"Mountains, Marijuana fields & Mafia all together!" Top 5 Page for this destination Almaty by johnsakura

Almaty Travel Guide: 373 reviews and 895 photos

Alma-Ata a.k.a. Almaty

It was about time I started writing my page on Almaty where I lived right in the centre city for 1 month and enjoyed every single moment. This page is now under construction but you can already start reading some great tips on it. Please after reading them came back for more tips and interesting photos of this amazing spot in central asia.
My decision about going to Kazakhstan was very strange and i didn't really think much about it. my plans for the summer 2004 were to go to south America and cross a few countries and fly back from Brazil to Portugal. I ended changing my 1 year plans and in one week i bought one way ticket to Almaty without knowing much about the country or its geography. Only after i actually realized this city was just +-40km away from Kyrgystan and about 250km from China.

I have to say that I was quite surprised with what I found in Almaty and i really enjoyed it very much.

In the other day on travel channel i was watching a show on Kazakhstan and they reported this city to be one of the most dangerous in the world??!! really?? well, i know about some dangers but I'm still here, and i also think that all the people going there and staying more than just a week will tell me and feel the same as I do.

My arrival in Almaty was already full of mystery when i arrived during the night and i had a ride on a private 4wd with chauffeur from a danish man working in tonw. this way i had a first introduction to the city a bit different than the normal traveller coming all the way from the airport taking the horrible taxis and get ripped of or even kidnapped, left out on the mountains without passport money bags etc etc. I entered Kazakhstan in style hehe.

I stayed one full month in town and i started giving this art workshops for children in this Lutheran association. this was a very interesting experience to me as i am not Lutheran. i was really well received being an outsider from their church, religion, country and local costumes. i enjoyed every single moment i had interacting with children and giving them advices in how to expand their artistic thinking i guess. this association had as first goal to children the learning of English, almost all children had the basic knowledge of English language. i also participated on the summer children English seminar teaching them English with games and stuff, and i also made a workshop on their summer camp outside Almaty.

On the picture above you can notice the north part of the city heading Kyrgyzstan. To get here you can climb (its not allowed but i did it so can you i think...) the TV tower hill, crossing marijuana fields (i have some pictures on this page... ha) until the top. you have to be careful cos police will be looking for people to go up the hill. on the last earthquake almost all the structure of the sight seeing part (that you can get to by the cable car to koktyube) on top of the hill colapsed so police prevent people to go there and fall. i was very safe and responsible until the police went there and pick me up with a gun pointed... nice police car ride until the bottom of the hill haha for free, a taxi would have cost me a lot! haha

This page is being built. there are already about 80 tips but many are still missing (Night life; Local customs;Off The Beaten Path will come soon!, and more of Shopping and General tips will also come soon!). Please check this ones out and come back after to see what else i added. thank you.

Zenkov Cathedral

This is one of the most interesting places to visit in town. this church located in Panfilov park is all made without iron nails. all made of wood and all connected together with wood. this church was designed by Zenkov back in 1904 and it looks very nice along with the flowered gardens aside it. this is one of the few building remaining in Almaty from tsar era. all the rest were destroyed along the revolutions and wars.


This is the north part of the city and you can get there by bus and then walk a lot. you have or a taxi, horse or go up 890 steps until the top of the mountain after the big Olympic stadium of Medeu.

This is the view you have from the top of the road. i actually went down close to the river and camped there, made some food and read with a good book. this area is said to be a bit dangerous if you are alone. watch out then.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:very relaxed city in the bottom of the mountains
  • Cons:pollution, crazy drivers
  • In a nutshell:interesting spot in central asia
  • Last visit to Almaty: Jul 2004
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (78)

Comments (28)

  • daureshka's Profile Photo
    May 17, 2013 at 1:43 AM

    I was born in Almaty and live here. I'm excited about your description of my city. Everything is pretty truthful except taxi drivers who kidnap people. That's not true. These stories are city legends.
    Thank you!

  • JenniferB18's Profile Photo
    Aug 27, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    Just the kind of info I was lookingvfor, thanks ;)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    May 11, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    Thanks for your interesting page about your great experiences....

  • ellsasha's Profile Photo
    Dec 30, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    Very interesting tips, appreciate you sharing your experiences!

  • Aug 8, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    Hi, I chanced upon you writing while sussing Almaty as I have received a job offer. I wonder if you could provide me a little more information concerning you thoughts/ feelings/ experience in terms of social security.

  • Sep 20, 2009 at 11:10 AM

    I disagree with the comment that ayran is made from Horse milk. Ayran is made from cow milk. Horse milk is called kimis, is expensive to get.

  • aussirose's Profile Photo
    Jan 14, 2009 at 9:03 PM

    WoW Joao!! Your pictures are fantastic!!..and love your camping stories!! :o) Goodness, you certainly had an amazing time here! Cheers, Ann.

  • Apr 8, 2007 at 12:23 PM

    Your photographs paint a beautiful travel destination. I'm a little surprised to hear about the traffic dangers. I'll pass on the tips to family that are now there.

  • ellielou's Profile Photo
    Apr 7, 2007 at 4:52 PM

    just checked out your pages again! very helpful, and some really great photos...although I can't get over how many warnings & dangers you wrote about!

  • Dec 8, 2006 at 12:01 PM

    i think they realiezed that you afraid of them and decided to have some fun, to scare you more


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