Southern Siberia is home to the Altai mountain range, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Due to the widely varying elevations of the mountainous area, it contains every kind of climate zone present in Siberia, from steppes to alpine vegetation. The region is also home to the rare snow leopard, an endangered species.
The Altai region is perfect for trekking and provides beautiful views of lakes, mountains, forests and rivers. In the summer months, from June through to August, the temperatures are moderate and the landscape transforms itself from winter's snowy wastes into lush green vistas dotted with wild flowers. While it's possible to climb some of the mountains, none are very high or very steep, so trekking is suitable for most levels of fitness. As well as viewing the abundant natural beauty, villages featuring traditional wooden houses with beautifully carved decorations are also plentiful. The region is home to a variety of ethnic groups, each with their own style of dress, traditions, beliefs and food, and cultural visits can easily be included in a trekking holiday to Altai.
Getting to Altai can be a hair-raising experience, involving a local flight from Moscow or another large city to Barnaul, the capital of the Altai region. Barnaul is a pretty and pedestrian-friendly town worth a few days' stay. From Barnaul, a few hours on a bus gets you into the heart of the Altai region. While it's possible to go to the area and explore on your own, language restrictions and the remoteness of the region means that it's wiser to book a trekking tour through a Russian tour provider in one of the bigger cities.