A Photographer's Guide to the Altai Mountains

Lake Kuiguk| Courtesy of Cesur Kuchuk
Lake Kuiguk| Courtesy of Cesur Kuchuk
If you’ve already been to Moscow and St Petersburg, it’s high time to explore the other side of Russia. With its snow-capped mountain peaks, azure lakes and winding rivers, Altai is a place all nature lovers should visit at least once in their lifetime. With this guide by the professional photographer Cesur Kuchuk, your Altai photos are sure to generate extra Instagram envy.

Altai is a broader term that usually comprises the Altai Republic and Altai Krai, which encompasses the mountains and the national park. If you have enough time, be sure to see these incredibly photogenic places in Altai.

Lake Kuiguk

This fascinating lake, nestled between mountain peaks, will haunt you with its ethereal beauty. It’ll take you a while to get there, but the mind-blowing views are definitely worth it. Actually, there isn’t just one, but several lakes that go by the name Kiuguk.

The main lake is a piercing blue color, while a smaller lake nearby has somewhat of a softer hue. For the most alluring mountain lake reflections, come here at sunset. There’s also a visually stunning waterfall, where you can take great photographs.

Kurayskaya Steppe

Should you choose to visit this trademark Altai location, brace yourself – the views might just sweep you off your feet. If you’re looking to take truly spectacular images, visit Kurayskaya Steppe in the fall; snow-capped mountains overlook the tapestry of red, yellow and green foliage.

Usually the best shots from Kurayskaya Steppe are the ones made during sunset, when trees have softer hues and winding rivers turn bright blue. There are plenty of great angles there, but for more atmospheric photos, you may want to add a person in them. Just be sure to dress for the occasion: yellow, orange and dark-green colours match fall foliage perfectly.

Chuya Highway

Stretching for almost 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), Chuya Highway runs through the entire Altai. You’ll need a couple of days to make the most of it; there are so many photogenic spots, you’ll probably stop every 10 minutes to snap a photo. Chuya Highway is particularly spectacular in the fall: hills and valleys seem to be painted in every shade of red, green and yellow. Of course, the seemingly endless highway is an attraction in its own right.


Unlike the places we’ve already mentioned, which are situated in the Altai Republic, this one is located in Altai Krai. Belokurikha is a perfect spot to experience winter in Siberia. Consider travelling here late in November. By this time, spectacular pine forests are already covered in snow, and the temperatures are still bearable.

For great shots, drive around the Belokurikha resort, and you’ll be fascinated by the sheer amount of snow and otherworldly trees, entirely covered in ice. If you have a drone, give it a go. You may be able to capture a photo above the winding blue river that has carved its way through the snow powdered forest. Talk about upping your Instagram game.

Beside being an ultimate bucket-list destination, Altai is a sheer photographer’s goldmine. Visitors can truly experience the diversity of Russia’s nature in just one area. There are snowy cloud-piercing mountains, sky-blue lakes enclosed by picturesque cliffs, stunning waterfalls and lush forests – all that beauty is here, in Altai, waiting to be captured with a camera.