Hikes to Altai each year win the highest positions in the rating of popularity among tourists. The world of mountain spirits and shamans, the secret paradise country of Shambala, or Belovodye, is one of the most beautiful and mysterious territories of Russia. The word "Altai" ("Golden Mountains") gives rise to a variety of associations associated with mysticism and secrets, vast expanses of untouched land and the extraordinary beauty of the Altai mountains.
Hiking to Altai is the secret dream of many travelers. There is a lot to see in this region! The endless expanses of wild forests and steppes simply amaze with their grandiose appearance. Big real mountains - with powerful glaciers, rocky bastions and a scattering of emerald glacial lakes. The majestic Belukha, the highest peak in Siberia, rises above the valley of Lake Akkem with a four-kilometer wall. Numerous streams flow down from the glaciers and merge into rapid rapids. Huge streams of water make their way among the mighty rocks. Waterfalls crash into deep gorges. Above the valleys there is the smell of Altai grasses and flowers.
Altai is a mountain system in Western Siberia. In the northeastern part, Altai borders on the Western Sayan and Kuznetsk Ala-Tau, in the western part - on the uplands of the Kazakh Upland. In the southeast, it extends beyond the border, where it is called Altai Mongol and Altai Gobi. Due to the numerous periods of formation, the Altai mountains combine different reliefs:
Such a state of the relief makes it possible to carry out hiking trips in Altai of various categories of difficulty in this region.
The mid-mountainous relief occupies about half of the Altai territory. It is distributed mainly in the northern, northwestern and western parts of the region. The relief in the form of leveled surfaces of the ancient peneplain occupies a third of the Altai territory. These are mainly the southeastern and southern regions of the mountainous region. Including the Chulyshman Upland, the Ulagan Plateau and the Ukok Plateau. There are also peneplain areas in the mid-mountain ranges: Korgonsky, Tigiretsky, Terektinsky. High-mountainous alpine relief occupies the south and southeast of Gorny Altai. There are the highest ridges: Katunsky, Kuraisky, Shapshalsky, Chikhacheva, Severno-Chuisky and Yuzhno-Chuisky. It is in this area that the best hikes in Altai take place.
Gorny Altai is one of the wildest regions of the republic. The beauty of the local nature is difficult to describe. Pointed snow-capped peaks, long tongues of glaciers, moraines with emerald lakes, dense cedar forests. All this creates landscapes, as if from a completely different world.
As part of the Katunsky ridge, there is a two-headed mountain Belukha - the highest point in Siberia (4506 m), the dream of many climbers. Near Belukha, there are two more four-thousanders of Altai. These are Delaunay Peak (4260 m) and the 20th Anniversary of October Peak (4167 m), which has a second name - "Crown of Altai" - for the four peaks that form the crown. The first attempt to conquer Belukha belongs to the Englishman Samuel Turner in April 1904. But due to bad weather, it was unsuccessful. And only in 1914, the Tronov brothers were able to climb Belukha from the southern side. Today, on both peaks of Belukha, different climbing routes from 3A to 4B of difficulty category have been laid. Hiking and horseback riding routes have also been developed in the area of this mountain. Hiking to the foot of Belukha is the most popular among tourists.
Where to go to Altai for the first time to get the maximum experience? Surely you have asked this question if you are planning your trip to this region for the first time.
In a new post I will tell you about the best places to look out for.
It's quite a long way to get to Altai if you don't live in neighboring regions, so it is logical to see as much as possible in one visit and get as many vivid impressions as possible. On the other hand, Altai is very large, and it is simply unrealistic to see everything at once, you can come here at least every year and discover something new for yourself. It is important to find a balance in this matter so as not to gallop, because we are going to have a rest :)
There are several options here:
Shavlinskoye Lake is one of my favorite places
In my opinion, the most convenient format for independent travel in Altai is by car. Unfortunately, public transport is not well developed here, in winter many flights do not function at all, and in summer you have to buy in advance, and even those do not run so often, and not everything can be bought online in advance. Yes, buses/blablacare/hitchhiking is quite possible, but it's a whole adventure, moreover, it requires more time and flexible plans. Or choose the most popular areas. Geography and coverage will also be much smaller. These are the pros and cons, in short.
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There are two main tourist regions in Altai - in the middle reaches of the Katun (Chemal region, Lake Aya and nearby), as well as in the north of Lake Teletskoye. It has the most developed infrastructure, most of the recreation centers and most of the tourists are located, there are even traffic jams on the Chuisky tract at the height of the season! Of course, other areas are also visited, but less often.
The most popular areas in Altai
Do you want to see the real beauty of Gorny Altai? Then check out my list of the top attractions! We advise where to go, what to see and how to get there. Photo, description and map are attached. I will tell you about the secret and most beautiful places, and also warn you against visiting boring, but advertised places.
I will list the sights of Gorny Altai as you move along the Chuysky tract. The most popular, but not very interesting places will be at the beginning of the list, and then the beauty itself will begin. For each location, I will give practical information: how to get there, what to see there, how much it costs to visit, as well as our opinion and advice about this place.
I love road travel! In my next auto expedition to Altai, I gathered a team of friends and we traveled for a month and a half across this beautiful land. I also advise you to go to Altai in your own car - there will be more freedom and opportunities. Altai is not Sochi for you. This is a wild land where you either won't see anything without your car, or spend a lot of money on excursions. I rode an off-road vehicle, but up to 90% of interesting places in Gorny Altai can be reached by an ordinary passenger car. Read my tips on how to travel to Altai by car.
For my trip to Gorny Altai, I chose only the best sights of the republic. We deliberately did not visit too touristy places (Manzherok, Chemal, Aya, Teletskoye Lake) and far-fetched sights (monuments, springs) - we are not interested in them. My verdict: the real Altai begins behind the Seminsky pass, and the most picturesque and interesting places of Gorny Altai are located behind Aktash, in the region of the Kurai and Chuya steppes. The path to them is not close, so there are practically no tourists there.
Navigation: Use the MAPS app to find points of interest. E or OsmAnd. Detailed maps, navigation, the ability to put your own marks - very convenient! MAPS. The E interface is friendlier and you can download an unlimited number of maps.
Live on the shores of the Katun for at least a few days - this will be an excellent start to your Altai journey. Morning fogs, scent of pine trees, bonfires, noisy icy water are a pleasant experience. You can live as a savage in a tent or on a comfortable base. We stayed in the village of Izvestkovy on a private territory and pitched tents. If you want a quiet and cheap getaway, look along the road for unremarkable "Tent Places" advertisements. We advise you to find out the weather forecast - in the rain it is better to stay at the camp site.
An unremarkable pass, but we decided to mention it anyway. The Seminsky Pass is the border: behind is the tourist hell in the Chemal region, in front is the real Altai Mountains and stunning natural attractions. In rain and fog, the pass looks gloomy and beautiful, in clear weather - modest and unremarkable.
Karakol Natural Park "Uch-Enmek"
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