Altai Discovery

Altai Discovery

Style: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 12 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


This is a great all round tour exploring the rich history and culture of the Altai region of Siberia. Landscape enthusiasts will enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery, picturesque valleys, meandering rivers and clear turquoise lakes. The tour will also appeal to historians with visits to prehistoric petroglyphs in the Karakol Valley. Those interested in people and local culture will enjoy learning about the traditional ways of life of the Altai people. 

Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●● | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●○ | Wildlife ●○○○○

Tour Pace


Tour Highlights

  • A remote, little visited and picturesque region of Siberia
  • A melting pot of several cultures and beliefs (Shamanism, Buddhism, Christianity)
  • Ancient petroglyphs in the Karakol Valley
  • Several types of landscape to enjoy (from taiga to steppe)
  • Learn about the culture of the Altai people 

Accommodation: Mixture of comfortable hotels, yurt accommodation (shared facilities) and basic lodges
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum of 16 (you may be joined by travellers from companies other than Undiscovered Destinations).
Start Point: Barnaul
End Point: Barnaul
Transport: Off road minibus
Countries: Russia - Siberia    

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Day 1: Barnaul

Arrive and transfer to the hotel. For early arrivals you will have access to your room straight away. Leisure time and later this afternoon we take a city tour of Barnaul including some interesting museums such as the Altai State History Museum. Overnight Hotel Barnaul or similar (B)

Day 2: Manzherok (360km)

This morning we transfer to Manzherok village. On arrival we take the cable car to Malay Sinukha Mountain (1196 m) and visit a natural spring. Later we transfer to Chemal, a village of 3000 inhabitants.  Overnight Chemal Hotel Usadba Kedr or similar (BLD)  

Day 3: Chemal Walk (85km by car, 3 km on foot)

We take a morning stroll in Chemal village where you can try some of the local delicacies, and visit Chemal Hydroelectric power station, the first in the region, built in 1935.  Using the goat trail along the bank of the Katun River, we walk to the rock island Patmos – named after an island in Greece – where John the Apostle used to pray. Here we find a lonely little church of John the Apostle of Barnaul’s nunnery. The island is connected to the mainland by a suspension bridge. Next we visit a settlement of indigenous people where we learn about the pagan way of life and the customs and beliefs of the nomadic Altai Tribes.  We then take the Che-Chkysh track which in the local Altaic language means “narrow”, but locally is known as the Valley of Mountain Spirits. The gorge is sometimes only fifteen meters wide. At the bottom there is a beautiful clear mountain stream with a small waterfall. The valley is pristine and quiet. There is a shaman cave to visit for the more adventurous among us. Overnight Chemal Usadba Kedr Hotel (BLD)

Day 4: Uch-Enmeck (170km by car)

Today we drive along the ancient Silk Road, seeing the Chuysk tract at its highest point – the Seminsky pass (1,739 m). We then visit the Uch-Enmeck Ethno-Park in the valley of the Karakol River. This evening we will enjoy some traditional cuisine such as Altai cheese and enjoy traditional throat singing performed by winners of international festivals, a fabulous cultural experience. Tonight, we stay at our base in Karakol with shared facilities (BLD)

Day 5: Karakol Valley, Kalbak-Tash Hole (235km by car)

Today we will visit some temples and funerary complexes of the Karakol people, royal Scythians and Turk warriors.  There are lots of archeological monuments in the area: stelas, stone fences, tumuli (kurgans) with balbals (round stone images of ancestors) – most of them oriented to Uch-Enmek Peak. We travel to the Katun and Chyia rivers and visit Kalbak-Tash Hole to view the petroglyphs. There are more than five thousand pictures drawn on 500 or more formations in the rocky valley of the Chuya River, all carved with stone or metal tools.  The most ancient pictures date to the 8th century BC. Tonight we stay in private houses with shared facilities (BLD) 

Karakol Valley

The native Altai people believe the Karakol Valley is a sacred place. Here you’ll find an abundance of prehistoric rock carvings. It is believed that the ancient monuments of the valley represent an informational code about laws of the universe as seen through the lens of traditional native culture. People of the valley have a different mentality, and believe they are connected to nature spiritually. 

