Russian part of Altai includes the Altai Region (Barnaul is the central city) and the Republic of Altai (Gorno-Altaisk is the capital). The most attractive sites for ecotourism are concentrated in the Republic of Altai which is also called Gorny Altai. Unique natural and cultural features of Gorny Altai grant wonderful opportunities for all kinds of ecotourism activities.
Gorny Altai is the highest mountainous province of Siberia. Some mountain-masses are 3000 – 4000 m high. Their peaks are covered with snow and ice all year long. Glaciers descend along their slopes. The highest point of Siberia – Belukha Mt (4506 m) is situated there.Gorny Altai is also famous with its rivers and lakes. Biya and Katun are the two largest rivers which interflow near the town of Biysk and give start to the Ob River – one of the greatest rivers of the world. Katun with its tributaries Chuya, Koksa, Kucherla, Argut, Ursul are very popular among whitewater rafters because of thrilling rapids and exciting landscapes. The Biya River has its source in the Teletskoye Lake which is situated between high ranges of mountains. The Teletskoye Lake with its length of about 80 km, depth of 325 m and volume of 40 cubic kilometers is considered as a symbol of Altai. The beautiful Shavlinskiye Lakes are situated on the Northern slope of the Severo-Chuysky Range.
The greater part of Gorny Altai is covered with taiga. Larch and cedar prevail but you can see many other species of trees and bushes. Alpine areas, situated on heights more than 2000 – 2400 m, offer large meadows with various grasses and flowers. In the whole, in Gorny Altai tourists have opportunities to observe practically all kinds of Siberian scenery: dry steppes of Central Asia, taiga, alpine meadows in blossom, tundra, majestic glaciers and snow peaks. Fauna is very diverse too, including 90 species of mammals, 260 species of birds, 20 species of fishes. Snow leopard (irbis), wild ram, elk, Siberian stag (maral), bear, golden eagle, hawk, umber, sterlet can be met there.
The climate of Altai is continental with a stable cover of snow in winter and with summer temperatures up to +30C.
The Princess of Altai (Plateou Ukok):
In the southern part of Siberia the archeologists discovered traces of prehistoric people. These traces can be seen in the blocks of ice. They are pretty well preserved. The traces are about 2500 years old. This sensational discovery was published in the Russian magazine “Ogonek”. The picture of professor Vladimir Syomkin holding the pigtails of an ancient warrior was sent to all Russian research institutes. A warrior, king or commander-in- chief was probably buried together with his horse, furs, utensils, and works of art. On his chest there was a tattoo of an elk made with great skill. These traces were discovered in the area of the Plato Ukok, a highland of the Altai Mountains. The place is on the border with Mongolia. The archeologists found out that the man discovered was one of the most mysterious people of the Pre-Christian antiquity: they also discovered that he was a nomad of the Iranian origin and that his civilization was very prosperous at the beginning of 2000 BC. These discoveries have brought light on many mysteries of the past. However, they give rise to other mysteries.