Today, Altai rightfully becomes one of the main ‘crown jewels’ of the Russian domestic tourism. In 2021, over 2 million people visited this region, at least the same number of tourists is expected to arrive by the end of this year. People travel to Altai to admire the stunning mountains, breathe clean air, get to know the customs of the indigenous peoples inhabiting this region and, if you are lucky with the season, see the amazing ‘turquoise’ Katun River. EcoTourism Expert correspondent talked to the couple - his old friends - who had just returned from their trip to Belokurikha in Altai, about how much such a trip could cost today, what travellers should definitely visit, and where they might refuse to go.
- Why did you go to Altai? There many other interesting destinations in Russia, if we talk about vacations not on the sea coast.
- Olga Belousova: In central Russia, my family and I have already visited many interesting places, and Altai was our dream for at least 10 years. It happened so this year that we decided to finally make our dream come true.
- Why has Altai been so attractive for the last 10 years?
- OB: Altai is a power place. My friends once travelled around India back in the 1990s, and one Indian man asked them “Why do you go to India if you have a place in Russia where it is no less interesting!” Altai features a fairly original culture that has survived to our days. Just in those years when my friends visited India, the ‘Altai Princess’ was discovered (the mummy of a young woman aged about 28-30 years found during archaeological excavations at the Ak-Alakha burial ground in the Ukok tract in 1993 - ed.).
- Did you plan and arrange your trip on your own or did you decide to use the services of travel agencies?
- Mikhail Belousov: We decided to make our first trip to Altai on our own.
But there are really package tours and it seems to me that they are very interesting for the future. There are tours for 2-3 days, or for a week, I consider this option is the most attractive.
- MB: Every time you are brought to a new place, these are the hotels proven to be comfortable, catering places proven to be good, interesting attractions and good transport vehicles. You just need a good mood during the whole trip. Nevertheless, for the first trip, we decided to stop at Belokurikha, a very famous Altai resort town, there is something to see both at the resort and in its surroundings. True, everything was not as cheap as we would like.
- Indeed, contrary to a fairly common misconception, a vacation in Russia is rather costly. Is this true for a trip to Altai? How much are hotel rooms on average, how much is food there? How much are excursions?
- OB: First of all, one-way ticket costs you about 10 thousand roubles, this is a substantial sum of money that makes you think twice about the trip. As for the cost of hotel rooms, it differs.
In Belokurikha, an average daily rate for a guest house in the town (not at the resort) is about 2.5-3 thousand roubles for a small room with a bathroom and a shared kitchen where you can cook food. Usually, such guest houses have a small courtyard, and sometimes, there is also a small swimming pool and a playground.
- Let’s talk about ‘bodily’ food. What is the situation with food service?
- MB: In the town of Belokurikha, of course, you can find some places to eat, but the population of the town is very small and unfortunately, there are not very many catering outlets. Well, the food quality is often just ordinary canteen food.
It’s worth mentioning that each cafe or restaurant has its own zest, either in the design or in the menu.
As for prices, we got an average bill of about 5 thousand roubles for three persons for a full lunch or dinner with a small amount of alcohol. Really, it’s not very cheap, but I would like to say that it was worth it!
- A little bit about the ‘spiritual’ food. What is a must-see in Altai?
- OB: First of all, I want to tell you that we booked excursions through a travel agency, and on average, a tour is around 2,000 roubles per person. It is worth seeing Belokurikha-2 and Arboretum.
Long-distance excursions (along the Chemalsky highway, Manzherok, Kamyshinsky Waterfall, Patmos Island) cost more, around 4 thousand roubles. But in our case, we paid about 450 roubles extra for lunch per person and 1,000 roubles for rafting.
- If you go to the Altai Mountains again, what lessons have you learned from your first trip? Maybe it’s worth taking, for example, not one Fumitoks (mosquito repellent liquid spray), but three ones?
- OB: By the way, there were no mosquitoes at all, but, probably, you would still need one Fumitoks spray.
Of course, you need comfortable shoes. By the way, Belokurikha is a resort and I would advise ladies to take at least one dress, in addition to your hiking clothes - believe me, you will have some occasions to wear it!
And by the way - at first, we believed that +21 degrees Celsius is quite cool, especially in the mountains. But the weather was surprisingly nice and we did not use most of the warm clothes we took.
- MB: And I would like to add that you need not put the souvenirs you bought, for example, honey, in your luggage. You can safely use courier services.
- OB: And the main advice is not to stay in the room, there is always something to enjoy and admire in the Altai Mountains! I am sure, even if you travel there every year, you will definitely see something new and amazing each time!