The leafy city of Almaty (Alma-Ata; Алматы), with a backdrop of the snowcapped Zailiysky Alatau, has always been among the more appealing Russian creations in Central Asia. Today Almaty's new rich have expensive suburban apartments, large SUVs, glitzy shopping malls, Western-style coffee lounges, expensive restaurants, dance-till-dawn nightclubs and new ski resorts to help them enjoy life to the full. Meanwhile, others from the city's outer districts and the countryside squeeze into packed buses and rickety marshrutkas around the Green Market (Zelyony Bazar) or Sayakhat bus station.
Almaty is Kazakhstan’s main transport hub and a place many travellers pass through. Stay a few days and you’ll find that it is a sophisticated place – one for enjoying green parks and excellent museums, shops and markets, and for eating, drinking and partying in Central Asia’s best selection of restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs. And great mountain hiking and skiing are right on the doorstep.