Where to Go at Altay Mountains: Chuysky Trakt

Author: Dimitry Paranyushkin (on 21 Aug 2009)

Chuysky Trakt is the road you won't be able to miss if you go to Altay. There are many attractions and sights along the way and this area can be recommended for those, who want to see as much as possible and have at least 4 days to travel. You can also enter Mongolia via Chuysky Trakt.

What is Chuysky Trakt.
Chuysky Trakt is the main auto road connecting Russia and Mongolia and very picturesque. It starts at Biysk, goes through Gorno-Altaysk and for 500 km after goes further through Altay mountains (settlements Onguday, Imya, Kurai and Kosh-Agach) to Mongolia.
In ancient times the valley along which Chuysky Trakt is now located was the path of Tatar-Mongolian forces led by Chingishan and many nations

Katun river, Altay mountains, Russia

supposedly migrated along this path. There are now many things left reminding about this: ancient carvings, mysterious tomb stones, and structures built long time ago.
There are a lot of interesting places to stop along Chuysky trakt: "wild" camp sites, tour bases, streaming murmuring rivers, hills, rocks with ancient carvings. Almost along all the way there are rivers and nice views, making it an attraction for Russian auto tourists. At some points it is possible to make 1- or 2-day trips to the side of the road and see rare waterfalls and unexplored natural area.
The most interesting places along the way are Aktru glacier (impressive mountains and accessible glacier, which is about 400 km from Gorno-Altaysk) and Kosh-Agach settlement (1500 m above sea level) where there are magnificient Mongolia-like views.
The first 50 km after Gorno-Altaysk go along Katun river (this area is reviewed in Katun Guide) and it is the most "civilised" part of Chuysky Trakt with very well developed infrastructure. Further down the road, there are not as many tour bases, shops and hotels along the way, however, in every village (every 50-100 km) there is a shop, where you can buy essentials (like food, matches, batteries, toilet paper, etc). However, the most beautiful places start at this area. The mountains become higher, the view become more impressive, the rivers become more powerful, and the villages become more authentic. If you are traveling with a knowledgeable guide, he will show you the best places along the way, otherwise, you try to spot nice places to stay along the way.

How to Get There.
Chuysky trakt is one of the main roads at Altay, so many local buses from Altay's republic center - Gorno-Altaysk - go along this way, bringing local people to their villages. However, the buses are often unsteady and full, making it not a very good option for traveling.
The condition of the road is quite good, although there are occasionally narrow sections and there are no lights along the way.
Most Russian tourists travel to Altay by their own car, allowing the freedom to choose when to go and where to stop. If you don't have your own car, you can either rent a car in Novosibirsk or hire a guide with his own car. The car rental may be expensive (about $20 per day, taking into account that it takes about 10 hours to get from Novosibirsk to Altay by car), but hiring a guide with transport is a very budget option. Usually, one kilometer costs about 5 R ($0.15). A minibus fits 6 people, so if you share the expenses with other people, it will be quite inexpensive for such a journey.
We have a list of recommended drivers in our Altay Transport guide, as well as bus schedules.

What to See at Chuysky Trakt.
The road itself is quite picturesque, so if you go by car, the trip will be interesting already, especially after Gorno-Altaysk, where real mountains start. However, there are truly beautiful places starting 100 km after Gorno-Altaysk (near Shebalino settlement):
Seminsky Pereval (about 10 km after Shebalino) - The road goes up the mountain until it reaches the height of 1739 m above sea level, from where you can see a great view on Altay mountains.

Chike-Taman Pereval (a few km after Ongudai settlement) - Another section where the road goes high in the mountains (1295 m above sea level). After the pereval there are nice places to camp next to the river (on the photo - one of them), and about 20 km further Chuysky Trakt meets Katun river again, offering great and impressive views. A nice spot to camp near Chike-Taman

Akerdyk (about 5 km before Yaloman village) - A tourbase located in a very pretty spot on the shore of Katun river. It is considered to be "energetically charged" by locals and it is believed that if you spend some time at this place you will cleanese your mind and soul and feel good.
Maly Yaloman - A nice village at the junction of Katun and Yaloman rivers. Usually local people sell tasty apples and cherries locally grown there, and it's a good place to stay after a long trip, just on the shore of the river.

Ancient Carvings & Tomb Stones - Between Yaloman and Ak-Bom, especially around Inya village there are cliffs where you can occasionally find ancient carvings and tomb stones (kurgans) that are strangely put in circles. It is believed that these carvings are made by Skiffs and Mongols who were passing this area thousands years ago. Ancient carvings at Altay

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Ak-Bom - Actually, not very attractive place, but the only 24 hour cafe & restaurant in the nearby 200 km, and there's drinking water, toilets and crappy hotel. A favourite place to stop for transit truck drivers.

Aktru Glacier - Located 1.5 hours by car through the steppe from Chuysky Trakt (to the right from Kurai village), Aktru is the most accessible glacier at Altay. You can leave the car at a secured check-point and walk up 8 km to Aktru alpinist base, where there's accommodation for $10. Read more about Aktru at Aktru Guide.
Aktru glacier at Altay

Kurai Steppe - A few kilometers after Kurai village along Chuysky Trakt, there's Kurai Steppe area, located 1500 meters above sea level this is a very authentic place with harsh climate and few plants.
Chuyskaya Steppe - After Kurai Steppe starts Chuyskaya steppe, which is located about 1800 km above sea level and is surrounded by snowy mountains. The main Chuysky Trakt passes through Kosh-Agach settlement, from where you can venture to really wild unexplored areas with ancient tombs, salty lakes, and unbelievable views in the radius of 50 km. In Kosh-Agach there's a market where local people occasionally sell traditional hand-made stuff, like rugs, decorations, and kumys music instruments.

Also, if you want to eat traditional Altay food, then stop at Chuy-Oozy cafe at Ongudai region. They offer tasty Altay meals, there's also a private hotel and Russian banya. Opened 8.00 to 0.00 daily.


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