The Altai Ring: Lake Teletskoye

The Altai Ring is closed off by the final water section of the route—Lake Teletskoye. The lake is very elongated: it is 77 kilometers long but its average width is only 3 kilometers. The lake’s entire shoreline is very steep and precipitous. This narrow waterway connects the wildest part of Altai, the Chulyshman Valley to the south of the lake, with the villages of Artybash and Iogach in the district in the north that’s rather well developed and popular among tourists. The paved highway begins at Artybash and it connects the village with Gorno-Altaysk. There are no roads along the shores of Lake Teletskoye itself. If you travel on the lake from the south, the entire right shore is a protected environmental zone—the territory of the Altai Nature Reserve—whereas the left shore is wild, like the taiga, and uninhabited.
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Travelers along the Altai Ring will cross the entire Lake Teletskoye from south to north by boat. This route is not only logical as it closes the ring, as mentioned above, but it also gives you the opportunity to see the protected bays, waterfalls, and cliffs. If you travel non-stop on a modern high-speed boat, then you can cross Lake Teletskoye in about two hours, but in our journeys, we plan six hours for this route, taking stops into consideration.
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The southern part is the most sparsely populated. The only people who live here are employees of the Altai Nature Reserve at the Bele, Chelyush, and Kokshi forest ranger stations. Waterfalls cascade off the steep shores of Lake Teletskoye.
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Of all the waterfalls on Lake Teletskoye, Korbu Waterfall receives the most tourists. It is the closest waterfall to Artybash. Besides the villages in the north, the Korbu Waterfall is one of the few places on the lake where you will come across groups of tourists. The only regularly scheduled route on Lake Teletskoye is the Altai Pioneer passenger steamboat. All the private motor boats with tourists also head towards Korbu Waterfall.
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Nearby in the forest, hastily built wooden cabins serve as improvised cafés. Residents of Artybash specially come here during the warm season to provide tourists with a hot lunch. They also offer tea made from Altai herbs and the local gastronomic attraction—bliny (thin pancakes) filled with whipped cream and taiga berries.
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Further on the right shore of the lake is the village of Yaylyu, where only 180 people live year-round; most residents are employees of the Altai Nature Reserve.

Yaylyu is one of those places in Russia where bears are walking in the streets. This occurs during the years when there is a meager harvest of pine cones in the taiga. Then, bears come to the village to feast on apples or ravage the apiary.
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The nature reserve’s status does not permit people to buy land in Yaylyu, so the local residents really value their unique village with its solitude and pristine nature.
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In summer, the easiest way to get to Yaylyu is by boat. There is also a dirt road, but, most of the year, only well-equipped all-wheel drive vehicles can travel on it.
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The village has its own self-sufficient power supply thanks to a diesel station and solar panels

The weather station here is equipped for a reason. Warm, dry winds blow along the corridor of Lake Teletskoye from the Chulyshman Valley to Yaylyu. Severe frosts are rare in the winter, but summers are usually cool here.
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The mild microclimate made it possible to plant vast apple orchards here as early as the first half of the 20th century. The view of the surrounding mountains, Lake Teletskoye, and the blossoming apple trees on the lakeside terraces is an iconic landscape of the Altai Nature Reserve.
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Otherwise, in Yaylyu there is the usual village life that’s typical of the Siberian backwoods. Besides their main work at the nature reserve, the locals have a lot of chores at home. These include cultivating the garden and repairing the greenhouses, stocking up on hay for livestock, which they keep for their own needs, and getting firewood and numerous home-made preserves ready for the winter.
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From the village of Yaylyu, my route continued further north to the Baigazan forest ranger station. The forest ranger stations on Lake Teletskoye are like hermits’ shelters, an autonomous and self-sufficient world where only a few people or a married couple live. Like in Yaylyu, the main work of the people living at the forest ranger stations is connected with the Altai Nature Reserve. They make scientific observations, go on raids in the taiga to inspect the terrain, and, in their spare time, they take care of their household to ensure themselves a fresh supply of products all year round.
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I am met by Miroslava and Vyacheslav Sakhnevich, inspectors at the Baigazan forest ranger station, which is considered to be the coziest and most well-maintained station in the nature reserve.
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The family has been living at Baigazan station for more than 25 years. Both inspectors are dendrologists and they have devoted their whole lives to forest conservation. They have been enjoying the breathtaking view of Lake Teletskoye for over 25 years.
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Over the years, Miroslava and Vyacheslav have equipped their forest ranger station with all the essentials. There is a bathhouse on the shore that even has a washing machine inside it.
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The toilet is outside—but just look at how Miroslava and Vyacheslav have decorated it!

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Their vegetable garden and greenhouses really helped them out during the economic crisis of the 1990s

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A small poultry yard

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Calves are grazing under 100-year-old cedars.

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Calves are protected from bears by an electric fence, which protects the entire territory of the forest ranger station

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This year, the pine cone harvest was excellent, so the bears won’t bother the station very often

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Miroslava conducts excursions along an ecological trail from the forest ranger station to the taiga

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Near the forest ranger station is a small cottage for guests with its own banya

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Wood carvings, one of Miroslava’s hobbies, are in the banya

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That evening, a rainbow appeared over Lake Teletskoye

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Vyacheslav bends his head over a book

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In the morning, Miroslava takes me to Artybash by motor boat

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We stop in a picturesque bay along the way. I climbed up on the shore to take some photos, and I was surprised to notice Miroslava, who has been able to see Lake Teletskoye from her own window for a quarter of a century, silently admiring the landscape.
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Miroslava dropped me off right at the hotel where I was staying in Artybash

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We said goodbye and I promised to return to their guest house

Thus, the tour of Lake Teletskoye ends at the village of Artybash. After the wild Chulyshman Valley, it feels strange to be among people. After a long journey around the Altai Ring, I once again return to the usual touristic Altai.

Out of the dozens of guest houses and several major hotels, this one is worth emphasizing, even if only for its lakeside location a little way off from the village. The hotel consists of several wooden towers with magnificent views of Lake Teletskoye.
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In the past, Artybash and Iogach were logging settlements

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A local entrepreneur who owns a bakery and a guest house restored the old Altai Pioneer steamboat, which now runs on a regular schedule for tourists.
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The trip from Artybash to Gorno-Altaysk is 160 kilometers. The first kilometers of the route are along the shores of the Biya River, which flows out of Lake Teletskoye. The confluence of the Biya River and the Katun River forms the start of the Ob’ River, the largest river in Siberia. I end my journey around the Golden Ring of Altai at the shore of the Katun River near Gorno-Altaysk Airport.
Related trips
The Altai Ring
The Altai Ring
  • 8 days
  • 1700 €
  • from May to September
  • Altai

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