TWHS: Northern Tyan-Shan, Kazakhstan

So after that swing through central Java, headed off to Moscow for the show (went great, thanks, we’ll have a report on that up soon) and on the way there and back stopped in Kazakhstan

… which we’ll hazard a guess most of you Dear Readers have only heard of from watching Borat

… who is not, in fact, an accurate representation of a Kazakh in the slightest. And be warned, they take any attempts to replicate him very poorly indeed:

Six Czech tourists wearing Borat mankini costumes arrested in Kazakhstan

So yeah, your list of Things Not To Do When Travelling? Put “wearing mankinis in Kazakhstan” on the list.

(Personally, we’d hope that it wouldn’t occur to you to wear a fashion abomination of mankini magnitude under any circumstances, but hey if it does, we don’t judge, we just counsel prudence. In Kazakhstan, anyways.)

Any-ways, if you fly into Almaty, you can’t possibly miss as soon as you get out of the plane that the background setting here is the Tentative World Heritage Site

Northern Tyan-Shan (Ile-Alatau State National Park)

Northern Tyan-Shan 1


The natural object of nomination is located on the northern macrohillside of the ridge Trans-Ili Ala-Tau, which is the part of Northern Tyan Shan physical geographic province (Gvozdetskiy, Nikolaev, 1971). Relief. The ridge of Trans-Ili Ala-Tau is complex and by its topology relates to the northern spur of Tyan Shan. The territory is peculiar of vertical zonality or belt character of relief, that specified a wide variety of landscapes. The high-mountainous (upper) nival glacial chord encompassing paraxial part of the ridge, occupies altitudes of 3000 m above sea level. This band is of “alpine” character, with sharp tops, steep stony declines. Northern and southern slopes of the ridge abound of incuts of glacier kars, semicircular circuses, with a diameter of several hundred meters. It is the main place of formation of glaciers. Their tongues are penetrating into spur valleys of the head rivers. The largest glaciers have length of up to 6 kms and area of up to 18 sq. kms. At the whole northern macroslope of Trans-Ili Ala-Tau there are more than 300 glaciers, total area of which more than 300 sq. kms…

We’ve been a number of cities that are proud of their mountain backdrops, but none that even come close to Almaty. If there’s a city with a more dramatic setting anywhere in the world, no idea where it is. Here’s another shot of circling after takeoff,

Northern Tyan-Shan 2

and one having gained a bit of altitude

Northern Tyan-Shan 3

So yep, as dramatic settings go, the Almaty backrop could very well be the most dramatic we’ve seen anywhere. Places like Nepal and Tibet you’re up in the mountains sure, but you don’t see them swooping out of the steppe like that!

Inside the park itself, well mountains pretty much look like mountains anywhere, but we did find this night shot of the Medeu Skating Rink and Ski resort right on the main road into the park quite fetching:


Thoroughly agree with the collective TripAdvisor wisdome this looks like “#1 of 212 things to do in Almaty” even though we didn’t get a chance to skate …

… which is a pity, as this is in fact the highest skate rink in the world at 1690m altitude. That would’ve been an interesting talking point. Something to do next time we drop by!

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