Almaty, formerly known as Alma-Ata, is the largest city in Kazakhstan with a population of 1,421,868 people. The city is located in the mountainous region in the south of Kazakhstan in the buttresses of Trans-Li Alatau. Former capital of Kazakhstan during **the Soviet Union era **, Almaty has lost its status but still remains the **commercial and cultural centre ** of Kazakhstan.
A little bit of history
Almaty has been inhabited since prehistoric times when early farmers settled there. The city was also the residence of the Saka tribes, and later, of the Wusun tribes who lived North of the Tian Shan station. The city that was on the ancient Silk Road was destroyed. The border post, Vermy's Russian fort, was built in 1854. It quickly became an administrative centre of the Semirétchié region. Vermy then became a land of exile for politicians. In 1921, Vermy was renamed Alma-Ata and became the capital of Kazakhstan in 1929. The country’s industry was developed during the national Great War (1941-1945) with the arrival of blue-collar workers from the Western regions of the USSR. It was not until 1998 that the capital city was transferred to Astana, located nearly 1,000 km North-West of Almaty. Nevertheless, Almaty continued to develop as a cosmopolitan city and was known as the Capital of the South.
Its diverse urban landscape abounds in many sites and remarkable monuments such as Kok Tobe, Medeo, Shymbulak and the lake Big Almaty, opening the way to beautiful visits. **Kok Tobe ** is the highest point of Almaty, and is accessible via an aerial tramway line that connects downtown Almaty to the top of the mount. You will also find the town television tower (the Almaty Tower) which offers a breathtaking view of the whole city and the surrounding mountains. Likewise, visit the famous Big Almaty Lake. This natural lake located in the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains only 15 km south of Almaty promises pleasant strolls. For winter sports enthusiasts, no need to travel miles. Just head to **Shymbulak ** for a beautiful day of skiing on the slopes! Others will also be able to try ice skating at Medeo's outdoor rink in the mountains on the southeastern outskirts of Almaty. Because of its relatively mild climate, Almaty boasts being **the city of apple trees **. This region is home to many varieties of apples that you can taste, season permitting.
How to get to Almaty?
Almaty has an international airport situated 15 km to the north-east of the city. Almaty also has a few central long-distance bus stations. These stations provide intercity bus connections in Kazakhstan, and make international connections to Kyrgyzstan and China, as well as regional bus connections in the west of the city.
How about the means of transport?
On December 1st, 2011, Almaty launched a new underground system. The subway became the second subway built in Central Asia after Uzbekistan’s Tashkent metro. Very cheap, it allows you to easily reach all the major places of interest. There should not be any navigation problems as there is only one line so far. Taxis are all over the city. Make sure to take a licensed one, and do not hesitate to negotiate your trip's cost.