If you want to see the best that the Kazakh side of the Altai range has to offer, this tour is for you. In 8 days, we take you from the Martian landscapes of Kiin Kerish and the hot steppes beyond, to within viewing distance of eternal Mount Belukha. A fantastic mix of really wild nature and quaint folk culture, if we say so ourselves!
Other highlights include eagle-nested Lake Markakol, taking a radon bath at Rachmanov Springs, visiting a Siberian stag farm, going off-grid on the Austrian Road and visiting an Old Believer village. Expect rich, homemade food and evenings chatting to villagers after washing in a hot banya.
Accommodation is a mix of rustic farmhouses and homestays together with more luxury accommodation at Rachmanov Springs (it’s where the president holidays).
Ust-Kamenogorsk – Samarskoye village (we cross the Bukhtarma reservoir via the Kaznakovskaya crossing ferry) – Kurchum village – Kiin-Kerish – Cape Shekelmes
330 km on the road. Early in the morning we leave the city. We pass through the village of Samarskoye and go to the Kaznakovskaya ferry crossing of the Bukhtarma reservoir. The ferry is going to take us to the opposite shore.
Next stop is by Kurchum village at the monument to a Kazakh hero Batyr. There we are going to have a short tour and spend some time for taking photos (10-15 min).
After that, we will have a 10-minute stop by the statue of a kite (bird of prey). From the road, we take a turn to Kiin-Kerish Canyon and reach the saxaul forest. To call it a forest, however, would be a bit of overstatement. In fact, saxaul is a rare bush up to 150 cm high. The trees grow at a 2-5-meter distance from each other.
Drive to the Kiin-Kerish Canyon. Kiin-Kerish Canyon is eroded deposit of variegated, mostly red, clay. Clays blurred by water and wind form a very bright bizarre landscape. From a distance, red clay cliffs of Kiin-Kerish are like a flame that is bursting in the wind. For this they are called Burning Cliffs. The main name of the Kiin-Kerish Plain is translated as “Proud Beauty”.
For lunch, we will have snacks and drink some tea by the campfire. Transfer to Shekelmes Cape (distance from Kiin-Kerish to the cape is about 20 km)
Shekelmes Cape is an amazingly beautiful place and one of the brightest in Kazakhstan. It is a home to families of pelicans and big cormorants, which like to bask in the sun on a sandy beach. Sunset here is simply unforgettably beautiful: the colors of the descending sun penetrate the lake and illuminate the landscape of the desert with bright and rich orange, red and yellow colors.
At night, the sky is very dark strewn with huge sparkling stars. Now it is time to set up the camp and make a campfire dinner.
Shekelmes Cape – Terekty – Urunhayka. 230 km on the road.
Breakfast. Getting ready for the journey. Departure to the village of Urunhayka, towards Markakol Lake. Our road runs along the border between Kazakhstan and China. We will make a stop at the Marble Pass. The mountain offers an excellent panorama of the sandy mountains and snow ridges from the Chinese side.
The last section of our journey will pass along the Old Austrian road, which was built in 1915-1916 by Austrian prisoners of war. At present, the road is significantly destroyed, and it is possible to pass through it only from the village of Terekty to the village of Urunhayka.
It was a strategic road that was built in the First World War to strengthen the border with China. The road allowed the transfer of army units and weapons, and it was paved by captive Czechs, Slovaks, and Hungarians. They fought on the side of Austria-Hungary and massively surrendered, because they did not want to go against the Russians. This route became a symbol of diligence, since the people there paved the way through the passes, rivers and swamps without any technique, by only using picks and shovels.
Arrival at Urunhayka village. Check-in at the guest houses. Lunch.
There are places in Kazakhstan that still retain their original charm. One of them is Markakol Lake. Various guides call it «the pearl of nature», «a very rare place», «high altitude miracle», «marvelous beauty», «earthly paradise», «a lake of one hundred rivers and springs». And any of these definitions is suitable, although it does not reflect the whole picture of the natural beauty of the lake.
If the weather is good, we can go along the blue surface of the lake by boat (extra charge) and even arrange a fishing trip (upon your request). Dinner. Rest
In the morning, we eat some natural farm products for breakfast and hit the road. You should prepare to be patient, because today we have a difficult but very exciting drive along the Old Austrian Road:
Urunhayka village – Altay Pass – Burkhat Pass – Berel village – Yazevka village – Yazevoe Lake
135 km on the road
The Old Austrian road is a route that connects the Katon-Karagai and Kurchum districts. The road is bad, but it passes through incredibly beautiful places.
Bonfire lunch on the road. When we arrive at the lake, we check in at the guest houses of the national park. Dinner. Rest.
Yazevoye Lake – Rachmanov Springs Resort. 40 km on the road.
Breakfast – Walking by the lake towards the waterfall.
Yazevoe is a picturesque lake on the way to Belukha from the south-west side. Its size is relatively small – 1.0 x 0.4 km. It is surrounded by the forested mountains overgrown with pine passing to the upper alpine meadows. The lake offers a magnificent view of Mount Belukha, which can be seen reflected in the lake on a clear day. The lake is famous for its good fishing as its name says (“Yaz” is the Russian word for “ide”). It is the only lake in the region with the ides reaching about 3 kg in weight.
After that, we walk to the Yazevoye Waterfall.
