"Geographic Crossroad of Eurasia"
Choose this tour to see our unique land, to find birds of every climatic and landscape zone of Asia and Siberia and to travel along the famous northern branch of the Great Silk Road. See amazing mixture of animal kingdom of Siberia Taiga, Asia mountain landscapes, Kazakhian steeps, and relict deserts. Trip will go through knot of boarders of three great countries: Russia, China and Kazakhstan. You will see Zaisan Lake, the most ancient in the Altai, the wild Central Asia Cherny Irtysh River, beautiful Markakol Lake and to drive up along old Austrian road to Burkhat pass. From the pass one can see Belukha Mt.
This tour is also convenient for families.
Cross-country UAZ minibus is used for transfer to the starting point of the trip
Meals three times a day
Accommodations in tents, a village house or at an apiary
Every group is accompanied by a professional guide and a cook
Tourists are supplied with fishing tackle (for extra charge), tents for two and heat-insulating mats
Excursions on horseback, by motor or rowing boats and radon baths are charged additionally
Excursions are included in the tour cost
At request the tour program can be slightly changed
The tour is for nature enthusiasts: birdwatchers, botanists, butterfly-watchers and for nature lovers, who take interest in the history and ethnography of Central Asia and indulge in wildlife photographing and filming.
Physical Fitness: no restrictions
Tour Duration: Total-8 days; Tour-7 days
Group: 3 - 12 persons
Season: May-September, preferably early June-September
Recommended Equipment: Clothes both for hot and cool weather (temperature may range from -5 to +20), a water-proof clothing for rainy weather, high gum boots for fishing and ankle-high trekking boots, sun-blinkers, UV protective cream, repellents, a rucksack, a fishing tackle set (for fishing in lakes and mountain rivers) and a sleeping bag.
Systematic List Number based on experience of the tour- expedition summer 2001:
list of plants of the Southern Altai (262 kB) you can load from our server also.
ITINERARY: Ust-Kamenogorsk-Zaisan Lake-Kiin-Kirish-Cherny Irtysh-Markakol Lake-Kara-Kaba River-Barkhot pass-Rakhmanovskiye Klyuchi (Rakhmanov springs) health resort-Ust-Kamenogorsk.
ANNOTATION: The Altai, that means “Golden mountains” in Mongolian language is situated at the junction of Mongolia, Russia and China borders, the mysterious and beautiful land due to its geographic and political characteristics for the most part has been preserved pure, virgin and difficult of approach. The God endowed this rather little piece of East Kazakhstan nature with every type of landscape: desert, taiga, sparkling eternal glaciers, waterfalls, numerous rivers and lakes.
Northern branches of the Great Silk Road passed along pictorial East Kazakhstan landscapes. While travelling you'll have a wonderful opportunity to admire ruins of unique Buddhist Ablaikhan temple, ancient burials of Dzhungar warriors and graves of leaders of bellicose Kazakh tribes. What about wandering along the shores of Zaisan Lake, the most ancient lake in the hole of Central Asia? Further you'll be able to enjoy the coolness of Alpine Markakol Lake, in the XVII-th century Urunkhai tribes populated its shores. Choose the tour and you will see difficult passes of the old Austrian road and Belukha Mt (4,506m), the highest peak in Siberia and Altai. As Buddhists believe, Belukha area is a paradisiacal realm.
Also in time of tour you will see a lot of other not less exciting things.
One more attractive feature of our region is that due to certain political reasons it was closed not only to foreign bur Soviet tourists as well.
Fishermen will have good time for rest at Makakol Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes of the Altai. Just try to outwit grayling, uskuch (lenok), and taimen in the mountain rivers and lakes!
Day 1. After arrival to the city Ust-Kamenogorsk we will transfer by a jeep (1,5 hr, 80 km) to Sibinskiye Lakes - splendid crystal-clear lakes surrounded with granite crags. Not far from the lakes there are ruins of Ablainskit, an ancient Buddhist temple, where the richest collection of Tibet scrolls was found. According to legends, a treasury including a golden adult-sized Buddha statue was hidden in the temple. The monastery is situated on a shore of one of the lakes among the granite rocks, not far from Ust-Kamenogorsk,. In this area there are five lakes not far from each other.
In the evening – we can fish perches, pikes and wild carps in the lake.
Accomodation in tents on the shore.
Day 2. Early in the day - we will go by a jeep (3hrs, 140km) to Kurchum passage across Bukhtarminskoye reservoir on the Irtysh River. The road passes along mountain spurs of Kalbinsky range across Chechek, Targyn and Umysh passes, just along encampments of Dzhungar tribes and places, where ancient Kazakh war tribes like Argyn and Naiman used to live. A number of ancient Dzhungar burials are to be found there. We will take the ferry across Bukhtarminskoye reservoir, and then drive along the northern shore of the Zaisan Lake, the most ancient in Asia.
Now heading for the heart of the Zaisan basin we can admire the fabled beauty of unique Kiin-Kirish - weathered many-colored (for the most part red) clay sediments, which make very bright and odd landscape reminding of those on the Mars as fantasists describe it. A little bit of imagination and you can find turrets, little ships, chapels and yurts in Kiin-Kirish.
Sharp contrast between day and night temperature and lack of water impart various coloring to this severe fantastic scenery. We will stay overnight in the arid Pri-Zaisan depression among quaint flamboyant Kiin-Kirish hills, where fleecy rhinos wandered in the Paleogene epoch.
A short visit to unique Barkhot and Baklany capes is possible. Narrow and broad 100-200m wide cables stretch for 3-3.5km to the bottom of the lake. We have an excellent opportunity to watch flocks of pelicans and cormorants on the sandy shores. Accomodation in tents is on a shore of the lake.
