The largest and most cosmopolitan city in the country, in a beautiful setting at the foot of the Alatau mountains, Almaty has the best range of places to see and the most vibrant nightlife in Kazakhstan, and it makes an excellent base for exploring the attractions of the wider region.
Almaty may have lost its status as the capital city of Kazakhstan in 1997 but it remains the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the country, and Kazakhstan’s financial, cultural, economical and educational hub. Most international flights arrive in Almaty. The city has the widest range of hotels, restaurants and bars you will find in all of Kazakhstan. Russian is spoken as much as Kazakh here. Almaty is one of the places in which the broad ethnic diversity of Kazakhstan is most apparent, with expatriates working for the many foreign firms headquartered here adding to the mix.
Since the city was founded in 1854 as a castle by the Russian Empire to protect the area from Chinese Empire and in 1887 an earthquake left just one brick building, there is no attractive “old city” in the conventional meaning of the word. But there are some interesting museums, attractive parks and buildings chronicling Almaty’s Tsarist, Soviet and post-Soviet history. A stunning location adds much to Almaty’s allure. The city sits at the northern foot of Alatau range. The peaks, rising above 4000 m and snow-capped for much of the year, offer a beautiful southern backdrop to the city.
The city itself is built on a slope, with the highest ground to the south, at the foot of the mountains. Across the slope flow several creeks - Big Almaty, Little Almaty and Esentai - each fed by snow melt from the mountains. The water from the rivers fuels an irrigation system dating from the 19th century. These provided water to support lines of trees, which give Almaty a green appearance. This is altogether a city which can lure visitors to stay longer than expected.