Kazakhstan? Huh? Where is it? Did you meet Borat (fictional character)? Yes, that’s how people react when I say I want to go to Kazakhstan. This independent country from the Soviet Union in 1991 is located in Central Asia, bordering Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. It is the ninth largest country in the world, while Borat is a very fictional character film that actually was not shot in Kazakhstan.
To enjoy this trip, I start from Almaty, which is the largest city in Kazakhstan. Almaty had been the capital of the country until 1997, which eventually moved to Astana. As a business and cultural center, Almaty tourism is best prepared. Most international flights also landed in Almaty. But do you know what the word “Almaty” means? Apple City! Yes, because of the many apple trees, and according to research, apples have grown there since 1000 years ago.
Because this destination is still uncommon, I will write in the style of a travel guide because I am sure it will be useful. After all, there is rarely qualified information. I am starting with this information: where to go and what to do in Almaty?
Almaty is a developed city, similar to a city in Europe. Dubbed the “garden city” because the whole city is filled with shady trees. The city is located at the foot of the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains, which has eternal snow at its peak. Must come to the following place:
Republic Square is the central square, which is the Almaty landmark. There is a 28 meter high Golden Warrior monument, a fountain, a diorama wall of the history of Kazakhstan. The opposite is the mayor’s building, which was once a former presidential palace.
Panfilov Park of 28 Guardsmen is a lush 18-hectare city lung park, a favorite spot for locals to travel and date. There are 28 monuments to commemorate the services of 28 heroes who died in the war against Nazi Germany. Panfilov himself is the name of the general who led the war.
Saint Ascension Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox church which is also called by its architect, Zenkov. Located in the middle of Panfilov Park, this beautiful church built in 1906 is painted colorful like candy.
First President’s Park is an urban park that overlooks snowy mountains. The president planted his own oak tree there.
To get to know a country’s culture and history in a short time, please visit the following museum;
The Central State Museum of Almaty is the largest in Almaty, which contains the historical, archeological, cultural, and political artifacts of Kazakhstan.
Almaty Museum specializes in the history of the city of Almaty, starting from prehistoric times, the Soviet Union, to modern times.
The Museum in the French House is easily recognized because outside of the building, there is a miniature Eiffel tower. Better known as a perfume and cosmetics shop, but on the lower floor, there is a collection of historic art objects that are privately owned, ranging from horse saddles to ancient gold.
Besides sightseeing, we can do other exciting activities in the following places:
Medeu is the highest outdoor ice skating ring in the world at an altitude of 1,691 masl. Built-in 1949, the ice stadium with a capacity of 8500 people is often used as a place for speed skating competitions such as the 2011 Winter Asian Games.
Kok-Tobe means Blue Hill is the highest point of the city of Almaty at an altitude of 1,100 ms. There is an amusement park, a ferris wheel, a roller coaster, a zoo, and a 372 meter high TV Tower. The city of Almaty is clearly visible from up there. We can ride the cable car too.
Sunkar Falcon Center is a predatory bird farm endemic in Kazakhstan, mostly falcon and eagle species. The cool thing is, every day there is a show of expertise of giant birds trained by its handlers.
What shopping in Almaty? Anything there! Just buy at the following place:
Mall in Almaty, all of them are big, modern and beautiful. All kinds of global brands are in the mall, including fast-food restaurants and American franchise cafes. My recommendation is to Dostyk Plaza, Mega Mall, and Esentai Mall.
Arbat is a road without vehicles where artists sell local handicrafts and art objects, and there are also some cool cafes.
Green Market (Zelyony) is one of the biggest markets in Almaty and is the most tourist-friendly. I think it’s called green because the building is painted green, but I’m wrong because that true meaning is green vegetables, aka traditional market. This two-story market sells all kinds of local specialties, from cheese, vegetables, meat (including horse meat), to fabrics and furniture. If you want a photo, you must ask permission first.
In my opinion, the highlight of Almaty is that it is a day trip outside the city to see the spectacular natural beauty. Unfortunately once out of town, toilets are generally awful. Although the building is good, the inside is only in the form of a hole-like toilet bin without water, especially tissues, so the dirt and odor smell is terrible! But it becomes worth it with the following cool scenery:
Shymbulak is a ski resort that is open all year, especially for skiing in the winter of November to April. Amazingly, in the summer, there is still snow! To reach Talgar Pass at an altitude of 3,200 meters above sea level, we can take a cable car from Medeu. The view is indeed spectacular with layers of mountains with eternal snow.
Big Almaty Lake is located at an altitude of 2,511 masl. This beautiful lake with turquoise color is set in the Tien Shan mountain range, which has eternal snow with three peaks of around 4000 masl. Just seeing this makes me want to swim, but banned because the lake is a natural reservoir, which is a source of drinking water for Almaty residents.
Sharyn Canyon is referred to as “the sister of the Grand Canyon in America” because it is similar but smaller in scale. Located 200 km from Almaty by off-road, we are treated to a view of the vast savanna with the endless sky. With a canyon depth of 100 meters, we can descend and walk between the Valley of Castles with unique rock formations.