12 Best things to do in and around Almaty | Complete Guide


Almaty is one of the most famous destinations of Central Asia. This is very modern city, rich in culture and surrounded with stunning mountains. Almaty is known as the ski and party capital of Asia. There are numerous ski resorts around and this is one of the best places to be if you are into winter sports. The city has many things to offer in and around it. So following is our list of the best day trips and best things to do in Almaty.


1. Go ice skating in the Medeu Skating Rink

Almaty is famous for skiing. One of the most famous ski resort very near to the city center is the Medeu rink. This is the highest skating rink the world located at 1691 meters above sea level. If you are into skiing, this place is paradise for you. You can even come here in summer time for breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. For the entrance price with the prices of other services, visit here (This is not the official website)

Getting to Medeu

  • Public transport: You can take bus #12 from the city center (download and check the 2GIS app for exact bus station locations) to Medeu. It leaves every 30 minutes and takes you directly to the skating rink.
  • Renting a car or hiring a private taxi is always an option.

2. Discover incredible views at Shymbulak Ski Resort

  • Shymbulak is a ski resort located in the mountains near Almaty. The resort is divided into three levels on different heights on the mountain. The accommodation is situated on level 1, while there are different restaurants and cafes on all the three levels. There are numerous other activities for skiing, tubing, horse riding, paragliding, buggy riding and more.
  • The top level is at 3200 meters above sea level and provides breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
  • The most convenient way of getting to Shymbulak is cable car. The cable car starts from Medeu, so you can easily combine them in a trip. There are different tickets depending whether you just want to take a round trip till level 1, or you want to visit all the three levels and so on. For ticket booking and all the other information on activities and more, please visit the official website.

3. Hike and see a frozen waterfall – Butakovskiy Waterfall

  • To reach this waterfall, you will have to drive around 30 mins till Medeu region and then hike for around 3 hours. The hike is fairly simple and the views are spectacular.
  • The waterfall is frozen only in the winter time. If you visit at any other time of the year, you will find the normal flowing version of the waterfall which is also very beautiful.
Some other fantastic hikes in the Medeu/Shymbulak area include:
  • The Four Peaks Trail to Peaks Furmanov and Shymbulak – A challenging but absolutely epic day hike that starts in Medeu.
  • Mamshuk Mametova – If you’re looking for stunning glacier views on a slightly shorter hike from Shymbulak, this one is fantastic.

4. The Arasan Baths

  • This bathhouse is paradise for relaxing for a few hours. It has a beautiful marble bathing area and all the facilities in general as superb. The other facilities include separate sections for men and women, and steams
  • The cost is around 1,500 KZT on weekdays and and 2,000 KZT on weekends. For list of all services, prices and booking, visit the official website.

5. Explore the colorful Zenkov Cathedral(Or Ascension Cathedral)

  • This is pretty colorful wooden building in the heart of Almaty. This is a Russian Orthodox cathedral and is one of the main attraction in Almaty.
  • Dating back to 1907, this building is made entirely of wood and no nails. Also this is claimed to be the second highest building in the world. For additional information, please visit the official website.

6. Altyn Emel National Park

  • This National Park is listed on the UNESCO tentative list and is one of the most gorgeous places in Kazakhstan.
  • The park is also home to the Singing Dune, a sand dune that has sonic vibrations which gives people the illusion that it is actually singing with the noise created by it.
  • The unique landscape of this place is an incredible sight. Also there are mostly very less tourists here so you can this serene place to yourself.
  • Avoid coming here in summers as the heat is unbearable. For additional information, please visit the official website.

7. Visit multiple nearby lakes

One of the best parts of touring Almaty is the beautiful lakes around it and the incredible views they offer. Imagine beautiful turquoise water lake in between lush green mountains! On that note, remember that the all these lakes get frozen in winter season, which is also a very beautiful sight with ice covered mountains around. But if you don’t want the frozen view and you are looking for the turquoise and lust green view, please visit in the summer, autumn or spring(sometimes).

