One of Siberia’s oldest cities, Tomsk was founded in 1604 and was a major trade outpost before the founding of Novosibirsk (then Novo-Nikolaevsk) and the subsequent relocation of the trans-Siberian railway line. It’s a university city where around one in every five residents is a student – hence the youthful, intellectual atmosphere.
Once crusty and impersonal, Russia's third largest city has embraced its status as capital of Siberia and opened its doors to the world. A slew of quirky museums and monuments, a relaxed big-city vibe, a pulsating nightlife and a wealth of great accommodation at both the high and low ends make Novosibirsk a logical and worthwhile Trans-Siberian pitstop.
The capital of the Altai Territory, Barnaul is a fairly prosperous industrial city and has been so almost since its foundation in 1730 as Ust-Barnaulskaya. It offers just enough cafes and museums to keep you amused between transport connections. The main drag is pr Lenina, which runs 8km northwest from the river station.
Once Siberia’s capital, Tobolsk is one of the region’s most historic cities, sporting a magnificent kremlin and a charmingly decrepit old town. Tobolsk is off the Trans-Siberian main line but is easily reached from Tyumen. The centre of the Russian colonisation of Siberia, Tobolsk was founded in 1587.
Isolated and tiny Sheregesh is a mining village that has become the focus of a booming snowboarding and skiing scene in recent years. Those who make it here are rewarded with some of the most prolific snowfall in Russia, uncrowded slopes and a raucous aprés ski scene that would put many European resorts to shame.
Lake Teletskoe & Artybash
Deep, delightful Lake Teletskoe is Altai’s serene answer to Lake Baikal, a great place simply to relax and catch your breath. It’s also Altai’s largest lake. Ridge after forested ridge unfolds as you scuttle along on one of the myriad little pleasure boats that buzz out of Artybash village, the lake’s charming tourist hub.
The riverside lodges in and around peaceful Manzherok, 20km south of Aya, are an outdoorsy alternative to staying in Gorno-Altaisk. Manzherok also has a burgeoning ski scene on Mt Sinyukha near Lake Manzherok in the nearby village of Ozernoe (Озерное). One lift operates year-round (adult/student R125/350). The ride up the mountain covers almost 2.5km and takes 25 minutes.