Altai Mountains Mongolia
The Altai Mountains, in farthest Bayan-Ulgii province, are a hiker’s paradise. This region is home to the world famous Kazakh eagle hunters and hosts two of the most spectacular festivals in the country.
Bayan-Ulgii province borders Russia and China in the far West of Mongolia. It is home to a diverse population whose traditional ways of life have been preserved in these isolated mountains for centuries. Among these is Mongolia's largest ethnic minority, the Kazakhs, whose ancestors migrated to the area in the 1800s. Only here can you meet Kazakh eagle hunters, witness their ancient art and join in celebrations at the annual Eagle Festivals in September and October. Kazakhs are also known for their exquisite embroidery, fine tapestries and carpets they produce. These Muslim nomads live alongside the Uriankhai, famous for their archery skills, and other nomadic groups including the Tuvans, well known for their shamanic beliefs.
The highest peaks – many over 4,000m – are permanently covered with glaciers and snow, while the valleys have a few green pastures, which support over two million livestock, as well as bears, foxes and lynx. These valleys are dotted with small communities of nomadic families enjoying the short summer from mid-June to late August, as well as some beautiful alpine lakes.
This land has been home to hunters and herders since the early Bronze Age. The area has numerous archaeological sites from beautiful Bronze Age petroglyphs, stone circles and mounds to engraved deer stones and incredibly well preserved Turkic man stones. Discovering these impressive monuments, in a land devoid of any other signs of modern human habitation, makes the Altai a mystical land in which to travel.
The Altai is also home to many endangered animals such as the argali sheep, ibex, snow leopard, Rock Ptarmigan, Altai Snowcock and plants such as the Dwarf Siberian Pine and White Gentiana.
The highest peaks rise out of the Tavan Bogd massif (“Five Saints”), the highest being the Khüiten Peak at 4,374m. Permanently covered with snow, these surround the Potanin Glacier, the longest glacier in Mongolia at 14km. This is best viewed from the summit of the Mt Malchin (4,050m). The non-technical climb can be undertaken in a day and also offers wonderful views of all the peaks as well as Russian and Kazakhstan territory.
For those looking for epic adventure, pristine wilderness and ancient culture; the Altai is calling.
James is recently back from an epic journey through the Altai. Give him a call if you would like him to design a journey for you to this stunning region.