This chapter is special. We collect tourists' opinions of Altai, sorting out by categories. Live emotions, stories about difficulties and some pieces of advice. True experience from those who have already been in Altai.
Preface. A piece of a big project about Altai
Experiencing 'the gate' in Verkh-Uymon. We're of the opinion that everything in a tour should be tried, not only shown.
In 2017 our company initiated changing of its specialization. We moved from 'usual' tours to the project that would give the full travel experience of Altai. We moved to the best Altai adventure and further in Russia and in the world.
But what should we start with to arrange such a complicated project? With preparation and research,with analyzing of the best experiences and competitors, with communication with travellers and our clients, with our own vision of the best product. Today I will give you the essence from our clients' experience that might be helpful to you. Within a year we polled thousands of people, analyzed more than 500 reviews, left out the less important things concerning 'Equesto' and its tours and got 40 pages of small opinions and reviews. Categories vary - places, emotions, hotels, roads, first experience, advice and so on.
Someday we will publish them all. But today I post the ones which might be essential for the first time travellers.
Category 'Pieces of advice'
The Chulyshman's valley deserves a separate category
- Advice on footwear. In summer it is better to take rubber boots instead of boots. They are more comfortable, especially in wet areas.
- A piece of advice for beginners, just as I am. When the horse turns to trotting (and you don't mind), you should try to stay above the saddle. You need to adjust the length of the stirrups the way you might stand above the saddle without touching it during trotting. From the other hand, riding down the hill it is better to lengthen the stirrups to reduce the load on your knees, to ride through wet grass; and they won't get wet if it rains.
- Check the weather forecast for the period of the tour in advance: not for precise temperature, just to be aware of. Day 2 and day 4 were a bit snowy - it added some colors to the colorful view of Altai.
- I'd like to note especially the Teletskoye Lake. It reminded me of the Norwegian fjords - the amazing beauty. I advise everyone to visit that place.
- A piece of advice for those loving to have snack in the open air. Find out in advance what products you have in your horse bags and put them closer. A light snack during a halt before and after forcing difficult passes is very good to restore the energy. There are mountain rivers and lakes here and there during the route, so it is reasonable to have a bottle for water.
- I advise everyone to see the Winter Altai! I think it is better than in summer.
- I should say, that mead is no comparison with the one we bought at the market - I recommend to all fans to buy more - to wine and dine your friends and relatives after the tour!)))
- I recommend every tourist to take some warm clothes. Everything that travel agency told me to take, came in handy. And, of course, don't forget rubber boots - there is nothing to do without them during a hike in Altai.
Category 'About the locals'
This place gets diametrically opposite reviews - from 'they're all insane... kind of sectarians' till 'wow, ethnography!'
- First impression, of course, is the people: real, heartful and sincere. I can't point out the exact fellows, just like that - the People of Altai! Golden ones)
- We ran across some people on our way, had a chat a bit... These were small things, but the people left the warmest memories.
- Altaians are very pleasant people - friendly and communicable. They love the area they live at very much. They talk about it with love. We met a lot of native Altaians (aside from guides and drivers), they all charged us with the positive energy!
- Most of all we got pleasantly surprised with people's kindness, inner freedom and virtue.
- What else amazed us was the endurance of the people living at Kosh-Agach district - there is no soil layer!
- People are loving their area and so devoted to it.
- As for the tasty food and interesting people, it is so hard to surprise me, I traveled a lot. Food is eatable, people are friendly :)
- People amazed me in Altai: frank, free, smart, love their area a lot.
- People we communicated with left the warmest memories.
- There are a lot of interesting and positive people: I'm not quite sure what I liked more - nature or people! Those were not the people able to leave the piles of garbage after themselves.
- Unobtrusiveness and politeness of the taxi drivers amazed us a lot. 'You don't need a ride? - That's OK'. Similar impression was extrapolated on all the habitants of Altai - natural, silent and friendly people.
