Marking the border between Europe and Asia, the Ural Mountains (Урал) stretch from the Kara Sea in the north to Kazakhstan in the south. Modest in scale, they nevertheless proved to be rich in resources, and when Russia stumbled onto this Aladdin’s cave full of lustrous treasures many centuries ago, the mineral riches filled the coffers and allowed Russia to expand into Siberia beyond.
Today Yekaterinburg, the largest of the region's towns, is a bustling centre and offers a base for exploring less-visited towns. Perm is a vibrant city that's home to some strong cultural attractions. Kungur has a spectacular ice cave, while the countryside offers hiking, cycling, rafting and horse riding. The conifer forest of the Sinegorye (Blue Mountains) makes the gently sloped ranges of the southern Ural Mountains look like frozen blue waves. Lake Turgoyak and two national parks are accessed from stations along the Ufa–Chelyabinsk railway.