There is some good hiking to be done in the Zailiski Alatau mountains south of Almaty. Very accessible 1-day hikes with fantastic panorama views over the city are the trip to Kok Zhailau and Peak Kumbel, and the hike to Peak Furmanov. The start of these hikes can be easily reached in a 30 minute bus ride from the center of Almaty, and you can camp to extend your trip.
Butakovka waterfall is picturesque, low-altitude and easy to reach (have not written an article yet). I don’t recommend the hikes to and around Big Almaty Lake at the moment (see the article for more on that). From Shymbulak, 2-day treks to glaciers and the direction of Talgar start, but I have not done those myself yet.
East from Almaty, Turgen Gorge offers great hiking potential without the need for permits.
You can find a map with trekking routes outlined here to give you an idea. Every route in the route section below has a gpx trail for download. For recommendations on paper maps and smartphone apps, see our general map section.
There are 2 main entrance points to the Ili-Alatau National Park, on the eastern side (Medeu & Shymbulak) and on the western side (GES Hydropower station). All hikes start from either of these 2 points. More bus routes into the mountains come courtesy of Dennis from Walking Almaty.
Medeu & Shymbulak
Bus 12 goes every 30 minutes from the center of town to Medeu. It starts from the bus stop across from Hotel Kazakhstan and follows Dostyk avenue all the way to its final stop, Medeu ice skating rink. Cost is 80-120 tenge. From here you can walk to the base station of Shymbulak ski resort, or take the chair lift going up, 200 m below Medeu.
GES Hydropower station
On the corner of Al-Farabi and Navoi streets, next to the President’s Park is the bus stop for bus 28 that drives every 30 minutes all the way up Dulati street (also called Almarasan). Last stop is just beyond the entrance to the park.
Taxis ply the same routes, expect to pay around 5-10 times more per seat. If you drive yourself, you will need to pay a small entry fee per person at the entrance to the park.
- Border guards patrol the area around Big Almaty Lake. If you are planning to hike there or around, always take your passport with valid registration to avoid trouble.
- If you are camping, be aware it cools down quickly and drastically at night at high altitude.
- Besides usual hiking necessities, don’t forget sunscreen.
- Trekking Club Kazakhstan runs many longer as well as 1 or 2 day hikes in the area at affordable prices. They also operate 2 mountain huts inside the national park.
- Track KZ is a small cooperative of professional local guides in Kazakhstan. The team has 20 years of guide experience and can arrange jeep safaris, hiking & climbing and rafting.