Central Asia's Golden Mountains
The far eastern tip of Kazakhstan meets the borders of Mongolia, China and Russian Siberia in the middle of the Golden Mountains, known to us as the Altai. This is a true wilderness with high mountains, forests, steppes, cascading waters and huge lakes, and it is almost devoid of people.
The mountain flowers are amazingly beautiful and varied - Siberian Dogs-tooth Violet, Altai Foxtail Lily, and a rich variety of Saxifrages, Gentians and Irises. A blue carpet of a million Aquilegia glandulosa stretches out towards snow-capped peaks whilst adorning stream banks are dark red Primula sibirica and the massed pink blooms of Paeonia anomala. The lovely Papaver nudicaule comes in whites, yellows and bright oranges and makes for a spectacular sight with pink Bergenias, blue Iris ruthenica and yellow Iris bloudowii. Stunning groups of vari-coloured Gentiana grandiflora and brilliant blue Gentiana uniflora mix with white Callianthemum angustifolium and a rich assortment of speedwells and louseworts on a pass above the spa in which we say as we look down towards the gorgeous lake below or north to the shining twin-peaks of Belukha. The Siberian Pine forest around the resort are home to a truly northern avifauna with Pine Grosbeaks, Siberian Jays, Siberian Tits, Three-toed Woodpeckers and Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers typical as well as Western Capercaillie and Eversmann’s Redstarts.
Siberian-style tundra on the Burkhat Pass is home to Siberian Rubythroats, Windflowers, Claytonias and Siberian Chipmunks. Plain Mountain Finches and Ptarmigan feed by snow banks amidst a sea of both yellow and purple forms of Viola altaica. Shadey birch and poplar woods in the Bukhtarma Valley, a great rift that literally separates the Altai into northern and southern halves, are home to the voluptuous pink pouches of Cypripedium macranthos and as Hungarian Gliders and the impressive Poplar Admiral fly about us as we enjoy another Ladies Slipper, the European Cypripedium calceolus.
The West Altai Nature Reserve is a special place. A strict reserve, entry is only by special permit and few people visit this untouched gem. Siberian Fir forests clothe the lower slopes of mountains with tops that resemble giant versions of the tors of Dartmoor. Snow-capped ridges back wide valleys that would look at home in northern Canada, their floors covered in bogs and dotted with spruce. Not surprising then that Moose are here! Indeed the full large mammal fauna of the Altai is found here in a more or less unaltered state. However that’s for another, more mammal-oriented trip…! For us it will e the shimmering masses of brilliant orange Trollius altaicus, pink Peonies, and blue and white Columbines that will enthrall. Tracksides are lined with deep pink Dactylorhiza sibirica and growing with a rich assortment of ferns are the large Corydalis nobilis and white Scrophularia altacia. We’ll finish our visit to the area with a morning in Ridder botanical garden, quite simply one of the loveliest botanical gardens anywhere in the world. The centre-piece is a valley where meadows alongside a beautiful stream seem to have every one of the Altai’s most beautiful flowers blooming as if they’d lived there all their lives!
Flowers, Birds and Butterflies. Wilderness Landscapes.
Moderate. On many days only 3 or 4 miles, but on some we might cover as many as 6, although always at a slow pace. Some steep-ish paths in both Rakhmanovskiye and the West Altai Reserve, and on one day in each we’ll walk uphill between one thousand (300m) and 2000 feet (600m).
Included in the Price
All flights. All accommodation, transport, meals and drinks in Kazakhstan. Services of your leaders. Please note: tips, and items of a personal nature such as travel insurance, are not included. Visas are not required for UK nationals for this length of visit.
The minimum is 5 and the maximum is 15.
The Dedeman Hotel by the great Irtysh River in Ust-Kamenogorsk is part of the great Dedeman chain of hotels offering 5-star accommodation and superb breakfasts. Outside the front door flows the might river and there’s walks along the river in both directions. Next we’ve three nights at the Dauren Family cottages at Topkayin. These lovely cottages nestle at the foot of the great north-facing wall of the Bukhtarma Valley with beautiful birch and spruce forests rising from just a few metres behind the restaurant and with flowery meadows all around the property. The rooms are nicely done with large beds and plenty of cupboard space. There’s 5 rooms per cottage and each cottage also has one shower, a ladies toilet and a men’s toilet and a kitchen/living area. Greentours will have sole occupancy of these buildings whilst we are there. There’s also a separate bath house with plenty of baths available!
We move to the far northeastern corner of Kazakhstan now for a four night stay at the rather lovely Rakhmanovskiye Klyuchi, a health spa based on the properties of the radon-infused waters of the springs here. The resort was recently renovated and now has pleasant new cottages much in the same layout as those at Topkayin. So again there’s 5 rooms per cottage and each cottage also has one shower, a ladies toilet and a men’s toilet and a living area. There’s a large restaurant building and a rather fine bar down by the lake. You can also avail yourself of the various spa facilities whilst here with massages and radon treatments available.
After a night back at the Dedeman we’ve two nights in the old mining town of Ridder and the Altay Hotel. Not so plush as the Dedeman, but a pleasant hotel nonetheless. And then we return to the comforts of the Dedeman for the last night in Ust-Kamenogorsk.
UK return flights are from London Heathrow to Ust-Kamenogorsk via Astana (also known as Nur-Sultan). Add-ons are available from various UK airports*. Other indirect routes from regional UK Airports* are available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Variable. Often sunny and warm, but with some rain, sometimes lasting a day or so.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information. Flower, butterfly, bird and mammal checklists are available.