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Enjoy the Natural Splendor of the Altai Mountains

Holidaymakers looking to take a complete break from the stresses of everyday life, and reconnect with nature, will find what they need in the spectacular Altai Mountains of Russia. In fact, the Altai Mountains are not restricted to Russian territory, but stretch into neighboring China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. This is where the mighty river Ob – the world’s fifth longest river - originates from before flowing toward the Gulf of Ob in the Arctic Sea, splitting into some major tributaries along the way.

At a height of 4506 meters, Belukha Mountain in the Altai Range is the highest point in the Siberian region of Russia. Other peaks around Belukha Mountain reach up between 3000 and 4000 meters high and are covered by ice and snow all year around. The crystal clear waters of the rivers and lakes in the area bear testimony to the purity of nature when man doesn’t interfere, as there is no pollution here. Whitewater rafters will find plenty of challenges to enjoy along the Katun River and its tributaries Kucherla, Argut, Koksa, Ursul and Chuya. Measuring 80 km in length, with a depth of up to 325 meters, Teletskoye Lake reflects that snowcapped mountains around it and is one of the most picturesque settings in the Altai Mountains.

With large areas of larch and cedar forests, the Altai mountainous region is mostly covered with taiga, but also features dry steppes, alpine meadows and tundra. These diverse habitats support a variety of birds (260 species) and mammals (90 species) and visitors are likely to see elk, Siberian stags, golden eagles, hawks, and if they are very fortunate, snow leopards (Panthera uncia). These magnificent members of the Felidae family are considered by the IUCN to be critically endangered, primarily due to humans hunting them. They are amazingly adapted to living in cold, mountainous environments. Their stocky bodies, thick fur and small round ears all help the snow leopard conserve it body heat. Their wide paws help to distribute their weight when walking on snow, while the fur on the undersides of their paws give them more traction on steep and uneven surfaces, as well as helping them to conserve body heat. They use their thick, long, furry, flexible tails to cover their faces when sleeping and to maintain their balance when on the move. Interestingly, snow leopards have no larynx and are therefore unable to roar. Instead they hiss, mew, growl, wail and make a chuffing/purring sound. Visitors to the Altai Mountains would be very fortunate indeed to see one of these elusive big cats.

 



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