Almaty, Kazakhstan is one of my favorite cities in the world and definitely one of the places that I feel most at home in. I have spent around half a year in the cultural capital of Kazakhstan and one of the best things about the city is that there are so many day trips from Almaty that are incredible. The nature in the Almaty region is so diverse; you can find alpine lakes, desert canyons, and the most beautiful poppy fields you’ll ever lay eyes on. This is a guide to the 16 best Almaty day trips.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 16 Ridiculously Beautiful Day Trips from Almaty, Kazakhstan
- How to Rent a Car in Almaty
- Taking a Community Tour in Almaty
- Taking a Taxi in Kazakhstan
- Fees to Enter Places
- Day trips from Almaty to Nearby Lakes
- Chilled-out Almaty Day Trips
- Active Almaty Day Trips
- Hiking and Nature-Filled Day Trips from Almaty
- Historical Places Near Almaty
- Where to Stay in Almaty
- Travel Insurance for Kazakhstan
- More Almaty Day Trip Inspiration!
- Big Almaty Lake: A Complete Travel Guide to the Most Famous Lake in Kazakhstan
- Visiting the Singing Dunes at Altyn Emel National Park in Kazakhstan
- Charyn Canyon: My First Taste of Nature in Kazakhstan
- Hiking to Butakovskiy Waterfall in Almaty: Kazakhstan Nature at its Finest
- Lake Issyk, Kazakhstan: A Turquoise Slice of Tragic History and Pleasure Near Almaty
- Lake Kaindy, Kazakhstan: A Travel Guide to the Famous Sunken Forest
16 Ridiculously Beautiful Day Trips from Almaty, Kazakhstan
The Almaty region of Kazakhstan is so diverse and nothing short of breathtaking, no matter where you may end up. I have called Almaty home a couple of times and spent a lot of time in Kazakhstan over the last six years and I know Almaty better than your average traveler or the one who goes there for a week and thinks they are an expert. You simply can not go there for a short amount of time and see it all or visit every place outside of the city. Because of Almaty’s lack of tourism infrastructure, it is just not possible.
This is a guide to the best day trips from Almaty. Some are better in summer than in winter (okay… very few… Almaty is definitely a place that pulsates during the warmer months). I am listing the best seasons to travel to each place as well as the distances for each. Unfortunately, getting around Kazakhstan is not at all easy and reaching places by public transportation is cumbersome and sometimes just impossible. I will explicitly detail how to get there the best I can, but unless you rent a car, you will need to be flexible or patient on all fronts.
The Almaty day trips are broken up into the types of trips they are: trips to lakes, nature and hiking trips, history-filled day trips, relaxing trips, and trips for the active traveler. Some fit into more than one category, naturally. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out or leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it in a timely fashion.
And PS… Bishkek is not a day trip from Almaty. Please don’t listen to those who insist it is. This is terrible information that people who have traveled the region for a short amount of time pass along. Ignore it.
How to Rent a Car in Almaty
The best way to reach all of the places listed on this day trips from Almaty guide is by renting a car. Do I recommend this? Kind of. And kind of not. If you speak Russian, I think renting a car is a seamless process and one that you will be happy with. If you don’t speak Russian, this could prove to be a challenge for you. Not only because the process of renting a car is stressful, but because there are bribes on the roads in Kazakhstan. I wish I didn’t have to write that, but it is still a common practice in the Central Asian country and one I would never wish my worst enemy to be stuck with dealing with.
Taking a Community Tour in Almaty
The other best and most local way to take a day trip from Almaty is to join a Community Tour. These are tours put together by groups in Almaty, mainly marketed via Instagram. Community Tours don’t always have a schedule planned far in advance- usually just a couple of weeks to around a month ahead of time. You can find their upcoming tours via their Instagram pages and it is usually in Russian. But, they all have someone working with them that can communicate with you in English. Here are suggested Community Tours in Almaty:
Almaty Hostel DOM: This is my favorite one to recommend. The tours are run in conjunction with Hostel DOM, but you don’t have to stay at the hostel to join up. My friend, Syuzanna, runs these tours and you will never meet anyone like her on this planet- she is an absolute gem. They announce the tours around three weeks to a month ahead and organize all for you. You will be in a group which is a mixture of locals and other travelers. There will be enough English that you’ll likely make some new friends.
