The best route for the first trip to the Altay Republic, Russia
November 13, 2019
by Vlad Chekhlov
The Altay Republic is located in the southern part of Siberia. Beautiful landscapes, clean air and a variety of flora and fauna make hundreds of thousands of tourists come here every year. The republic is often called the “Russian Switzerland” and this is justified. The beauties of Altay are immense and everyone who has been here once will certainly come back here again. There is the highest mountain in the Siberia, its located in the Ust-Koksinsky district of Altay and its called Belukha (4506m). The way to area of this mountain is the great rout to go on the first visit of Altay.
Ust-Koksinsky district is located in the southwestern part of the Altay Republic near the border with Kazakhstan. A bus departs from the Gorno-Altaysk bus station daily at 12-15 pm local time on the route Gorno-Altaysk – Multa. You need to buy a ticket to Ust-Koksa, because Multa is a small village and there is no infrastructure there The travel time from Gorno-Altaysk to Ust-Koksa will take about 9 hours, but the road passes through picturesque places and the views are simply fascinating. The bus arrives in Ust-Koksa late in the evening, so you have to spend the night here. There are no problems with the infrastructure in Ust-Koksa, there are many hotels and a camping. It should be said that this town is the last point of civilization. If necessary, you have to use ATMs and pharmacies here, because that opportunity will not be available later.
The bus Ust-Koksa – Tyungur departures from the bus station Ust-Koksa 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Departure time must be found on the bus station. The travel time from will take about 40 minutes. Tungur is the name of the village, from which all the routes to the area of Belukha mountain begins, so here you can easily book a hotel or find a place to stay with a tent. But there are no ATMs and pharmacies in the village. There is only 2 grocery stores, in one of which you can pay by card, but not always.
Go to Akkem Lake!
The route to Lake Akkem is a hiking trip. No special skills are required to overcome it. The trekking takes 2 days at an average pace of movement. The route starts in Tyungur. After passing the bridge over the Katun River, you should turn left and walk along the path to the village of Kucherla. A river with the same name flows in the village and there are 2 bridges through it: Nizhniy and Verkhniy. The main street of the village leads directly to the Nizhniy one, while the Verkhniy one is already on the outskirts. We cross Kucherla along the Nizhniy bridge and find ourselves on a trail. We have left the last point of civilization. There is a start of 40 kilometers way of unity with nature. The trail goes along the edge of the forest, then leads out into the field and again to the edge of the forest. A long climbing begins from here. It is Kuzuyak pass.
Then there is a small descent and the trail descends to the Akkem river, but we choose a small branch of trail, and do not go down to the river itself, but go through the field and сome out to a good place for a camp. The place called «Three Birches». It will be the best decision to stay for the night here, because it’s already difficult to find a good camp further. Further to the lake, the path goes through the forest, and there are no serious difficulties there. Near the lake there is a weather station and rescue cars, if necessary and for little money you can spend the night in them.
Akkem Lake is cold all year round, it is shallow and has muddy water, but it offers a completely stunning view of the wall of the Belukha. You can contemplate this view indefinitely, it is remembered for a lifetime. There are several local routes from Akkem Lake: Mountain Spirits Lake, Valley of Seven Lakes, Yarlu Valley.
In order not to return to Tyungur on the same road, I recommend visiting another picturesque lake. It is Lake Kucherla. To do this, you have to make the crossing over Kara-Tyurek. It is a technically uncomplicated pass with a height of just over 3000 m. Despite the high altitude of the pass, no special means are required to overcome it, but some endurance is still necessary. The trail from Lake Akkem begins near the weather station. The climb is not steep, many people ride horses along this route. However, in some areas there may be a lot of snow, even if it is completely absent at the weather station, so be careful and stay away from the cliff. The climbing time from the weather station is 5-6 hours. From the top of the pass there is a stunning view of Belukha and the whole Katun ridge. However, don’t stay too long on the top of the pass; there is still a quite long descent before you can find a good place for the camp. The descent from the pass goes first on stones, then along the valley and goes to the Tekelyushka river. Further we go down along the coast of Tekelyushka to its confluence with Kucherla. There is a great place for a camp and a signpost there. Lake Kucherla is 3 hours walk from there.
The trail takes us to a hill with amazing views of the lake. The water in the lake is turquoise, the panorama is absolutely mesmerizing. In the northern part of the lake, where the Kucherla River flows from it, there is a bridge, passing through which you find yourself on a small peninsula. You can find several houses there. The owner has a boat, but negotiating with him is not an easy task. Along the eastern side of the lake there is a trail along which you can go around the lake and go to its southern tip. This walk will take about 2.5-3 hours.
Back to Tyungur
The return trip from Lake Kucherla to Tyungur should be laid 2 days. The trail is clearly visible and all the time goes along the Kucherla River to the village of Kucherla. And the full route takes 5-7 days. This is an absolutely unique journey that immerses you 100% in the beauty of Altai, its silence, calmness and tranquility. In everyone who comes here, Altai leaves a piece of itself, which then again and again awakens the desire to return to these mountains. Travel and enjoy every minute!