At the attractive junction of the Chemal and Katun Rivers, ever-expanding Chemal is heavily touristed in summer but remains a good base for regional explorations and makes a very pleasant day trip from Gorno-Altaisk, 95km further north.
Chemal bus station (
Ul Beshpekskaya becomes Sovetskaya ul and, after 700m, dead-ends at a pedestrian suspension footbridge. This dizzyingly wobbly construction leads across a small canyon to a craggy island in the Katun River on which is perched the tiny wooden Ioanno Bogoslavski Chapel (
A narrow but well-trodden footpath winds high along the Katun riverbank into the Varota Sartikpayev Canyon, an important place within Altai mythology. Despite power lines and summer crowds, views remain very pretty. After walking for about 15 minutes you emerge behind a small 1935 dam (GES in Russian, an acronym for hydroelectric scheme) backed by souvenir stalls. Here you can make 15m bungee jumps (pryzhki ve vodu; per jump R90;
El ekmonar, 5km north of Chemal, is the starting point for multiday hikes or horse rides to the seven attractive Karakol Lakes amid picturesque bald mountaintops. The lakes are approximately 30km beyond Elek- monar - start up ul Sadovaya. A sturdy 4WD could get you most of the way.