Steppe Spirit: This is another great Community Tour, but it is mostly locals. It tends to be a younger crowd of like early 20-somethings and they are a blast. I had no issues with English being spoken and they loved having a foreigner on board. I have gone with them twice, once to Altyn Emel and once to Tamgaly Tas / Nomad’s Land.
My only concern with Steppe Spirit is that the last time I went with them, they required a deposit on the tour of like $2. Not usually a problem if I can Paypal- but they wanted a bank transfer…. How absurd is that?! It is not cheap to transfer from an international account to a Kazakh one. In the end, I had to meet someone to give her this amount of money. I hope they have fixed this process as it is horrible for foreigners. I will update once I find out more.
You can find Steppe Spirit on Instagram here.
Campit.kz: Campit is a very popular Community Tour in Almaty. They are very organized with their offerings and you can find them in Russian on their Instagram page. However, if you want to see them explicitly written out in English, they have that too and can send over a file via Whatsapp. Just send them a DM on Instagram asking to see things in English and then they will assist from there. They have an office in Almaty and are definitely a great and reputable Community Tour.
You can find Campit.kz on Instagram here.
Taking a Taxi in Kazakhstan
I have written a whole post about taking a taxi in Almaty, but taking ones in Kazakhstan does not differ too much. If a taxi is your choice of transportation in the country, download Yandex’s Taxi app. Uber is currently not working in the country for whatever ridiculous reason. With Yandex, you can use multiple addresses and also have the drivers wait at spots for you. It is an essential app to have on your phone when in Kazakhstan.
Fees to Enter Places
Most places on this guide require a fee. Usually just around 500 KZT per person ($1.50-$2) for the lesser known places and up to around $5 for the more well-known places. Please bring enough extra cash with you for the trip to cover these fees. I highly suggest bringing at least $20 for any day trip. Part of that money will go toward the fee and then I recommend having that other for emergencies or in case you end up without a ride back to Almaty. Hitchhiking is common in Kazakhstan, but I always pay a fee to the driver.
Day trips from Almaty to Nearby Lakes
How far is Issyk Lake from Almaty? Issyk Lake is 78.3 kilometers, or 48.7 miles, away from Almaty. It will take you around 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach by car.
Why should you visit Issyk Lake? One of the most interesting day trips from Almaty is Issyk Lake. No, not the one in Kyrgyzstan… the one close to Almaty nestled in the beautiful and majestic Trans-Ili Alatau. This lake has a tragic history and is technically ‘man-made’ these days after a horrific landslide ruined the lake and killed thousands of people in the 1960s (the Soviet Union stated that only 100 people died when that was later proven untrue).
The lake has clear, teal waters that are fed by the Esik River. There are opportunities around to grill and camp and there are even remnants of the Soviet Union’s past there which is very rare to see in Kazakhstan these days. During the summers, it can be packed with locals and kids… but the shoulder seasons are rather nice up there.
When is the best season or time to visit Issyk Lake? Spring, Summer, Autumn. Just don’t visit too close to winter on either side of things as there will likely still be snow up there. I went in late spring. The lake freezes in winter.
How do you get to Lake Issyk? In order to get from Almaty to Issyk, you will need to find a marshrutka to the city of Esik. From there, you can order a taxi and head to the lake. The driver can wait for you there. You can also drive by private car or join a Community Tour.
→ Click here to read my guide about how to visit Lake Issyk
Big Almaty Lake
How far is Big Almaty Lake from Almaty? Big Almaty Lake is 30.4 kilometers, or around 18 miles, away from Almaty. It will take you around 1 hour to reach by car or taxi.
Why should you visit Big Almaty? Often referred to as BAO (stands for Bol’shoye Almatinskoye Ozero), this lake is such a symbol of Almaty that I highly recommend you not leave the area until you visit. This massive lake sits high up in the mountains and is an incredible teal color that will just blow your mind. There are hiking opportunities nearby, such as the hike to Big Almaty Peak, but you can just go via car to the lake, sit above it, and leave.
You can not swim in Big Almaty Lake. The water from the lake actually is the drinking water for the city of Almaty and you can notice this as it runs down the mountain in pipes to the population. You really only need a half-day up at Big Almaty Lake unless you plan to do some serious hiking.
