HG2 A hedonist's guide to... The UK's best-selling luxury city guide.
Everywhere we love in Almaty
Explore the city by district:
Nestled in the foothills of the Zhailiskii Alatau Mountains, part of the great Tien Shan range, which cross Central Asia from east to west, Almaty’s location is its greatest asset. The natural mountain scenery provides both a dramatic backdrop and easily accessible playground for the city’s one and a half million residents.
In its present form, Almaty (which translates as ‘Grandfather of the Apples’, in reference to Almaty’s numerous fruit-bearing orchards) was established in the mid-nineteenth century when the Russians built a fort at Verniy near the site of a long-established nomadic settlement. As the Russian intent in Central Asia changed from protection to colonization, a small town was established adjacent to the fort.
Subsequent development in the Soviet period turned Almaty (then Alma-Ata) into a thriving capital city with some of its most impressive buildings emerging under the leadership of Dinmukhamed Kunayev, first secretary of Kazakhstan’s Communist Party from 1959 to 1986.
In 1997, six years after Kazakhstan gained independence, President Nazarbayev announced his decision to move the capital to Astana in northern Kazakhstan. One of the reasons he cited for leaving was Almaty’s location on a major earthquake faultline. Many thought that the move of the capital would prove a death knell for Almaty, but instead the city’s popularity has continued to grow and it is now set to become the regional financial hub for all of Central Asia as well as being the country’s business and cultural centre. The enormous oil, gas and natural resource wealth enjoyed by Kazakhstan has fuelled massive development in this former capital and led to the rise of a new class of Kazakh, the novii Kazakh, who all keep flats in Almaty and return here to party at the weekends.
The development has had its side effects: real estate values have shot through the roof, and it is often as expensive to rent a flat in central Almaty as in London or New York. The knock-on effect of this is that bars, restaurants and shops come and go. High rents mean that many struggle to stay open or are forced to move to new locations and so turnover is high, as are prices.
Development aside, Almaty is an extremely pleasant and laid back town to spend time in. A Tsarist horticulturalist named Edward Baum who lived in Almaty at the end of the nineteenth century inspired a generation of Almaty’s citizens to plant trees, a legacy continued throughout the Soviet period. As a result, when spring arrives, the city comes into bloom almost overnight and walking through its many parks, and along its streets, you sometimes feel you are in a flower-strewn forest rather than a city.
To really appreciate Almaty’s stunning setting, take the cable car to Koktubey, a small hill dominated by a TV tower on the city’s south-eastern edge. The cable-car terminal is just behind the Palace of the Republic on Dostyk. From the top, you get a magnificent view of the mountains to the south of the city, of the city itself and of the steppe, which stretches endlessly to the north, unbroken until it reaches Siberia.
A word of warning: the mountains in Almaty lie to the south of the city, not the north; this is often confusing when trying to orientate yourself and useful to bear in mind.
Terms and Conditions
Web design by Surge Solutions