During my week in Almaty, I took two-day trips. One to Big Almaty Lake and one to Tamgaly Tas, the Buddhist petroglyphs, which included a stop at the super cool abandoned film set called Nomad’s Land.
Like most of the activities, I did while in Kazakhstan, I didn’t really know what to expect before I arrived, but I left blown away.
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What is Nomad’s Land?
Nomad’s Land sometimes referred to as the City of Nomads, is the abandoned movie set that has turned into a tourist destination on the edge of the Ili River in the Tamgaly Gorge. Originally built for the 2005 movie Nomad, hence the name, but it’s actually been used for several movies. During our visit, the site was being restored for the next film project.
A Photographer’s Paradise
The main reason to come to Nomad’s Land is for photography. Since it’s not a historic site, just a big replica of a historic town crunched together for cinematic effect, it’s not the same experience as walking through a historic fortress. Instead, you get to indulge your sense of imagination as you wander the “town’s” streets.
Approaching the front gates, it’s incredible to think that something this massive was built purely as a film set. Here are some of my favorite photographs of Nomad’s Land from my visit:
Things to Do Near Nomad’s Land
I visited as part of a day tour to Tamgaly Tas, the Buddhist Rock Art Sanctuary. The two sites are just a short boat ride across the river from each other. For a full list of things to do in the area, read my longer post about visiting Tamgaly Tas, which includes a section on “Things to do in Tamgaly.”
How to Visit Nomad’s Land from Almaty
You have a few different options to visit Nomad’s Land from Almaty. Some are more convenient than others.
With a Local Tour Company
The easiest way to visit is to go on a group tour. I went with the company Steppe Spirit, which you can contact via their Instagram account. I paid 5000 tenge (about $14 USD). This included transportation. The entire day went something like this:
- 9:00 Depart Almaty
- 11:00 Dance Class
- 11:30 Explore Tamgaly Tas
- 1:30 Lunch Break
- 2:30 Boat Ride to Nomad’s Land
- 3:00 Explore Nomad’s Land
- 6:00 Boat Ride back to the Tour Bus at Golden Hour
- 6:30 Drive Back
- 8:30 Arrive Back in Almaty
You can use the Yandex taxi app to plan a day trip for yourself with estimated costs (excluding the added costs of wait time). I explain the process of using Yandex to plan a day trip to Tamgaly Gorge in my post about Visiting Tamgaly Tas. I also break down how to use it to plan a day trip to Big Almaty Lake, complete with screenshots. This will be more expensive than going on a group tour, but it might be a pretty good deal if there are three or four of you.
If you have access to a car and a local friend to travel with, this might be a great way to go. However, I would caution against renting a car in Kazakhstan or going without a local driver. The Kazakhstan police are notorious for hassling foreigners.
Tips for Visiting Nomad’s Land
- Bring your own snacks and drinks. The only place you can buy them is the small magazine outside.
- Drink lots of water. The sun is bright and there are no shaded areas in the complex.
- Bring cash. Nowhere takes credit cards.
- Bring a bathing suit if you want to swim in the Ili River.
- If you want to go with a group tour, check with multiple tour companies. Not every company runs this tour consistently. (I went with Steppe Spirit).
- Be respectful of the other people on your tour. Most, if not all of the other tourist will be Kazakhs. The trip may seem very economical if you’re coming from a country with a strong economy, but it’s priced to be affordable to locals. Many will be spending what is a large chunk of change to a local to experience their own culture and history. Do not be an ugly American (or wherever).
5 Things to Pack for a Visit to Nomad’s Land
- Lonely Planet Central Asia which is available as a paper copy or in a Kindle edition.
- Food and Drinks for the Day since most day tours won’t provide them and the small magazine out front may not be open.
- Your Cell Phone and Camera to get that Insta Pic you know you’re dying to come back with.
- Trekking Poles for anyone planning to do the hikes nearby or while in Kazakhstan, especially if you have knee issues.
- Travel Insurance Policy information, because things happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’re going to be doing any hiking or trekking while in Kazakhstan.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for two years, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’re going to be doing any adventure sports like horseback trekking, hiking, or traveling off-road. Even in Almaty, you’ll be happy when you’re able to replace your stuff if it’s lost or stolen.
More about Traveling in Central Asia
- 25 Reasons You Need to Travel Kazakhstan ASAP
- Mind-Blowing Facts about Kazakhstan
- Tamgaly Tas: How to Visit Kazakhstan’s Enchanting Buddhist Rock Art Sanctuary
- Big Almaty Lake: 15 Pictures of Kazakhstan’s Stunning Turquoise Jewel
- How to Get to Big Almaty Lake by Taxi
- Kyrgyzstan Travel Advice
- Things to do in Bosteri, Kyrgyzstan
- The World Nomad Games
Have you visited Nomad’s Land? Share your tips for visiting Nomad’s Land or any questions about upcoming trips below!
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