When is the best season or time to visit Big Almaty Lake? Summer or Autumn. I have been in both and the color of the water is the most beautiful in September. But, BAO was not ugly at either time. The lake freezes in winter and is covered in snow. It can also be hard to get to Big Almaty Lake in winter.
How do you get to Big Almaty Lake? You can, of course, drive there. I took a taxi both times I went. The first time I went, my friend Julia and I took a taxi and had it drop us off because we decided to go hiking after to a waterfall a bit down the mountain (which we never made it to due to snow). The second time I went, I went by taxi and it waited an hour for us. Both options worked just fine.
→ Click here to read my guide to how to visit Big Almaty Lake
Kolsai Lakes and Kaindy Lake
How far are the Kolsai Lakes from Almaty? In order to get to the lakes, you must get to Saty village first. Reaching Saty from Almaty is about 283 kilometers, or 175 miles away. This will take you just under 4 hours to do. Once in Saty, you will have to go further to the lakes or have an all-purpose vehicle to take you to Lake Kaindy.
Why should you visit Kaindy and the Kolsai Lakes? To be honest, this is not really done best as a day trip, but I am including it because, with a personal car, you can manage it. I, personally, don’t think you can really do both the Kolsai Lakes and Lake Kaindy as a day trip on the same trip, but you can likely manage one or the other on a day trip from Almaty. Just remember that if you’re looking to do some hiking, this may not be a feasible option.
Lake Kaindy is absolutely stunning. There is a sunken forest at the lake that is such a mesmerizing image that you’ll never be able to mentally rid yourself of. The Kolsai Lakes were my favorite though. I only went to Kolsai-1 as I was working and couldn’t make the hike to Kolsai-2, but it was absolutely incredible. My visit to Kolsai-1 was during autumn and I am still blown away by the beauty of Kazakhstan and the Kolsai Lakes at this time.
When is the best season or time to visit Kolsai Lakes? Summer or Autumn. I have not been in winter but I imagine it is a bit rougher than my early autumn visit.
How do you get to the Kolsai Lakes and Lake Kaindy? The only way to really make this trip a proper Almaty day trip is to go there yourself with a rental car. Most Community Tours will include it as a whole weekend away from Almaty (leaving usually in the evenings on Friday and coming back late on Sunday).
→ Click here to read my guide to how to visit Lake Kaindy
How far is Lake Kapchagay from Almaty? Kapchagay is around 79 kilometers, or 49 miles, from Almaty. It takes around 1 hour to get there and is located directly on a large highway with higher speeds.
Why should you visit Kapchagay? Lake Kapchagay is a reservoir outside of Almaty located on the Kazakh steppe. The lake is fed by the Ili River and sits in an area where you can see the gorgeous mountains in the background. It is a very popular place for locals and tourists during the summer months and there is a lot to do at and around the lake.
Kapchagay is also the name of the city located at the lake’s edge. This city actually has gained recent recognition for having a lot of casinos and being a little mini-Vegas of sorts. I passed it several times on the highway and it always looks dead. Maybe people actually do go there? I have no idea- but I’d love to stop by and see what a casino in Kazakhstan actually looks like. Then probably leave really quickly.
When is the best season or time to visit Kapchagay? Summer. The lake is a swimming hole for Kazakhs and a great place to BBQ and relax outside of the city of Almaty.
How do you get to Kapchagay from Almaty? If you have a rental car, reaching Kapchagay is no difficult task at all and it is straight up the highway a bit from Almaty. If you’re looking to go from Almaty via public transportation, that is also very easy to do… just look for the marshrutkas heading out that way. These mostly leave from Sayakhat bus station but some will also go from the central bus station. You can also take a train there (many of the trains heading north will stop there) but I think a bus is the easiest way.
Bartogay Lake and Reservoir
How far is Bartogay from Almaty? Bartogay is not too far from Almaty but just like most places in Kazakhstan, it can take a while to reach it and you may have to go in a way that seems like nonsense due to the rugged landscape and high mountains. Bartogay is 193 kilometers, or 119 miles, away from Almaty. It will take you around 2 hours and 30 minutes to get there.
Why should you visit Bartogay? Bartogay is a reservoir that was made during the early 1980s and is a very unpolluted source of water today. The area is pristine… and coming from Almaty, you realize how nice of a change of scenery that can be. Certain time of the year allows for fishing in the lake, which is fed by the Chilik River at the base of the Sogety Plateau. The lake collects water in winter and feeds the population in summer months.
