General Information

Altai is a vast mountainous region located partly in four countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. Russian part of Altai is in the southern part of Siberia.

The name "Altai" or "Altay" has Mongolian origin, it means "golden". Indeed Altai mountains prove to be a real treasure of rich resources, beautiful landscapes and unspoiled nature.

Russian Altai is very important recreational domain because:
- there one can meet unique natural diversity, variety of landscapes, ranging from the Mongolia-like steppes to those of the Swiss Alps; contrast of different climates and consequently abundance of wildlife;
- there is almost no industry in the region, just agriculture and tourism. So the nature stays practically untouched;
- population is very thin there. Historically it was formed by Mongolian and Kazakh nomads. Many of them still preserve their cultural traditions, for example, throat singing. Also there are some remote villages of Old Believers who managed to avoid almost all contacts with civilization since 18th century;
- at the same time there are quite a few roads (most of them unpaved) which allow to get by car close enough to most of destinations;
- thanks to wide range of climate and geographic conditions most outdoor activities can be practiced in Altai, in addition to trekking: backpacking, pass hopping, canyoning, horse riding, biking, mountaineering, climbing, speleo caving, rafting, kayaking, fishing, hunting, paragliding, skiing (mountain skiing, ski-touring, snowboarding, snowshoeing). There are a lot of routes of different grades of difficulty (from 1 to 6) for each kind of activity. Therefore one can meet experienced sportsmen, commercial trekkers and schoolchildren on excursion in Altai wilderness, both Russian and foreign. There are some international mountaineering camps (near Mt Belukha and Mt Akthru) and some traditional international competitions (Chuya Rafting Rally, paragliding events). While on a route, you can easily put a tent anywhere you want.
- you can make part of the way by train along the famous Transsiberian railway up to Novosibirsk, from the west or the east end, complete your Altai journey and then continue by train further;
- the last but not the least is that the Altai is almost clear from mosquitoes and other biting flies which make traveling in Siberian taiga miserable in summer. On the other hand unfortunately I must mention here ticks which are wide spread in the region. They can cause encephalitis and are especially dangerous in June. Medical shots are highly recommended.

All in all, Altai is a mecca for adventure tourism. Russian people, used to lack of some civilization amenities, go there for a wilderness experience. At the same time, there are some resorts (also near hot-springs), campings and refugees along the main routes.

Local people believe that Belovodie (the area around sacred Mt Belukha, set in the heart of the Altai) is where the new civilization will start. It can seem surprising but historical and archeological data confirm that many former nations took their birthplace there. The Altai has a long and rich history being the cross-roads of human migration for innumerable centuries. Actually some archaeological finds of the paleolithic site in the town of Gorno-Altaisk have an age of 900-800 thousand years. That means that man's ancestors lived in the Altai long before the pithecanthrope of Java. There are also dozens of younger sites (mainly in caves), numerous graffitos. They are available to see for tourists.

The Altai mountains boast by thousands of lakes and rivers which feed both on rains and on melting snow and ice, covering the peaks above 2800-3500 m. This is special combined so called altai type of river supplying. The sources of two of Russia's great rivers - the Ob and the Irtysh - are found in the Altai. Parts of them are Katun, Biya, and Chuya – the main destinations for white water fans. As for lakes the most important and popular among visitors for their beauty are Teletskoye lake, Shavlinskiye and Multinskiye lakes. The first one is considered very much as the lake Baikal because it is also located in a great tectonic rift.

Numerous glaciers adorn high peaks. Mt Belukha, the highest mountain of Siberia, 4506 m, is covered by eternal snow and ice. Its name means “The White One”.

Planning the trekking. Material.

The Altai mountains form natural border between Siberia open to Arctic cold and wet air masses and high mountain deserts of Mongolia and China which get very little precipitation.

Geographic zones intermingle with different altitude zones, each having its own complex of vegetation. The result is that the Altai weather is as diverse as its nature. But of course there are some rules.
Compared to the hot plains – Siberian steppes - the rainfall in the mountains is quite high. Naturally the climate is cooler here though sunny days in the Altai are much more usual than on the Black sea coast, famous for its resorts.

In the beginning of May snow begins to disappear from slopes giving way to grass and flowers. Springtime here is very beautiful but traveling to remote points is complicated and dangerous because roads and paths are unstable.

Generally, the summer starts in the end of May - June and finishes in September. During that time it's quite warm during the daytime (about 20 - 25 C) and cool in the night (about 5-10 C). During June and July there may be quite a few rains and hazy days. The most quantity of rain falls in the mountains in the first ten-day period of August. It’s a typical and rather formidable situation when after a week of constant sunny weather several days of rainstorm come. It causes rising of water level in the lakes and rivers, trekking paths turn to streams, while ordinary streams become uncrossable. So when planning summer routes one shouldn’t forget that the warmest time in the Altai is also the rainiest and therefore not favourable.

The sunniest time is in the end of August – beginning of September (more than 60% of the time there's no rain at all). In the middle of the summer the snow is left only on the heights of 2600 meters and more. Winds in the valleys are not very strong. So it is thought that the best months for traveling in the Altai in summer are July, August, and first half of September. During this period it is warm and usually sunny in the day.

But the autumn (end of September – October) with its yellow and red colors and a lot of nuts, mushrooms and berries is even more delightful and rewarding. Of course during that time one has to deal with more frequent rains and cold temperatures.
Winter in the Altai starts in November and is also popular for outdoor activities. But one should know that winter is really severe there: a lot of snow, frequent avalanches, frosts (-30, -40 C) come in turn with snow-breaks, which can be really terrible for skiers.

Trekking support

If you buy a tour porterige is presumed. In the Altai a number of local outfitters run trips of different grade of difficulty. Also you can buy a package from one of renowned companies in the gate cities (Moscow, St. Petersburg) or in your country. Altai outfitters provide camping stuff, guides, porters and horses to ride and carry loads. Most local companies and guides are located in the town of Barnaul and in the city of Novosibirsk which are 300 km and 650 km from the mountains respectively. Novosibirsk stands on the Transsib. There are also 2-3* hotels in these towns with good-quality western-style shared rooms, original restaurants and friendly people. Don’t seek for a guide in towns of Biysk and Gorno-Altaisk (just at the beginning of the Altai mountains). They are closer to the destination but rather poor and dull, without good hotels (but there are some resorts outside).

Price of a tour includes staff, camping gear, all accommodation, meals on the trek. Usually it consists of two hot meals prepared by cook plus cold packed lunch. You will be expected to help with installing your tent. Normally the tents are for two persons, always double-skinned. The guides will be responsible for the setting up of ropes to protect some of the mountain river crossings. If you have a trek with porters they carry all communal equipment including food and tentage. You need to carry your own belongings. 60 liter rucksack is adequate to take your spare clothes, waterproofs, sleeping bag and sleeping mat (see the gear list). If the trek is horse supported then the animals carry all your equipment as well. You will be expected to carry only your daysack (30 liters).

There is wide range of itineraries, some of them for beginners others requiring reasonable degree of fitness. As a rule each day of trek involves about 4 - 5 hours of walking or horse riding on average but some days are as long as 7 hours and are rather tiring. Apart from normal demands of walking uphill there are moraines and rivers to be crossed. Some sections are demanding because one has to walk through taiga vegetation. Paths to main tourists’ destinations are clearly marked but it is very easy to get lost in a fog which is quite common in the Altai. So keep full control and move in a group.

General information
Getting there







Mt. Belukha ascent.
Horse back trekking in the area of Mt. Belukha.
The Treasures of Altai.






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