Following is the list of lakes around Almaty with their travel distance and highlight:

Name Distance Highlight
Big Almaty Lake 30 KM, About 1 hour drive One of the top hangout spots for locals, and one of the best lakes of Kazakhstan. It serves as a major source of drinking water to the city’s residents. Due to this very reason, swimming or even going near the water is strictly prohibited. It sits high up in the mountains and offers beautiful views.
Kolsai Lakes 300 KM, About 5 hours drive Its a combination of three lakes on different altitudes. Commuting to the first lake can be done by car, but you need to hike to the second or you can even use horseback! It will take take 2-3 hours but the views will make it worth. It takes an entire day to visit all three lakes and return. You can even camp there and return the next day which we recommended!
Issyk Lake 80 KM, About 1 hour 45 mins drive Situated at an altitude of 1700 m and very offer very pretty views.
Kaindy Lake 300 KM, About 5 hours drive Located at 2000m and it also offers marvelous views. The unique thing about this lake is the dried out trunks which rise out from it.
Bartogay Lake and Reservoir 200 KM, About 2 hour 30 mins drive Good views but as pretty as the ones mentioned above.
Kapchagay Lake 80 KM, About 1 hours drive Marvelous views with mountains surrounding the lake. Many casino’s nearby which makes the area like a mini-Vegas.

8. Kok-Tobe Hill

  • Kok-Tobe is a mountain in located in Almaty city. The peak of this mountain is the highest point in Almaty city of provides breathtaking view of Almaty city from all directions.
  • To reach to the top, you can take a convenient cable car.
  • Apart from the view, this hill also has recreational center known as Kok-Tobe park. This park offers children playing area, ferris wheels, restaurants, cafes and more.
  • Overall this is great place to spend some time and soak in the views. The views are best at sunset, obviously!

9. Go clubbing in the party capital of Asia

  • Almaty has probably the best nightlife in Central Asia. The city has abundance of nightclubs and bars worth visiting and most of them are are generally cheap.
  • Drinks costs between 2$ and 5$, even in some fancy places, with an entrance fee almost always below 10$.
  • Please note that most of the clubs and bars come to life on weekends. So make your clubbing plans accordingly.

10. Try local food

  • As a traveler, the first thing i do anywhere i go is try the local food. Almaty is no exception!
  • If you are a vegan, i don’t think Almaty has anything different to offer you apart from the usual.
  • The delicious local dishes include Manty (which is dumplings filled with meat or veggies and spices) and Plov (which is an Uzbek dish made of veggies and meat and fried rice)

11. Visit the Grand Canyon of Almaty-Charyn Canyon

  • This canyon is 154 KM long and is located in the the territory of the Charyn national park along the Charyn river. This is the one the greatest monument of nature, composed of sedimentary rocks, whose age is about 12 million years.
  • Best time to visit here is autumn as summers can too hot sometimes and the canyon gets covered in snow during the winters.

12. Stay in the amazing Oi-Qaragai Lesnaya Skazka Mountain Resort

Distance: 41 KM, about 1 hour drive
  • You can take a day trip or you can stay for a night or two at this amazing mountain resort situated in the Almaty Mountains.
  • An hour drive drive away from the hustle of the city, this resort offers tranquillity and breaktaking views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Apart from pretty views, the resort also offers various outdoor activities like skiing, paintball, climbing and much more.
  • Starting cost for stay is around 100 USD per night in the peak season. For booking and all additional information, please visit the official website

13. Make a nature filled day trip to Turgen Gorge

Distance: 90 KM, about 1.5 hours drive
  • Imagine a day trip filled with gorgeous alpine scenery, a lot of beautiful waterfalls, pine forests, hot springs, as well as lakes with clear water away from the city and removed from other tourists. Fairyland right? Well that’s Turgen Gorge, and its surrounding area.
  • In addition to scenic nature, this place also offers places like trout farm, ostrich farm, historical and ethnographic open-air museum which many tourists love to visit.
Best way to reach?
  • The best way to reach here is driving by a private car. Since the valley is very long, the car goes till certain points. For the other places you will have to hike.

14. See Mysterious Rock Carvings at Tamgaly Tas

Distance: 115 KM, about 2 hours drive
  • The UNESCO World Heritage site of Tamgaly Tas has thousands of unexplained rock carvings right on the bank of the Ili river.
  • You will be able to see rock carvings and paintings of Buddha, bodhisattvas and different styles of Tibetan scripture on separate cliffs and boulders.
  • Till date no one is able to answer who those nameless carvers were and for what purpose they left these rock drawings.
  • And plus apart from the mystery, the place offers very pretty views.

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