The Yazevaya River, flowing out of the lake, forms a cascade of 10 waterfalls 200 meters long. The highest of them is about 10 meters. The waterfall is small, but powerful streams of water are falling from granite rocks with such force that everything around makes noise and thunders, leaving an indelible impression.
After lunch, we leave for Rachmanov Springs Resort. The road climbs the steep mountain and forms a serpentine going to the pass along the mixed and cedar forest. From here you have a beautiful view of the valley of the river White Berel.
When there are only 4 km left until we get to Rachmanov Springs Resort, we reach the observation deck, from where in good weather we can see Mount Belukha, the highest peak of Altai and Siberia (40506 m).
Here, on the radon thermal springs, we have a wonderful health resort called Rachmanov Springs.
We check-in at the cozy hotel rooms and go to have dinner.
Rachmanov Springs Health Resort. Hydrotherapy.
You can swim in the cold waters of Rachmanov Lake, the temperature of which does not exceed + 6C, and then plunge into a hot radon source, the water in which is +38C.
We will ride a boat on the lake to the mouth of the Arasanka River. We will berth to the shore and rise to the waterfall called “Hair of Veronica”.
Lunch. We will make an ascent to the Radostnyi Pass, which offers a magnificent view of the majestic Belukha. Dinner. Rest
Rachmanov Springs Resort – Berel Village – Uryl Village. 60 km on the road
In the morning we leave the resort and go down the mountains. We arrive in a wide valley, where a group of grave mounds is located. Berel burial mounds are uncovered on the right bank of the river Bukhtarma below Berel village, on a spacious terrace in the Valley of Tsars. This is a unique archaeological monument, the burial of the III century BC, having no analogues in Kazakhstan. They are remarkable for their excellent preservation due to the fact that they have been in permafrost for many years. Findings, including organic material, have been preserved in excellent condition.
Lunch (lunch-box provided), tea at the bonfire. After lunch we go the Siberian stag breeding farm.
Altai mountains is a home to “maral” (Siberian stag), a large semi-wild reindeer. Their horns are called “pantas” (antlers of young Siberian stag). Their antlers are unossified growing horns of adult male Siberian stags, externally covered with the velvety hair, with a large number of symmetrically arranged outgrowths.
The fact is that it is the antlers of Siberian stags that accumulate biologically active medicinal substances with food in combination with hormonal substances. The Siberian stag keepers say that the secret lies in a special root, which is eaten by the stags, but it grows only in the Altai and the Far East.
In the period from June 1 to July 25, you can see the procedure of cutting off the antlers. Next, we go to Uryl village and stay at guest houses, possibly belonging to local residents. Hot dinner, rest
Breakfast. Departure to Korobikha Village. Uryl Village – Katon-Karagay village – Korobiha village. 125 km on the road
On the way we stop by a small market in Katon Karagai, where you can buy honey, koumiss, nuts, and kurt. Korobiha was founded in 1792 by the Old Believer named Korobitsyn. Guests should be ready to get acquainted with this settlement, have an excursion to the local lore museum of the community-based settlement, communication with the old-timers and visit to the church of St. Peter and Paul, which was built 10 years ago by the oldest resident of the village Valentina Murzintseva.
Lunch and Dinner. Overnight in the country house
Breakfast. Departure to Ust-Kamenogorsk. Korobiha – Ulken Naryn Village – Zuryanovsk village – Novaya Bukhtarma village – Ust-Kamenogorsk. 380 km on the road
The way goes through a picturesque winding road called Osinovsky Pass. Ascent to Osinovsky Pass is one of the most beautiful places on this road. Despite the complexity of the road with its 180-degree bends following one after another, the view from Osinovsky is simply stunning.
Lunch at the roadside cafe (at your expense).
Check-in at the hotel. Dinner (on your own).
Tour price per person:
- 2 pax – 1 688$
- 4 pax – 1 043$
- 6 pax – 1 005$
- 8 pax – 850$
- 10 pax – 755$
- Going through the route on the off-road vehicles with air conditioning
- Accommodation in tents at Cape Shekelmes – 1 night
- Accommodation in the guest houses at the Urunkhayka village on the shore of Lake Markakol without the option of single accommodation (bathroom facilities on the street, Russian sauna), meals according to the program – 1 night
- Entrance fees and additional fees to Markakol Nature Reserve
- Entrance tickets to the museum of Markakol Nature Reserve
- Accommodation in the guest houses of Katon-Karagai National Park without the option of single accommodation (bathroom facilities on the street, Russian sauna), meals according to the program – 1 night
- Entrance tickets to Katon-Karagai National Park
- Excursion to the maral farm
- Accommodation in the sanatorium ‘Rakhmanovskie Springs’ in 2-bed rooms (1 toilet and 1 shower per 4 rooms) with 3 meals a day according to the program – 2 nights
- 1 radon bath
- Boating on Rakhmanovskoe lake
- Climbing the Radostnoye Pass
- Accommodation at the recreation center “Yasnaya Polyana” without the option of single accommodation (bathroom facilities on the street, Russian banya), meals according to the program – 1 night
- Accommodation in guest houses in the Korobikha village without the option of single accommodation (bathroom facilities on the street, Russian banya), meals according to the program – 1 night
- Visit to the local Old Believer church
- Visit to the local museum
- Excursion to the apiary with tea ceremony
- Mineral water – 1 liter per day
- Passage to the border area of the Kurchumsky district
- Passage to the border area of the Katon-Karagai district