Day 3. Early in the morning we will drive along the northern shore of Zaisan Lake - enormous freshwater reservoir. The lake is 100km long and 30m wide, its area covers more than 1,800 sq. km. In the deepest part the lake depth reaches 8m. We visit exotic deserts and prohibited fishing grounds where big pikes, perches and noble white salmons are found. At the sunset one can observe the perches hunting fishes.
Being situated between enormous Zaisan Lake and high Altai mountain ranges, the Pri-Zaisan depression, a unique natural object, combined the main features of surrounded areas. You like the whimsical mixture of plants, animals and landscapes. Dusty whirlwinds behind the hurrying vehicle, mirages in the red-hot desert, quicksand, haloxylons, camel thorns, a Kazakh aul (a small settlement in Asia and Caucas), cherishing centuries-old way of life and old burials of Kazakh clans' chiefs will always remain in your memory.
By and by after the wonderful landscapes of the Zaisan Lake our way turns to the banks of meandering river of the Cherny Irtysh. Its right bank is abrupt, while the left is gently sloping with sandy beaches. In warm seasons there are millions of mosquitoes, midges and gadflies here. It is time to use of your repellents. But the fishing is sure to make you forget about them. After the first frosts in September all these annoying things disappear and golden period for fishing begins. At this period exotic rafting down the Cherny Irtysh River with fishing usually takes place.
We will drive forty kilometers along lifeless desert before we reach the asphalt road leading to high Altai Mountains, and then again along roads which leave much to be desired. By the by we will begin the eleven-kilometers ascent to Mramorny pass (Marble pass), situated at a height of 1,399m above sea level. From the pass a grandiose view of endless Ak Kum (White Sands) sands (Chinese territory) opens for us. After descent to the green Ak Dzheilyau (White Pasture) you'll find yourself in woods, then comes ascent of Tik Kabak pass and finally descent to the Markakol Lake - our destination for today. We settle in a village house and a yurt. In the evening we can have a steam bath and then supper under the electric light.
Day 4. Markakol Lake, Urunkhaika settlement.
High-altitude Markakol Lake - the most beautiful lake in East Kazakhstan and its environs are not inferior to the lake itself. The pride of the Markakol Sanctuary apart from the lake is taiga woods, limpid mountain rivers and fair springs. This piece of nature of our republic is noted for a wide diversity of flora and fauna.
Markakol Lake, the largest in the Altai, is 38km wide and 19km long. Its area covers 455 sq.km. It is situated in the intermountain basin between Kurchumsky range in the north and Azutau range in the south. Over 100 rivers flow into Markakol Lake while only the Kalzhir River flows from the lake.
Familiarization with the lake and its environs.
Markakol Lake is situated on a height of 1,447m above sea level. In the north from the shore of the lake an impressive view of Sarymsakty range with snow-white Berkutaul (from Kazakh-Eagle's Lodging, 3,373m) and Aksubas mountains (from Kazakh-Head of White Water, 3,308m) opens for us. The lake is noted for crystal-clear water and abundance in uskutch, local subspecies of lenok (trout) and grayling. In the area of lake a lot of Siberian deer, bears, wild goats, argalis and marmots are to be found. The lake is a home to ducks, spines, coots and etc. Here and there one can come across wild boars or traces of a snow panther. In the evening we can enjoy steam bath after fishing of uskutch in Markakol Lake.
Day 5. In the morning we will drive along the old Austrian road, constructed in 1915 by Austrians-World War I prisoners, to the area of Tarbagatai range. First the road passes along a dry mountain river channel, then up along a meandering side of gorge to Alatau pass (1,967m). From time to time it is necessary to get off to help our driver surmount numerous obstacles. Then comes an abrupt descent to the Kara-Kaba River valley and crossing famous Kalba Bridge over the rapid mountain river. Iron parts of the bridge are badly damaged with water stream, ice and stones-result of spring floods. The bridge surface is also in bad condition and it takes car efforts to pass by logs while there are a lot of holes through which one can see the Belaya Kaba River. Now the road goes upstream along a picturesque gorge. Several times it is necessary to drive from one bank to another across rather little bridges. Accomodation is on a bank of the river.
Ascent to Burkhat pass. If the weather will be fine one can admire, standing on the top of the pass, the beauty of Belukha Mt (4,506m) - the highest peak of the Altai and Siberia. Visibility is good within more than 100km. After the pass comes abrupt winding 1,000m long slope. In time of the route you can enjoy bird's-eye view of the Bukhtarma River valley. Half an hour later you'll find yourself again driving along an asphalt road.
Our destination is health resort “Rakhmanovskiye Klyuchi” found at radon springs in the Arasan River valley, on the shore of Rakhmanovskoye Lake. No doubt you are going to like splendid woods, wholesome air full of taiga and alpine meadows aromas and splendid lakes. Accommodation at cottages or tents.
Day 6. Rakhmanov springs. Relaxation and sightseeing in the lakeside. Brief ascent to the pass in order to enjoy the breathtaking view of sparkling Belukha Mt (4,506m) - the highest peak in the Altai. Visit to Rakhmanovsky waterfall, riding, boating and medicinal radon baths.
Day 7. Transfer: Rakhmanov springs-Zyryanovsk-Serebryansk-Ust-Kamenogorsk.
Today we return to Ust-Kamenogorsk. We will leave Rakhmanov springs to go down to the Bukhtarma River valley and then along the right shore of Bukhtarma reservoir and across thick taiga in the foothills in West Altai to finally reach Ust-Kamenogorsk.
Accomodation in the hotel. In the evening - farewell supper in a restaurant.
Day 8. Departure from Ust-Kamenogorsk.
Note: At your will the tour may be prolonged for one or two days, which you can spend travelling on sailboat along Bukhtarminskoye reservoir gulfs.