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Introducing Altai

Greater Altai (Altay) straddles corners of Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China, as well as southern Siberia. Within the Russian Federation it's divided administratively between the almost flat Altai Territory and the mountainous Altai Republic. Here steppe, mountains, semideserts and over 7000 lakes culminate in the Unesco-cited 'Golden Mountains' including Mt Belukha (4506m), Siberia's highest peak. Celebrated by artists Rerikh and Choros Gurkin, it's called Shambala or Belovodye by Russian New Age groups who revere the region as a major pole of spiritual energy. From do-nothing relax- ation to extreme-adventure sports, the region is one of Siberia's tourism magnets.