When is the best season or time to visit Bartogay? Summer. Like most places around Almaty… you will want to go here during the warmer months.
How do you get to Bartogay from Almaty? Reaching the reservoir via a rental car is very easy otherwise, you really should wait for a Community Tour to reach Bartogay. It is not the most touristy of places and kind of is a stand-alone place, so it is best reached by a tour or private vehicle.
Chilled-out Almaty Day Trips
Lesnaya Skazka Resort
How far is Lesnaya Skazka from Almaty? Lesnaya Skazka is about 41 kilometers, or 25 miles, from Almaty city center. It will take about an hour to get out there.
Why should you visit Lesnaya Skazka? I actually didn’t really know about this place until I was invited to an event there in late spring / early summer of 2018. I went with my friend and it turns out that Lesnaya Skazka is a resort in the mountains at the Oi-Qaragai Canyon and far removed from everything else. It caters to the active traveler but also to the travelers who just want to chill out and relax. There are yurts, cultural activities, cabins to stay overnight in (you can also sleep in the yurts there), and even a zip line across the mountains. It is a nice getaway for the day, or even for the weekend.
When is the best season or time to visit Lesnaya Skazka? I went in summer and it was lovely but I really think it would be great any time of year depending on what type of weather you enjoy.
How do you get to Lesnaya Skazka from Almaty? The best way to get out to the resort is by private car or to hire a taxi. You can also speak with the resort beforehand to see if they will accommodate a city pickup.
How far are the poppy fields from Almaty? The poppy fields are located right outside of Almaty’s city center. If you drive anywhere around the city, you will definitely see them in their full glory if they are in bloom (usually May). I went to a field in a specific village but they are everywhere right off of the highway.
Why should you visit the poppy fields? I mean… look at them. How freaking spectacular. It was one of the most stunning sights I’ve ever witnessed with my own eyes. But, do be careful as some of them are located in villages and are people’s means of living. I would go to the ones off of the highways and photograph them there. This is what most locals do (literally- you’ll see tons of Kazakhs doing intense Instagram photo shoots in them). You will also get to see the mountains in the backdrop.
When is the best season or time to visit the Almaty poppy fields? Spring- particularly May. They may start blooming at the end of April depending on the year, but I went in early May and they were great and in full bloom then.
How do you get to the poppy fields from Almaty? This can be done best by hiring a car or taking public transportation. This is literally the most local experience you’ll have in Almaty so taking public transportation to them is difficult as they are just off of highways. You can ask someone to drop you off there and then hitchhike back. If you’re completely keen on seeing them in a village- shoot me a message and I will tell you where I went (I went by private car, however).
How far is Kok-Tobe from Almaty? Kok-Tobe isn’t really a day trip from Almaty, per se. It is more a place to spend your day, or at least half of it, in Almaty. You can take a cable car there and decide how long you want to spend up there.
Why should you visit Kok-Tobe? Kok-Tobe is a mountain right in Almaty that you can take a cable car to. Once at the top, you can walk around, have lunch, ride theme park rides, or just chill out. I sometimes forget how special the area really is. While it is more of a place that children will enjoy, the kid in me still loves it. It offers sick views of Almaty if the smog levels or low or you get to witness a brilliant sunset.
When is the best season or time to visit Kok-Tobe? I have been in all seasons. I liked summer better, for obvious reasons, but you can venture up there year-round. More is open up on Kok-Tobe in the summer months though.
How do you get to Kok-Tobe from Almaty? You will take a cable car from the right side of the Palace of the Republic off of Dostyk Avenue. The cable car ride takes around 10-15 minutes to the top. The cable cars are newer and built to high standards.
Active Almaty Day Trips
Shymbulak and Medeu
How far are Shymbulak and Medeu from Almaty? It is about a 30-minute ride up the mountain on a public bus to both.
Why should you visit Shymbulak and Medeu? Shymbulak is the premier ski resort around Almaty. It attracts visitors from all over the world (even Prince Harry has skied there) and is a really great place to spend an active day in Almaty. It is accessible by public transportation in Almaty. The ski lifts are operational in summer months most of the time, so you can take them high into the mountains during various times of the year, too.
