National Museum of Kazakhstan (Almaty; Kazakhstan)
When a country's capital city is shifted elsewhere, it is always intriguing to know what kind of legacy is left behind in the nation's former capital city. Almaty is such a case, and to this day, this urban area still remains the country's largest, and, one presumes, its largest centre of finance, so just how well does Central Asia's most modern city measure up? The answer is, in a nutshell, incredibly well, as there are numerous visible ways in which the city of Almaty holds its own. The city's best vantage point for viewing not only the entirity of the city from up on high, but also the majesty of the surrounding mountains is a place known as Kok-Tobe, which can be reached either by cable car or by bus, if you are aware of the available routes.
In front of the presidential residence of Almaty (Almaty; Kazakhstan)
Kok-Tobe offers a few other key reference points, such as the iconic apple monument (synonymous with Almaty), a mini amusement park, souvenir stores, a cafe with knockout views, as well as a mini zoo of sorts, and is well worth a few hours of your time. Back in Almaty proper, and the city's number one building of aesthetic appeal happens to be Zenkov cathedral, a candy-coloured masterpiece of attractive proportions, set in Panfilov park, itself a hang-out zone and an oasis of calm in the midst of surrounding urban terrain. The eastern area of the city is where the main bulk of attractions are located, and a half-day walking tour will ensure that you are able to see these attractions, leg-power permitting, in an unbroken stream. In the north-eastern corner of the city lies the gold domed roofed building that is the mosque, and virtually right alongside it is the sizeable Green market, a commercial area of note where all manner of goods can be purchased at reasonable prices in an atmosphere which quietly buzzes.
Zenkov cathedral, in Panfilov park (Almaty; Kazakhstan)
On an even bigger scale, but located north of the city lies the commercial zone known as Barakholka market, essentially a labyrinth of goods for sale which appeals due to the size, depth and diversity of the layout and wares for sale. If it is modern shopping plazas which you seek, then try out the Aport mall for size, replete with indoor Hawaii water park, and all the trappings you would expect from a western-style mall. Dining options abound in Almaty, covering most tastes and budgets, but for the definitive Almaty dining experience, look no further than the Uzbek-themed, Alasha restaurant, with decor set to wow any diner, and an evening dance routine show which is bound to draw you into the exotic spirit of Central Asia and all of the colourful energy which it entails.
A gold-domed mosque (Almaty; Kazakhstan)
In addition to the plethora of other ways in which Almaty has developed, the city is also endowed with Central Asia's newest metro network, and it looks as if it won't be long before this develops in tandem with the rest of the city's urban growth. Almaty is located in southern Kazakhstan, which is, for the record, the world's 9th largest nation, and as attempts are made to launch the country into the modern age, thankfully a few of the vital historical relics have remained. On the brink of departure for Charyn Canyon (a 3-hour drive due east), and with a remaining day in Almaty to cover ground not covered on day one, it came as no surprise that the momentum gathered up until then had also translated into a similarly-satisfying crop of discoveries later on during the last full day spent in the city.