When my friends asked me what my next short trip was going to be, they were quite stunned and more or less confused. I told them I was going to visit a place in Central Asia called Almaty, which is the capital city of Kazakhstan. At first I wasn’t sure either about whether or not this trip would be a success, but after experiencing this country I feel like I need to convince you to visit this place as well!
After searching online for the best available flights I chose to go with KLM. They offer 3 weekly flights for around 500 euros. The best thing about KLM is that they offer non-stop flights, so you can just relax and sit back without having to transfer somewhere.
Visit www.klm.com for the prices and availability.
Hotel: InterContinental Almaty
There are many hotels you can choose from to stay in but for this trip we chose the InterContinental Almaty, which has great rooms and direct access to the metro. For 3 nights we paid 451 Euros and breakfast was included. For more information on availability please visit the website: www.intercontinental.com.
Because we arrived in the hotel late at night, we first got some sleep before starting the sightseeing journey.
Shymbulak Ski Resort
Only a 25-minute taxi ride away from Almaty Center you can find the entrance of the Gondolas that will take you up to the mountain and the number one ski resort in Kazakhstan, called Shymbulak. During the winter season this is definitely the place to be. The slopes are always ready to be skied or snowboard on and the nature surrounding you is breathtaking. When thinking of a country in Central Asia you do not automatically think of perfect slopes and a great skiing experience. However, Shymbulak offers a great experience with easy to rent gear and cheap lift passes. At the bottom of the slopes there are many restaurants and bars to finish off the day.
Monument of Independence
When arriving back in the city center we went to the hotel to freshen up after a long day on the slopes. Once we got out of the hotel we walked around and went to the monument of independence on Republic Square, one of Almaty’s main squares. This is only a 10-minute walk from the hotel so it was very close by. The monument is dedicated to the Republic of Kazakhstan’s rich history.
Panfilov Park and Zenkov Cathedral
On the second day of our journey we headed out to the Panfilov Park. This park is located in central-east Almaty and is dedicated and named after the Panfilov Heroes. There is a memorial in the park for the 28 soldiers of the Almaty infantry unit who died fighting the Nazis outside of Moscow. An eternal flame to commemorate the fallen of the Civil War and WWII burns in front of a giant black monument of soldiers from all 15 Soviet republics. The park has many places to rest and also a lot of sculptures to see. But one of the most impressive artwork is the Zenkov Cathedral. This Cathedral is probably the only wooden cathedral in the world. The cathedral is build without the use of any nails. It is a Russian Orthodox Church and when walking inside you need to respect the customs of the church because it is still an active religious building. What I liked most of this cathedral are the beautiful colors that are used on the exterior of the building. It really stands out and makes it one of a kind.
Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical Instruments
Also located in the Panfilov Park is the Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical Instruments. This museum has a rich history of Folk Music and the artists. Although the museum itself wasn’t that interesting for me personally (I know absolutely nothing about Folk Music), the outside was really nice! The pointy roofs and orange/brown walls are a great sight to see.
Central Mosque Almaty
For some reason the mosques in the places I visit are always very beautiful and definitely worth a visit. Religion in Kazakhstan is important and about 70% of the population is Muslim. The Central Mosque is a magnificent building that looks very ancient with Turkish calligraphy, golden domes and minarets. It is quite a sight to see, and it is even possible to enter inside, but since we only had 1 day left we decided to only admire the outside.
Abay National Theatre and Opera House
This building is very magnificent and housed a lot of famous Kazakh stars. The building was opened in 1932 and since then it has been the place to be if you want to see theatre plays, opera’s or ballet. The fountains in front of the building were equally as impressive and added up to the whole picture.
Big Almaty Lake
The Big Almaty Lake is located around 29 KM south of the Center of Almaty and is frozen for most of the year. The lake is used for the water supply for the city and the hydro electric power, but you won’t notice it in the beautiful scenery. The three mountains, Sovetov, Ozyorny and Turist, create a spectacular backdrop to the scenery and produce great reflections in the lake.
Medeo Ice Skating
Open-air speed skating was common practice for the top athletes, and the one place where speed skating history has been made was at the rink at Medeo, a 15-minute drive from the center of Almaty. Because this rink is situated at an altitude of 1.960 meters it is the highest skating rink in the world. We rented a pair of skates and pretended we were speed skaters (and failed doing so).
Other places worth a visit
There are many more sights to see when visiting Almaty like:
- The Green Bazaar, which is a large market which sells a wide range of goods
- The Almaty Zoo which has examples of the unique and diverse wildlife of Kazakhstan
- Kok-Tobe, the highest point in Almaty with a height of 1100 meters
- Central State Museum, to learn more about the history of Kazakhstan
- Charyn Canyon, the grand canyon of Kazakhstan
- First President’s Park, home to the Amphitheatre atmosphere and fountains
Recap of the 3-day trip
The flight with KLM takes about 6 hours and 35 minutes. The hotel I chose to stay at is the InterContinental Almaty which is very centrally located in the city. A visit to the Shymbulak ski resort is a must if you enjoy nature and skiing. The monument of independence, Panfilov Park, Zenkov Cathedral, Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical Instruments, Central Mosque, and Abay Natonal Theatre and Opera House are all sights that show the history of this city and the beauty that it has to offer. To top it off, a visit to the Big Almaty Lake and the famous Ice Skating Rink Medeo are a must.
For now I’m packing my bags for the next destination, which is located somewhere in Northern America. Keep on the lookout for the next blog post where I will reveal the beauty of this destination.