Side Trips from Trans-Siberian
There are a few destinations in Siberia that do not lie directly on the Trans-Siberian railway, but still attract thousands of foreign visitors annually.
The Altai Mountains being the UNESCO World Heritage Site is located south of Novosibirsk and is adjacent to Sayany mountain range from the west. This can be one of the options to consider for a Trans-Siberian stopover. Altai is a very popular health resort on Russian domestic market and it is also a famous destination for active adventure tourism including white-water rafting, kayaking, trekking, and horseback riding tours. Altai offers visitors gorgeous landscapes of the rocky mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and the turquoise waters of the Katun river. Although the whole region is the part of Siberia, it is well-known for a really mild and warm microclimate. The area has been inhabited since ancient times. There are numerous signs of ancient civilizations found here including petroglyphs (rock engravings), tumulus (mound graves), stone altars, etc. All these sites can now be explored on archeological tours. The Altai Mountains can be accessed from Novosibirsk on the Trans-Siberian or by few local flights to the city of Barnaul.
The Sayan Mountains is located at the southern part of East Siberian. It can be accessed from Irkutsk from the east. This is where a few Irkutsk adventure travel companies run their extreme white-water rafting trips. Krasnoyarsk city is directly to the north from Sayan. The city is a drop off railway station for tours to Khakassiya region and Tuva region (administrative subjects of the Russian Federation). Khakassiya is famous for its ski resorts, Sayano-Shushenskaya hydropower dam being the largest hydro power plant in Russia and the village of Shushenskoye (actually found in Kranoyarsk federal subject) where Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin lived in exile from 1897 to 1900.
Tuva found further south-east at the Sayan Mountains area is very important destination in terms of ethnographical tourism. Local population is Mongolian-descent cattle-breeders who used to practice Shamanism as their main religion for many centuries. This is the vast steppe area surrounded by high mountain peaks. Tuva indigenous people are truly famous for Khoomei throat singing that now can be enjoyed during folk concerts performed by local artists dressed in national costumes. Once should note, however, that both Altai and Sayany are very extensive area standing aside from the main Trans-Siberian line. Any of these side trips will take at least 3 to 5 days with some 1,500-2,000 km of driving partially on unpaved and dirt roads.
Another great place to visit is the Kamchatka Peninsula at the Russian Far East on the Pacific coast. This is the land of active volcanoes and hot geysers. Volcanoes with a light smoke coming out of the top can be seen from many spots even in the city limits. While staying at some city hotel with all the facilities tourists head for day-time off-road vehicle trips to the nearby Avacha and Koryaksky volcanoes. Short-time visitors usually go for a trekking trip to the Camel Mountain (elevation 1,100 km) which is used by sportsmen trekkers for acclimatization purposes before trying Avacho volcano itself. If the weather is nice and clear the efforts are rewarded with the magnificent views of Avacha Bay of the Pacific Ocean.
Mutnovsky volcano found in 85 km from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski provides access to Dachnye hot springs also known as the small Valley of Geysers. One can see geysers and numerous mud pots here. Water-and-steam fountains can really amaze with their beauty and wild strength. More expensive activity is a helicopter trip that brings tourists to the world famous Valley of Geysers. The vast basin has the second largest concentration of geysers in the world with approximately ninety various geysers and hot springs. Kamchatka Peninsula is accessible by air flights from different cities on the Trans-Siberian railway including Moscow, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Khabarovsk or Vladivostok.