Getting around Altai by Car
Altai is famous for its unique natural sights. Each year it welcomes more than 1.5 million tourists, including the number of auto-travelers, which grows larger every year. By car for a short time you can explore a lot of amazing places in Altai, get acquainted with the most interesting places and the main sights, for a few days plunged into the world of unspoiled nature.
For a busy trip is enough to allocate a week and a half, but if you have a desire to stay for a long time in the wilderness surrounded by charming Altai nature, it is worth thinking at least about a month’s vacation. In any case, the impressions will last for a long time, even if the trip lasts only a couple of days!
Katun – from Souzga to Chemal
The main resort and tourist area with a huge number of campsites, campgrounds and “tent sites” is located in the north of the Republic, along the right bank of the Katun river, from Souzga to Chemal. You should stay on the river for 2-3 days, feel the energy of local places, drive, walk around the area and start immersing yourself in the marvelous Altai natural sights.
What to see nearby. On the opposite bank of the Katun river from Souzga you may see a rock-stand of Devil’s Finger with a “claw” rising above its top. It is connected to the mountain by a narrow stony isthmus, where there is an observation platform with amazing panoramic views. In dry weather you can reach it by car on an unpaved road.
There is a mineral spring in the village of Manzherok with “live” water, and 4 kilometers to the East is the Manzherok lake, which is much easier to reach by car.
Literally in 7 kilometers along the Chui path from Manzherok there is a turn to the bridge of SEZ “Turquoise Katun”, after driving on it and turning left, you can get to Tavda caves. People lived here at different epochs and perhaps Kolchak’s gold is hidden somewhere.
If you go back on the Chuysky tract and turn right to Ust-Sema, just in 300 m the mineral spring Arzhan-Suu (also called the Golden Key) will meet you. Altai people have considered its water as healing from ancient times. According to an ancient custom, one ties sacred ribbons, or dyaloms, to the trees here. They should be of a certain size (20 cm by 5 cm), be clean and light, as well as the thoughts of the one who hangs them.
At the village of Ust-Sema you should leave the Chuy highway in the direction of the village of Chemal, turning to Chemalsky tract. After about 12 kilometers, tourists will find a picturesque river island Patmos with an unusually beautiful wooden church and a carved in the rock image of the Virgin Mary with the Child. You can reach it by a high suspension bridge. South of the village of Chemal is another popular object of the Altai Mountains – Chemal hydroelectric power station with an artificial reservoir. Today it has been turned into an open-air museum and a place of extreme entertainment. Above the bubbling stream, those who wish can jump down on an elastic rope, with the choice of plunging into the refreshing water or meeting only with its spray.
Where is it located. The village of Souzga is located at 460 km of the Chuysky tract, Manzherok is at 470 km, Arzhan-Suu is at 478 km and Ust-Sema is at 511 km. The Chemalsky path leads from the last village to the district center Chemal – you have to drive 40 km to the village.
Sightseeing along the Chuisky Tract
The highway begins in Novosibirsk. At km 364 it crosses Biisk, at km 453 it enters the first Altai mountain village Maima, then it cuts through the republic territory up to the Durbet-daba pass near the Mongolian border, ending at km 962.6. The 510-kilometer stretch of the Chuisky Tract is the main highway in the Altai Mountains, with secondary roads of lesser quality that lead travelers to new discoveries of stunning natural places. The tract is completely paved with asphalt, with gas stations, cafes and restaurants, guest houses, tourist bases, campgrounds, and tent campsites set up along it. The Chuysky tract passes through flat, foothill and mountainous terrain, crossing the Seminsky Pass, the Kuraysky and Chuysky hollows.
At every opportunity, especially before the entrance to the secondary roads, it is recommended to fill up with gasoline a full tank and stock up on drinking water and edibles. Away from the Chuysky Tract gas stations and stores are much rarer – only in large villages. Use your navigation device to find out about the nearest gas stations, cafes and other locations. With the places for overnight stays must be decided in advance, as to arrange a stop in the format of “just about anywhere” – is not safe. In rainy weather it is better to choose tourist bases and hotels, and in dry weather – tent camping and camping sites.
The Seminsk pass
Where is it. Ascent to Seminsky pass starts at 574 km of Chuisky highway, the highest point is located at 583 km, and the descent ends at the valley of the Ursul river – at 594 km of the highway.