Altai Mountains. Wonders of Nature, Ancient Civilizations, Mysteries and Meditation. And More.

Here in Novosibirsk we are truly blessed to live only 500 km to the north of the Altai Mountains. This sacred and magnificent area is a genuine pearl of Nature and a paradise for all sorts of travelers. No matter what tours you prefer — hiking, mountaineering, climbing, rafting, off-road driving, bird or animal watching, or comfortable car or bus tours with easy trekking and contemplating wonderful landscapes; no matter what accommodation type you need — luxury hotels, middle-level hotels, simple hostels, bed-and-breakfasts, countryside hotels, farmhouses, campings, glampings (do you know, by the way, what this means?), private holiday rooms or houses, or you might even find a place for your tent under virtually any tree, which is allowed in Russia — you will definitely find what you need or want and your vacation will be great.

I know what I’m talking about as I’ve been to Altai at least 20 times since I was 16 years of age, and each of these travels was amazing. I travelled with student groups and with friends, I went hiking with people I hadn’t known before, I spent my honeymoon there and we’ve been in different parts of Altai lots of times with our kids. Our sons spent several summers there in a camp and they loved it, too. My parents, who are retired now and have never been hikers love Altai as well, normally having quiet vacations in comfortable hotels and going on day trips.

Altai has a lot to offer to visitors. Its amazing nature is diverse. From time to time I read here and there that it’s pretty much like the Alps, with all the mountains, waterfalls, steams, riffles, and Alpine vegetation, and it’s definitely true, but Altai has much more than that!

If you ever attempt to travel along the Chuya Road (Chuysky Tract, Чуйский Тракт), one of the most beautiful roads of the world (according to National Geographic), you will experience an amazing show of landscapes, from woodland grass on the border between Altai Krai (a huge agricultural area) and the Altai Republic, to foothills close to the city of Gorno-Altaisk, the main and only city in this area, to taiga forests when you drive (or hike) up and down Seminsky Mountain Pass, to Alpine meadows you can find in a lot of parts in Altai, to bold and dry mountain steppes and deserts with nearly no trees and the soil so dry that you can only see the grass in spring. In some areas the mountains are covered with cedars, pine trees, larch trees and fir trees, while in the warmer areas there are birch trees. If you hike (or travel on horse backs, or even undertake an off-road trip) up the mountains, you will get to the tundra area and will be forced to conquer the dwarf trees. If you proceed, you will see slopes covered with all sorts of stones, from huge to the smallest, till you finally get to the everlasting glaciers. The latter are a destination, of which mountaineers and climbers are fond. Some glaciers are easily accessible practically for everyone, like the Small (Maluy) Aktru close to the Aktru base camp, while others are only for the experienced travelers under the supervision of a well-trained guide. Deaths of travelers (hikers, climbers, rafters) in Altai are not rare. The mountains are welcoming, but they never forgive mindlessness.

But don’t be afraid of adventure tours: most of them are thoroughly thought of, take place in areas where such tours normally take place and are organized and led by experienced guides who know everything about the area and about all possible weather conditions in the respective area. By the way, the weather and the climate in Altai are worth to be mentioned. There’s a well-known statement that for a travel to Altai you need a bathing suit and a down coat, both in winter and in summer. Iа course, the weather and the climate are different in different parts of Altai, but in absolutely all parts of it nights are pretty cold even in the middle of July. So if you sleep in a tent, it’s OK, but your sleeping bag should be suitable for slight minus temperatures in the middle of summer and for real minus temperatures in spring and autumn. In winter you won’t be able to sleep in a tent, if you are unprepared. Adventure tours in Altai are challenging in terms of accommodation, cooking (normally on fire) and walking, but the stunning landscapes you will see and experience are definitely worth it! Deep and transparent lakes fed by the stormy rivers surrounded by crystal-clear glaciers, mind-blowing snow-covered peaks and the air so clean you could never imagine it can exist! Hiking in Altai can be the experience of your lifetime. The most popular routes are: Shavlinskiye Lakes, to the foot of Mount Belukha (which is actually the highest peak in Siberia), routes to the other lakes in Ust-Koksa district. Of course, there are dozens of others, and new routes are offered every year.

 

But you can experience something completely different if you travel to Kosh-Agach district where the famous Chuyia steppe (or, rather, desert) is located. It is on the border with Mongolia, and the landscape is pretty Mongolian, but there’s something unique here, called ‘The Mars’, or Ksysl-Tchin in the local language. If you are lucky to come here on a sunny day, you will be amazed by the magical colours all around you. This is a must-visit place, in my view, and your impression of Altai will be incomplete without it. Kosh-Agach district has nearly no luxury hotels and even middle-range hotels, but here you can stay in an authentic yurt and try unusual local meals. If you are lucky, you can see camels and yaks in the wild.

Teletskoye Lake is Lake Baikal in the miniature.

It’s very similar to its ‘older brother’ in terms of its origin and geological structure. In the deepest point it’s 325 meters deep. Hundreds of rivers and waterfalls, big and small,  feed the lake, where the largest is Chulyshman, flowing in the deep canyon. The Biya river flows out of the lake. Joining with the Katun at the city of Biysk it forms the Ob.

Two villages, Artybash and Iogach, are located at northern edge of Teletskoye Lake, while the southern edge is basically wilderness, where you can get only in two ways — either by a boat or after having a long drive along the Chuya Road first turning in the direction of Ulagan village and, after approximately 50 km of cross-country drive, you get to the spectacular Katu-Yaryk mountain pass, which looks impossible to do, but if you dare it, you will be rewarded by the landscapes you will never forget.

Altai is a perfect destination for those crazy about history, archaeology, pagan religions, sacred knowledge and the so-called ‘power places’. Ancient grave-mounds, grave stones of the nomads, rock paintings — everything is here. And, of course, the mysterious Shambala, lots of the truth-seekers and visionaries were looking for.

I invite each and every of you to this amazing region. Together with Altai Touristic, the adventure travel company I partner with, we offer, arrange, conduct and guide amazing tours to this wonderland.

THE 10 Altai tours | Adventures 2021 | Online booking (altai-touristic.ru)

Do you want to know more? I’d appreciate your comments and questions.

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