From glaciers to deserts: 1 day around Almaty
Almaty is the biggest city and the main entrance point to Kazakhstan. If you start your journey here, then don’t miss a chance to explore the extreme diversity of Almaty region! The former capital of the 9th biggest country in the world is a lovely place, just in the middle between the Tien Shan “celestial” mountains and immense deserts of Central Asia:
- To see more you need to start from above: Almaty is surrounded by the mountains. The ridge you see from any point of the city called “Zailisky Alatau”, along with another ridge Kungey (in Kyrgyzstan) they form a massif of the Northern Tian Shan. Zailisky Alatau range stretches from the north to the south for more than 400km with the highest point at 5000m asl (Talgar peak, 5017m). And the easiest way to get there from Almaty is to come to Maloalmatinsky gorge: it takes one hour to come to Shymbulak ski resort (via famous Medeo skating rink). The cable car gets you directly to the pass of 3.000m, but there is another option to come closer to the glaciers – you may hike up from Shymbulak to Touyuk-Su gorge where the biggest glaciers of this area located. Touyuk-Su gorge provides great opportunities to climb, hike and take pictures of the sparkling peaks over 4.000m.
- When coming down from the altitude, take a look around – the foothills of Alatau are beautiful in any season. Alatau (translated as “colourful hills” from Kazak) is a land of deep highland lakes: located at 1500-2000m above sea level, these turquoise basins crown the wide gorges - Big Almaty Lake, Issyk lake, Bartogay, Kolsay lakes and Kaindy. Tien Shan mountains terraces and highland plateaus are also the country of nomads, who have been living here for thousands of years with their white yurta, horses and sheep flocks. You need just few hours to escape to this unpretentious life based on traditions and respect of nature: the biggest highland Assy pasture is called here “dzhailau” and is located in the upper reaches of Turgen gorge, in 3 hours of driving from Almaty (plan a short visit to Issyk lake and Scythe museum on a way to Assy).
- Moving further to the north, you enter the area of the Great Kazakh Steppe that smoothly turns into a real desert. It only looks dull…but when you see it in April you feel impressed with these red and yellow fields of tulips and poppy flowers. The steppe is a land of wonders, it keeps the ancient secrets of Scythe tribes and Genghis Khan, it is full of life that appears in strange forms…Just in 1 day you may reach Charyn canyon with its fantastic rock formations and relict Sogdian ash tree grove, or may visit the Altyn Emel national park and explore the beauty of Aktau mountains and the voice of Singing Dunes. You should also plan a day trip to the famous Tamgaly petroglyphs - mysterious “rock carving gallery” in the middle of the desert.
Wildlife and history, nomad’s culture and glaciers - whatever you searched for you will find here, in the boundless scope of Kazak land. Welcome to Almaty!