogger June 10, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    This looks like an interesting destination. I really love your pictures – especially the one of the Saint Bernard! :)s

  • Reply Jeanine June 10, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Wow how stunning are these photos! What a view. Looks lovely, and like the perfect place to spend a lovely weekend!

  • Reply Louise x (@withlovefromlou) June 10, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    Oh, wow! I’ve actually never heard of Almaty before, but now I want to visit so bad! It just looks stunning here 🙂

    Louise x

  • Reply For the love of jars (@4theloveofjars) June 10, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    What an absolutely amazing place! A hidden gem! Love the idea of going skiing there…I’m going to check it out!

  • Reply Cindy Ingalls June 11, 2017 at 2:10 am

    What a beautiful place! Thank you for the gorgeous pictures and lesson on Almaty!

  • Reply Ami Bhat June 11, 2017 at 2:35 am

    Looks like a lovely winter wonderland. I love your room too…that hot water bath in a cold place is so relaxing and refreshing. Definitely a place that is worth the weekend.

  • Reply Jocelyn @ Hip Mama's Place June 11, 2017 at 3:08 am

    I could use a weekend in such a lovely place! It’s amazing that you’re far from the hustle and bustle of the city when you go and explore Almaty. I also love the place that you stayed in, The Ritz is such an awesome hotel.

  • Reply Jackie June 11, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Looks stunning and you took some beautiful photos. Your right I haven’t heard anything about this place but that seems a lot better to be not that tourist heavy.

  • Reply Cassie Tucker June 11, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    I’m not going to lie: I had never even heard of Almaty before. However, it is absolutely beautiful and a destination I would like to visit.

  • Reply daniella flores June 11, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    This sounds like an amazing place to go and an amazing weekend! These photos are breathtaking!

  • Reply Heather Riccobono (@BrieBrieBlooms) June 11, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    These pictures are gorgeous. GORGEOUS! Unbelievably gorgeous! I would definitely go there based on this post alone. What an amazing getaway. I’d love to stay there for our anniversary weekend without kids!

  • Reply Amber Nelson June 11, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    Wow, what an idea for a vacation. I would enjoy it there very much. Those photos are beautiful!

  • Reply Renée ♥ June 11, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    Almaty looks like a beautiful, relaxing destination, and that view from you room – Wow! I love learning about new places to add to our travel list.

  • Reply Julie Cao June 12, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    I have never heard of Almaty, it looks like a dream through all of your pictures, especially the featured image of your post. It makes me want to hop on a cable car, stand in between the two levels of the clouds, and feel the beauty and the power of the nature. I also like the fact that Almaty is not touristy. I wish it will not be promoted, so travelers who come will get away from the crowds, embrace the beauty of this untamed place, and get connect with the nature.

  • Reply Blonde Seeking Ambition June 12, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    I’ve actually seen commercials for Kazakhstan, randomly – on Bloomberg. I had no idea it was THAT lovely, though! Simply stunning.

    Caitlin

  • Reply openroadahead June 12, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    This is fascinating! Maybe 20 years ago, I used to work with various think tanks who were doing development work in Almaty. So, I had heard tales to the city, but the countryside you were able to explore looks incredible (and cable cars!!!) ! And, of course, who wouldn’t be wowed by the views and style of the Ritz Carlton Almaty?

  • Reply Anne @TravelTheGlobe (@TTGLOBE4L) June 12, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    I really want to go to Almaty although I had no idea it was in the foot of the mountains, nor did I really know anything else about it, other than that I had not been. Having read this and discovered the ski slopes are close by, there is a Ritz and you can ski until May, I am bumping it up my list!

  • Reply Claudia June 12, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Oh myyy I had never considered visiting Almaty until now! The scenery is just crazy beautiful! A true hidden gem

  • Reply Paige Wunder June 13, 2017 at 1:24 am

    You always find so many of the most amazing destinations. This looks absolutely perfect. That A-Frame is absolutely perfect! I’m dying to get to Ukraine and check out some of these untouched places.

  • Reply Samantha Elisabeth June 14, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    Oh my word these PHOTOS. I’ve actually heard of Almaty before, but only because on of my favorite Instagrammers used to live there, so she did a whole story when she went back recently! It sounds like such a charming capital, and I’ll definitely have to keep Rumi in mind to get a taste of the national cuisine! Also those views from your room!

  • Reply Megan Indoe June 14, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    Wow, I have never even heard of Almaty until now but I feel like I have to go after this post! Your first photo is breathtaking and it seriously looks like a winter wonderland! All of the views there look so beautiful! I chuckled when I saw Angel in Us coffee, they had those all over Korea when we lived there!

  • Reply Claire Summers June 14, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    Your photography are stunning! This place looks so beautiful and I love the place you were staying. The view from the swimming pool…wow.

  • Reply Tania Mukherjee June 15, 2017 at 11:17 am

    I absolutely love exploring underrated destinations where travel bloggers do not flock to. There is so much waiting to be discovered in destinations like that. I could well understand how you must have felt like moving in the cable car surrounded by clouds on all sides…surreal right? 🙂

  • Reply melbtravel June 15, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    I have never heard of Almaty before and it that is a cool fact that it use to be the former capital city of Kazakhstan. Beautiful pictures that you have there, I am a huge ski fan and I would definitely love to be up those mountains. Definitely adding to the bucketlist. Btw your first picture looks stunning.

  • Reply Cat June 16, 2017 at 4:45 am

    I have not heard of Almaty before but the scenery is stunning! I can see why you love it there! Ritz Carlton has got some gorgeous mountain views!

  • Reply Anne @TravelTheGlobe (@TTGLOBE4L) June 16, 2017 at 6:07 am

    I had been thinking I wanted to visit Almaty even though I knew nothing about it. Now I know it is near the mountains I definitely want to go and I want a dip in that tub

  • Reply Charyn Canyon - Siniciliya June 16, 2017 at 5:39 pm

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