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joaoleitao Almaty - A travel report by João
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Almaty,  Kazakhstan - flag Kazakhstan -  Gorod Almaty
10439 readers

joaoleitao's travel reports

Mountains, Marijuana fields & Mafia all together!

  33 votes
My decision about going to Kazakhstan was very strange and i didn't really think much about it. I end up changing my 1 year plans to South America and bought myself a one-way ticket to Almaty...

View of Almaty from the TV tower hill
View of Almaty from the TV tower hill
Almaty, Kazakhstan: Pros: very relaxed city in the bottom of the mountains Cons: pollution, crazy drivers In A Nutshell: interesting spot in central asia... 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 that they feel the same as I did. 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.

Favourite spots:
Me camping in Medeu facing Shymbulak
Me camping in Medeu facing Shymbulak
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; Medeu 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; Central Mosque of Almaty This blue turquoise dome mosque is very beautiful and stands up right away from the old grey soviet type building all over this district. This true Central Asia style of mosque has 5 beautiful minarets all with blue domes.

What's really great:
Central Mosque of Almaty
Central Mosque of Almaty
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.

Marijuana fields on TV Tower hills
Marijuana fields on TV Tower hills
St. Nicholas Cathedral is a small special place where people get away from they daily life and meditate a bit, talking with God. The majority of people you will find here are old folks and all the surounding environment of the church is kind of slow and relaxed.
The Nikolsky Sobor is painted is this greenish colour and its not very big for a cathedral. This cuhrch was built back in 1909 was was incredibly used as a stable for the Bolsheviks...
You should try to get inside the small underground chappel on the North side of the cathedral (right side looking it from the front);
TV Tower is located on the slopes of Koktyube mount located on the foothill of the Zailuysky Alatau mountains and can be reached by road on the south part of the hill or by cable car near the hotel kazakstan or even walking thu the bushes climbing the hill along poor houses, cows, small rivers, marijuana fields etc.
The tower is 327 m high and stands up from the city scenery.

My house in Almaty
My house in Almaty
So this was the thing that made all my stay in almaty worth 1000%!!
i end up staying with a family. after 2 days loking for an affordable hotel in almaty (i intended to stay for a month, so i had to choose the cheapest of course) ,i ended meeting this lady who gave me her friendship right from the start.
i was on my way to a hotel when i saw this lady waiting for a taxi. i asked her if she knew how could i get a bus and where could i buy a ticket. her english was very ok and she explained me all i needed. after 2 minutes waiting for a bus i asked her if i could share a taxi with her. so we started talking about me and about her and she said she would show me a hotel where i could stay. we went there but it was full. this hotel was so far the cheapest i foud but full. she said that if i didnt find anything until 5pm that i should call her to go to her house and drink a cup of tea.

 Nomad breakfast in the Ili Alatau mountains
Nomad breakfast in the Ili Alatau mountains
Nomad breakfast in the mountains:
This consisted on some bread, butter, iol, some type of berry jam. this berry jam was so delicious they laughed very much cos i couldnt stop eating it. some cookies and fresh tea made in wooden oven! This is the best way to experience kazakh noamds way of life! they life inside this yurt (tent) in the midle of the mountains. they have 3 horses and about 30 sheeps, a riffle and many rice and flour to bake bread for a few months. they eat lots of sheep, that should be one of the reasons they have so many. they can take the skin to make warm clothes for the winter, meat to eat and milk to drink.

Yurt in Ili Alatau. Nomad Kazakh people.
Yurt in Ili Alatau. Nomad Kazakh people.
5 o'clock tea inside YURT.
this kazakh nomads offered me tea, cookies and bread with jam for this afternoon snack. after i arrived and met them i end up going inside their yurt and they offered me this amazing tea made in the oven. in the summer they have this oven outside the tend but during the winter the oven goes inside the tend to make warm temperature inside as the temperature outside goes below -30 in winter.

Local restaurants inside Barakholka market
Local restaurants inside Barakholka market
Govindas Krishna Restaurant
This was the best restaurant i found in kazakhstan and in all central asia. this very nice and relaxed krishna restaurant with very beautiful girls for waiters, serves very tasty food. the dishes come in this fancy look with the enough quantity of food you need to feel alright with yourself not to feel full nor empty. this vegetarian indian restaurant is run by very interesting people that will invite you for their mountain refuge to make yoga and eat well along with meditation.
i like their yogurt juices very much. pastrys are also very tasty along with som lentils dishes.
you can have a full meal for about $3, $4 or $5 if you eat more than one dish. ifg you are hungry youll problably eat more than one dish. Address: Abylay Khan 39, Almaty

Other recommendations:
 Ili Alatau Natural Reserve camping
Ili Alatau Natural Reserve camping
Ili Alatau Natural Reserve camping
This was also another nice weekend and a big adventure for me. sho this lady where i was staying in almaty knew another lady that had her grandson going camping with some friends to the mountains. i joined them on the 4x4 cars, so we went off road to the mountains on the border with kyrgistan inside the national reserv Ili Alatau. nature nature all over. because we had a 4x4 car we could go inside the mountains even without any roads, passing rivers and rocks. during the night we made this fire and they drunk alot of vodka while i made my normal tea hehe. they were very syprised that i wasnt drinking with them. in the morning they had for breakfast more vodka and tomato juice...bloody mary for breakfast while i had kefir and musli...

Published on Monday November 14th, 2005

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Tue, Feb 12 2008 - 12:00 PM rating by krisek

João, I love your report. Many thanks for sharing. I am going to Almaty in the summer...

Wed, Feb 22 2006 - 01:26 PM rating by carlagama

João, português certo? Espero que sim! Espero ir para o Cazaquistão em Agosto (e até Dezembro) por isso gostava de falar contigo, para que me desses alguns contactos (tipo o da família que te arranjou casa em Almaty). Assim, se não te importares, diz qq coisa para

Wed, Jan 18 2006 - 05:19 AM rating by frenchfrog

It is a great report , well done. It must have been really amazing did you everything independly or did you book excursions with a travel agent?

Wed, Nov 23 2005 - 07:25 PM rating by doltra

Mesmo muito bom. Obrigado por partilhar a tua experiencia.

Sun, Nov 20 2005 - 01:23 AM rating by jorgesanchez


Fri, Nov 18 2005 - 02:19 PM rating by magsalex

Thoroughly enjoyed this report.

Tue, Nov 15 2005 - 10:40 AM rating by gloriajames

Hiya Joao
Well done on your interesting report! You have put in a very personal touch and hope to see more for you.

Mon, Nov 14 2005 - 07:21 PM rating by isaacmolina

Joao, you bring unique reports to Globo. Muchas gracias!

Mon, Nov 14 2005 - 06:48 PM rating by rangutan

One, perhaps best reports written this month. This is a god example of a report written from first hand experience and the heart. Some small errors in english grammar can be ignored here, important are the FACTS & EXPERIENCE for a SPECIAL destination - brilliantly displayed here. Well done... more please...!

Mon, Nov 14 2005 - 06:18 PM rating by eirekay

Marvelous Report!

Mon, Nov 14 2005 - 06:05 PM rating by alfonsovasco

Magnifico report Joao.
Greetings from a basque from Bilbao.

Mon, Nov 14 2005 - 03:15 PM rating by toribio


Mon, Nov 14 2005 - 11:38 AM rating by jesusferro

Muito interesante!

Mon, Nov 14 2005 - 09:37 AM rating by horourke

Very interesting

Mon, Nov 14 2005 - 07:05 AM rating by miguelmarchi

This is a fantastic report, one of the very best in Globo. Obrigado Joao!

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