Category 'First time'
In Altai many tourists do many things for the first time. For an urban an ordinary thing for us might seem strange. But if we say about milking a goat or swimming across the river - that might be 'first times' not only for the urban.
- It's our first time in Altai. To be frank, we didn't expect anything special. But within just seven days we observed amazing beauty of Altai - rivers (especially, the 'Biryuzovaya Katun'), mountains, steppes; we learnt so many interesting things and met the great people!
- My first time in Altai. To say it was just fine means to say nothing. Altai is a magical fairy tale in which every bend opens up a new landscape. Changing of natural zones amazes - woods, mountains and steppes.
- First time in Altai. There are no porters in the hotels, so our guide was carrying our bags to the rooms. Also, he amazed us with delicious breakfasts. The excursion program is complete. We got a lot of sayings and proverbs to take to our homeland - Karelia.
- It was our first time in Altai. We are completely excited! But we have some claims to say. The main one - too much of so tasty food - we gained the weight.
- I was in Altai for the first time. Marina was my guide and driver through that land. I want to thank her very much for taking care about my comfort, for the full and wide information about the route, for punctuality and the sense of humor, for helping me to choose souvenirs and for taking photos of the significant moments.
- Me and my friend (we are from Moscow) came to that distant mountainous area for the first time. We would like to thank you for organizing a tour for us - from the first till the last day. We could hardly describe that excitement!
- The fog is so beautifully covering the slopes of the mountains. It was the first time I saw white snowed peaks in the distance. There are woods and meadows at the foot of the mountains where the horses, cows and sheep are grazing, without a shepherd. They ramble on the roads wherever they want. They are the hosts there.
- It was the first time when were supposed to take off our shoes in the entrance of the hotel and speak in a whisper.
- For the first time I found myself in such a big apiary at 'Biryuzovaya Katun' and tried beekeeper's protection net on. That was funny! That is really huge space for bees to play. The most of the herbs and flowers of the wonderful Altai meadows turned out the same as at our Moscow region.
- For the first time I saw striped red and orange mountains of Altaic Mars. That was really superb! It's a breathtaking excitement! Some of them resemble huge lion's paws. It is unreal beauty!
- That was my first experience of such a format of having meals for tourists: the tour includes 3-time meals; when a group is taken to a cafe, tourists may pick what they want and their guide pays the check.
- It was a shock for us, the urbans, when we were suggested to drink the water straight from a spring (unboiled, unchlorinated). Then we were looking forward to make another stop to replenish our stocks for the further route.
- It was the first time I had borscht for breakfast.
- I must say that was the first time I was sitting on a horse back. The horse is being picked for exact person, and on the second day it becomes as a dear friend.
- For the first time I tried my hand at horse riding, rafting and ATV riding.
- That was my first experience of such travelling. Don't be afraid that you have never ridden a horse - they are nice.
- It was the first time I came to Mountain Altai. I was amazed by the beauty of that place and kindness of the local people.
- I first tried mountain skiing in January, 2014. In January, 2015, I could easily ski down the blue track at Sheregesh. It was not included in the program of the tour - I just had an opportunity to go there by myself. The instructors are great, certified, they practiced Austrian methods; they coddled with us like with the kids.
Category 'Lonely traveler'
During the low season 'one person tours' occur more often
- Unfortunately, I came alone, and my lonely company was my driver Alexander. I'd like to thank him very much, he tried his best.
- It was a memorable great view of the Katun from the balcony. I remember nourishing breakfasts and suppers from the family from Donbass, serving the guest-house I stayed at. I should notice nicely prepared slope at Manzherok, the vast of the Teletskoye Lake, the private zoo nearby and the docile horse, called Belogubka at Edigan village. The Patmos island is just terrific.
- I've been to Altai twice - in 2015 and in 2016 within mountain skiing tour. For the first time we had a great company: three loner congenial girls and the great instructor Sergey Timoshensky that we all fell in love with! It seemed, your fresh air dizzied our heads))) Seven days passed as one moment! We skied well, we had great meals and pleasant evenings. Moreover, Sergey took us to some interesting places and took a lot of photos :) For the second time I was alone, without company... No one joined the tour - that was not so funny, sometimes - even boring. I understand it was not the fault of the tour operator. But I skied enough - that was my purpose.
