Step-by-step guide to Altay Republic, the hidden jewel of Siberia
It goes without saying that Russia’s vast territory is abundant in natural wonders. Altay Republic (or Mountain Altay) in Siberia is a place of extraordinary beauty which has become particularly popular this year, when the pandemic-related lockdowns made travelling abroad impossible.
Why visit it? Mountain Altay offers picturesque sights and breath-taking views of its rivers, lakes, mountains, hills, valleys, fields and woods (“taiga”), making visiting this place an unforgettable experience.
How to get there? Visiting Altay is no walk in the park and needs to be well-planned in advance. Apart from Chuysky “trakt” (highway) which is quite good, there are but a few comfortable roads, meaning thatin order to get to most places of interest, you would need to arrange for a “zabroska” (slang word for “transfer”) from local guides who would organise for a special “tuned” car capable of getting you through the off-road adventures. You also need to be prepared to walk a lot – getting to most places requires not light walking, but actual hiking.
Is it safe? To some, the thoughts of going to Siberia brings a mental image of “taiga, ticks and mosquitoes”, but fear not - there are seasons such as mid-summer when there would be not a single mosquito at sight.
Where to stay? Until recently, tourists would have had to stay in camps or basically-equipped tourist houses (“turbaza”), however, the infrastructure has seen substantial improvement in this respect, so that now tourists can find fantastic 5-star eco-hotels with posh restaurants and spa facilities, glamping sites (a word derived from “glamour” + “camping”) and elite entertainment (such as helicopter or private boat excursions).
Must-try, must-buy Local cuisine is rich in game - bear, maral (Siberian deer), quail, and roe are on the must-try menus, and a special treat comes in the form of a delicious Siberian fish called grayling. Altay people are calm and friendly, with high respect and consideration toward nature, as well as their history and traditions, including shamanism. Traditional souvenirs from Altay would include honey, pine nuts, wooden products and natural local medicine made out of maral horns.
Welcome to Mountain Altay, a once in a lifetime experience!