The Altai Mountains cross the borders of Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, and China. The southwestern part of the mountain range is located in Kazakhstan and is called the Kazakh Altai. This is a breathtakingly beautiful place with numerous rivers, lakes, dense forests and, of course, amazing mountain peaks.
Kazakh Altai stretches across two regions: East Kazakhstan Region and the recently established Abai Region. The largest cities are Ust-Kamenogorsk and Semey (Semipalatinsk). Both regions border China in the east and Russia in the northeast.
Why is Kazakh Altai worth visiting?
The peaks of the Altai Mountains are covered with snow almost all year round. Only for a few weeks they throw off the blanket of snow, and melt waters flow down giving life to dense forests. 40% of Kazakhstan's water reserves are concentrated in this region. The largest river is the Irtysh, and the largest lakes are Zaisan, Markakol, and the Bukhtarma Reservoir. Altai is also home to one of the tallest waterfalls in Kazakhstan – Kokkol Waterfall.
The highest point of the Altai Mountains is Mount Belukha (4506 m or 14783 ft) which stands on the border of Kazakhstan and Russia. Spiritual seekers believe this amazing two-headed mountain to have sacred power. According to the Old Believer* legends, Altai shelters the entrance to the blessed country of Belovodiye, where justice and harmony reign. Other people believe that Shambhala, a mythical country mentioned in Buddhist manuscripts, is located there. The region has long attracted yogis, New Age devotees, and shamanic practitioners.
The Kazakh Altai occupies almost a tenth of the territory of our country. This is an amazingly scenic region where you can see several natural zones: steppe, deciduous and coniferous forests, subalpine meadows, and mountains. The unique nature of Altai is protected by the state with the Katon-Karagai National Park having been created here. In addition, there are the Markakol and the West Altai Nature Reserves.
East Kazakhstan is famous for its pantotherapy centers. Pantotherapy uses young deer antlers for medicinal purposes and is believed to boost the immune system, slow down the aging process, and accelerate metabolism. No deer are harmed or endangered during antler harvesting.
*Old Believers or Russian Starovers are a group of religious dissenters who refused to accept the reforms imposed upon the Russian Orthodox Church by the patriarch of Moscow Nikon. Many of them willingly went into exile and moved to Siberia.
updated: 16 january 2023