BREATHTAKING SCENERIES and END-OF-THE-WORLD SETTLEMENTS
Gorno-Altaysk – Ongudai – Kosh-Agach – Chuisky Trakt
This tour is offered on a regular monthly basis from May through October. Let us know your desired departure month by clicking on the learn-more button below: we will match your preferences with the next relevant scheduled group departure. If you are still unsure about your desired departure date, 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 more than 4 friends, you can set your own departure date: we will arrange a bespoke tour just for you for the same price per person advertised below. If you are travelling solo or with less than four companions, we will then 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 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 a hit-and-run visit to Gorno-Altaysk and its surroundings, we will 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 touring Barnaul, the capital of Altai Krai (not to be confused with the namesake republic further south).
Barnaul is exactly our cup of tea and we couldn’t have asked for a better start to our tour: a quintessentially Soviet city full of grandiose monuments, Lenin statues and WWII memorials as well as remarkable examples of socialist architecture and public art (mosaics and bas-reliefs).
In the evening 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 more into independent venues - we will assist to a show of one of the many young indie bands enlivening the town's nightlife.
Dinner and overnight in Barnaul.
DAY 2 - Topolnoye
Right after breakfast we will start our trip to one of the most interesting area of the Altai Krai: after a 3-hour drive southwards we will find ourselves surrounded by the beautiful highlands of the Altai mountains.
After a lunch at a small family-run dairy factory, 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.
During your time in the village we’ll have the unique chance to meet with local farmers and artisans, who will share with us their food, their home and the mystic secrets of their endangered culture.
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: a true Eldorado for palaeontologists as this is the very place where a fossilised phalanx of a girl’s finger was found and the subsequent DNA-analysis showed that it belonged neither to the extinct Neanderthals nor to Homo Sapiens, but represented a separate branch within the evolution of our species.
After lunch we will eventually enter the Karakol Valley, a sacral place among the Altai people, the Turkic-speaking Mongolic nation of shamanistic traditions constituting the titular ethnicity of the autonomous republic we've just entered.
We will stay for the night at a local family and learn about the traditions and the rituals of Altai people.
In the evening we will also meet the local kaichi (shaman-cum-dance-cum-singer) and enjoy a 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 also pay our respect 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 six world's best drives.
During our journey we will, of course, stop at several picturesque tiny Altai villages of traditional wooden yurts (also known as ails) and Soviet nostalgia such as Boochi, Bichiktubom and Kupchegen.
Dinner and overnight at a local guesthouse along the Chuisky Trakt.
Day 5 - Kosh Agach
We'll continue our drive down the Chuisky Trakt and cross en route the Kurai Steppe, a very beautiful intermontane basin where you can admire, depending on 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, and the melancholic Altai town of Chagan-Uzon.
We will then enter the Chuya Steppe and head to the end-of-the-world settlement of Kosh-Agach, where we will tour the market full of smuggled goods from Mongolia, the traditional wooden mosque of the local Kazakh community and the mandatory Lenin statue.
Dinner and overnight in Kosh-Agach.
Day 6 - Chuya Steppe
Today we will explore the Chuya Steppe: we will pass along the River Yustyd, home to ancient burial mounds, and stop at the remote hamlet of Kokoryu, which hosts a mummified head of a Sarmatian warrior.
During our time in steppe, besides admiring the breathtaking and slightly surreal sceneries, we will also get acquainted with the Kazakh culture visiting the extremely remote Kazakh villages of Jana-Aul and Tashanta.
Dinner and overnight in Kosh-Agach.
DAY 7 - Chuisky Trakt
We’ll start the day early and head back north driving again along the scenic Chuisky Trakt.
Besides the usual stops for food, toilet and photography, we'll break the long haul by visiting stunning natural attractions, such as the Blue Geyser Lake and the Red Gate rock formations, as well as a few more Altai villages and towns like Aktash and Ongudai.
If time permits, we will also take a short scenic detour across the Ulagan Valley, a place of staggering vistas and ancient traditions.
Dinner and overnight at a local guesthouse along the Chuisky Trakt.
DAY 8 - Kamlak
After breakfast we will continue our trip along the Chuisky Trakt and, after crossing the once-feared Seminsky Pass, we’ll begin our descend towards the Katun river basin.
We’ll first stop in Kamlak to visit a surprisingly well maintained botanical garden, a real cornucopia of local herbs and flowers, and later head to the village of Askat, where local Buddhists live in harmony with yogis, indigenous peoples, as well as members of the Russian community; 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, we will visit the hamlet of Anos, where the famous Altai artist and social activist Choros-Gurkin once had his workshop, and then drive further south to Chemal, a mountain resort village famous for its wooden churches and monasteries as well as a rather crumbling Soviet-era dam.
Dinner and overnight in Chemal.
Lake Teletskoye Ferry: if you are up for a scenic and remote diversion, we will proceed from Ulagan to the otherworldly beautiful Chulyshman Valley on Day 7 and cross the mighty Katu-Yaryk Pass to reach the southern tip of the Lake Teletskoye, an enchanting alpine lake listed in the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites. On Day 8 we will then take a Soviet ferry across the lake to the lovely village of Artybash and finally reach Gorno-Altaysk on the Day 9, as per our standard program. Get in touch to learn more about our bespoke journeys to Altai!
DAY 9 - Gorno-Altaysk
We’ll spend a lazy morning in Chemal, filling our lungs with the fresh air of mountainous Altai: a last restock of pure crispness before returning to the restlessness of our daily grind.
In the early afternoon we will eventually arrive in Gorno-Altaysk, the leafy capital of the Altai Republic.
After a well-deserved coffee break we'll visit the relatively small and yet very compelling Altai National Museum and, of course, a whole lot of Soviet monuments and memorials.
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: transfer to Gorno-Altaysk Regional Airport for your flight back home.
For those wishing to take the bus to reach further destinations: transfer to the local bus station.
End of the tour.
4 to 9 participants: 1990 € per person
The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 18 euro/night), private transport in the region (jeep or UAZ minivan), 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.