Top 10 Landmarks and Attractions in Almaty
Almaty (Alma-Ata) is the former capital of Kazakhstan and its biggest metropolis. Despite the loss of the status of the capital, Almaty continues to be the cultural, commercial, and political center of Kazakhstan. The city is often referred to as the “Southern Capital” of the country, and many travelers visit it every year.
Almaty is a city of fountains (there are more than a hundred of them) and numerous ski resorts. It is the only proud owner of the subway in Kazakhstan and in its vicinities. A beautiful wooden tower that was built in 1908, which houses a museum of folk musical instruments, Ascension Cathedral, and a noisy and orientally colorful Green Market are a few of the attractions of the city. A famous Charyn Canyon, resembling the famous Grand Canyon, is located 240 km from Almaty.
The TOP 10 landmarks and attractions in Almaty, is a list of places that you should visit during your trip to this colorful city. We have carefully selected the most interesting locations in Almaty and put together this list for you.
1. The Medeo Sports Complex
The sports complex Medeo is located at an altitude of 1691 meters above sea level, 15 kilometers west of Almaty. The first official competitions were held here in 1951. Medeo is the world's biggest high mountain skating rink, covering an area of 10.5 thousand square meters. It is an ideal place for hockey, figure skating, and speed skating.
The Medeo skating rink is the leader in the number of world records in speed skating (more than 200) both among men and women. In Soviet times, it was even called the “factory of records”.
Medeo is recognized as a state monument of urban planning and architecture of Republican significance. In 2011, a cable car was built that connects Medeo with the Chimbulak ski base.
The sports complex Medeo and its wonderful skating rink undoubtedly occupy one of the most important places in the list of the TOP 10 best attractions in Almaty. The skating rink regularly hosts flash mobs and events for visitors.
2. Zenkov Cathedral (Ascension Cathedral)
The list of the TOP-10 best sights of Almaty will be incomplete without mentioning the Holy Ascension Cathedral, one of the most interesting and unusual architectural landmarks of the city. It is the tallest Orthodox wooden church and one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world.
The capacity of the cathedral is 1800 people. The project of a 56-meter wooden building, built at the beginning of the 20th century, as believed, without the use of nails, was carried out by engineer Andrei Zenkov, which is why the temple is sometimes called the Zenkov Cathedral. It was built from a log cabin of blue Tien Shan spruce.
It was quite a risky undertaking to build such a tall building in an earthquake-prone region in the mountain city. Luckily the building survived the devastating earthquake of 1911, after which almost the entire Almaty lay in ruins.
The Ascension Cathedral is a five-domed temple, located in the park of 28 Panfilov Guardsmen. Be sure to pay attention to this unique monument of wooden architecture in the Ukrainian Baroque style, look at the interior of the temple and its walls, decorated with beautiful frescoes and a painted iconostasis.
3. Kok Tobe Park, TV Tower, and Beatles Monument
The Kok Tobe Park is located at the top of the mountain, at an altitude of 1100 meters above sea level. There is also a TV tower, the symbol of Almaty, and one of the highest TV towers in the world (371 meters). At night, the TV tower is illuminated by spotlights, so you can see it from anywhere in the city. Kok Tobe Park on the top of the mountain is a great place for walking and family holidays. Here you will find a 30-meter Ferris wheel, a small zoo, an amusement park, the Alley of Lovers, cafes, and restaurants serving national and European cuisines, and several viewing platforms from which a picturesque panorama of the city opens. Be sure to look at the monument to the Beatles; make a wish by throwing a coin into the Alma Fountain, made in the form of an apple, which is the symbol of Almaty, and visit the Art Gallery with works by contemporary artists.
You can get to Kok Tobe in a minibus, by car (paid parking is provided), or by taking a cable car. The Kok Tobe cable car is the first one in Central Asia. It was built in 1967 and is 1620 meters long. The gondola-type cabins with a stunning view of the surrounding beauty will take you to the park in just 6 minutes.
4. Museum of Folk Musical Instruments named after Ykhlas
Another well-known building in Almaty, which is a vivid example of wooden architecture and undoubtedly included in the list of the TOP 10 most interesting sights of Almaty, is the Museum of Folk Musical Instruments named after Ykhlas. The museum was founded in 1981. There are 9 halls exhibiting a variety of musical instruments. Separate expositions tell about the history of the music of the Turkic peoples. Music is played in each hall, corresponding to the theme of the exposition, which contributes to even more complete immersion. If you are a musical esthete, the museum will definitely not leave you indifferent! There is also a concert hall with 120 seats, where traditional musical events are regularly held.
Architecture lovers will be impressed by the wooden building that houses the museum. It was built in 1908 in the style of Old Russian architecture by engineer Andrei Zenkov, who also constructed the Holy Ascension Cathedral. The museum is located on the territory of the park named after 28 Panfilov Guardsmen. The visit can be combined with a tour of the Ascension Cathedral, as well as other numerous sights of Almaty located in this park.
5. Charyn Canyon
Charyn Canyon is the main attraction of the Charyn National Park, as well as one of the main points included in the list of the TOP 10 best attractions in Almaty. It is located 200 km from Almaty.
