The Tien Shan Hotel Group is setting a new standard of accommodation in the city, with the Samal its latest, slickest addition. This absolute gem of a hotel is straight up Dostyk, just past the entrance to the national park on the way to Shymbulak. Amazingly – despite being halfway up the mountain – it’s only a 15-minute drive from the city centre and a great getaway for those seeking a bit of peace and quiet. Although from the outside the building looks a bit worn, the inside is really spectacular, the Middle-Eastern/Arabic-influenced décor is understated and elegant, with the rooms being some of the nicest we’ve seen in Almaty. Small details, from chunky wooden doors and delicate arches in walls, create a wonderfully serene atmosphere. The restaurant next door – which has the same name – is also one of our favourites, and the spa offers rest, relaxation and all-important respite.