Sights around Almaty
There are some great outings to be made right on Almaty’s doorstep, notably into the Zailiysky Alatau range, a beautiful spur of the Tian Shan to the south of the city. The snow-capped peaks of the Zailysky Alatau range form a glorious southern backdrop to Almaty, and at least one trip into the mountains should be included in even a short visit to the city.
Two valleys, those of the Malaya Almatinka and Bolshaya Almatinka rivers, are so easily accessible that they have become a natural adjunct to the urban space: Almaty-dwellers head into them every weekend, to ski, toboggan and ice skate in winter, walk and picnic in summer. This does mean that they are far from undiscovered, though the crowds quickly dissipate away from the roads.
The main access routes into the Zailiysky Alatau foothills are the Malaya (Little) Almatinka valley, where the winter sports centres Medeu and Chimbulak are found, and the Bolshaya (Big) Almatinka valley, leading up to Ozero Bolshoe Almatinskoe (Big Almaty Lake).
As with all trips into mountainous areas of Kazakhstan, a guide, who can be organised through travel agency, is strongly recommended if you are planning anything more than the most basic stroll. If you’re heading high into the mountains on your own without a guide, make sure you have a good map at least. Be aware too of the possibility of rapidly changing weather conditions. There is year-round avalanche danger wherever you see snow.