Where to Go at Altay Mountains: Gorno-Altaysk
Administrative center and the only city of Altay republic (about 50,000 inhabitants, telephone code: 38822). A dull and boring town, its only attraction is a great souvenir shop. If you have to stay overnight somewhere, it's better to choose a tour base a few kilometers away along Chuysky Trakt on Katun river.
Note: Many people consider starting their journey to Altay at Gorno-Altaysk, as it is the closest town to Altay mountains, however, unless you are traveling on your own with local buses (which is highly uncomfortable), we recommend you to start your journey in Barnaul. It is located about 250 km from Novosibirsk and is itself a great city. Many Altay tour operators are based there, besides, it's easy to offer a guide with a transport from Barnaul.
What is Gorno-Altaysk. Maybe a 100 years ago it used to be a nice authentic Altay village on the shore of Katun river, with beautiful mountain views. However, the communists came and started to build their Soviet-style
Gorno-Altaysk: Looks not so bad on the photo, so maybe I shouldn't have been so blunt about it...
architecture and made this place impossible to enjoy. Nowadays, you can only feel pity for inhabitants that they have such a horrible place to live in: concrete blocks, asphalted roads, dusty air... However, you will have to pass Gorno-Altaysk on your way to Altay. Also, there are post office and international call service, 24-hour ATM, currency exchange offices, a good souvenir shop, and one hotel. So, maybe, after all it's not too bad to spend a few hours there.
The main street of the city is Kommunistichesky Prospekt, and in the middle the bus station is located (you can also buy railway tickets there and outside there's an airline ticket sales office). In the area around the bus station there are many shops (one of them is opened 24 hours) and a taxi stop. Just a few steps away from the bus station along the left side of Prospekt, on the same side as the bus stop, there's post office and international phone call service.
Post Office. International phone is opened 24 hours, with 1-hour breakst at 7.45, 13.45, 19.45.
Address: Kommunistichesky Prospekt, #61.
Pharmacy. Located just opposite of the post office.
Taxi. Choros-Gurkina st., #52 (behind the bus terminal). Telephone (38822) 4-22-22.
There's a very good souvenir shop in Gorno-Altaysklocated on the corner of Choros-Gurkina and Kirova street. They sell all kinds of traditional crafts: musical instruments, apparel, carpets. There's also a selection of traditional Altay music and photoalbums.
Hotel "Gorny Altay" is the main hotel of the city ("we are monopolists" - they told me on the reception) is located in front of the monument to Lenin, which is 1 stop by public transport from the main bus terminal on the right-hand side of Prospekt.
The rooms are quite ok for one night, decor made in Soviet style (or should I say it was not renovated?) and cost $15 per per night for a double.
There's also a popular cafe outside, which looks better than other eateries in town.
Next to the hotel, on Churos-Gurkina st., there's a currency exchange office.
Address: Erkemena Palkina st., 5 (in front of Lenin's monument). Telephones: (38822) 95-085, 95-086.
ATMs by Sberbank (Sberbank telephone in G-A: (38822) 4-26-87)
ATM in Gorno-Altaysk: Choros-Gurkina St., #13 (24 hours)
ATM in Maima (on Chuysky Trakt): Lenina, #11 (24 hours)
Kodak Photo Center. Film developing, printing, accessories.
Address: Choros-Gurkina St., #17. Telephone: (38822) 2-12-91
How to Get There. There's no train link with Gorno-Altaysk, so the only way to get there is either with a car or with a bus. Buses depart Novosibirsk,
People selling nuts at Gorno-Altaysk
Barnaul, and Biysk daily, the trip from Novosibirsk takes about 9 hours, from Barnaul - 5 hours, from Biysk - about 2 hours.
The city is located 100 km from Biysk (along Chuysky Trakt) and 270 km from Barnaul.
If you're thinking about getting to Gorno-Altaysk to start your journey at Altay it's a big mistake: you will only find overloaded buses and taxists that charge unbelievable amounts of money there. Instead, start a trip to Altay from Barnaul.
The only reason to go to Gorno-Altaysk is for practicall stuff like money, post, telephone, and souvenirs.