Be amazed by the Altai mountains
Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase we will earn a commission at no additional cost to you. We chose these companies / hotels because of their quality and not because of the commission we receive from your purchases.
There are around 20,000 rivers with a total length of 60,000 km, and around 7,000 lakes in the Altai mountains. This mountain range is located in Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and for a small part in China. It is the center of Eurasia where Siberia and Central Asia come together, this makes it a unique location with many possibilities and virtually no other place can match it. The Altai region is extremely rich in natural beauty. The flora of the area consists of more than 2000 species with a large number of endemic plants. Many rare and endangered animals live here including the elusive snow leopard, the argali (mountain sheep) and it is a habitat for more than 300 species of birds. The Atlai mountains are a sparsely populated area that most tourists have not yet discovered. Definitely bucket list material for the adventurous travelers among us.
The few travelers who visit the Altai travel from Novosibirsk in Russia or from Ulgii or Hovd in Mongolia. To the east lies the Kazakh part of the Central Asian Altai Mountains. High mountains are interspersed with green valleys, wild rivers and calm lakes. There are a few places which you could make as a base for your travels in Kazakhstan. The first is the village of Uryl, it is located about 50 kilometers from the border with Russia, between Lake Markakol and Belukha. The city of Öskemen is also a good starting point to explore the area.
What to do
The variety of landscapes and climate of the Altai region makes it possible to do almost all types of outdoor sports: hiking, backpacking, rafting, kayaking and mountain climbing. Jeep riding, horse riding and rafting are also available in the area.
Best time to visit
We recommend visiting the Altai mountains from late spring til the beginning of autumn, which is from May until October. Kazakhstan has warm and rainy summers and long cold winters (November-March). The winters can be harsh so we don't recommend visiting the mountain range in winter.
Where to stay
Öskemen is also a good starting point to explore the area. However it is good to know that in the post-war period, this city was closed to foreigners because of the testing of atomic bombs in the area. The existence of the factories that produced uranium products was kept secret even though thousands of people worked there. An explosion in the production line in 1990 led to the spreading of a poisoned cloud over the city. Its impact on health is not well known because the incident was first kept secret. The best hotel in town is called Royal B, on booking.com they get an average rating of 9.2.