MOUNTAIN LAKES, LUNAR LANDSCAPES, END-OF-THE-WORLD SETTLEMENTS AND NOMADIC HERITAGE
Gorno-Altaysk – Ongudai – Kosh-Agach – Chuisky Trakt
Regular monthly departures: this tour is offered regularly once a month from April to October. Let us know your desired departure month by clicking on the ask-us button below and we will match your preferences with the relevant scheduled group departure. If you are unsure about the month you wish to travel in, then simply tell us a period or a season of the year and we will provide you a range of scheduled group departures: just pick up yours!
Our scheduled group departures don't suit your plans? If you are travelling with friends and there are 5 or more of you, you can set your own dates and we will organise a tour just for you without charging any additional fee. If you are travelling solo or with less than 4 companions we will organise a slightly more expensive tailored tour according to your time schedule and specific geographical preferences.
The following itinerary refers to our most popular culture-focussed route in Altai. This diverse and fascinating land, a very Soviet version of Mongolia, greets its temerarious guests with a cornucopia of natural and cultural wonders. In case you are interested in a particularly remote area, secretive ethnicity, unusual activity and/or off-the-beaten-path attraction within the Autonomous Republic of Altai or if you are just looking for an hit-and-run visit to the Ukok Plateau and its surroundings, we can easily meet your needs with a unique tour individually designed according to your preferences. Thanks to our deep knowledge of the territory and longstanding collaboration with independent local guides we are able to offer you a wide range of tailored routes and bespoke itineraries across and beyond the high peaks and vast steppes of mystic Altai. We also regularly cater for biologists, conservationists, ethnologists, historians and documentarists alike interested in conducting field research in the region. Get in touch for more info on our private tours to Altai!
DAY 1 - Barnaul
Our tour guide will meet you in the arrival hall of Barnaul Regional Airport (exact meeting time will be communicated well in advance per email in accordance to your flight schedule).
Introductory briefing about the region, the route and the set of rules to observe while travelling in Altai.
We'll spend the entire day in Barnaul, the capital of Altai krai (not to be confused with the namesake republic further south).
We will visit the museum of local history and tour the city main sights and offbeat attractions: Barnaul is one of the oldest cities in Siberia, founded in the 1730s by the wealthy Demidov family, and later transformed in a large industrial and agricultural center by the Soviets.
In the evening - if you are not too tired - we'll go out for a musical concert either at the Philharmonia or at the Orchestra of Russian National Music Instruments (or - if you are into independent venues - we can also assist to a show of one of the main young bands enlivening the town's nightlife).
Dinner and overnight in Barnaul.
DAY 2 - Topolnoye
Right after breakfast we start our trip to one of the most interesting area of the Altai krai: after a 3-hour drive we will find ourselves in the beautiful highlands of the Altai mountains.
For lunch we will stop at a small family dairy factory where you can try different kinds of local cheese.
We'll then continue our trip to the picturesque village Topolnoye: the people of this village are descendant of the Old-Believers who separated in 1666 from the official Russian Orthodox Church; most of them moved to the secluded corners of Siberia in the 17th century and have kept living in a traditional way for centuries.
In the evening we will visit the cultural center of the old-believers and they will share with you the stories and the secrets of their endangered culture.
You will also enjoy a concert of folklore singing and religious ceremonies and you will be able to take part in a traditional cooking session.
Dinner and overnight in Topolnoye.
DAY 3 - Karakol Valley
After breakfast we will drive to the border between the Altai krai and the Altai Republic proper.
Along the way we will visit the world-famous Denisova Cave: included in the UNESCO list of World heritage, this is the only place on Earth where you can witness traces of each prehistoric era on the same spot; as if this wouldn't be enough for all the paleoanthropology-geeks out there , a real glory came to light in 2008 when a fossilised phalanx of a girl’s finger was found and the subsequent DNA-analysis showed that this human belongs neither to the extinct Neanderthals nor to Homo Sapiens, but represents a special branch of human evolution which was called Denisovans.
After a shashlik lunch we'll continue driving deeper into the Altai mountains.
In the evening we will reach the Karakol Valley, which is considered a sacral place among Altaians, a turkic-speaking Mongolic people of shamanistic traditions and the titular nation of the autonomous republic we've just entered.
We will stay for the night at a local family and our hosts will tell you a lot about the traditions and the rituals of Altai people.
In the evening you will meet the kaichi (local shaman-cum-dance-cum-singer) and enjoy his concert of throat singing accompanied by national musical instruments such as the topshur and the komyz.
Dinner and overnight in the Karakol Valley.
DAY 4 - Chuisky Trakt
In the morning we will enjoy some sightseeing around the Karakol Valley: ancient petroglyphs, Scythian burial mounds and mysterious monoliths.
