Solange Hando gets to experience a royal welcome on her first visit to Kazakhstan.
Nearly 1000kms south of the capital Nur-Sultan, Almaty nestles in the foothills of the Tian Shan mountains close to the Kyrgyzstan border. From trade on the silk road to its former role as capital in the Soviet era, it has grown into a flourishing business and cultural centre. Theatres and museums, boutiques, shopping malls and a near European vibe with al fresco dining, tree-lined streets and open spaces, there is much to enjoy in the clean mountain air (av. altitude 1000 metres).
Opened in 2010, the Royal Tulip rises in the prestigious Medeo district on the edge of town, framed by snow-capped mountains for much of the year. It’s a quiet relaxing place but only a short taxi ride to the city centre or hop on a bus minutes from the hotel. First impressions are tantalising as flower beds lead up to the domed entrance rising between two wings. It looks almost like a palace and as soon as you step in, marble and chandeliers greet you in an elegant circular hall. Guest rooms are either side of a light-filled atrium enhanced by paintings and plants.
The hotel claims 155 rooms and 10 suites, offering high-quality furnishings and all the amenities you would expect from a five-star venue including 24/7 room service, ultra-quick WiFi and cable TV, up to three sets in top rooms. But most impressive is the generous size of every guest room, starting at 50 square metres for a ‘Superior’ followed by the larger Deluxe. Then come the suites: two bedrooms, two bathrooms, separate living space, balcony and pressing service on arrival. Add a massage chair and whirlpool tub in an Executive Suite or in the gorgeous Presidential Suite which spreads over 170 square metres. Bathrooms are also spacious at every level with double washbasin, walk-in shower and bath. All rooms have large windows with mountain and/or city views.
The Royal Café prepares international food alongside some local flavours. Meat is popular in Kazakhstan, as found in dumplings, pilaf or ‘five finger’ noodles with onion sauce but look around and you will find suitable options for vegetarians. In good weather, the terrace is open. Breakfast is a generous buffet, eggs cooked to order and delicious fruit, but if you just fancy a croissant, cake or homemade bread, head for the Royal Pâtisserie. The Lobby Lounge Bar is a great place to relax with colleagues or friends while in the stylish Wine Gallery, the professional sommelier can help you select the very best for a special meal, in a rich collection from around the world.
Time to relax? Try the Aquarius Health and Beauty Club, its enticing collonaded pool and soothing rituals, hydro-massage, sun therapy and more. Business, social events? From boardrooms and meeting halls to the Grand Ballroom, banqueting and conference facilities cater for up to 2000 people. Karaoke and billiard rooms are also available.
Meanwhile, in town, popular attractions range from the Orthodox Cathedral to the vast Independence Square, the Abay Opera House and museums, my favourite dedicated to Kazakh folk music, all within walking distance of the pleasant Panfilov Street Promenade. But not to be missed is the cable car up to the GPO tower where besides the Beatles monument you will find a stunning panorama over the city and hills. Yet for a real close-up view of high mountains, return to Medeo and near the ice skating rink, take the cable car up to the ski resort of Shymbulak.
Starting at 1593 metres, the first stop is at 2260 metres for shops and restaurants, or you can continue to levels 2 and 3 where at 3200 metres, you step out in a rocky mountain cirque covered in ice and snow, laced in ski runs and hiking trails. Further from the city, yet still accessible on a day trip, is the dramatic Charyn Canyon, desert and oasis all in one with spectacular rocks and rushing water.
Expect a long day but the Royal Tulip will welcome you back in utter comfort.
Tell Me More About The Royal Tulip Almaty
Royal Tulip Hotel, 401 Ospanov Street, Almaty Kazakhstan
E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: +7 727 300 0100
Rooms from £107