Five Captivating Natural Wonders To Visit In The Caucasus
Eurasia’s Caucasus is famous for its rich history and booming wine scene, and this sprawling expanse of land is no stranger to natural beauty, either. Equipped with iconic natural features like the eastern banks of the Black Sea, western shore of the Caspian Sea, and the entirety of the Caucasus Mountains, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventure and ecotourism opportunities to take advantage of during a visit to this storied region.
Whether you spend your vacation in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, or combine all three for a truly bucket-list-worthy adventure, be sure to spend some time basking in the spectacular beauty of these national parks and nature preserves.
Mtirala National Park
Located just east of the city of Batumi, Georgia’s Mtirala National Park is best known for one particular natural phenomenon: rain, to be precise. This lush preserve receives roughly 175 inches of precipitation each year, fostering countless waterfalls and a particularly diverse array of native plants across the park. The region’s expansive chestnut, beech, and rhododendron forests also play home to a fascinating collection of native Georgian fauna, with brown bears, Eurasian lynx, and Caucasian salamanders all on display. Birders take note—Mtirala National Park is renowned for its high concentration of raptors, offering ample opportunity to spot booted eagles and saker falcons during migration season.
Khosrov Forest State Reserve
While the first national park is widely agreed to have been established in 1872, Armenia’s Khosrov Forest State Reserve has Yellowstone beat by roughly 1,500 years, first established in the 300s by King Khosrov III the Small to serve as a royal hunting ground and haven for native species. In the modern era, this expanse of juniper and oak forest is renowned for its high diversity of flora and fauna, with a particularly interesting array of iconic predators. Gray wolves, Eurasian lynx, and brown bears all call the park home, while lucky visitors may be able to catch a glimpse of one of the few remaining Persian leopards that still exist in Armenia.
Absheron National Park
The Azerbaijani capital of Baku is renowned for its stunning modern architecture and charming historic walled city, but for those in need of an ecotourism-focused escape, Absheron National Park is just a short car ride away. Equipped with both coastal marshland and semi-desert ecosystems, the preserve has become a popular spot for both local and visiting birders, with purple herons, short-eared owls, and horned grebes serving as just a few of the species that visitors can look forward to spotting. In addition to avian species, the park is also home to a wealth of native reptiles, while the truly fortunate may be able to spot a Caspian seal, one of the smallest pinniped species found on earth today.
Dilijan National Park
Officially elevated to national park status in 2002, the sprawling Dilijan National Park offers vast forests, indigenous fauna, and centuries-old structures right in the heart of Armenia. While the region is rife with typical Armenian mammals, birds, and amphibians, one of the most prominent draws for tourism stems from the area’s human inhabitants. Dilijan is home to a wealth of historic religious structures including the ornate Haghartsin Monastery as well as Goshavank, a massive complex that was built roughly 800 years ago. After exploring the pristine wilderness of the park, visitors are welcome to spend a couple of hours strolling around Dilijan, an idyllic town that’s popular thanks to its charming Armenian architecture and high concentration of spas.
Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
Measuring in at 422 square miles of protected forest, the iconic Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park serves as one of the largest national parks in all of Georgia. This vast expanse of land has given rise to some serious potential for outdoor adventure, with mountain biking, horseback riding, and a whole lot of hiking available all across the park. During a trip to the region, visitors can expect to spot a wide array of Georgian fauna scurrying through the forest ranging from wild cats to chamois. During late-night hours, the starry skies light up with countless insects alongside a diverse array of bats, with 20 different species calling the area home.