- I didn't know where I were flying to. Considering the fact that I was alone, I must tell this tour - is really good for lonely people. A group of like-minded people is forming! Our plane is just landing and the telephone is ringing - 'we are meeting you!' Tour operator cared of us so much that we had an impression that we came as guests to our close relatives.
- For the reason that I was alone in the tour I got an 'individual' tour for relatively small sum of money.
- I had a special case! I got interested in the tour and reserved a place at the end of February. There were 16 places available. But no one else but me joined the tour (9-15 of July - usually, it is a rain season in Altai). But the tour company promised the tour would be held with any number of participants. So I made a 3000 km train trip to Novosibirsk, then - 8 hour trip on a bus to Gorno-Altaysk. The company kept their promise, and I actually got on a VIP-tour.
Category 'Unpredictability of the weather'
Once in June. That is 1800 m height)
- The weather is unpredictable - one day it burns as in Africa, the other day it wets you through.
- The weather is changing: burning sun, chilly rain, dusty snow.
- We experienced different weather conditions - heat, heavy rain and even hail. But that is good anyway - we got the full travel experience during our hike)))
- The weather was different: from +10 with rain and hail at the Seminsky pass, till +24 and sun at the Chike-Taman Pass. We even got burnt a bit under the sun, so the sunblock cream came in handy.
- It rained heavily while we were crossing the hanging bridge and later on. That was literally a shower - it enlivened that very moment a lot.
- The most unforgettable impression was the hail on the pass. The hailstones were about 1 cm in diameter. It all lasted not so long but caused very strong emotions.
Category 'About difficulties'
Altai always demands some overcoming. Well, it is what it is)
- Many things were memorable, but most of all, some extreme situations: for example, the moment when our car was pulled down to the ditch; or the car got broken and we had to catch a ride to reach to closest village. My tour was held in autumn, during the low season, and I noticed the atmosphere of the silent mountainous Altai: you could drive for a half an hour or longer and there wouldn't be an occasional car or a person. I'm typing these lines and feeling a bit sad about that journey; I will surely come back here someday. )
- It was great that you didn't mention in your website all the surprises expecting us on the the tour - so we got a great deal more drive. I am so proud of myself - I overcame all the difficulties and and saw indescribable beauty.
- Refreshing spring water, where you can put your tired legs, gives the best feeling in the world!
- Our way back... Our car was broken a bit, and we were lucky to meet a local. The thing that might easily be annoyance, turn out one of the brightest and the most positive impressions! (no sarcasm) :-)
- It rained heavily while we were crossing the hanging bridge and later on. That was literally a shower - it enlivened that very moment a lot.
- One of the difficulties: in every the hotels we were staying on the second floor. Steep staircases were troubling not so young women with bags a lot.
- First half of the year I've been remembering our hike, because my legs ached after sleeping. It seems, I was not accustomed to such a load. It all was the brightest impression since it began in Gorno-Altaysk.
- All the difficulties we faced are gone now. Yes, we are a kind of people who understand where they go and why.
- You know, I was afraid that staying in a tent for a night or washing up in creeks would be hard. Just the other way round - it inspired me and made me a bit happier.
- It was the fear I felt on the first day of our journey: it was raining heavily, it was twilight, we were in the middle of taiga; trees were falling down in front our horses, there was no road and we were supposed to ride down the hill. It wasn't just fear - rather horror of the situation... And, at the same time... delight about our guide's bravery and behavior. Such a small man contains so much believe in horses and in himself. He was like an ANGEL ruling the weather and he restrained it.