We will pay our respect to the monument to the Groundhog Monument, erected to thank the fluffy rodent for having saved - with its flesh - the local population during the WWII famines.
We will then travel along the Chuisky Trakt, a stunning road connecting Russia with Mongolia: the National Geographic magazine named this scenic and surprisingly well-paved transportation axis as one of the World's best drives.
During the journey we will stop at several picturesque and interesting places such as Kalbak-Tash (petroglyphs) and Kupchegen (traditional Altai village).
Dinner and overnight with a local family in one of the many tiny hamlets dotting the Chuisky Trakt.
Day 5 - Kosh Agach
We'll continue our drive along the Chuisky Trakt and cross en route the Kurai Steppe, a very beautiful intermontane basin where you can admire, depending on the weather conditions, impressive views of the mighty Chuisky Ridge.
Exiting the Kurai Steppe we will explore the coloured mountains of Kyzyl-Chin, also known as Mars.
After having admired this outstanding landscape we will enter the Chuya Steppe and head to the end-of-the-world settlement of Kosh-Agach, you will visit the market full of smuggled goods from Mongolia and the traditional wooden mosque of the local Kazakh community.
We'll then enter the Saylyugemsky National Park and spend the night at the local guesthouse.
Day 6 - Chuya Steppe
Today we will explore the Chuya Steppe: we will pass along the River Yustyd, where many ancient burial mounds are situated and stop at the remote hamlet of Kokorya, which hosts a mummified head of a warrior of the Sarmatian period.
Later we will visit the Tarkhata megalithic complex, the local version of Stonehenge.
In the afternoon we will get acquainted with the Kazakh culture as a lot of Kazakh herders live in the Chuya Steppe: we will visit a small museum in the village Jana-Aul and the local musical group will perform national Kazakh songs for us.
Dinner and overnight in the Saylyugemsky National Park.
DAY 7 - Camel Riding
For your last morning in the Altai wilderness we have some special activities planned for you.
For the athletic ones: early morning yoga and a short but challenging hike near the Mars Rock Formation.
For the lazier ones: easy camel and/or horse ride.
For the laziest: chill-out time with the locals (beer and shashliks).
Dinner and overnight in a traditional yurt camp.
Day 8 - Botanical Gardens
In the morning we will head back north driving again along the scenic Chuisky Trakt.
Besides the usual stops for food, toilet and photography, we'll break the 5-hour drive by visiting stunning natural attractions scattered along the trakt, such as a geyser lakes, ancient smelting furnaces and riverrapids.
fter lunch we'll reach Ongudai, a relatively big village surrounded by beautiful grass-covered mountain slopes.
Here we'll have the chance to learn more about the Altai people and their culture while taking a relaxing walk along the trails crisscrossing the village.
We will then reach the Kamlak Botanical Garden: the best place for relaxation after our intense trip.
Dinner and overnight in Kamlak.
Day 9 - Gorno-Altaysk
After breakfast we will visit an outstanding the traditional village of Askat, where local Buddhists live in harmony with yogis, indigenous peoples, as well as members of a traditional Russian cultural center; almost every courtyard here houses someone engaged in the arts: the village of Askat has 120 residents, with one-third of them working as artists and painters, a true hippie commune in southern Siberia!
Four miles from Askat lies the hamlet of Anos, where at the beginning of the 20th century the famous Altai artist and social activist Choros-Gurkin had his workshop.
In the afternoon we will arrive to Gorno-Altaysk, the leafy capital of the Altai Republic.
After a well-deserved coffee break we'll visit the Altai National Museum and/or enjoy some souvenir shopping and Soviet sightseeing in town.
Dinner and overnight in Gorno-Altaysk.
DAY 10 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations
After enjoying a last Altai-style breakfast together we'll take care of your transfer to the airport/station of choice.
For those flying out: we will arrange transfer to Gorno-Altaysk Regional Airport for your flight back home.
For those wishing to take the train/bus to reach further destinations: we will arrange transport to the local bus station.
End of the tour.
4 to 9 participants: 1860 €
The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 18 euro/night), private transport in the region, entrance fees to the attractions listed in the itinerary, guiding and translation service.
The price does not include: international flights and any other flight not explicitly included in the tour price and itinerary, meals, drinks and tips, visas if required, entrance fees to attractions not listed in the itinerary, insurance.
The route of this tour has been carefully designed after several research trips in the region. It is, however, always possible to slightly modify the itinerary according to the needs and the suggestions of the participants. Our motto is flexibility.
WHERE THE HECK AM I TRAVELLING TO?
BELOW YOU CAN SEE THE DIFFERENT TOUR STAGES MARKED ON A MAP OF THE REGION YOU ARE GOING TO EXPLORE WITH US
POSSIBLE TOUR COMBINATIONS FOR THIS ITINERARY INCLUDE