The Charyn Canyon stretches for 154 km along the Naryn River, and the age of the sedimentary rocks that make up this miracle of nature is about 12 million years. The Canyon is often called the “brother” of the famous and colossal Grand Canyon in the USA. This is a popular sight of magnificent beauty. In addition, there are many natural attractions on the territory of the Canyon: the unique Ash Grove of 5,000 hectares of Sogdian ash trees, reaching up to 10 meters in height (one of two similar groves in the world, the second is in North America), "Valley of Castles" and Turang Grove. In addition, there is a tourist complex equipped with summer cafes, gazebos, and bungalows, which is very handy, because excursions around the canyon are usually quite long, they can take the whole day, so tourists will want to relax and eat a delicious meal.
6. Magic Singing Dune
The singing dune is a unique natural phenomenon that can be seen in the Altyn-Emel State National Natural Park, located 182 km from Almaty. Its length is 1.5 km, and the height is up to 120 meters; of all the known dunes, it is considered the largest. The dune was formed among the stone mountains, between two rocky hills of the Small and Big Kalkan.
One might wonder how the dune sings. Scientifically, this is explained as follows: in fairly dry weather, the grains of sand run down, rub against each other, due to which they are electrified, and vibration occurs, giving a buzzing sound. And this sound is very reminiscent of solemn organ music. However, it must be remembered that the dune does not “sing” all the time: you need to be near it at the right time so that several factors coincide. Therefore, if the dune is silent, do not be discouraged, there are other very interesting sights in the Altyn-Emel National Nature Park: the Bes-Shatyr complex of Saka burial mounds - the heritage of nomads, the alien chalk mountains of Aktau, groves and gorges, many scenic routes that will give you to a day full of impressions.
In extreme cases, there is a way to “revive” a silent dune if the weather turns out to be calm: you need to climb the slope, and then, having run up, jump down to where the layer of dry sand is thicker, and the dune will buzz. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes.
7. Big Almaty Lake
Big Almaty Lake is located in 20 km from the city and should definitely be included in the list of the top 10 best attractions in Almaty. The lake appeared as a result of an earthquake, its depth is 30-40 meters, and the length of the coastline is 3 kilometers.
The Big Almaty Lake is fed by glacial waters. The color of its water changes from turquoise to deep blue, depending on the time of day and weather. You won’t be able to go down to the shore of the lake, because it is the main water reservoir for Almaty, but there are platforms from which you can enjoy the picturesque views of the lake. It is also possible to walk around the lake, admiring the surrounding nature, and inhale the fresh air saturated with the aromas of fragrant herbs. Four mountain peaks rise above the surface of the lake: Kanysha Saptaeva (formerly Soviet), Ozerny, Bolshoi Almaty, and Tourist. Their height is different and ranges from 3600 to 4300 meters.
8. Green Bazaar
The Green Market (Green Bazaar) is one of the oldest marketplaces in the city, which is regularly included in the list of the top 10 best attractions in Almaty for a reason. Trade has been carried out here since 1868, and the market building in the style of Soviet constructivism was built in 1975, by the way, at that time it was one of the most technologically advanced and modern market buildings. During the construction, even the seismic situation in the region was taken into account.
Tourists love the Green Market for its flavor of a real oriental bazaar. You can buy anything here, from groceries to souvenirs, and chat with sellers and learn about the everyday life of ordinary Kazakhs.
9. State Museum of Arts named after A. Kasteev
The State Museum of Arts was founded in 1976. In 1984 it was named after Abilkhan Kasteev, the famous founder of the Kazakh national school of painting. Kasteev is the biggest art museum in Kazakhstan and a leading research and cultural and educational center in the field of fine arts.
The museum includes nine scientific centers. In the main fund of the museum, there are more than 23,000 unique works, these are excellent examples of graphics, painting, sculpture, and applied art of Kazakhstan, Russia, Europe, America, and the countries of the East.
10. Memorial of Glory in the Park named after 28 Panfilov Guardsmen
The park named after 28 Panfilov Guardsmen contains several significant attractions: the Ascension Cathedral, the House of Officers, and the Museum of Folk Musical Instruments. The most monumental and majestic of them is undoubtedly the famous Memorial of Glory, which was opened on May 8, 1975, on the 30th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War. The monument is compositionally divided into three semantic parts. The central part depicts Panfilov heroes from 15 Soviet republics. On the left side, there is a sculpture dedicated to young people who participated in the establishment of Soviet power in Kazakhstan. On the right, there is a proposition called the Trumpeters of Glory, designed to sing of life and a great victory.
In the center of the memorial is the Eternal Flame, which was lit in 1975, on the opening day of the park.
Our list of the top 10 landmarks and attractions in Almaty would not be complete without mentioning several other locations that are also worthy of your attention:
- If you love nature and walking, we advise you to visit the Botanical Garden, Central Park of Culture and Leisure, and the Park of the First President.
- Lovers of the museums will enjoy visiting the Central State Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Museum of Archeology, the Museum of the History of the City of Almaty, the Military History Museum, and the Central Museum of Railway Transport of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
- You should not miss visiting the Almaty Central City Mosque, Nedelka Fountain, and Republic Square as well.
- Shopping lovers should go to Arbat Shopping Street, Dostyk Plaza, Esentai Mal, and Mega Alma-Ata.