- For other places with the same name, see Altai (disambiguation).
Altai (Russian: Респу́блика Алта́й rees-POOB-leek-uh uhl-TIGH) is a republic Western Siberia, which has an amazing variety of landscapes: from boundless steppes to impassable taiga forests. The region borders Kemerovo Oblast to the north, Khakassia to the northeast, Tyva to the east, Mongolia to the southeast, China to the south, Kazakhstan to the southwest, and Altai Krai to the northwest.
The people of this republic are mainly ethnic Altais, a Turkic ethnicity. The following a wide variety of religions including Russian Orthodoxy, Shamanism and Buddhism. Thus, this region is Russia's most religiously diverse.
The Altai Mountains are the highest in Siberia. The Altai Republic and nearby Altai Krai were very popular hunting, fishing and adventure tourist sites during Soviet times. The region is popular for rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, horse riding, fishing and hunting.
The modern Altai economy is based largely upon agriculture, but nowadays the tourism industry has undergone an exponential growth. Despite the rapid growth of tourism, the region is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped places in Russia.
Altaisky Nature Reserve along with the Katun Nature Reserve and the Ukok Plateau Nature Refuge were listed as one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites under the name "Golden Mountains of Altai"
The Altai are a Turkic ethnic group closely related to Kazakhs and speak their own language of Altai. Altai and Kazakh are the official languages, along with Russian, of the Altai Republic. However, Russian is spoken nearly universally.
Marshrutka is the most common way of public travel there. It is a type of taxi, which goes once it gets full. Hitchhiking is quite common too. Sometimes you can stop even a child on a horse.
- 77 km away from the capital at the village Kamlak there is the Gorno-Altaisk Botanical Garden, situated on the unique natural corner Shishkular-Katail-Chisty lug (Шишкулар-Катаил-Чистый луг). It is a department of Russian Academy of Science and an interesting place to visit. The collected plants range 1535 species from Altai, Siberia, the Far East and even North America.
- KM723-732 from Novosibirsk: A series of ancient (10,000BC) rock paintings and carvings can be seen on the main road that passes through the Altai Republic.
So far there are three big congregations of private campsites, rest bases and guesthouses, majority of them in the north, where the climate is warmer:
- Northern shores of Teletskoye lake close to Iogach and Artybash villages.
- Complex of campsites along the Katun river, known as 'Biryuzovaya Katun', Бирюзовая Катунь, all accessible from Chuysky Highway, which runs parallel to the river.
- Riverside campsites continue south with tributary Chemal and are mostly concentrated in Chemal village.
To get there tourists buy tours in big cities or call to the owners beforehand and then arrive. One can try their luck and certainly will find a stay on the spot.
Eat at cafes, which are cheap and quite good. Cafes are common all around Russia, even in small villages.
- Be aware of ticks, mainly in summer.
- The region is prone to earthquakes.
Tap water is considered unsafe for drinking, and should be avoided. Being one of Russia's poorest regions, only 60% of the area's population has access to safe drinking water. Sanitize all water, and drink only water that is bottled.
Hospitals are well equipped and the staff are well trained, but good quality health care in Altai is virtually non-existent. Most of the hospitals are equipped with neglected technology, and serious operations are seemingly impossible to do here.
Cross the border into Mongolia and visit Bayan-Ulgii Province, its capital, Ölgii, has a large Kazakh population living much the same way they did 100 years ago. Also visit Altai Tavan Bogd National Park and Tsambagarav National Park to enjoy large snow-capped mountains, petroglyphs, Turkic Stone Men, and Kazakh Eagle Hunters.