After booking Air Astana from Tbilisi to Tashkent via Almaty, I found an amazing offer from the airline – an almost free stopover in Almaty. If you have at least 10-hour layover, the airline provides one night accommodation in 3-4 star hotel (you can choose from several offers) with breakfast and transfer to and from the airport. All of this for a symbolic price of 1 USD per person. We booked our tickets with a 20 hour layover, which gave us enough time to explore the city. We chose Ramada Almaty, it is located in a good enough location and is clean. The staff was very nice and welcoming. We loved our stay there and it was a really great way to see Almaty for a day. We were also picked up from the airport by a driver with a nice air-conditioned car, with whom we also arranged our drop off back to the airport on the next day. Overall, the experience was wonderful.
Almaty airport is located North-east of the city. If you don’t have the AirAstana Stopover holiday, you have a couple of options of getting to the city center. On our way back we had several hours, so decided to go out in the city again. The airport has wifi so you can get an Uber. The price is far better than with the official taxis. You also have another app – Yandex taxi, but I don’t trust it, so we went for Uber. Another option is the bus. There is supposed to be a 24 hour bus #3, but we didn’t find it, when we arrived at 5am, #32 works from 6am and goes close to the city center.
Keep in mind that the city has really huge streets and whatever looks quite close on google maps, may not end up as easy to walk to.
Here is a possible one day itinerary and recommendations on what to do:
- See the Zenkov cathedral and Park of 28 Panfilovs’ park – coming from the airport, get off the bus near the cathedral and walk around the park.
- Have coffee at one of the numerous cafes in the city.
We really loved the Nedelka café, the staff was very welcoming, the coffee was great. We were not very impressed with the food though, as the toasts were cold and not well toasted. But do go for the coffee and the atmosphere.
Other nice coffee places are Traveler’s coffee, United Coffee and Social coffee.
- Walk around the huge streets of the city and have a look at its huge buildings, like – Kazakhstan hotel, Republic Palace, Independence monument.
- Take Uber or Yandex taxi to the Big Almaty lake. If you are there in summer or don’t mind the cold in winter, try to see the lake. It is about an hour drive from the city center or about an hour and a half from the airport. Do get the taxi to wait for you there, otherwise, you will have problems finding the ride back. It will cost you about 35-50 dollars for the round trip though, depending where you go from.
- Eat horse meat for lunch or dinner at one of the traditional pubs, like Line Brew Almaty. It was not cheap, but had great food. We ordered horse steak and mushrooms, they were really tasty. They fry meat in front of you on a hot stone, which gives it a nice touch. The place looks like an old pub, everything is decorated in wood.
- Take a cable car up to Kok Tobe, a hill next to the city. The cable car is rather expensive, but it’s worth it for nice views. The Kok Tobe park is well maintained, it has a number of attractions for the kids, as well as adults. I would suggest going there towards evening, watch the sunset and enjoy the vibe. You also find a number of restaurants and cafes. We had coffee at the Monteverde café, it is cute, has great views and good coffee.
- Go out in the evening near the Zhibek Zholy metro area. It is rather crowded in the evenings with young people hanging out and drinking. If you need it, you will find a 24 hour supermarket Yubileynyy nearby.