Medeu is a Soviet-era ice skating rink just a stop away from Shymbulak. The architecture is killer and it is a very popular place in the winter. It is also a great place to head to in order to go hiking. If you want to go to Furmanov Peak or Butakovskiy Waterfall, this is where you will begin.
When is the best season or time to visit Shymbulak and Medeu? If you’re looking to ski, snowboard, or go ice skating, obviously winter is the peak season for these places. If you’re just looking to be in the mountains or start a hike to Butakovskiy Waterfall or Furmanov, you will want to head there during the summer months.
How do you get to Shymbulak and Medeu from Almaty? You can reach both Shymbulak and Medeu by taking bus 12 to the mountains. You can catch this bus at the corner of Kurmangazy and Dostyk or by Dostyk Plaza (on the side of the mall) outside of SMUG Burger area. It will be slightly less than $0.50 for the ride. The bus ride will be about 30 minutes and Medeu is the last stop (Shymbulak is one or two stops before).
Hiking and Nature-Filled Day Trips from Almaty
How far is Turgen from Almaty? Turgen and Turgen Gorge are about 77 kilometers, or 47 miles, from Almaty. It will take you around 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach Turgen Gorge from Almaty.
Why should you visit Turgen Gorge? Turgen may be one of the most underrated places in all of southeastern Kazakhstan and it most definitely is ‘off-the-path’ in terms of tourists. The area is a nature lover’s paradise and you will find everything from deep valleys to high mountains to the famous Kairak Waterfall. If you’re looking for gorgeous alpine scenery away from the city and removed from other tourists, look no further than Turgen Gorge and its surrounding area.
When is the best season or time to visit Turgen Gorge? Summer.
How do you get to Turgen Gorge from Almaty? You can get there best by private car or waiting for a Community Tour to open up. There are other tours that venture out there, too.
How far is Butakovskiy Waterfall from Almaty? Butakovskiy Waterfall is a 30-minute bus ride up the mountain from Almaty. You will take this bus from Dostyk Avenue. You then will arrive at Medeu area and will follow the path there. The entire hike will take around 3-4 hours depending on how fast you choose to do it. It took me 11 because I got lost and move at the pace of a glacier.
Why should you visit Butakovskiy Waterfall? The hike to this waterfall is fairly easy compared to other Almaty hikes. I had a difficult time doing it because I got seriously lost prior and ended up hiking toward Furmanov Peak, which is way out of my skill level. Once I was nice and tired, I ended up on the right path and my body was like jelly.
The waterfall is pretty beautiful and nestled in a really stunning area in the mountains. There is a green valley that you will walk through before climbing the rocks up a stream to the waterfall and I met so many friendly Kazakhs in that valley that it made the entire day worth it in the end.
When is the best season or time to visit Butakovskiy Waterfall? I went to the waterfall in late spring and early summer. It was perfect then but I imagine it is even better in early autumn before the first snowfall. Almaty is really something special in autumn. This is the perfect day trip from Almaty for nature lovers.
How do you get to Butakovskiy Waterfall from Almaty? To start the hike to Butakovskiy Waterfall, you will take the bus to Medeu (directions listed above) and then go slightly down the until you see an area with cascading water (this runs from the mountains to the city as drinking water). Follow this area for a while until you see a few houses. In between those houses is a sign pointing you to the waterfall and a trail. You will take that path.
→ Click here to read my guide to how to get to Butakovskiy Waterfall
How far is Charyn Canyon from Almaty? Charyn Canyon is about three hours away from Almaty. The distance is 218 kilometers, or 135 miles.
Why should you visit Charyn Canyon? This is easily one of the most popular day trips from Almaty. Everyone I know that visits Kazakhstan wants to head there. And rightfully so… it is such a highlight and one of the things that make Kazakh nature so great. Charyn Canyon is often called the little sister of the Grand Canyon and it is certainly less-visited than the canyon in the US. Charyn is smaller but with fewer tourists, you will often feel like you have the place to yourself.
It has gained much more tourism in recent years due to Community Tours and a certain app that people love taking similar photos for. I have been to Charyn Canyon twice- once with a regular tour and once with a Community Tour. Both were fine and let me kind of do my own thing when there (photograph and drink beer by the river). If you are afraid of heights, let them know before as you climb rocks back up. You can just walk the driving path back like I did the second time (the first time I climbed rocks and had a meltdown).
