Altai, also known as Altay, is a western city of China found within the Xinjiang province. Russia and Mongolia border Altai to the north however it is its many rivers that dissect the land that characterise the city. These rivers have made Altai an important trading port for China while also attracting many visitors to view its beautiful scenery.
Altai means Gold Mountain for there are several gold mines in the area, however it is also symbolic of the beautiful landscapes that can be seen through the autumn season.
Although the Altai region is rather secluded with the Altai Mountains providing a guard to the city, there is plenty for visitors to do. The scenery and culture are the area’s prime assets with the many lakes and traditional towns.
The Fishing Pavilion is the perfect place to start exploring as it provides a panoramic view of the Kanas Lake. Also known as Guangyu TIng, this lookout is found on top of Halakaite Mountain, a good 600m up from the lake which is the best place to view the lake and its beautiful surroundings. Try to visit either in autumn or winter as the landscapes are at their best with either golden fringes or white icy sculptures. There are two ways to reach the Fishing Pavilion; by bus or by foot. You can take the bus to the top of the 600m high mountain or for the more adventurous, you can take you time to enjoy the sight and climb your way up. In the evening a bonfire is usually built beside the lake where you can be a part of the cultural aspect of Altai as locals dance to traditional Kazak folk music. Talk to some of the locals to find out where and when the bonfire will take place.
For more of a cultural intake head to Hemu Town to the north where the Tuwa Ethnic Group live. They are a traditional group who have preserved past ethnic traditions. It is believed that the Tuwa’s are the offspring of those who fought in the Genghis Khan crusade that went through the Hemu Village. The village is characterised by log cabins that are scattered throughout the countryside between thick green forests.
Another place to visit is Demon City also known as Wuerhe Windy City as the wind channels through the landscape of castle-like earth mounds. Because of the arid conditions and wind, the land has erupted forming several earth formations. It can be a very eerie place to visit with the wind howling through the land, but a fascinating place at the same time.
Lastly the Multicoloured Beach of Xinjiang is a must see for those traveling here. The beach is dissected by the Irtysh River creating two separate sides each with distinctive features. From the beach you can see vast green hills, thick trees, and the spectacular water.
Preparing for your trip you should consider the Altai climate with January seeing lows around -15°C while July sees highs of 28°C so bring appropriate clothes to make your trip one to remember.