Altai (Алтай), the aimag capital, is a dusty jumble of concrete and tin set between the mountains of Khasagt Khairkhan Uul (3579m) and Jargalant Uul (3070m). There's nothing too interesting here. It's a market and transport town with more petrol stations than functional hotels, but with one flight a week and bus service to UB it can be considered a transport hub. Most people simply pass through.
The dirt road out of town toward Biger from Altai takes you through a rugged landscape pock-marked with crude, unlicensed gold mines. You'll see families living out of tents, digging through spring-fed creek beds, hunting for gold flakes. In a parched region like this, it's not a happy sight.