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One might think of Kazakhstan as a distant place of intrigue and suspense. It certainly is so, but it is also quite familiar, especially in its grand cities such as Almaty. This former capital but still quite relevant largest city and cultural hub promises exciting things to see and explore for long and short term visits.
Central State Museum of Kazakhstan
Located just off the central republic square this stately building of blue and white is easy to locate. It is one of the treasures of Central Asia, houseing many archeological and historical artifacts that speak to the long and varied history of the region. The bronze age to the age of communications is represented with everything in between.
Ascension Cathedral/Panfilov Park
This may be the most iconic attraction in the city. The Church is made entirely of wood, even the ‘nails’ which hold the wood in place. It is ornate both inside and out and is a spot dedicated to constant worship. It has been described as the city’s gem. The park which surrounds it called Panfilov is scenic and a bit of respite in the heart of the busy city. Just across the street from the park are the Arasan Baths, a place that combines Turkish, Finnish, & Russian styles of treatments, pools and massages.
This most accessible location in the Tian Shen Mountains surrounding the city can be reached in around 20 minutes by taking city bus #12. The area is perfect for hiking in summer or winter. Winter takes on a special significance as the large stadium which can hold 3,000 skaters at once comes alive as the world’s highest and biggest ice skating rink.
This modern complex includes a state of the art shopping center just off one of the city’s main boulevards: Al Farabi. It includes a gourmet supermarket, food court, IMAX experience and some of the world’s top clothing brands. It is scenic and modern with lots of room to expand. Specialty shops, luxury apartments and the Ritz Carlton make this one of the city’s trendiest spots.
The meaning of the name is “green peak” and it can be located on the outskirts of Almaty. The best way to locate it is to look for the city’s TV tower. It is possible to walk up the sloping streets, get a private taxi ride for under $5 USD or connect with the cable car that departs from the junction of Abai Street and Dostyk Avenue. There are things to eat, curious monuments to behold and places for children and families to explore.
Bolshoe Almatinskoe Lake
This is probably one of the better and more manageable daytrips to take outside Almaty. It combines the natural wonders of an alpine setting with a crystal blue man made lake. It is only possible to reach via a hiking/public transit combination, or by renting or being taken in a car. There are many stunning lakes in Kazakhstan, however this is the most accessible from the city.
This massive public space is the heart of civil celebrations and it is the epicenter for the life of the city. It is easy to navigate to attractions like the Central State Museum, and the President’s Southern Residence standing here. There are statues and fountains celebrating the origins of the country’s founding as well as an underground shopping center connecting both sides of the main boulevard, a good place to buy souvenirs as well as fashion accessories.
This is the city’s traditional market. It uniquely blends the traditions and cultures of upwards of the 120 ethnic groups present in Kazakhstan. It is a blend of the Arabian concept of Bazaar and the trading skills of Asian peoples. In the bazaar one can find raw ingredients from the surrounding countries and landscapes or prepared dishes which reflect the creative culinary skills of the various peoples. The food is a good value.