Plateau Ukok has acquired worldwide fame for its unique nature and renowned archaeological discoveries in the recent years. Altaians believe this place is sacred and that mountain spirits live on the glaciers of Mount Tabyn-Bogdo-Ola. However, Ukok was always worshipped by surrounding nations. Some researchers believe that the word "Ukok" is translated from the Turkish language as “Holy race”. But it also can be translated from Mongolian as “Word of Heaven”. Scientists believe that plateau was one of the most sacred centers of civilizations of the Scythians, Huns and other peoples of Central Asia.
Ukok Plateau has always been surrounded by spirit of sanctity, it is even considered to scream as sacrilege and an insult of the spirits. Locals suppose that Ukok means "end of everything", according to their beliefs Ukok pastures are on the threshold of the sky.
Ukok is the one of the most remoted places of Altai. This area can be considered as one of Asia's geopolitical poles where the borders of Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan come together. The Ukok Plateau is situated on the southern outskirts of Altai Republic, at an altitude of 2200 - 2500 meters above sea level. This hilly plateau, bounded by snow-covered ridges Tabyn-Bogda Ola from the south. The plateau ends abruptly in the north and Dzhazator river valley begins. Peaks of the South-Chuya ridge (3000-4000 m.) rise across the river.
The only inhabitants of the plateau are Russian border guards and Kazakhs herders arriving in winter season. Strong winter winds blow the surrounding valley and open withered grass of winter pastures. Spring Ukok is considered as one of the most beautiful sights in Altai. Colorful carpet of alpine meadows cover the plateau, animals wake up after long winter and numerous birds arrive here. Ukok Plateau is a home for many rare birds of Siberia and Central Asia. Mountain geese, black storks, golden eagles, black vultures, griffons, etc. High mountains is still inhabited by snow leopards, which can be seen with binoculars.
The climate of Ukok is harsh. Winter lasts for 8-9 months, and spring begins in June. However, it is possible to get to the plateau by car until the end of June only, when the snow melts from the surrounding Ukok passes. Daytime temperatures on the plateau is + 15 ... + 25 in June, but sharply continental climate causes a big difference between day and night temperatures. Night temperature is lower, +5 ... + 7 ° C.
The weather is changeable and capricious. The sun shines brightly, then suddenly clouds cover the sky and rain starts together with strong wind blows. Snow may falls in June.
Ukok is included in UNESCO World Heritage Site. Scythian tribes who left behind numerous archaeological monuments - cave paintings, stone sculptures, and mounds inhabited Ukok in ancient times. Novosibirsk archaeologists have found well-preserved mummy of a noble Scythian women, presumably a shaman in one of these mounds in 1993. Mummy was given the name "Altai Princess" in the world community, and the work of archaeologists have been recognized as great scientist discovery of the twentieth century.
Altai princess left shoulder had the sacred sign of a griffin. It is considered that legendary gold of the Scythians could be saved in the Altai Mountains according to legends. Griffons, a ferocious creature with female head and bird body, guarded treasure. Altaians claim that the Princess of Ukok is theirs ancestor named Kydym and they always knew about her existence, but did not disturb her sacred dream. Siberian scientists examined the mummy and have concluded that the princess had not been belong to any known Mongoloid races inhabiting the earth. It looked like a European. Princess was buried together with six golden-red suit horses. The finest silk clothes was framed by a thick red belt. Archaeologists believe that belt is a sign of a warrior, and a mystic. Stick of larch which found in her hands is a ritual character, which considered as a weapon of "World Creation" and were put into the hands of the higher divine persons. High headdress with gold decorations of complex shape says about the magical power of a woman who kept the secret of immortality according to ancient beliefs.
Ukok Landscapes are unique and specific. There are no trees, and only sparse grass of highland pastures sway under the pressure of the cold wind. Short summer allows to bloom few endemics. Flowers looks on a background of snow-covered slopes especially exotic.
The rickety cabins lurking in the hills wait for its owners. Winter storeroom are on the edges of the valley at the foot of the northern and southern slopes of the mountain, where there is protection from wind and weather. About 20 herder families live on the Ukok at autumn and winter season every year. Most of them are from Dzhazator. Herds graze only on its territory, border of which run along the creek, lake or rock.
Ukok got the epithet "Heaven pasture." It raised to the physical and spiritual heights by a nature. Apparent simplicity landscape is animated and alive. Ordinary life-nomadic shepherds always had a sacred meaning.