Where two worlds collideIn the former Kazakh capital, you’ll find East and West, past and future, Soviet ice rinks and Korean goat’s cheese
“What do I like about Almaty?” ponders Bekzat Amanjol, on the subject of Kazakhstan’s economic and cultural centre. “The variety. There are bazaars and techno dives. A harmonious blend of European and Asian culture on every corner.” Amanjol is the city’s most innovative architect.
He loves its skyline for the “modern skyscrapers forming an exciting contrast with the old Soviet buildings”. And inside the buildings? “Exciting nightlife. Casinos, clubs and bars, all over the city.
It’s a breathtaking setting, and just a short hop from here to the Tian Shan mountains, where you can hike over glaciers and marvel at the endangered snow leopard.”
Top 5: Amanjol’s A-list attractions
1 Artishock Theatre
Calle Kunaev 49/68
“I don’t like theatre per se,” says Amanjol, “but these improvisation and mime artists have a really electrifying power. Their shows have won international awards.”
2 Green bazaar
Calle Zhibek Zholy 53
“A perfect feel of the Orient at the city’s largest market. Hand-knitted mittens, Korean goat’s cheese and suspiciously low-cost brands. Keep a close eye on your wallet.”
Calle Kabanbay Batyr
“Almaty’s nightlife has a Western feel. Check out Da Freak, for electronic music, or sample hip-hop at Chukotka. Line your stomach at Coffeedelia first: Kazakhs are hard drinkers.”
4 Medeo ice rink
Calle Gornaya 465
“This is the world’s highest outdoor ice rink, at an altitude of 1,690m. Everything about it is pure Soviet era. On winter evenings, tipsy teenagers totter around to pop music under disco lights.”
Calle Gornaya 640
“A winter sports paradise just 25km from Almaty with its own FIS-accredited course and several of off-piste routes. In the summer it becomes a downhill mountain-bike resort.”
ADVENTURES IN THE MOUNTAINS THAT BACKDROP ALMATY
The 7,010m trek up Khan Tengri is considered one of the world’s most beautiful expeditions. It takes 28 days.
High up with good thermals and air currents, the Ushkonyr plateau is perfect for paragliding.
The ‘sunken forest’ of Lake Kaindy, 2,000m above sea level, has drawn divers since a landslide in 1911.