Almaty has perhaps one of the most striking and beautiful locations of any city in the world. Located in the spectacular foothills of the Zilishkiy Alatau mountains, Almaty is a pleasant city to live in, vibrant, green, and with a thriving cosmopolitan culture. The impressive mountains are only half an hour’s drive from the city center.
The name Almaty comes from the Kazakh word ‘alma’, which means ‘apple’. It used to be claimed that Almaty was home to the sweetest fruit in the world, and its former name, ‘Alma-Ata,’ means ‘father of apples.’
One of the first reactions experienced by many foreigners arriving in the city is that it is the most ‘European’ in its architecture of all the Central Asian cities. ‘Almaty’ was the original name of a small Kazakh town, which was renamed ‘Fort Vernyi’ or ‘Loyal Fort’ by the Cossacks of the Russian Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the early twentieth century, the capital of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Kazakhstan was established in the city, which was renamed Alma-Ata. Since then, the city has become the center of the economic, cultural, and political life in Kazakhstan. In 1997 the capital was moved to Astana, which is located further to the North, in the geographical center of Kazakhstan. However, Almaty remains the ‘Southern Capital,’ and the financial and cultural center not just of Kazakhstan but of the whole Central Asian region.
Almaty is surrounded by the Alatau mountains. Alatau means ‘colorful’ in Kazakh. The mountains can be seen from every corner of the city making it common for the locals to use phrases ‘to go up’ or ‘to go down’ a road in their direct meaning.
Almaty’s climate is continental: it is hot in summer and can get very cold in winter. The coldest months are January and February, when the average temperature drops to -13°C (9°F), and the hottest months are July and August, when the mercury averages around +27°C (80°F). The low rainfall is reflected by low humidity, which moderates both the heat of Almaty’s summer and the cold of its winter.
KIMEP is situated in the center of Almaty, near Republic Square, in close proximity to shops, cafes, major hotels, and the main road to the mountains.
Leisure in Almaty
Almaty is a haven for fans of the great outdoors. In the winter you can go figure skating at Medeu, the highest skating rink in the world, go skiing at one of several ski resorts within an hour’s drive of the city, or go hiking or climbing in the mountains.
In summer you can go sailing, swimming, and sunbathing at Kapshagai, an artificially created lake in an hour distance from the city. Small boats can be rented for the day, as well as larger boats for longer excursions. You can go horseback riding at Almaty’s hippodrome or in one of the valleys in the mountains outside the city.
Almaty is well-equipped with sports centers and gyms offering a wide range of facilities including classes in yoga, pilates and martial arts.
For lovers of culture, Almaty has several permanent theaters including the Kazakh National Opera and Ballet Theatre, the State Drama Theater, and several others that offer daily performances in different languages. There are a number of cinemas that show movies in English as well as a range of art galleries, museums and a even permanent circus. As well as a great number of restaurants offering both local and international cuisine, the city is home to a large and constantly evolving catalog of cafes, bars, bowling alleys and nightclubs.
Download an interactive electronic map of Almaty (in Russian – click on the small square button labelled ‘Скачать E-city Almaty’).