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Almaty has long been considered Central Asia's most interesting city. For starters, it has a dramatic location nestled at the foot of the Tian Shan mountains. Outdoors activities start a stone's thrown from the city limits, with hiking and horse riding in summer and heli-skiing or ice skating at the giant Medeu ice rink in winter. Almaty is also the most worldly corner of Central Asia, flush with oil money, fancy restaurants and Mercedes showrooms, seemingly oblivious of the fact that it was dropped as capital 15 years ago (watch the embassy staff reluctantly boarding flights back to Astana every Sunday evening). Throw in the fact that ...

Almaty has long been considered Central Asia's most interesting city. For starters, it has a dramatic location nestled at the foot of the Tian Shan mountains. Outdoors activities start a stone's thrown from the city limits, with hiking and horse riding in summer and heli-skiing or ice skating at the giant Medeu ice rink in winter. Almaty is also the most worldly corner of Central Asia, flush with oil money, fancy restaurants and Mercedes showrooms, seemingly oblivious of the fact that it was dropped as capital 15 years ago (watch the embassy staff reluctantly boarding flights back to Astana every Sunday evening). Throw in the fact that Almaty is a launch pad for the overland trip to China's Xinjiang province and it's easy to see the appeal. Kazakhstan's largest city is also its most cosmopolitan, with only around the half the city's residents ethnically Kazakh. The wooden Orthodox Zenkov cathedral shows the historically strong Russian influence and the Korean kimchi sellers in the markets have added an Asian exoticism since they were being deported here during WWII.

Bradley Mayhew
About the Expert

Bradley Mayhew is the author of more than 25 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, including Central Asia, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and Jordan, and is coauthor of the Odyssey guide to Uzbekistan.

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Bradley Mayhew for Triporati

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