The climate is severe with long cold dry winters and hot, usually dry summers. The region's main waterway is the Ob River. The Biya and Katun Rivers are also important. The biggest lakes are Lake Kulundinskoye, Lake Kuchukskoye, and Lake Mikhaylovskoye.
Altai Krai has huge reserves of raw materials, especially materials used for building, as well as significant mineral reserves. These include nonferrous metals, lead and iron ores, manganese, tungsten, molybdenum, bauxite, and gold. Forests cover about 60,000 km² of the krai's land. See also Geography of South-Central Siberia.
This region of Siberia is extremely important due to its biodiversity, an area of over 1.6 million hectares is recognised by Unesco as a world heritage site and even the endangered snow leopard has made his home there.
The Altai bees (Apis mellifera) are hardy and healthy they are renowned for producing some of the world's finest organic honeys. Historically honey was used by the peoples of Altai and Bashkiria as payment or yasak (levy or tax) to the Russian Tsars.