Golden Mountains of Altai

on the map

Region of the Russian Federation: Altai Republic

Area: 1.6 million ha

Criteria: (x)

Site Status: inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1998

Status of Territories composing the Site: Altaisky State Nature Biosphere Reserve and buffer zone of Teletskoye Lake (649000, Altai Republic, Gorno-Altaisk, per. Naberezhny,1); Katunsky State Nature Biosphere Reserve (649490, Altai Republic, Ust-Koksinsky District, Ust-Koksa, ul. Zapovednaya, 1); “Ukok Quiet Zone” Nature Park” (649780, Altai Republic, Kosh-Agachsky District, Kosh-Agach, ul. Kommunalnaya, 14) and “Belukha” Nature Park (649473, Altai Republic, Ust-Koksinsky District, Tungur)

The nature of this mountainous territory, situated on the border of Central Asia and Siberia, is quite distinct. There are few places in the world where one can encounter so many landscape combinations in such a small area. The region’s flora and fauna are very diverse and to a large extent unique. In the Lake Teletskoye basin, Altai cedar forests still exist and make the area a home and feeding place for a variety of wildlife.

Lake Teletskoye is the true pearl of the Altai. People call the lake the Small Baikal because of its clear waters, beautiful mountains and rich wildlife. Here are Siberia’s largest mountain alpine and subalpine grasslands. The variegated vegetation of the southern Altai – semi-desert, steppe and tundra – is inimitable. These varied landscapes gave rise to and preserved Altai’s endemic species that often inhabit very small areas. This area is home to 60 mammal, 11 amphibian and reptile and 20 fish species. Among the rare mammals, the ounce or snow leopard – one of the world’s most beautiful cats – is outstanding. Very few of these animals have survived in the Altai.

The geological history of the region is also very special. It is “written” in the rocks of the different ages that formed the region, and depicted in the unusual terrain, such as the high, grand terraces of the Katun River. Mount Belukha, Siberia’s highest mountain (4 506 m above the sea level), covered with glaciers and snowfields, rises majestically almost 1 000 m over near-by mountains.

The Altai river valleys, first of all those of the Katun and Chulyshman, are deep, narrow canyons. The Chulyshman River valley, decorated by the waterfalls of its tributaries, is very picturesque.

The natural diversity of the region has influenced the culture and religion of the local people – the Altaians. The achievements of Altai folk-medicine are valued highly. As Nikolay Rerikh once wrote, “lots of peoples have been to Altai and left their traces there: Scythians, Huns and Turkic peoples”. Gorny Altai is often called “an open-air museum”.