If you love adventure and have no problem adapting, get ready for one of the most incredible places you have ever seen: here, on the border with Kazakhstan and Mongolia, remote and suggestive landscapes meet. Then go to Chuysky Trakt, included in the list of the ten most beautiful road trips to do.
Although the Altai region is a remote area and rather far from the Russian capital, every year there are many foreigners who, backpackers and train (or plane) tickets in hand, venture to discover these incredible places. The mountains, lakes, woods and deserts of the Altai Republic constitute an unusual destination that will undoubtedly offer incredible surprises. Here, on the border with Kazakhstan and Mongolia, you can admire the relics of ancient shamanic religions and engravings dating back to prehistoric times that emerge from flowery meadows. But on your trip, also carve out space for rafting, hiking, mountaineering and relaxation in traditional yurts: in Altai there is no room for boredom!
How to Get?
The most convenient way to reach these mountains is with a flight from Moscow to the capital of the Altai Republic, Gorno-Altaysk (3,800 kilometers east of the Russian capital). There you can rent a car or book a guided tour, driving up to Chuysky Trakt, in the direction of the border with Mongolia.
However, there are also various flights to Barnaul, a city in the southwest of Siberia, the capital and largest city of the Altai Territory; here it will be even easier to rent a car and reach Gorno-Altaysk in just three hours.
If you opt to rent a car instead of buying a guided tour, aim for a crossover or jeep. Prices start at 5,000 rubles per day ($ 85). Although the Chuysky Trakt offers a route in good condition, be prepared to face more complex stretches, such as near Lake Teletskoe, where you will be forced to make detours to avoid poor road conditions.
The main advantage of renting a car is that you can bring a tent with you and improvise a campsite along your way. If you are not a camping fanatic, then we advise you to book a hotel room in advance: in high season it will not be easy to find a place, plan to organize your reservations at least two or three months in advance.
On the Silk Road
The Chuysky Trakt, which winds for almost a thousand kilometers, starts from Novosibirsk and crosses the Altai territory up to the Russian borders with Mongolia. This is where the northern route of the Silk Road started.
Furthermore, this route will allow you to admire small villages and suggestive mountain landscapes. In 2014, National Geographic Traveler magazine included the Chuysky Trakt in the list of the ten most beautiful road trips to do.
Watch Out for Road Signs
Many places of tourist interest, such as Kalbak-Tash, the Chike-Taman mountain pass and the wonderful confluence of the Chuya and Katun rivers are indicated by distinctive brown signs in Russian and English. Follow the signs along the Chuysky Trakt to take the best photos of your trip.
Don’t Give up on an Interpreter
Most of the services in this area will be in Russian: if you don’t speak this language, then an English-speaking interpreter will be very useful for you to rent a car, for example. Relying on a local tourist agency can also be a good solution to organize, without language barrier, a rafting in the Katun or Chuya rivers. Boat rides and short Kalbak-Tash tours are organized on Lake Teletskoe, but the guides are likely to speak only Russian.
Don’t Be Frightened by the Inconveniences
Altai is a wild and distant land and it will be very difficult for you to find a modern toilet, as you are used to in the West. So get ready to encounter, instead of a normal ceramic toilet, some holes dug outdoors. And of course, forget the toilet paper and hot water!
The good news is that as you ascend to the highest peaks of the mountains, you will find springs of pure water and extraordinary waterfalls.