Ural is a geographic region where Europe and Asia meet and it marks a border between the two continents. The Ural stone belt and the adjoining elevated plains of the near-Ural area extend from the shores of the Arctic Ocean in the north to the semi desert areas of Kazakhstan. In the south, they stretch for over 2,500 km to form a border between the East European Plain and the West Siberian Plain.
Rivers. Many rivers start in the Southern Ural, which belong to the Kama, Tobol and Ural basins. 348 rivers run through this area and they include rivers flowing for 200 km and more, such as the Ural, the Miass, the Ui, the Ai, the Ufa, the Tyulyuk and the Yuruzan. The rivers of the eastern slope of the Middle Urals include the tributaries of the Tobol, the important Tura River and its tributaries Tagil, Neiva, Rezh, Pyshma and Iset. The Chusovaya River, one of the most popular rivers for tourists in the Ural region, flows through the mountains and the western foothills of the Middle Urals. South of it, the Ufa and its tributaries Biset and Serga run through the western foothills.
Lakes. The Southern Urals have over 3,000 lakes. The largest lakes include Turgoyak, Uvildy, Kisegach and Zyuratkul. The lakes of the Middle Urals are distributed unevenly over the area - there are very few lakes in the south-western mountainous area, while there are a large number of lakes in the eastern part and especially in the lowlands of the West Siberian part of the area, such as Tavatui, Baltym, Peschanoye and Shartash.
Caves. The caves Kungurskaya, Divya, Kizelovskaya (Viasherskaya), Medvezhya, Skaz, Smolinskaya, Druzhba and others are well-known far beyond the Ural region. Kungurskaya Cave is one of the most beautiful caves, which has splendid underground cavities, such as Druzhba Narodov (People’s Friendship) Grotto, Velikan Grotto and Geografy Grotto.
Tourism. In the Urals, the following kinds of tourism are the most popular:
Hiking tourism in the mountains Taganai, Nurgush, Iremel and Zyuratkul;
Mountaineering in the Bolshiye Prityosy cliffs, 100 m high, in the valley of the Ai River;
Downhill skiing in Abzakovo, Adzhigardak, Zavyalikha, Metallurg-Magnitogorsk (Bannoye) and Solnechnaya Dolina;
Catamaran rides along the Chusovaya, the Koiva, the Sylva, the Vishera, the Vilva, the Oslyanka, the Usva, the Ai, the Yuryuzan, the Bolshaya Satka, the Berezyaka and the Kama rivers.
Sights. Ural is rich in sights, well-known all over world:
The Buzuluk pine forest, a huge forest island that forms a triangle with the Borovka River in the middle, which flows into the Sakmara River in the south;
The Vishera Reserve, one of the largest nature reserves in Europe, with an area of 241,200 hectares;
The Zyuratkul National Park, located in the Urals, the Satka District of the Chelyabinsk Oblast;
The Oleni Ruchyi Nature Park, located in the southwest of the Sverdlovsk Region, along the lower reach of the Serga River;
The Ilmensky Reserve, created in 1920, which has unique natural landscapes and wildlife;
Konzhakovsky Kamen, a mountain located 45 km from the city of Karpinsk, which is 420 km from Yekaterinburg, 1,569 m high, a popular place for those who like extreme sports and recreation;
Taganai is one of the newest national parks in Russia. The park is situated in one of the most unique areas of the Southern Urals, near the Taganai mining hub, a little north of the ancient Ural city of Zlatoust;
Arkaim, the ruins of an ancient city discovered by Soviet archaeologists in the summer of 1987 near the confluence of the Karaganka and the Utyaganka Rivers, tributaries of the Ural River. It is perhaps the most mysterious archeological site on the territory of Russia;
The Kvarkush Range, one of the spurs of the water-divide range in the northern Cis-Ural Region, located between the Uls and the upper Yaiva. This flat-top mountain range extends from the north to the south for 60 km and reaches 12-15 km in width;
Mount Manaraga, a very unusually shaped mountain; its “watchtowers” resemble a bear’s paw. This peak will not be confused with any other peak in the world. It possesses a unique charm and arresting beauty;
The Man-Pupy-Ner Plateau, a unique natural monument located on the grounds of the Pechoro-Ilychski Reserve;
Mount Medved-Kamen (Bear Stone), a huge, massive cliff on the Tagil riverside, 18 kilometres north of the city of Nizhni Tagil. It got its name because of its fanciful shape, which resembles from afar the back of a giant bear;
Kungur Ice Cave, on the right bank of the Sylva River in the Ice Mountain in the north-eastern outskirts of Kungur, is a remarkable karst cave, the largest gypsum cave in the Ural region, the sixth longest in the world (5,600 m) among gypsum karst caves;
The Urals River, the left tributary of the Vishera, falls into it 182 km from the river head. The great length of the river (89 km) and its large catchment area (2,190 sq km) make it the third largest river among the Vishera tributaries (after the Kolva and the Yazva);
The Vishera River is one of the major rivers in the Ural Region. In the place of their confluence, even the Kama is smaller than the Vishera in terms of water content. The Vishera has two heads separated by Vishera Kamen.
Flora and Fauna. In the southern Urals, the way to the peaks of the largest mountain range, the Zigalga Range, begins with crossing a strip of hills and ravines at the foothills, densely overgrown with bushes. Then the road goes through pine, birch and aspen woods, which sometimes alternate with grassy clearings. Spruces and fir-trees rise above like a paling. There are some marshlands in the flat areas. The mountain peaks are covered with stone placers, moss and grass.
The animal life in the north includes reindeer, while in the south it is represented by typical steppe animals, such as steppe marmots, shrews, snakes and lizards. The forests are inhabited by predators like brown bears, wolves, wolverines, foxes, sables, ermines and lynxes. There are also such hoofed mammals as moose, deer, roe deer etc. and various bird species.
Climate. In the Urals, the dominant climate is a typical mountainous climate. The West Siberian Plain is an area with a severe continental climate, which becomes much more pronounced in the meridional direction than over the Russian Plain. The climate of the West Siberian mountains is less continental than the climate of the West Siberian Plain. The winter temperature in the Urals can drop under -40°C and the summer temperature can rise above +30°C.