Discover the soul of Altai through its festivals, history, customs, and cuisine, while experiencing the fairy-tale Siberian winter. Join the Maslenitsa “Pancake Week” festivities, including tasting the famous pancakes, riding dog sleds, watching the ancient tradition of burning the Maslenitsa scarecrow, and enjoying the traditional dances. Visit hidden places that can only be experienced in winter, including “Swan Lake”, and the unique frost-free lakes, the “Blue Eyes of Katun”.
Day 1, Monday 24 February
: Arrive in Novosibirsk
Arrive at Novosibirsk Airport and take a private transfer to the hotel. At 10:30 meet the other group members in the hotel lobby to visit the unique multimedia museum exhibition, Russia is My Story. Lunch. Then take a sightseeing tour of the city of Novosibirsk, the former centre of the Russian Empire, including visiting Lenin Square to see the Opera and Ballet Theatre, the leafy Pervomaisky Square, Bulgarian House, Ascension Cathedral, the city’s commercial buildings, and the Ethnopark of Siberia in Zaeltsovsky Park. The Ethnopark is an open-air museum where you’ll learn how real Siberians – nomads of the steppes, hunters of the taiga, and reindeer herders of the tundra – live. You’ll get the chance to experience their lives for yourself, including entering traditional yurts, trying out hunting rifles in a shooting range, and even throwing a harpoon from a Chukchi boat. Dinner of Siberian delicacies at Na Dache restaurant. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 2, Tuesday 25 February
: Novosibirsk – Gorno-Altaisk – Ust-Muny
Breakfast. Depart for Gorno-Altaisk at 10:50 on flight S75367, arriving at 11:55. Lunch, followed by a visit to the National Museum of the Altai Republic named after the ethnographer Andrey Anokhin. The museum has rich ethnographic collections related to Altai’s indigenous peoples, as well as a unique exhibit – the mummy of the Princess of Ukok (also called the Siberian Ice Maiden). This is the mummy of a woman from the 5th century BC, and was one of Russia’s most significant archaeological findings of the late 20th century (please note that the mummy is not available for viewing every day). Transfer to the village of Ust-Muny (50 km, 1h 30m). Enjoy dinner accompanied by a folklore show, including the unique throat singing and folk musicians playing the traditional musical instruments of nomads. Overnight at a tourist complex.
Day 3, Wednesday 26 February
: Ust-Muny – Chemal – Blue Eyes of Katun – Ust-Muny
After breakfast, transfer to Chemal to visit Patmos Island and the Chemalskaya hydro-electric power station. Patmos Island is one of the most beautiful places in the Altai Mountains. It has a restored church commemorating St. John the Evangelist and the monastic cell of St. Makarius of Altai, behind which is a rock carved in an image of the Virgin Mary. There is also a priory located opposite the island. The only way to reach the island is via a suspension bridge that connects the rocks of the island with the rocks on the bank of the Katun River. After exploring Patmos Island, walk to the Chemalskaya hydro-electric power station via the picturesque “goat trail” along the rocky bank of the Katun River. From the trail there is an excellent view of the confluence of the Chemal and Katun rivers. On the way, see two water springs that are spiritually significant to local people. A so-called “dead” spring yields red water that smells of sulphur (according to legend, this is the blood of a Shaman who was killed because he opposed the construction of the power station), and a “living” spring yields clear, icy water (according to legend, the tears of the Shaman’s wife). The Chemalskaya hydro-electric power station was built in 1935 and is now one of Chemal’s major attractions. Lunch. On the way back, walk along the frozen river to the ice-free lakes, the “Blue Eyes of Katun”, which disappear every summer. Those who wish to swim can take a swimsuit with them. Return to the tourist complex for dinner and overnight.
Day 4, Thursday 27 February
: Ust-Muny – Altayskoye – Belokurikha
Breakfast. Depart for the village of Altayskoye. On the way, enjoy a walk in the real Siberian forest and take panoramic pictures of the Katun River and the majestic Altai Mountains. Have lunch at the Ukrop and Grenka Café in Altayskoye, where you’ll be able to try New Altai cuisine made using unique recipes that revive the original cuisine. Afterwards, depart for Belokurikha (60 km, 1.5 hours) and visit the workshop of Anna Beletskaya, the only female blacksmith in Siberia. See how she produces unique metal items, forged products, découpage works, and antique utensils. Try your hand at blacksmithing and buy a forged handmade souvenir to take home. Enjoy a banya, a traditional Russian sauna and bath (optional). Dinner. Overnight in a cottage at a tourist complex in Belokurikha.
