Almaty, formerly known as Alma-Ata, is the largest city in Kazakhstan with a population of almost 1.5 million. The city is located in a mountainous region in the south of Kazakhstan, right near the Trans-Li Alatau range which makes for a magnificent background. Although Almaty lost its status of capital after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it remains the commercial and cultural center of Kazakhstan.
Back in history
Farmers settled in Almaty already in the prehistoric times. Since then, the city has always been an important settlement. For example, Almaty was a residence area for the Saka tribes, and later for the Wusun tribes who lived in the North of the Tian Shan. However, the ancient city of Almaty, which was on the Silk Road, was destroyed.
It’s in 1854 that the border post called Vermy's Russian fort was built. It quickly became an administrative center for the region. Vermy was then a land of exile for politicians.
In 1921, Vermy was renamed Alma-Ata, and it became the capital of Kazakhstan in 1929. “Alma”, in the local language, means “apple”, and it is believed that the name of the city is due to its numerous apple trees.
During the Patriotic War between 1941 and 1945 (the Second World War), blue-collar workers arrived from Western regions of the USSR and contributed to the important development of the city.
The administrative capital of Kazakhstan was transferred to Nur-Sultan, formerly Astana, in 1998, about 1,000 km (1,609 miles) at the North-West of Almaty. Nevertheless, Almaty continued to develop as a cosmopolitan city and is also known as the second capital of Kazakhstan.
Almaty has a large variety of urban landscape and exhibits remarkable monuments such as the Kok Tobe, the Medeo, the Shymbulak and even the Big Almaty Late, perfect for a quick trip out of the city. 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. The television tower called the Almaty Tower also offers a breathtaking view of the whole city and the surrounding mountains.
Visit likewise the famous Big Almaty Lake. This natural lake, located in the mountains of Trans-Ili Alatau, only 15 km (9.3 miles) south of Almaty, offers great short day hikes and the perfect spot for your Instagram photo shoot.
Almaty is also the spot to be for winter sports enthusiasts. Just a little further, Shymbulak is a great place for a beautiful day of skiing on the slopes! You can also try ice skating at Medeo's outdoor skating-rink, in the mountains on the southeast outskirts of Almaty.
How to get there?
Almaty has an international airport situated 15 km (9.3 miles) in northeast of the city. Almaty also has a few central long-distance bus stations which provide connections to other Kazakh cities, to Russia, Kyrgyzstan and China.
Getting around in Almaty
On December 1st, 2011, Almaty launched a new underground metro system. It was the second subway built in Central Asia after Uzbekistan’s Tashkent metro. It is very cheap and allows you to easily reach all the major touristic sites. And don’t worry about getting lost: there is only one metro line.
You can also take a cab around the city. Make sure to take a licensed one and do not hesitate to negotiate your trip's cost.