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The Altai

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.

© Ian Green

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.

Demoiselle Cranes by Fiona Dunbar

Night-time and Zaissan’s Deserts are jumping with Jerboas. Daybreak sees bubbling flocks of Pallas’s Sandgrouse overfly multi-coloured canyons where Upland Buzzards, Saker Falcons and Eagle Owls nest. Demoiselle Cranes, Houbara Bustards, Black Larks and White-tailed Eagles. The Altai has the greatest diversity of butterflies in temperate Eurasia with magnificent Apollos taking centre-stage with up to five species per day, including a yellow one!

Dates and Prices

27th June - 11th July 2024 (15 days)

London - London £5,295
Almaty - Almaty £4,860
Ust-Kamenogorsk - Ust-Kamenogorsk (Ostkemen - Ostkemen) £4,650
Single Supplement* £375
Deposit £500

* doesn't apply if you're willing to share and a room-mate can be arranged

or ask us a question.

Tour Summary

Day 1
Depart Europe
Day 2
To Ust-Kamenogorsk & the Irtysh River
Days 3 - 5
Zaissan: Chilikty Pass and valley, Karatal Sands, Black Irtysh river and Marble Pass
Day 6
Zaissan desert and Kein-Kerish
Days 7 - 9
Topkaiyn: The Burkhat Pass & the Naryn Tundra, Sedlo Pass in the Talovka Mountains
Day 10
The Bukhtarma Valley
Days 11 & 12
Rakhmanovskiye Spa Resort & Mount Belukha
Day 13
To Ust-Kamenogorsk
Day 14
Kalbinsky Hills & Targyn Pass
Day 15

Tour information


Flowers, Birds and Butterflies. Wilderness Landscapes.


Vladimir Kolbintsev , Phil Benstead

Group Size

The minimum is 5 and the maximum is 15.

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.
Flower, butterfly and bird checklists are available.


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. We’ve three nights in a simple but serviceable hotel in Zaissan town and one night in a similar kind of hotel in Kurchum. 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 three 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. We finish with two nights back at the Dedeman in Ust-Kamenogorsk. En suite facilities are available except where otherwise described above.


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).


UK return flights are from London Heathrow to Ust-Kamenogorsk via Almaty. 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 if there is availability for the number of places you require. Click on the ‘Book this Tour’ button on this page to be taken to the online booking form or contact us and we will send one to you which you can complete and send back 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.