Day 5, Friday 28 February
: Belokurikha – Sibiryachikha – Belokurikha
After breakfast, transfer to Sibiryachikha to enjoy a folklore and gastronomic excursion. Take a fascinating tour of the local museum, immersing yourself in the lives of the peasants who used to live here. Participate in the traditional wedding rituals of the “Old Believers” and taste the unique and traditional wedding dishes. Dress up in costumes and have the chance to play the roles of the groom, bride, parents, or friends. The exact copies of costumes, and the traditional songs and games will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Return to Belokurikha for dinner and overnight at the tourist complex.
Day 6, Saturday 29 February
: Maslenitsa festivities
Breakfast, then depart for the Maslenitsa (Russian “pancake week”) festival in Novotyryshkino. Go sledging, taste the famous pancakes, and watch and even join in the traditional round dances. Last year, a round dance during Maslenitsa in Siberia gathered 1,134 people and was listed in the Russian record books. Watch the many competitions, including competitions for the most beautiful scarecrow, the most creative sleigh, the most extensive family tree, and the fastest conquest of a pole. The culmination of the festival will be the burning of the Maslenitsa scarecrow. Afterwards, have lunch at the Altai Gold Restaurant. Transfer to Solonovka, to the rural estate “Kerzhatsky Chambers”, an ancestral home of the Old Believers, built in 1895. The estate recreates the atmosphere of the life of the “Old Believers”. The mistress of the estate is the great-granddaughter of a Kerzhak who settled in Solonovka in 1925. Here you can try on Old Believers’ clothes – both modern, sewn according to old patterns, and real, dating to the 18th century – and taste traditional Kerzhak cuisine at dinner. Enjoy a banya, a traditional Russian sauna and bath (optional). Overnight at the estate.
Day 7, Sunday 1 March
: Solonovka village – Lake Svetloye – Barnaul
After breakfast, transfer from Solonovka to the Swan Nature Reserve. Marvel at Lake Svetloye, which translates as “clear lake”, a small reservoir about 1 km long and 1 m deep. On the bottom of the lake are numerous warm springs that are clearly visible through the clear water. The springs prevent the lake from freezing over in winter, even when the air temperature is very low. As a result, the lake is unique – one of only two bodies of water in Russia where wild swans spend the winter. Take some time to watch and photograph the stunning landscape and wildlife. Then transfer to Barnaul (220 km), having lunch at Biysk’s Kalina Krasnaya restaurant on the way. Take a walking tour around Barnaul’s Old Town, including visiting the observation deck in Nagorny Park, Barnaul Arbat, the Mountain Pharmacy Museum, and shops where you can buy souvenirs of Altai. Dinner. Overnight at a hotel.
Day 8, Monday 2 March
: Barnaul – Novosibirsk - Departure
Breakfast. Then transfer to Novosibirsk Airport (235 km, 3.5 h) or fly from Barnaul to another Russian city such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, or Irkutsk.
Eagle’s Nest tourist complex
Forest Fairy Tale tourist complex
Kerzhatsky Chambers Estate
Altai Hotel or Barnaul Hotel
- Transfers on a comfortable bus;
- One-way flight in economy class from Novosibirsk to Gorno-Altaisk (taxes included; luggage allowance of 10+5kg (US$1.50-2.50 per extra kg);
- Accommodation based on 2-3 people sharing a room in tourist complexes and hotels – standard rooms with private shower and toilet;
- Meals (full board – breakfast, lunch, and dinner as per itinerary);
- Sightseeing tour programme with local, English-speaking guide;
- Entrance tickets to sights as per itinerary;
- Bottled mineral water (1.5 litres per person per day;
- Visa invitation letter for Russia (if required).
- Extra meals and drinks;
- Extra excursions (from 500 Rub/person) and optional activities such as banya visits (from 500 Rub/hour);
- Personal expenses;
- Tips are not included, but would be appreciated;
- Hotel charges for additional services;
- International flight tickets before and after the tour.