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Conquer South Ural and it will conquer you
September 4, 2006 15:38

Russia is ambiguous. It is definitely beautiful, but sometimes too obtrusive. It may be really hot in summer, but winters are terribly freezing. It can be hospitable, but it never knows where to stop. It's huge and transcontinental and nobody knows how much of a wealthy Europe and how much of an irrepressible Asia are mixed in it. But well, there is a border. It is naturally formed by Ural Mountains - one of the world's oldest extant mountain ranges. And now one can easily see this border and even travel back and forth between Europe and Asia.

Until recently Ural hid military secrets from prying eyes and was out of bounds to tourists. But times have changed, and now one can even view for example the Museum of Nuclear Weapons. But what is most important is though Urals are not high (its highest peak is Mount Narodnaya, 1895 m), they are still impressive and have a lot to offer to tourists and extreme-lovers. The range stretches from the northern border of Kazakhstan to the coast of the Arctic Ocean. But we would like to tell in this article about the southern part of it.

There are more than 200 national parks in South Ural, each with their own particular qualities. For example, the Ilmenski Reserve is a mineralogical paradise, and the Arkaim Museum Reserve holds natural and man-made wonders as old as the pyramids of Egypt. Taganai park at Taganai mountain in the western part of the Chelyabinsk district is often called "the Russian Switzerland". Here many ecological systems in almost pristine condition are preserved - mountain tundra and meadows, sparse growth of trees at the base of mountains and relic forests.

South Ural also has a few mountain lakes and caves worth visiting. Thousands of caves are already explored at Ural mountain river basins, but the most famous is Capova Cave at the banks of Belaya River. It is a palaeolithic cave, where prehistorical cave art was found. Mammoths, rhinoceros, horses and bisons are painted on its walls. They were dated to be from the end of the Upper Palaeolithic. South Ural is also famous for its mineral springs, that are considered to be medicinal and even miraculous because here the Tabynsk icon of the Mother of God was founded in 16 century. Pilgrims from Russian regions and from abroad come to the place.

South Ural lakes are not really large, but they are as clean and clear as Baikal, you can see through the water up to 20 meters. Tugroyak lake is often called Baikals younger brother and is included into the list of the most precious lakes in the world.

The most popular tours at South Ural include horse riding and rafting as well as hiking and bicycle riding, and combinations of these means of traveling. Horse riding is very opportune and relevant at the range, because it is much less tiring than pedestrian tours through steep mountain paths. Depending on tourists riding skills these tours may be either short trips with horse riding lessons, or long-lasting campaigns. One would never forget such an adventure, because the nature is amazing and unbelievably diverse.

But if you choose rafting the tour will also depend on our skills level. Belaya river offers hundreds of different rafting tours for beginners. Boating for a couple of days will let one feel all the charm of active water tourism (the route is often called "gallery of nature" as all best masterpieces of the South Urals can be seen here. Handmade masterpieces, palaeolithic, can be seen in Capova cave on this route. For extreme-lovers Ural is really endless fast mountain rivers, that drain from the rocky slopes.

Ancient archaeological site Arkaim is situated in the Southern Urals steppe in the Chelyabinsk oblast. The site is dated to the 17th century BC, but even earlier dates, up to the 20th century BC, have been proposed. It was a settlement of the Sintashta-Petrovka culture, associated with Indo-Iranians.

Although the settlement was burned and abandoned, much detail is preserved. Since its discovery, Arkaim has attracted a lot of public and media attention in Russia, including from esoteric, New Age, and pseudoscientific circles in Russia. It is said to be the most enigmatic archaeological site on the territory of the Russian Federation, and many conflicting interpretations have been put forward. Now the site is open for tourists.

Nastya Makryashina


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