- It had been rainy and cold for the first three days. I couldn't perceive the beauty of Altai. I got really sad and despair, I felt like 'What am I doing here? I wanna go home'. But then it got better. Now I remember unbelievable views of the mountain Altai - just like from the Rerikh's paintings. I won't ever forget the last steep ascent: it was so hard for me that I felt I won't be able to reach the final point of our journey. I could no longer stay in the saddle. I cursed myself like 'if I ever again sit in the saddle...' Being back to our camp and warmed with a cup of Altai herbal tea, I got totally recovered and I was ready to sit in the the saddle and continue the journey to another amazing places of Altai. I remember our guides - cool guys, soulful and professional. Thanks for organizing the excellent tour. I hope to come to Altai again.
- It was hard sometimes, such a long distance... I would rather walk more and spend more time in the open air.
- I got frozen, I got wet, I got burnt, I got tired, I got scared, but... I can't remember better leisure!
- During the whole hike the weather was different - hot, rainy, even with hail. But that is great anyway - we experienced everything)))
- On the next pass we overtook the second group. Katya began to admire the views and I first wanted to shout it was nothing to me. But the politeness got the upper hand and I agreed to raise my eyes from my feet and from the ground - for the first time during those days. And... yeah! That's what we do it for: the Oroy Pass reveals its beauty to us: a huge plain, surrounded by the ridges with snow peaks, was covered with green of the grass and blue of the sky. There were horses grazing.. Everything that we were observing is indescribable, at least, with my vocabulary. It was a turning point in the whole journey for me! All I needed to do was to raise my head, or make myself to do it - just like Katya from the second group said, thank her very much!!! I don't mean it all got much easier, it's not an easy route, especially for beginners. We faced many obstacles and difficulties, but then that we could look around to see the power of nature and realize that you are its small part full of energy and having a purpose - overcoming difficulties turns into pleasure! We did it all and we wanted more! There is no point in telling how amazing and unforgettable beauty of the Shavla Lakes - I can't report it in just few sentences... I can just say that Altai used to be a dreamland for my husband, now it is my dreamland too! If you have never been to Altai, I can say - pack your bags and set off! We shall come there again. Our son Ivan still doesn't know what kind of dream it is - Altai!
- The day at the Karakol Lakes seemed a bit difficult to me - we had to go on foot 8 km to one direction - UP, through the roots and stones)) then DOWN!) And it all was after walking on EMBERS!) Anyway it was great!!)
- All those narrow paths on the steep slopes, views from each single bend and ascent are breathtaking. It seems you change inside. It is not an easy way to go - physically hard, scary sometimes, but the efforts are worth it!
There are 40 pages of such remarks of any category. I would hardly dare to publish some of them - they are written so 'sweet'. So that's enough for today. I am not sure if that 'wall of no_name reviews' was interesting to you, or if you read it till that point).
Behind any of such review, there is a real person - we saved their writing styles.
But what is remarkable here - the most of those reviews were written by the tourists in some years after the tour (5 years and more).
We asked them: 'What do you feel about your tour after so much time passed?' We got so much feedback that it took me 4 months to sort it all out. The most frequent answer was - 'I want to come back again someday'. And that is surprising - Altai is a distant area, it is so expensive to get to; moreover, there are so many places in the world to go. Anyway, it was strange for me).
Eventually, we will post all the categories in our blog. Usually, people going to Altai for the first time, are more interested in reviews and opinions from other tourists, than in descriptions on the sites.
Equesto CEO (FB)
Chapter 1. Why Altai and what's its zest?
Chapter 2. Best time of the year to go to Altai
Chapter 3. Best solutions how to get to Altai
Chapter 4. Taking off our rose-colored glasses: antidote against 'all-is-good' ads
Chapter 5. Activity in Altai
Chapter 6. Touristic bases, hotels and campsites of Altai
Chapter 7. Hikes with tents
Chapter 8. The ancient Altai and history
Chapter 9. Important questions got answered
Chapter 10. Prices in Altai
Chapter 11. Altaian tour selection guide
Chapter 12. Goods of Altai
Chapter 13. What do people say after visiting Altai?
Chapter 14. The examples of independent travels in Altai
Chapter 15. Organizing a tour
Chapter 16. Bike tours in Altai