The Republic of Altai is commonly called Mountainous Altai to distinguish from the neighbouring Altai Territory, which in turn is called the Steppe Altai. Altai is marketed as the Russian Switzerland and it is not hard to see why as this is a land of snow-topped mountains, crystal-clear lakes, turquoise rivers and alpine meadows. Like many Russian republics, the titular people - the Altais - only make up a minority of the population, around 34%.
Altai shares state borders with Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan and internal borders with the Altai Territory, the Kemerovo region, and the republics of Khakassia and Tyva, although road connections with Tyva are currently poor.
Altai’s biggest appeal is its nature and a large part of the republic, including Lake Teletskoe, Mount Belukha, the Ukok Plateau, and the Altai and Katun nature reserves, is listed as a World Heritage Site - the Golden Mountains of Altai- by UNESCO.