Snow Mountains Almaty Shymbulak Kazakhstan Is It Worth Visiting Almaty in Winter?
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Is It Worth Visiting Almaty in Winter?

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We visited Almaty in January and quickly realized we had underestimated the ferocity of the winter chill here. Just getting from the airport to our Airbnb felt like a survival situation, especially when we couldn’t immediately locate our apartment. With a month-long stay booked, we weren’t exactly sure what we had gotten ourselves into.

Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city and former capital, is located in the southeast of the country, high on a plateau in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains. It is a cultural and historical epicenter for the region and the surrounding areas are naturally spectacular, with many attractions and activities to offer visitors. Almaty also acts as a gateway to Kazakhstan featuring the nation’s largest airport.

In the summer months, visitors come to trek in the mountains, explore the city, and witness the cultural celebrations that take place here. In winter the temperatures here plunge well below 0°C and the town is often blanketed in fresh white snow. This raises the question, is Almaty worth visiting in winter?

Is Almaty Worth Visiting in Winter?

In short, absolutely!

While the colder months may deter some travelers, Almaty offers a unique and enchanting experience in winter. From outdoor activities like skiing and ice skating to indoor cultural experiences, there are plenty of things to do in Almaty during the winter.

So how cold is it, and what exactly is the weather like in Almaty during winter?

Weather in Almaty During Winter

I’m not going to lie, Almaty in Winter is cold. Very cold and wintery white.

When we arrived in early January which happens to be the coldest month in Almaty, it was -25°C (-13°F). I had never been to a place that cold in my entire life.

The average temperature in Almaty in winter usually ranges from -10°C (14°F) to 2°C (34°F), but it can drop to even lower at night. The snow usually starts falling in November and lasts until March or April, covering the city and the surrounding mountains with a white blanket with the average snowfall in Almaty being about 150 cm (59 inches) per year.

Days during the winter in Almaty are short, with sunrise around 8 a.m. and sunset around 5 p.m.

Things to Do in Almaty in Winter

There are many things to do in Almaty in winter. Almaty’s winter charm offers a delightful blend of outdoor adventures and cultural exploration. Whether you’re an avid winter sports enthusiast or simply want to enjoy the serene beauty of the season, Almaty’s winter landscape promises a memorable and rewarding journey.

Skiing in Almaty at Shymbulak Ski Resort

chairlift skiing shymbulak kazakhstan Is It Worth Visiting Almaty in Winter?
Skiing at Shymbulak is one of the best things to do in Almaty in winter

One of the most popular things to do in Almaty in winter is skiing. Almaty is known as the ski capital of Central Asia thanks primarily to the Shymbulak Ski Resort, one of the best places to ski in Kazakhstan.

Located around thirty kilometers from the city center, it is easy to reach the slopes for a day or two (or even longer) when visiting Almaty in winter. In fact, there is even a bus that takes you directly to the base of Shymbulak Mountain from Almaty!

One of the best things about skiing at Shymbulak Ski Resort is the lack of crowds that you would find in many other ski destinations around the world. Even though there isn’t a huge variety of runs, we found the facilities to be world class.

Go Ski Touring in Almaty

If you are a fan of skiing ski touring is also popular here. If you haven’t tried it before, Almaty is a great place to get off-piste and go ski touring. Ski touring is essentially skiing in the backcountry in unmarked and uncontrolled areas.

It is absolutely incredible being out in nature, surrounded by piles of snow with just you and your fellow ski tourers. It is hard work, don’t get me wrong without access to lifts to take you up the mountain. But if you are up for the challenge it is an incredible way to spend a day while in Almaty for winter.

If you are a novice (like us), you can book a one-day tour with FrozenRocks Backcountry Adventures. For beginners, this one-day tour is perfect for getting your feet wet (metaphorically speaking).

The tour guides at FrozenRocks Backcountry Adventures are knowledgeable, friendly, and extremely helpful. They take safety very seriously which is a good thing and one of the reasons why we recommend them.

Ice Skate at the Largest Outdoor Ice Rink in the World

It’s not a winter destination without an ice rink, right? Well, luckily Almaty boasts the world’s largest outdoor ice rink!

Medeu Ice Skate Rink located at the base of the Shymbulak Ski Resort is massive with 10.5 thousand square meters of ice and sits 1,691 meters above sea level!

