The name “Altay” (or “Altai”) comes from Mongolian “Altan”, which means “golden”. Altay mountains are truly one of the nature’s most marvelous gems, amazing by its diversity and beauty.
The Altay ecoregion covers vast 845,000 square kilometer area at the junction of four countries: Russia (largest part), Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. Novosibirsk, the city through which the Trans-Siberian route goes, is about 600 km far, which is very not far for Siberian scales.
Altay is a land where myths and legends are incarnated into reality. It’s one of those rare corners on the Earth where Nature decided to show everything it was capable of. Broad and boundless views of steppes, luxuriant varieties of taiga thickets, modest charm of deserts, severe splendor of snowy peaks, laconic beauty of tundra – the diversity of landscapes here is so rich, it is as if you are turning over pages of a geographical atlas!
Three major factors make Altay mountains a recreational domain of great value: amazing natural diversity (various landscapes, climates, abundance of wildlife); thin population, historically nomadic (Mongolian and Kazakh ethnos), who have a very natural way of life; and remoteness from any industries (the region lives only for tourism and agriculture). All this has ensured that Altay region stayed untouched by industrial development and is still a very natural place. Besides, such diversity makes it possible to involve in almost any possible activity: from rafting to trekking, from speleo to skiing. Stretching for nearly 2000 km from north-west to south-east, Altai mountains form a natural border between the arid steppes of Mongolia and the rich taiga of Southern Siberia. Both climatic zones create the landscapes of striking diversity, ranging from the Mongolia-like steppes (at the area of Kosh-Agach village, south east) to those of the Swiss Alps (along Chuysky Trakt).
During the Soviet times, Altay was a mecca for adventure tourism, especially rafting. Altai mountains have a lot of rivers, Katun, Biya, and Chuya being the longest of them. There are also myriads of smaller mountain rivers that are fed by Altay’s glaciers. Along all these rivers there’s a lot of places for recreation and fishing. You can easily put a tent anywhere you want.