The federal highway R-256 “Chuysky Trakt”, also known as the “Chuya Highway”, connects the cities of Novosibirsk, Barnaul, Gorno-Altaisk, and the Russian-Mongolian border. The road is the main transport artery in the Altai region.
The views from the road are breathtaking: snowy peaks, vast rivers, and curved slopes, in short, an immaculate and grandiose nature.
Where is Chuysky Trakt located?
The road is a section of Asia’s highway network, the AH4, which connects the cities of Novosibirsk and Bisk (in Russia), Iarantai (in Mongolia), Urumqi (in China), Islamabad, and Karachi (in Pakistan), and is recognized as one of the most beautiful roads in the world by the National Geographic.
The road is located in the Altai region of Siberian Russian near the border of Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia.
You can situate the road on the map below:
Enlarge the map
Facts about the Chuya Highway
This is a paved road that links Novosibirsk to Mongolia.
Until December 31, 2017, it could still be called by its old designation: the Magistral Route 52, or M52. The M52 is 963 kilometers long and passes through three subjects of the Russian Federation that are, from west to east: the Novosibirsk Oblast, the Altai Krai, and the Altai Republic.
Historically, the “Chuya Road” or “Chuysky Tract” is the section that connects the city of Birsk in the Altai Krai to the Russian-Mongolian border for about 630 kilometers (391 miles).
The relief alternates between plains, steppes, and mountains. From Novosibirsk to Bysk, it runs along the right bank of the Ob River on flat terrain. Then it joins the steppe part of Altai before climbing Mount Babyrgan, at 1008 meters (3307 ft), and joining the Republic of Altai. There it crosses several passes and the two basins of Kurai and Chui steppes. There is no tunnel on the road. It crosses the passes of Shema at 1717 meters (5633 ft), and Chike-Taman at 1295 meters (4248 ft).
History of the road:
The road is closely connected with the history of the Altai region, as it is the main and most vital road in the region. As early as 3000 BC it was used by caravans from all over Asia. In the direction of Novosibirsk and the wider European Russia, they carried goods, and in the other direction honey and furs.
The road really appeared in 1756, when the Altai became part of the Russian Empire. In 1788, the first Russian merchants arrived in the region, and the first settlements were established in 1864 in the area of the Chui River.
Trade began to develop, but no physical road was present at that time. The Chuya River trade route was a dangerous, steep mountain road that only merchants and traders could cross on horseback. In the middle of the 19th century, an idea was born to build a road in the Chui valley. However, the projects could not be implemented due to a lack of money. In 1890, a semblance of a flat road appeared, but it was impossible with this infrastructure to use it in winter as well as in spring.
In 1901, the construction of a real road began, but unfortunately, it was not completed.
The construction of the road was resumed in the 1930s with the help of camp prisoners and local laborers. The road acquired a modern form in 1935. Thousands of human lives were lost during the construction of the road. On January 1, 1935, the section from Birsk to Tashanta (near the Mongolian border) was put into operation. In 1984, the Chike-Taman Pass was opened to traffic.
In 2007, the road was paved to the border with Mongolia.
Things to do nearby the Chuysky Trakt:
Lake Teletskoye is a real pearl among the numerous lakes of Altai. There is everything here: steep cliffs, steep mountain slopes, pebble and sandy beaches, picturesque and quiet bays. It is the largest mountain reservoir in southern Siberia and the second largest freshwater reservoir in Russia after Lake Baikal.
In the heart of the Altai, you will find a small thermal lake. This small geyser lake has become world-famous for the incredible turquoise color of the water and its brilliant blue background. The dark hues of the surrounding taiga make it shine in a surreal way. At the bottom of a mountain reservoir, the hot springs constantly change the image of the brilliant blue background.
The Oukok plateau is a protected natural area, a place of concentration of Kurgan burials of different chronological periods. For the Altaians, this plateau represents a sacred place, which they trust in the bodies of the dead. In many mounds, cooled by permafrost, were found well-preserved items of great historical value. It was here that a world-famous scientific discovery was made: the mummy of the “Princess of Altai”.
These are just a few examples of places to visit in the area. However, just following the road is already great!
How to get to the Chuysky Trakt ?
The most comfortable way to see the Chuisky Tract is by car. If you are not from Siberia and are not ready to travel thousands of kilometers in your own car, as brave Mongol Rally participants do, the best option is to fly and rent a car. The nearest airports are :
Gorno-Altaisk, from where you will immediately get to the most interesting part of the route.
In Barnaul, where you’ll be 150 kilometers (95 miles) away from the start of significant sights.
In Novosibirsk, where the way will be 350 kilometers (215 miles).
You visualize how to get there on this map of the drive:
Is the Chuysky Trakt road Open?
The route crosses large areas with a continental climate. The average temperature can vary from -15 °C (5 °F) in January to 18 °C (65 °F) in July. However, in the mountainous areas, the temperature fluctuations are more marked, ranging from -30 °C (-22 °F) to 40 °C (104 °F). It is therefore common for the road to be closed when the weather conditions do not allow it to be used.
It is also wise to pay attention to your equipment. Do not wait until you have an empty tank before filling up! Indeed, there are not many gas stations on the route
A preview of this legendary road:
Also, you can explore this road without going there. Here is a YouTube video that shows this road:
If you are looking for an unusual road trip, it can be definitely a great idea to drive the Chuysky Trakt Road. This road will offer you amazing landscapes. Indeed, National Geographic named it one of the most beautiful roads in the world for a reason! You will surely enjoy the landscapes and the drive!
Pictures sources: By Taksla – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59417193 / VaNadisone wikimedia / By Теплова Дарья – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59416924
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