This gigantic ice rink is great fun for the whole family and is open from November 1st for both day and night skating. Ice skates are available for rent.

If you would like to ice skate but don’t feel like making the journey all the way out to Medeu, you can also ice skate at Republic Square, Central Park, or Esentai Mall.

Ride the Shymulak Cable Car for Panoramic Views

View of the Mountains on the Shymbulak Cable Car during Almaty in winter

If you aren’t planning on skiing in Almaty, we still think taking a ride up the Shymbulak Cable Car is worth it. The mountains surrounding Almaty are absolutely stunning, even if you aren’t skiing down them.

You can purchase tickets just to ride the Shymbulak Cable Car to the top, and even to continue riding the ski gondolas to the peak where you can dine at one of the restaurants on the mountain.

As of January 2023, the Shymbulak cable car prices for adults were 3,500 ₸ (or $8 USD) to the base station or 4,000 ₸ (or $9 USD) to the highest station (3,200 meters). For the most up-to-date price list, check the Shymbulak Ski Resort website.

Arasan Wellness & Spa

Another great thing to do in Almaty in winter is to head indoors to the Arasan Wellness & Spa Complex (Arasan Bathhouse). The Arasan Bathhouse is a luxury spa complex in Almaty dating back to 1982. The word “arasan” means “warm source” in the Kazakh language, and it is a perfect place to spend a few hours after traipsing around outside in the fridge Almaty winter.

It offers a wide array of spa experiences from Finnish saunas and Turkish hammams to Russian banyas, as well as large pools for relaxing. In addition, you can arrange a variety of services such as massages, body scrubs, peels, wraps, and many more.

Entrance into the Arasan Bathhouse varies depending on how long you want to stay and if you plan on going. Prices are most expensive on the weekend and during the evening hours.

Below are the tariffs for one hour for an adult.

  • Weekday
    • 7:00 am – 4:00 pm: 1,800  ₸
    • 4:00 pm – 11:30 pm: 2,500  ₸
  • Weekend
    • 7:00 am – 4:00 pm: 3,300  ₸
    • 4:00 pm – 11:30 pm: 3,800  ₸

Check out the Arasan website for the most up-to-date prices including prices for children and additional hours.

Take in a Show at the Kazakh National Opera and Ballet Theater

Another great indoor activity during winter in Almaty is to take in a show at the Kazakh National Opera and Ballet Theater (also known as the AbayState Academic Opera and Ballet Theater). Standing as a cultural gem, the theater showcases the nation’s artistic heritage through captivating performances. During the winter you can expect to see classic performances such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. With its grand architecture reminiscent of a bygone era, the theater serves as a symbol of Kazakhstan’s dedication to the performing arts and is an experience not to miss while visiting Almaty in winter.

Explore the Almaty Nightlife

Bartender pouring drinks at a bar in Almaty
Almaty has a surprising number of craft beer bars

As the vibrant cultural hub of Kazakhstan, Almaty comes alive after the sun sets. Almaty nightlife caters to a dynamic and diverse range of tastes. From laid-back bars to pulsating nightclubs, the city’s nocturnal scene offers something for everyone, ensuring that visitors and locals alike can experience memorable evenings.

For those seeking a more laid-back atmosphere, Almaty boasts an array of stylish bars where you can unwind with a beer. Our favorites include:

  • All Saints Bar: For a wide range of beer and a relaxed vibe
  • Baza Brewery: For a local experience with local beers and local vibes
  • William Lawson’s 13 The Bar: To satisfy your Irish itch
  • Hoper’s Bar: Another small bar for craft beer junkies
  • The Kryshka Bar: Small bar with craft beers and games

Adventurous night owls can dive into Almaty’s energetic nightclub scene, where thumping beats, vibrant lights, and a mix of music genres create an electrifying atmosphere. Some clubs feature live performances by local and international DJs, adding to the excitement on the dance floor. Nightclubs in Almaty often draw a diverse crowd, offering a chance to mingle and connect with people from different walks of life.

A few of the popular nightclubs in Almaty include, Vzletnaya and Ooh Chic.

Dine on the Diverse and Delicious Cuisine of the Kazakh People

While Kazakh cuisine hasn’t reached worldwide fame like Italian or Japanese, it is definitely worth exploring while in Almaty. Kazakh cuisine is a fusion of flavors and traditions, rooted in the region’s nomadic heritage and influenced by its nearby neighbor, China.

