Visit Kara Dag in Crimea!
When considering a visit to Kara Dag, think "jagged
mountains," "Jurassic landscape," and
the famous Golden Gate. Kara Dag is a nature
reserve on the southeastern coast of Crimea
near the small resort town of Koktebel.
"Kara Dag" means "black
mountain" in the Crimean Tatar language.
Kara Dag emerged as a volcano during Jurassic
times, and over the intervening 150-160
million years the lava rocks have weathered
into interesting, sometimes fantastical,
shapes. One lava formation is called the
Golden Gate, which rises out of the Black
Sea just off shore from the reserve. It's
iconic image decorates thousands of souvenirs
- calendars, bookmarks, magnets, and postcards.
Another formation is the Devil's Finger,
a massive slab towering at cliff's edge.
Kara Dag Nature Reserve includes a museum
that is open to the public free of charge.
Also onsite are a dolphinarium and aquarium.
To witness first-hand the intriguing Jurassic
landscape (including the Golden Gate), visitors
must hike into the backcountry. It's a four-hour
hike and is only available as a guide-led
excursion (fee-based). It's in Russian and
visitors may wish to bring an interpreter.
The first third of the hike is through fields
and forests, with the remainder made up
of impressive paths that weave beautifully
through the jagged mountains overlooking
the Black Sea.
Although the specialness of Kara Dag was
touted as far back as the early 1900s, it
wasn't until 1979 that the area was designated
a nature reserve. A visionary professor,
Dr. T. I. Vyazemsky, from Moscow University
was instrumental in establishing and funding
a biological station at Kara Dag and in
making its name known in the scientific
community and beyond.
The reserve covers about 25 square kilometers
(over 2,800 hectares) and is home to thousands
of plant species. Many are rare; several
are endangered and are listed in the Red
Book of Ukraine. In this unique and fragile
environment, the reserve serves as an important
protector of biodiversity.
The best time to travel to Kara Dag is
spring through fall. Flowers will be in
bloom in spring and early summer. The landscape
becomes more sere as summer transitions
into fall. Use sturdy walking shoes, for
portions of the hike are steep and rocky,
plus bring a hat, sunscreen, and water.
Avoid hiking on the intensely hot days in
the summer - they can be brutal in Crimea.
Kara Dag Nature Reserve is near the village
of Shchebetovka and is reachable by car
or bus from several convenient points, such
as Koktebel, Feodosiya, and Simferopol.