Thanks to its southern location, the nature of the Southern Urals is much more diversified than that of other desolate mountain regions.
The Southern Urals have the width of 250 km (155 mi). Its total length is 550 km (342 mi).
In general, the Urals belong to one of the oldest mountain ranges on the Earth.
More than 540 million years ago the territory of the modern Southern Urals was covered with… a vast ocean. Then heavy volcanic activity caused the surface rise and it resulted in the formation of rich minerals reserve.
Later, the ocean territory became replaced with the world-highest mountains!
However, these mountains were being eroded by wind and water for many years. Nowadays, the Southern Urals are not so high any more. Their highest point is located in the mountain range Yamantau (the name means “An evil mountain”), which stands at 1640 m (5381 ft).
There is a legend about a secret underground city, which has been built in the outskirts of the Yamantau Mountains. It is believed that the building started in the USSR, but the city designated use is still black-out.
The Southern Urals are full of striking peaks, beautiful lakes and rivers with picturesque panoramas, which can enchant even seasoned travelers.
Lake Zyuratkul is the most high-mountain lake of the Southern Urals (724 m/2375 ft above sea level).
The lake outskirts are especially picturesque and are often called Sinegorie (the name means “Blue mountains”). About twenty years ago the Zyuratkul National Park was opened nearby the lake. There you will get an opportunity to choose a trekking route in accordance with your skills.
The lakeshores were inhabited by ancient people (the fourteen found encampments are dated back to the Late Stone Age, i.e. 12 thousand years ago), and, more recently, by Old Believers, hiding from persecution.
Nowadays, the lakeshore is occupied by an authentic town, consisting of a Siberian prison, a mill, other wooden buildings and even several ships.
Lake Aushkul is among the most beautiful lakes of the Southern Urals. There tourists can enjoy amazing panoramas, fish or swim (during summer).
The Aushtau Mountain (654 m/2146 ft), standing on its shore, is suitable for amateur climbers.
The lake outskirts are full of ancient burials, which are sacred to natives, Buryats.
On the shores of Lake Aushkul you can find a perfect souvenir from the Southern Urals – fine jaspers.
The Ay River
The Ay River is particularly popular among water tourists.
Its surroundings are merely stunning.
The nearest cliffs are covered with the red paintings of ancient people, which are called petroglyphes. There are many caves nearby the Ay River. The Sikiyaz-Tamak Cave is known as an ancient settlement.
Big Cliffs. The Ay River
Arkaim is an ancient fortified settlement, dated back to the Bronze Age. It was discovered in the late 20th century.
Although few archeological details preserved (ancient people abruptly abandoned their settlement), the place attracted the wide attention of esoteric and mystic believers, including some scientists. Pilgrims from Russia and other countries make their way to Arkaim. They believe legendary Aryans originated from there.
Since the discovery of Arkaim, many other ancient settlements with richer artifacts have been found in the Southern Urals.
The water quality of Lake Turgoyak is one of the highest in the Southern Urals.
The best-known archeological monuments are located on Vera Island. They are ancient megalithic dolmens, tombs and stone pits, which were built 6 thousand years ago.
Some flagstones weigh 17 tones.
Village Tyulyuk in the Southern Urals
The Ignateva Cave
The Ignateva Cave is a two-storied solutional cave, located in the Southern Urals. It is famous for the so-called art gallery, comprising forty groups of ancient paintings, dated back to the Old Stone Age. Nowadays, there are only ten such caves in the world.
The cave is also rich in later artifacts.
Tourists are greatly impressed by the acheiropaeic image of “The Ignateva Holy Mother” – the distinct image of a woman on one of the cave walls.
Although the Ural Mountains are quite old, the volcanic activity in the Southern Urals has not finished yet. Within 300 years, thirty earthquakes were recorded, their magnitude measuring from 4 to 7 on the Richter scale.
The Southern Urals represent a beautiful mountain country, where you can return again and again to discover unique natural and historical sites.
Photos by Andrey Grachev
Some parts of this article are based on material taken from the book about the Southern Urals written by M. Andreyeva and A. Markova.