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The 14 Best Things to do in Almaty + Almaty Day Trips

Updated in March 2020The Best Things To Do In Almaty was originally written in August 2019

Almaty, aka: the city of apples is the largest city in Kazakhstan and a must see on any Kazakhstan itinerary. Once the capital (that torch was handed off to Astana, recently renamed Nur Sultan), Almaty is full of rich history. With an Eastern European city feel, while still encompassing traits making it uniquely Kazakh, Almaty can be a great place to stop off on your Central Asia adventures for creature comforts, and can also make a great base for those wanting to satellite out to explore. Read on to discover some of the best things to do in Almaty.


Check out this one day Almaty city tour on Viator


Kazakhstan, Almaty, Zenkov, Zenkov Cathedral, Ascension Cathedral, Almaty Cathedral, Almaty Church, Orthodox Church, Orthodox cathedral, Panfilov Park

1. Visit Colorful Ascension/Zenkov Cathedral

You’ve probably seen photos of colorful Zenkov Cathedral in the heart of Almaty’s Panfilov Park perusing google for information on the city.

Also referred to as Ascension Cathedral, this Russian Orthodox Church built in 1907 (undergoing restoration in 2018) is the second talked wooden structure in the world.


Don’t forget to grab a copy of the Bradt Kazakhstan guidebook to start planning your trip


2. Stroll Through Panfilov Park

If you’re looking for things to do in Almaty, many of them are centered around Panfilov Park. This is the place to hang out in Almaty with plenty of places to stroll and home to Zenkov Cathedral and a War Memorial to an Almaty infantry unit. Panfilov is named after the 28 soldiers who died fighting off Nazis just outside Moscow in 1941.

Green Bazaar, Almaty, Kazakhstan, zelony bazaar, green bazaar almaty
A woman selling fruit at Green Bazaar

3. Shop At Green Bazaar

This is where to head to get a taste of daily life and get a feel for the real bustle of Almaty. You can purchase literally anything imaginable here from Kumis (fermented horse milk), fresh produce, clothing, household supplies and everything between.

Due to its crowded nature pickpocketing does happen here, so have a close eye on valuables at all times.

A Kasteyev Museum, Almaty, Kazakhstan, Kazakh felt, felting, felt carpet
A carpet on display at the Kasteyev Museum

4. Visit Almaty’s Museums

Almaty has a few museums to pop into, especially if you’re trying to escape the summertime heat midday.

Central State Museum

Old artifacts, cards in Russian

A. Kasteyev State Museum

Kazakhstan’s largest art museum, home to countless Kazakh pieces.

Kunaev House Museum

Dedicated to first Kazakh Soviet politician Dinmukhamed Kunaev and located in his once home.

Kazakh Museum Of Folk Musical Instruments

Located in Panfilov Park, this museum is home to many instruments you’ve likely never seen or heard before. There is a small concert hall inside that holds concerts.


Plan a two week trip to Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan


5. Take A Cable Car To Kök Tobe

For the best views over Almaty grab a cable car up to Almaty’s hilltop carnival Kok Tobe. Many days there are special performances held here.

Arasan Baths, Almaty, Kazakhstan, birch branches, Russian Bath, Russian banya, banya
Birch branches for sale outside Arasan Baths for use in the Russian Banja

6. Relax In Arasan Baths

With the Soviet’s came their bath and spa culture. Arasan Baths is the best place in Almaty to experience this. Head inside and kick back in various pools of different temperature.

Note that most visit the pools in the nude and pools are gender segregated.

7. Admire Almaty’s Central Mosque

Being the dominant religion of the region there is a massive mosque in the middle of Almaty. Foreigners are free to enter so long as dressed appropriately. There should be headscarves and coverings available to rent at the door if you aren’t.

Academy of Sciences, Almaty, Kazakhstan
The main entrance of the Academy of Sciences. Hint: clap when you walk under the light fixture

8. Visit The Academy Of Sciences

The Academy of Sciences was an attraction in Almaty that I’d not heard of before and knew nothing of until I took a Walking Almaty Tour that focused on the Golden Corner of Almaty, a more off the main tourist trail twist on the city. The building now houses 5 small museums that include Kazakh Natural History, Rare Books, the Satpaev Museum, Archeology, and the Museum of the Science of the History of Kazakhstan.

9. Walk Around First President Park

Take a city bus 20 minutes south of central Almaty to walk around the First President Park. You’ll likely see many wedding photoshoots happening while you’re here.

10. Stroll Up & Down Jipek Joli Pedestrian Street

Stroll down this street to watch street performers and snack your way along the path.

Almaty, Kazakhstan, Abay Theatre
Abay State Opera & Theatre

11. Abay State Opera & Ballet Theatre

Catch a performance here at the Abay Opera & Ballet Theatre. Prices range from 400-2000 KZT to catch a performance.

12. Gorky Park

This recreational park smack in the middle of Almaty likely has something to keep everyone in your group entertained with a carnival, cinema, aqua park, and cafes.

13. Respublika Alany

A square with plenty of monuments and views to the presidential palace and Maslikat Building.

Baikonur, Baikonur Metro station, Almaty, Almaty, Kazakhstan, Almaty Metro
Baikonur Metro Station (photo credit Valerie & Valise)

14. Take A Ride On The Metro

In most parts of the world taking the metro isn’t a special experience, but in the post-Soviet Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, they’re ornate works of art, two of the most notable being Baikonur, Jibek Joli, and Auezov Theatre Stations.


Wanna See For Yourself? Check Out My Post: A Tour Through The Almaty Metro


Day & Overnight Trips From Almaty

Big Almaty Lake, Almaty day trip, Almaty, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, BAO
Big Almaty Lake

Day Trip To Big Almaty Lake

Another great day trip from Almaty is to Big Almaty Lake (BAO) located about 1 hour from the city center. Weekdays in the morning are best to avoid crowds.

