If you’re a winter sports aficionado and looking for a spot that most of the world hasn’t already discovered, get yourself to Kazakhstan. Here you can skate along the highest ice rink in the world at the Medeo High Mountain Skating Rink, over a mile above sea level — it was once a training facility for Soviet skaters. Or go just ten minutes outside Almaty into the Medeu Valley of the Zailiyskiy Alatau, and you’ll find the Shymbulak Mountain Resort, where you may literally have the mountain to yourself.
Once you’re done playing in the snow, it’s time to explore the capital city of Nursultan (formerly Astana). Absorb the sounds and smells of Kazakh culture at the Green Bazaar and learn the cultural and archeological history at the State Museum. Then take in a view of the entire city from the top of the Bayterek Tower, the city’s most iconic structure, built like a hand holding an egg.