ALMATY – This sprawling city of 1.5 million people located in the picturesque foothills of the Tien Shan Mountains of southeastern Kazakhstan has been named one of the Top 10 cities to visit in 2014 by a popular British travel guide.
Rough Guides, a London-based agency that advises travellers on places of interest and best-value destinations, listed Almaty at number seven of its Top 10 list, which also includes Rio de Janeiro, Sarajevo, Liverpool, Umea (Sweden), Lviv (Ukraine), Marseille, Rotterdam, Glasgow and Portland (US).
“It’s no longer the capital (that title went to Astana in 1997) but Almaty remains Kazakhstan’s most alluring city,” Rough Guides, which has been in existence since 1982, said in its entry for Almaty. “Its setting along the old Silk Road, with rippling mountains all around, is as exotic as they come. Add this to the recent economic boom, which has seen luxury brands pumping millions into new developments, and Borat-style stereotypes disintegrate completely. Almaty tried (and failed) to win the 2014 Winter Olympics, but the nearby ski resorts are still ripe for exploration.”
From 1929 to 1997, Almaty was the capital of Kazakhstan, both during the Soviet era and through the early years of the country’s independence. It has retained its status as Kazakhstan’s largest city and its financial centre. Almaty also has major tourism potential, with its Shymbulak mountain ski resort and the famous Medeo skating rink located at 1,700 metres above sea level. There are plans to develop the city’s tourism potential further, including through the construction of another ski resort called Kok Zhailau.
“Already today the Shymbulak complex allows thousands of people to pursue a healthy way of living. The project of a new ski resort is important for our entire country,” President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on Jan. 1 as he inspected models for facilities to be built in Almaty for the Winter Universiade in 2017 and the planned Kok Zhailau resort. “The development of tourism in Almaty and in the region around it will create around 100,000 jobs. The city’s dynamic development depends on the rational use of our mountains. In many European countries, people learn winter sports from childhood. A tourist visiting a ski resort brings six times more revenue than tourists visiting warm countries and beaches. And if we are to develop our tourism industry in this direction, we will create thousands of new jobs [and] attract huge investments, including for protecting the environment. Not only Shymbulak, but other places in the region will be used, while nature will be safeguarded.”
Along with Astana, Almaty hosted the Asian Winter Games in 2011. It is now bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
The link to Rough Guides’ list of Top 10 cities to visit this year is available online and can be found here: http://www.roughguides.com/best-places/2014/top-10-cities