Almaty, a green oasis | Kazakhstan

After not so bustling Taraz, we took the overnight train to Almaty (formerly Alma-Ata), which, by the way, is a fine train. For 5,000 tenge you have a one-way ticket Taraz to Almaty. We shared a compartment with two women. Hearty fun because they spoke – you wouldn’t believe it – English! The first after our Airbnb host in Astana. Thus, we were given many tips to do in and around Almaty. Always fun, tips from locals! The train from Taraz to Almaty was very luxurious compared to the train I used to travel from Nairobi to Mombassa earlier this year. In short, doable and highly recommended.

Almaty is the former capital of Kazakhstan. Almaty is truly fantastic! What a breath of fresh air this city is. Everywhere you look you see trees and greenery. The people are friendly and you stumble over the many coffee bars, restaurants and – yes – karaoke bars.

We stayed a total of four nights in Almaty and if you want to see everything, you need at least three nights. That way, you can view everything at your leisure. Have you run out of things to do in Almaty? Then head up to Altyn-Emel National Park, for example.


What should you really do when in Almaty?



A cable car takes you 1,100 meters up into the sky toward a 327-meter TV tower. Once you arrive, you have beautiful views of the city and the mountains. There are several places to grab a drink or eat a sandwich. In your best Russian or with a Russian language booklet, you quickly explain that you are a vegetarian. The cable car costs 2,000 tenge for a return trip. There is also a large Ferris wheel, climbing wall, petting zoo (not very animal-friendly) and all sorts of other fairground attractions.



#Panfilov Park & Zenkov Cathedral

This park is popular among Kazakhs, young and old. You will find here a war memorial to the Panfilov heroes: 28 soldiers who died fighting the Nazis in Moscow in 1941. There is also an eternal fire burning.

If you continue walking, you will run into the Zenkov Cathedral. This building is all wood, even the nails! During Soviet times, the building was used as a museum and concert hall. In 1995, it was again used as a Russian Orthodox church. When we were there, many people walked in and out to pray. Women here wear headscarves. So when you want to go in here as a woman, just tie a scarf, just like in Turkistan.

almaty church

#Green Market

This bazaar is also large with lots of fruits and vegetables. Local people often do their shopping here. Nice to walk through. And within walking distance of Panfilov Park and Zenkov Cathedral.



#Family park & Lenin statues

This family park may be called a family park, but in our eyes it is more like a military open-air museum. There are large tanks, war planes and other war vehicles. What is nice is that children can climb on it. And oh yes, so did Sander. So would you like to sit on a Soviet tank? Then this is the place to be. There is also a large statue of Lenin in this park. One of the few statues in Almaty of this controversial man.


#Vegetarian food and drink

In Kazakh cuisine, they mainly use meat. Eating vegetarian, let alone vegan, is therefore outside the larger cities, a real challenge. Fortunately, you can find a coffee shop or restaurant on every corner in Almaty. Fantastic! Really full vegetarian or vegan restaurants don’t have very many here yet. We found one, but it always closed at 8 pm. So we were late every time. Curious about our tips for great restaurants and coffee shops? Then read the blog about vegetarian restaurants in Almaty.



You want to celebrate your birthday. We would do something like a night out or at home with beer, wine, spirits and appetizers. No, in Kazakhstan things are really different. As the birthday boy or girl, you then rent a private box with television, sound boxes and more than thousands of songs to choose from. And then you’re going to have a good laugh, karaoke that is. It doesn’t matter if you can sing or not. The Kazakh young people like it a lot! I love karaoke so I sang along overenthusiastically to Wonderwall and Torn. When I returned after going to the bathroom, I suddenly heard Sander singing from the hallway. Darn! To Rammstein, that is. What a few beers aren’t good for ;-).


#Shymbulak & Medeo

From the Kazakhstan Hotel catch bus 12 to Medeo. A large ice rink in the middle of the mountains of Almaty. In the summer you can roller-skate there but there is not much else to do. Much more fun is to transfer from Medeo to a smaller van or cab to the ski resort of Shymbulak. A ten-minute car ride further from Medeo.

In winter, the splendor of Almaty comes here to ski or snowboard. In the background you can see the high mountains. I can imagine this being incredibly fun to ski in the winter. In summer, you can do one-day and even multi-day hikes from Shymbulak. We walked a little bit but stayed mainly in the “village” and enjoyed the view, the sun and a cool beer. So when you are tired of Austria or France for skiing, try Almaty!


#Big Almaty Lake

We didn’t go here (you can’t do everything unfortunately), but we heard many good stories about it. If you don’t have the chance to go to the Kolsay Lakes, Charyn Canyon or Altyn-Emel national park, don’t leave Almaty without visiting this lake.