To get here grab a taxi from Almaty. It should cost you about 7000 KZT return including a couple hours wait time. City bus #8 will take you to the park entrance, but you’ll need to walk or hitch another 11 kilometers to the lake.


Check Out My Guide On How To Get To Big Almaty Lake


Hike Or Iceskate At Medeu

Head to Medeu for the epic views of the area surrounding Almaty. If you visit in the winter don’t miss out on ice skating at the outdoor rink.

Take bus #12 from the city center to go directly to the rink in Medau. Buses leave on a 30 min schedule.

Ski Or Hike The Slopes At Chimbulak

Chimbulak is a great day trip from Almaty year round. In summer you can actually trek between Chimbulak and Medau and in winter ski the slopes.

Take bus #12 to Medau from the city center and then take the cable car (2500 KZT return) or hike up to Chimbulak.


Book this 5 day best of Southeast Kazakhstan Tour to Altyn Emel, Charyn Canyon, Kaindy & Kolsai Lakes and more on Viator


Kaindy Lake, Kaindy, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, Sunken Forest, Kaindy lake, Tien Shan
Lake Kaindy

Overnight (Or More!) To Lake Kaindy & Kolsai Lakes

Located near to each other and easily reachable from the village of Saty outside of Almaty, Lake Kaindy and Kolsai Lakes will not disappoint. Kolsai Lakes is comprised of three glacial lakes that dot a beautiful evergreen landscape with waterfalls abound. Lake Kaindy is home to the famous and unusual sunken forest. Kaindy and Kolsai can easily be visited on a combined trip in a couple of days.


Wanna See The Strange Sunken Forest Of Lake Kaindy & Trek To Kolsai Lakes?
Read: How To Get To Kaindy & Kolsai Lakes


Shop Kaindy & Kolsai Lakes tours run by local operators via Viator


Valley of Castles, Valley of Castles Charyn Canyon, Valley of Castles Kazakhstan, Charyn Canyon, Charyn, Kazakhstan canyon, Sharyn Canyon, Kazakhstan
The Valley of Castles at sunrise

Trek Around Charyn Canyon

Kazakhstan’s Grand Canyon with sweeping views over orangey-red rock formations in a desert landscape— a far cry from the other surrounding day trips from Almaty. There is great camping to be had out here at the canyon.


Check Out My Post How To Get To Charyn Canyon For More Information To Plan Your Visit


Don’t wanna go at it alone? Check out this one day Charyn Canyon tour on Viator


Explore The Wonders Of Altyn Emel National Park

Home to the eerie whistling dunes, ancient burial mounds, turanga trees, and the unusual rainbowey Aktau Mountains smack in the middle of a barren steppe. Located 260 kilometers north of Almaty a trip of multiple days to take in the best of the national park is recommended. Check out Megan Starr’s post on her visit to the Singing Dunes at Altyn Emel for info on how to visit.


Check out Megan Starr’s post about visiting the Singing Dunes at Altyn Emel National Park


Book this Altyn Emel National Park tour on Viator


See Ancient Buddhist Petrogylphs At Tamgaly Tas

Head to Tamgaly Gorge to view Buddhist rock petroglyphs. Combining it with nearby attractions can make for a great day trip from Almaty.

Almaty Travel Tips

How To Get To Almaty

Thankfully Almaty is one of the easier cities to get to in Central Asia from Europe and the Middle East by flight. If you’re already traveling in Central Asia the closest city is Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, just a 4 hour marshrutka ride away.

Getting Around In Almaty

Almaty is easy to get around with an extensive bus network and with its single line metro. Getting a taxi is not a problem, you can haggle with drivers you can flag down on the street or order a car on the Yandex.Taxi app.

Where To Stay In Almaty

Being a hub in Central Asia Almaty has accommodations to fit any budget and traveler type. From my own experience here are the accommodations I recommend.

Budget
Almaty Backpacker’s
Booking.com | Hostelworld.com |

Midrange
Hotel Mildom
Booking.com | Hotels.com |

Luxury
Rixos Almaty Hotel
Booking.com | Hotels.com |

Borsht, Markanda Restaurant, Markanda Restaurant Almaty, Almaty Restaurants, Kazkah food, Russian food, borsht, soup, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Borsht at Markanda Restaurant

What To Eat In Almaty

Almaty is jammed full of great restaurants serving Kazakh food as well as international cuisine. Some personal favorites include Markanda, Man’s Cafe, Tyubeteika, and Navat.


Wanna take a crack at Kazakh cooking? Join a Kazakh cooking class!


Tours Of Almaty & Beyond

Don’t wanna deal with the logistics of figuring out how to get around the city or some of the surround areas? Don’t sweat it, you’re not alone and you’re on vacation– so you don’t have to. I highly recommend Walking Almaty Tours. Click here to shop various tours on offer in and around Almaty.

Have Any Questions Or Sites You Recommend To Visit In Almaty?

Ask in the comments below!

Need Travel Insurance For Kazakhstan?

Start shopping plans over at battleface, my go-to travel insurance choice, or over at World Nomads.

1 thought on “The 14 Best Things To Do In Almaty + Almaty Day Trips”

  1. Starting in Kazakhstan, a place where I no longer needed a visa as an American thanks to the Kazakh government removing visas for visits less than 30 days back in January 2017, I was off to a whirlwind start touring Almaty’s main attractions on day one of the tour. Panfilov Park, Zenkov Cathedral, Republic Square, and the Almaty City Museum, it wasn’t until heading to Chimbulak, a mountain resort just on the outskirts of the city, where we’d be taking a cable car up the mountainside, that I’d find my favorite part of this day thanks, to the incredible views from high up in the mountains.

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