Day 6: North-Chuysky range - Geyser Lake (100km by car, 4km on foot)

Today we drive on the Chuysky Trakt towards the Mongolian border. On the way back we take a short hike to the picturesque Geyser Lake. The lake is the only one of its kind in the Altai - a rare beauty, clean, non-freezing even in winter, and an amazing turquoise colour. There, in the mysterious depths, geysers spring to life, throwing on the surface a mixture of bluish clay and sand that forms visible concentric circles at the bottom.  This afternoon you can take a walk at leisure in the vicinity of the camp and enjoy the tranquil surrounds. Overnight in private houses with shared facilities (BLD)

Day 7: Pazyryk Kurgans - Chulyshman River (120km by car, 4km on foot)

This morning we pass through the ‘Red Gates’, where the road enters a narrow passageway between two rocks of reddish colour. Visit the world famous Pazyryk Tumuli (kurgans) with ancient Scythian burial mounds, their excavated treasures now proudly displayed in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The serpentine road here curves through steep cliffs several hundred meters high. We will then descend for 4km on foot (altitude 1200m). Tonight we stay at lodge houses in the Chulyshman Valley. Shared bathroom facilities (BLD)

Day 8: Kurkure Waterfall (6km on foot)

Today we walk to the 30m high Kurkure waterfall (Kurkure meaning “violent” in Altaic), located on a tributary of the Chulyshman River. People living in the surrounding area worship this marvel of nature and consider it to be sacred. This beautiful walk will take around 4 hours in total.  Later we return to the lodges where you should have some time at leisure (BLD) 

Day 9: Chulyshman Valley – Teletskoe Lake (90km by car, 5km on foot)

Today we walk to the Karasu River ravine to see a unique natural object – the “Stone Mushrooms”. The stone mushrooms are cones rising above the slope of the valley on top of which, as if by magic, lie huge rocky plates. Some “mushrooms” rise up to 10 or more meters. Later we transfer to Teletskoye Lake and Cape Kyrsay, our destination for the night. Overnight at Kyrsay Lodge complex with shared facilities (BLD) 

Day 10: Teletskoe Lake -Artybash (80km by boat, 2km on foot)

We take a boat ride on the northern part of Teletskoye Lake (78km long). Teletskoye is the 20th deepest lake in the world (325m).  About 70 rivers flow into the lake, which feeds the Biya and Ob rivers. We also visit the 12-meter-high Korbu Waterfall. After lunch we take a walk around Artybash village. There will be an opportunity to purchase local honey, herbs and art.  Overnight Artybash Hotel or similar (BLD)

Day 11: Artybash-Gorno-Altaisk-Barnaul (430km by car)

Today we travel to Gorno-Altaisk and visit the National Museum with its mausoleum to the Siberian Ice Maiden, the Princess of Ukok, and the Altai Princess. It is a mummy of a woman from the 5th century BC, found in 1993 in Pazyryk Kurgan in Altai. It was among the most significant Russian archaeological findings of the late 20th century. Continue to Barnaul. Overnight Barnaul Hotel or similar (BL)

Day 12: Breakfast in the hotel

Transfer to the airport (B)

Airport transfers
All transportation on tour
Accommodation on twin share basis (quad basis in yurts). A double room can be requested for a supplement of £75
Services of English speaking local guide (Russian is first language)
Local permits and licences
Entrance fees
Use of Russian Banya (bath-house)
Meals as per the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Sightseeing as per the itinerary
Visa support documents

International Flights
Meals not mentioned on the itinerary
Items of a personal nature
Travel Insurance
Tips (discretionary)

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