Altai is a beautiful place and a corner of Russia, which everyone should visit. You can find it all there: snow-capped peaks, turbulent rivers, boundless plains, pristine lakes and landscapes of incredible beauty. At the same time, there are two Altais on the map: the Altai region with unlimited fields and the famous resort of Belokuricha – and the small Altai mountain republic long separated from the region. People come here to escape the hustle and bustle and be alone with nature. We will tell you how this region can surprise you and when it is best to visit it.
Escape From Civilization
The mountainous part of Altai is the exact opposite of the noisy, illuminated cities with supermarkets on every corner. The local way of life hasn’t changed for decades: here there are still herds of horses grazing here, people believe in spirits and cell phones have only sporadically camped. There are villages that cannot be reached by car for most of the year. People carry water with beams and bake bread by themselves. This is an ideal place for anyone who wants to briefly escape from the world of progress and find themselves in a wild environment. The water in the streams is cleaner than tap water, at night you can see the stars, just raise your head, and there is absolutely no silence in the city like in this place.
See the Highest Mountain in Siberia
The Altai mountains are a place with incredible energy. They transformed the map of the area into a kaleidoscope of different parts each with different microclimates, plants and sometimes even nationalities. Here is the highest point of Siberia: Mount Belucha (4509 meters). In form it resembles a mighty wall of ice more than a classic triangle.
For the inhabitants of Altai, Mount Belukha is a sacred place. They believe it is impossible to climb it. Mountaineers, on the other hand, are very fond of Belukha and regularly try to conquer it. The most popular route to the top belongs to the 3B difficulty category, but there are more complex options as well. At the foot of the Baloch on Lake Akkems in the summer there is a summer camp and a meteorologist base in the summer. The first helps the tourists out of the way and the second bakes pies and rents them the bathroom. However, the Belukha is not only liked by climbers: from it they launch themselves with paragliders and a few brave ones have managed to ski down its almost vertical wall.
To Breath Deeply
Altai is the land of nature not spoiled by man. People breathe deeply here, children are born more often, the land is more abundant. There are nearly a thousand glaciers. No one lives there for many miles around them, and animal birds rarely reach them. It’s hard to imagine a cleaner place than a glacier. By the way, the largest river in Altai, Katun comes from the Gebler glacier at the foot of Belukha. A quarter of the mountainous Altai territory is made up of reserves, created to preserve unique landscapes and animals. High in the mountains, they are sometimes captured with photographs of snow leopards and rare argali. On Lake Dzhulukul ‘on the border with Tyva cormorants and seagulls nest while on Lake Svetly in the Altai region they spend the winter of swans.
In the south of Altai there is hardly any industry and the air is clean. The factories that once existed here are remembered only by the names of the bus stops: “Tessitura”, “Gardinka”, “Mobili”. Today there are only small cheese factories and beehives. And the locals appreciate it: people graze cattle and raise bees, make cream and grow vegetables. They find what is produced by them more habitual and good.
Altai 4K Drone Video
See all the Diversity of Siberia
Altai is a place of hundreds of contrasts. Apples ripen in the Jalomana district, while the Kuraj steppes are covered with permafrost. In the northeast, people live in the taiga surrounded by small mountains, in the south there are no trees and the land rises 2,000 meters above sea level. In the south live the Muslims, while in the Uimon valley and in the deep forests of the Turochaksky district are the old believers. In the Kosh-Agachinsky district, the roofs of houses are flat, because the wind blows snow from the roofs; in other parts of Altai, the snowdrifts, on the other hand, remain for six months. In high mountain lakes, ice floes float until mid-summer. In the sanatoriums on the Belokuricha, hot baths are taken all year round: the water in the local hot springs heats up to 40 degrees. In the south, herds of camels and yaks graze, in the north only cows and horses are raised. You can go on forever, but it’s much more interesting to see it with your own eyes.
Discover the Life and Traditions of the Altai People
For centuries the inhabitants of Altai have learned to live in harmony with the environment. Before the arrival of the Soviet government, people settled a few kilometers from each other and wandered a lot, driving cattle for the winter to the mountains, where the wind blew the snow away and exposed grassy slopes. After the revolution the peoples of Altai were gathered in collective farms and state farms, they began to live in groups, but kept the traditions. Since then, Altai inhabitant and knight are practically synonymous. The children here ride horses before they start walking, and there are separate words for horses of different ages.
The Altai calendar is subject to natural cycles. The tiny Chelkan people (just over 1000 people) living in the north have the furrow month in September, the arable land month in April and the haymaking month in August. For the inhabitants of the steppe it is different: the month of the roe deer, the month of the ram and the month of the strong wind appear in the calendar.
The inhabitants believe in spirits who are treated with respect and caution. To ask for a successful route, light ribbons (called “Tylom”) are tied on the passes. To appease the spirits of the fire, bonfires are lit. The sex of newborns is not expressed so as not to attract unnecessary attention of spirits, but it is said that a child will walk with a gun or with a blanket.
Find Yourself at the Crossroads of Ancient Roads
In Altai hundreds of paths converge and stories of ancient peoples overlap each other. The northern route of the Great Silk Road, on which merchants, storytellers, and shamans traveled, once passed along the site of the modern Čujskij highway. Unsurprisingly, the oldest carpet in the world was found right in the Altai. Many have lived here since ancient times: Shiites, Sarmatians, Turks. After them, petroglyphs were left on the local rocks: drawings carved on stones or paintings. One of the largest groups of petroglyphs is found in the valley of the Elangash River, where there are more than 30 thousand of them. On the rocks of Kalbak-Tash you can see not only drawings with hunting scenes and an ancient calendar, but also the longest rune inscription found in Russia.
Feel the Power of Nature
Mountains and rivers, caves and waterfalls, valleys and lakes. In Altai there are dozens of entertainment for extreme sports enthusiasts but also for those who prefer a more peaceful rest. In winter you can ski and snowmobile. In the warm season there are excursions on foot. There are dozens of different types here – from yoga tours to challenging trails that require training and expert guidance. The most popular destination is Lake Akkem at the foot of Mount Belukha. The wildest destination reachable by beginners is the southern ridge.
You can climb the mountain or, conversely, descend into one of the Altai caves. It is possible to go rock climbing or rafting down the river. The rivers here are mostly turbulent, but there are several options: from an approximately two-hour motorcycle ride along the quiet banks of the Katun River to several days of white water rafting in Čue.
If you don’t want to test yourself, then you don’t have to. Going along the Čuiskij road you can admire how the landscape and the life around it change. On the way back, we recommend crossing the Čulyshman valley and crossing the Teletskoye lake by ferry. In spring – in April and May – people come here to admire the marnotic bloom. But even in autumn the Altai is incredibly beautiful: the trees turn purple and the Katun turns turquoise.