Charyn Canyon is a must-visit for those traveling to Almaty. There is a small fee to enter the park but if you book with a tour, that should be included in the tour price.
When is the best season or time to visit Charyn Canyon? I have been in both summer and autumn. Both days were warm and there was no snow there. I liked autumn better, however, because the crowds weren’t large and the heat wasn’t quite as unbearable.
How do you get to Charyn Canyon from Almaty? Of course, you can drive there but if you’re looking for cheaper options, join a Community Tour or another tour that goes out there. Some of the weekend tours to the Kolsai Lakes will hit up Charyn Canyon on the way back.
→ Click here to read my guide to how to get to Charyn Canyon
Altyn Emel National Park
How far is Altyn Emel from Almaty? Altyn Emel is a huge national park and there are a couple of official entrances. The main one, at Altyn Emel, is around 223 kilometers, or 138 miles, away from the city of Almaty. You will have additional time from there in order to make it into the park. To reach the main entrance of the park… do plan on about three hours (an additional hour or two inside of the park driving to different points).
Why should you visit Altyn Emel National Park? Wow… this place. Altyn Emel National Park is listed on the UNESCO tentative list and is one of the most gorgeous places in Kazakhstan, if not Central Asia. The arid park is also home to the Singing Dune, a sand dune that has sonic vibrations that give people the illusion that it is actually singing with the noise created by it. The park itself is teeming with nomadic history and various landscapes. I really think that Altyn Emel and the Singing Dune are some of the most underrated places in all of Kazakhstan. If you can make it there as an Almaty day trip, you definitely won’t regret it.
When is the best season or time to visit Altyn Emel? Shoulder season- spring or autumn. I went in September. The park becomes violently hot in the summers and it is not suggested to visit if you’re not prepared for extreme heat. Most tours to the Singing Dune will cease taking place during the summer months as a result.
How do you get to Altyn Emel from Almaty? You can drive there, just be sure you have a car that can handle off-roading a little bit. You can also join a community tour or take a tour that is organized in advance. Public transportation is not a viable option to Altyn Emel unless you have a lot of days to spare, in my opinion.
→ Click here to read my guide to how to get to Altyn Emel National Park
How far is Furmanov Peak from Almaty? To reach the starting point for Furmanov and its trails, you will need to take a bus from Almaty city center (Dostyk Avenue) and head to Medeu where you’ll start the hike. The actual hike will take you most of the day.
Why should you visit Furmanov Peak? Because you’re an avid hiker and in better shape than me. Okay seriously, Furmanov Peak is a wonderful, all-day hike for nature and outdoors enthusiasts. It is a pretty challenging hike and not recommended for those who aren’t skilled hikers. I accidentally found myself on the trail to Furmanov instead of the one to Butakovskiy Waterfall and even the couple of hours I did were no real treat.
There will be plenty of people on this trail during the warmer months, but it is recommended to bring a hiking buddy if you can.
When is the best season or time to visit Furmanov Peak? Summer. It is a high peak and really needs to be hiked when the weather is at its best and the snow has melted.
How do you get to Furmanov Peak from Almaty? You can take bus 12 to Medeu (see directions above under Shymbulak and Medeu area) and get off there to start your hike to Furmanov.
Historical Places Near Almaty
How far is Tamgaly Tas from Almaty? Tamgaly Tas is 113 kilometers, or 70 miles, away from Almaty. It will take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to get there.
Why should you visit Tamgaly Tas? This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are thousands of rock carvings in and around the area. While you won’t get to see them all, it is still interesting seeing a part of history portrayed on stones. But, why I really think you should go there? The scenery! Tamgaly Tas is located on the Ili River and on the Kazakh steppe and it really feels so freeing to be in such a picturesque place that is larger than life.
When is the best season or time to visit Tamgaly Tas? I went in September and I reckon that was a perfect time to go to Tamgaly Tas as a day trip from Almaty. The weather was mild and it wasn’t too hot. The Kazakh steppe can be blistering hot during the middle of summer and the bugs can be relentless. I think going to Tamgaly during the shoulder season is best.
How do you get to Tamgaly Tas from Almaty? You can head there in a private car or by booking a Community Tour, as I did. If you take a Community Tour, it may include Tamgaly Tas with Nomad’s Land, which I cover below.