A few of the dishes that are worth a try include:

  • Beshbarmak, a cherished delicacy of boiled meat served over thin sheets of pasta
  • Plov, a fragrant rice pilaf popular throughout the “stans”
  • Manty, delicious steamed dumplings typically filled with a mixture of ground meat (often lamb or beef) combined with onions and spices
  • Lagman (our personal favorite), a hearty noodle soup that features hand-pulled or hand-cut noodles, along with a flavorful and often spicy broth.

Where to Stay in Almaty During Winter

Almaty has a wide range of accommodation options for all budgets and preferences. Here are some of the best places to stay in Almaty during winter ordered from the most budget-friendly to the most expensive.

The Wanderlust Hostel

Wanderlust Hotel Almaty Is It Worth Visiting Almaty in Winter?
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Those looking for comfortable lodgings at a great price need look no further than the Wanderlust. Located conveniently in central Almaty, you’ll be close to public transport, restaurants, bars, and attractions. The hostel features a shared kitchen and a shared lounge, along with free WiFi throughout the property and 24-hour reception. The rooms are comfortable and cozy.

Rooms start around 12,600 ₸ per night or $28 USD. Dormitory beds start around 6,500 ₸ per night or $15 USD.

Check Prices Now on Your Favorite Platform!

Kazakhstan Express (Hotel Kazakhstan)

Kazahstan Express Almaty Is It Worth Visiting Almaty in Winter?
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Another great budget-friendly option in Almaty for under $100 USD a night (45,000 ₸ a night) is Kazakhstan Express. With an unbeatable location on Dostyk Avenue and minutes from some of the best restaurants and bars in Almaty, the Kazakhstan Express offers basic rooms featuring a desk, kettle, TV and private bathroom. This hotel is also located conveniently near the bus route 12 to the Shymbulak Cable Car making it a great option for those headed to the ski slopes.

Rooms here start at 35,000 ₸ or $76 USD a night for a single room and 39,000 ₸ or $86 USD a night for a double room.

Check Prices Now on Your Favorite Platform!

Opera Apartments Almaty

Opera Apartments, one of the best hotels in Almaty
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If you are looking for a bit more space during your stay in Alamaty, Opera Apartments is perfect for you. Centrally located, the apartments at Opera Apartments Almaty are beautifully appointed with modern furnishing and feature one bedroom, a washing machine, and a full-service kitchen.

Prices start around 45,000 ₸ or $99 USD per night for a standard apartment.

Check Prices Now on Your Favorite Platform!

Renion Park Hotel

Reunion Park Hotel Almaty Is It Worth Visiting Almaty in Winter?
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The most centrally located of all of the best hotels in Almarty, the Renion Park Hotel is the best option if you plan to spend most of your time in the city than on the slopes. Only 500 meters from famous landmarks in Almaty such as the Ascension Cathedral and minutes from some of the best restaurants and bars, you won’t be disappointed with your choice to stay at Renion Park Hotel.

The rooms are clean and spacious, the staff is helpful, and the hotel features a lounge, fitness center, indoor pool, and sauna. Breakfast is also included with your stay at the Renion Park Hotel.

Rooms here start around 50,500 ₸ or $112 per night.

Check Prices Now on Your Favorite Platform!

The Ritz-Carlton, Almaty

The Ritz Carlton Almaty Is It Worth Visiting Almaty in Winter?
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The stunning Ritz Carlton Hotel is unbeatable and is easily the best hotel in Almaty. The Ritz Carlon prides itself on being the cream of the crop when it comes to luxury and it is no exception here in Almaty. Impeccable rooms and first-class service await you if you choose to stay here.

The only downside to the Ritz Carlton Hotel is that it is not located downtown but rather on the foothills of the Alatau Mountains. Luckily, the downtown area of Almaty is only minutes away and is easily accessible by taxi using the Yandex app.

Rooms here start around 200,000 ₸ or $440 per night.

Check Prices Now on Your Favorite Platform!

So, Is Almaty Worth Visiting in Winter?

We think so, and hope you do too!

Almaty’s proximity to nature, outdoor adventures, delicious food, and enjoyable nightlife are just a few of the many reasons to give Almaty a visit during the winter.

Just remember, to pack properly for the frigid temperatures!


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