After about 48 hour of travel we were exhausted upon arriving to Almaty. The layovers we had were worth it and the price was certainly right- we paid 40,000 points for a flight from Denver, CO to Almaty, Kazakhstan. Although there are a lot of great out door options in Kazakhstan, we opted to focus the majority of our time in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan so only had a little over a day in Almaty.
Upon arriving, you’ll find it’s a small airport which made clearing customs and picking up bags a fairly quick experience. There is no visa required for entry into Kazakhstan though the customs officers did not seem clear on this. We were both asked if we needed visa to enter to which we informed them that we did not.
The airport is about 17 KM from the city center and there are several options for transport. Our hostel offered to arrange a private pick up for 5000 Kzt which is about $15.
We opted for the cheapest option (no surprise) which was the bus. Bus 92 which departs directly in front of the airport goes into the city center. The cost is 150kzt which is 45 cents. It’s not crowded and an easy ride that takes about 45 minutes because of the multiple stops along the way.
Here we are with our packs and hydrating on the bus. We were both on the brink of exhaustion at this point as the flight from Turkey was uncomfortably hot.
Upon arrive to the bus stop we had a few block walk to the hostel. The walk was through a city park. It tested our ability to carry our loads for extend distance as we got a bit lost along the way.
Our budget accommodation at Loco Hostel was only $22 which gave us a private room and bath and included a shared kitchen, reading room, and an on site host who was incredibly helpful with reccomendations.
For lunch we went to a local restaurant and had 2 lamb kebabs (Shashlik), a mutton noodle soup recommended by our waiter, 2 beers, 2 seltzer and a rice for $12. The price was phenomenal and the food tasted amazing.
Our favorite was the Sashlik, the mutton kebabs. Can you tell that in these photos we are exhausted?
Following lunch was our favorite part of the day- checking into our room and slipping into unconsciousness for a few hours. Knowing what was ahead we didn’t want to push ourself to try to fit in too much so took the day to rest.
We woke around 6pm and dragged ourself out of bed to see a little bit of the city. Upon our hostel host’s reccomendation we went up to Kok Tobe which is the highest point of Almaty. It’s a ride up a cable car. We shared the car with a group of Kazaks on the way up who were impressed that these two Americans came to visit their country.
We also got a stunning sunset view of Almaty on the way up.
The top of Kok Tobe is basically the Lakeside Amusement park of Almaty. Lakeside was our favorite place in Denver because of its rickety coasters and random amusement park games.
Here are a few photos from our Kok Tobe evening:
There is a restaurant, bar, a petting zoo, lots of rides and games spread out across the top. We opted to try out the traditional Kazakh swing.
Finally we ended our evening with another great meal.
Khabizgini which is the traditional bread (khachapuri) stuffed with cheese and potato
The next morning we bought groceries at a local store, an interesting experience involving google translate and cooked breakfast at our hostel. Quan burned her hand on the oven (Kazak ovens seem to be much smaller than US ovens) so we made us of or first aid kit – we were close to cutting this item from our packing list!
We ended up having a lovely conversation with our hostel host Ksenia which we’ll share in a different post.
And that wraps our time in Alamaty! We are now off to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and then Osh where we will start our Pamir Highway trek!