How far is Nomad’s Land from Almaty? Nomad’s Land is 106 kilometers, or 65 miles, from Almaty. It will take about 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to Nomad’s Land from Almaty.
Why should you visit Nomad’s Land? Okay, so I placed Nomad’s Land under historical places to visit near Almaty… but it is pretty much a lie. It is historical if you consider a fake town build for a D-rated movie called ‘Nomad’, historical. Basically, Nomad’s Land is an abandoned movie set turned Instagram playground. This entire place was built for one movie in the middle of the Kazakh steppe and across the Ili River from Tamgaly Tas (you can take a boat across the river to see the rock carvings). It was supposed to depict life in Central Asia back in the day and strangely enough, is photogenic and pretty fascinating. So photogenic that I included it on this list. I have been there twice and I enjoyed both trips.
My first trip to Nomad’s Land was with a friend and we had the entire place to ourselves. We paid the small fee and took heaps of photos and had a blast. My second trip was on a Community Tour that included Tamgaly Tas. We were sent to Nomad’s Land from Tamgaly via boat and had a couple of hours to explore the movie set. I opted to not really visit it because it became a backdrop for goofy IG photo shoots and I opted to drink beer and pose with cats and dogs instead. Win/win.
When is the best season or time to visit Nomad’s Land? Shoulder season. Spring and autumn for sure. I went in both spring and autumn and I imagine that it would have been hellishly hot during the middle of summer. There are also many bugs near the river that you’ll be thankful you went when the weather was milder. If you go with a private car, go during the week. This place gets packed on weekends.
How do you get to Nomad’s Land from Almaty? If you are driving with a private car, it is best to have an all-purpose vehicle or something that can off-road a bit. It is not completely essential, but it gives you more freedom and confidence getting down there. Otherwise, you will have no problems finding a Community Tour to Nomad’s Land- they go frequently and book up quickly.
There are so many great day trips from Almaty, but these are ones I have personally done or that come highly recommended by my friends (I have done most of these Almaty day trips as you can see above). Almaty and Kazakhstan can be a bit forgotten about sometimes when it comes to nature because it is surrounded by so many other places, like Kyrgyzstan, that make it easier for tourists to maneuver around and access (they also have a better visa situation for foreigners). But, if you happen to visit Almaty– stay a few extra days and partake in some of these awesome day trips. I promise you that every single one is well worth it!
Where to Stay in Almaty
Looking for accommodation in Almaty? I have trialed so many places there and now only stick with the ones that work well for me. Here are four suggestions I have for places to stay in Almaty- two are budget, one mid-range (and Soviet), and one luxury. I have stayed at all at one point or another in Almaty.
Almaty Hostel DOM: A very social, yet comfortable hostel in the city center. ‘DOM’ means ‘home’ in Russian and that is exactly how you’ll feel when you stay there- like family. I am friends with the owner and he is one of the most honest and greatest people I know. They also arrange a lot of these Almaty day trips and tours.
Parasat Hostel: Another hostel I stay at frequently (owned by the same guy who owns Almaty Hostel DOM), Parasat Hostel is a quieter place with a lot more space. I am not always the most social person when I travel because I am an introvert who really needs to recharge often, so Parasat fits me well. There are a variety of rooms there and it has a huge kitchen and is located right across the street from the bus I mention that will take you to Furmanov, Medeu, Shymbulak, and Butakovskiy Waterfall. It is located right beside a mall that has a really nice grocery store inside.
–> For current rates and availability click here
Hotel Kazakhstan: You can fulfill your Soviet hotel dreams by staying here. I consider this hotel to be more mid-range than luxury, but others might argue it is more upscale. Either way, it is an experience that is affordable and located on Dostyk Avenue, which is a great base in Almaty. They also have a rooftop restaurant and bar that overlooks the entire city.
Rixos Hotel: Rixos Hotels are luxury living and Almaty has more than one. I have stayed there one time and I can highly recommend staying there on your trip if you want luxury, spa options, or just something that will pamper you in Almaty.
Travel Insurance for Kazakhstan
One thing I highly recommend before traveling to Kazakhstan is to invest in some good travel insurance. You will be in some really remote areas and anything can happen at a moment’s notice. The terrain will likely be unfamiliar to you as well. I suggest World Nomads insurance- I have used them all over the globe from India to Colombia to Kazakhstan. You can get a quote here.