Респу́блика Алта́й

Altai Republic

Altai Republic is situated in the very center of Asia. I lies at the border between the Siberian taiga, the steppes of Kazakhstan and the semi-deserts of Mongolia. But to the south it is mountainous terrain, called the Altay Mountains system. High and rugged mountain ridges are separated by narrow and deep river valleys. Mount Belukha (4,506 m asl) is the highest point in Siberia.

The area of the Altai Mountains is continually subject to tectonic movements. This is the area of the deep and long-lasting Charysh-Terektian deep break. The high tectonic activity causes two to three earth quakes per year with a magnitude of up to 5 on a Richter scale.

The mountains here are generally built of crystalline rocks of rather old age. But there is a mountain ridge which is locally called White Stone literally. This is a simple description of the rock they are made of: a tectonic block of bright white Silurian marble embedded into Cambrian-Ordovician peach stone. This rock is heavily karstified, forms cliffs, shelters and abris, which were used by Palaeolithic man, but also huge karst caves with abundant speleothems. The cave became first internationally known for archaeological importance.

The area is remote and it requires a flight to Barnaul and hours of drive on bad roads to get there. But it is started to be developed and there are numerous tour operator offering trips to the area and to the caves of the area. None of the cave is developed, but all listed caves are either rather small or very easy to visit. Most of the tourists are the so-called New Russians, a group of wealthy winners of the political changes. Most of the foreign tourists are New Age believers who are coming due to the spiritual significance of the area.