The Kara Dag Nature Reserve is an ancient, relict, precious mountain range
Kara Dag, which is the east end of a large chain of Crimean mountains, called the Main Ridge. This is an extinct volcano, more precisely a fragment of two paleovolcanoes, one of which was on the seabed, the other on land. The volcanoes, wind and water formed fantastic rocky ridges, piles of stone slopes, pinnacle, columns and deep gorges. It's a history museum of the Earth with the attributes of a fossil volcano: congealed streams of lava, mineral veins and even a canal that used to conduct the fiery rock to the surface.
Kara-Dag is a casket with Crimean jewels. There are semiprecious stones here: carnelian, opal, agate, rhinestone, amethyst, chalcedony and jasper. In the sea, there is one of the tourist symbols of Crimea, the Golden Gate rock.
The history of the reserve begins in 1901, when the doctor of medicine Terenty Ivanovich Vyazemsky purchased an estate at the foot of the southern slope of the extinct volcano, who found the secluded place on the coast the best for treating nervous patients in a sanatorium. Vyazemsky was conducting researches in the field of balneology and hydrotherapy, and he planned to spent the income from the sanatorium on the construction of a seaside research station. But his financial plan failed and the construction of the station was delayed. Vyazemsky presented the ready for work scientific institution to the Society of Assistance to the Successes of the Experimental Sciences and Their Practical Applications of the Moscow University. The same year, 1914, after the demise of Vyazemsky, the station was named after him.
And the first petitions of scientists calling to preserve the natural museum of the Earth, the Kara Dag mountain range, appeared at that time. Initially, the National Park included the station itself, called biological, and Vyazemsky Estate along with the surrounding park. The whole range was included into the reserve in 1979, after they built a research center for human interaction with animals, fur seals and dolphins, next to the biostation by the projects of Vyazemsky. They say that with the help of scientists, the military was preparing animals for sea diversions. It might be, but the result of training were the first in the Crimea show performances of dolphins and seals. To the present day, the biostation features the performance People and Dolphins.
The flora of Kara Dag is no less interesting. In addition to the fact that representatives of different climatic zones coexist on the slopes of the mountain range, forest plants are neighbors with steppe ones, light-loving with shade-loving. At Kara Dag, you can find relic plants from the preglacial epoch. Moreover, there are fifty endemic plants in the reserve, the plants that are found only in Crimea, and some only in Kara Dag.
Since the reserve is a valuable nature conservation area of Crimea, one can visit it only as part of an organized tourist group. The journey begins from the biostation in the village of Kurortnoe and the Museum of Nature and History of Kara Dag. The Museum of Nature shows all the precious splendor of the mountains, and the riches of the sea are in the aquarium next to the dolphinarium. After that, one should choose the route according to their ability and the time of the year: a long pedestrian route to Koktebel, or a walk in the park of the former manor of Dr. Vyazemsky.
During the heat or bad weather, there are no tour to Kara Dag, so as not to jeopardize the life and health of tourists. On steep slopes and rock ledges, the views of the bays and natural sculptures might make you dizzy, but also compasses and other equipment might not work properly in some places because of a magnetic anomaly. Each top, stone peak and heap of giant rocks has its name: Karagach, Kok Kaya, Syuryu Kaya, Balala Kaya, Ivan the Robber, King, Queen, Retinue, Throne, Devil's Fireplace. It's impossible to remember them all after a single visit, and only the Golden Gate is recognizable, being the main symbol of Kara Dag. On a sea tour, participants are offered to drop a coin and make a wish, and if the coin hits the wall of the Golden Gate, the wish will come true.
The fans of the poet Maximilian Voloshin will recognize his profile facing the sea in a stony slope of Kara Dag. Winemakers are sure that due to the deep warmth of an extinct volcano, local vineyards are not afraid of frosts, and creative individuals find inspiration in watching the first rays of the sun meet the pinnacles of the rocky peaks.
The State Natural Reserve Noviy Svet (New World), a Relic, a Temple, a Paradise
The Noviy Svet Natural Reserve is located in the south-east Crimea and includes a coast with the resort village of Noviy Svet and pine and juniper groves. Five mountain peaks guard the way to the reserve, two of which are ancient coral reefs, Koba Kaya (in translation from Turkish — a cave in the rock) and Kush Kaya (in translation — a bird's rock, also called Sokol). From the sea, the reserve is washed by the Green, Blue and Light Blue Bays.
The main value of the reserve is the Stankevich pine, or Sudak pine, which only grows in two places in Crimea, here and at Cape Aya. This rare species grows for 100–200 years on rocky cliffs and stony slopes. The Stankevich Pine has a sprawling crown and long, thin, light green needles. Within the boundaries of the protected area, there are more than 5 thousand such pines, and some trees are more than 200 years old.
Another relic of Noviy Svet is the juniper. This is a long-living plant with a twisted resinous trunk and a strong bright scent. There are juniper groves on the mountain slopes. Thanks to its venerable age of a thousand years and five-meter height, the six juniper trees in the reserve are nature monuments of regional significance.
The foot of Mount Sokol represents a kind of archaeological reserve. In the tract of Dimitraki, there are ruins of a Byzantine monastery, juniper thickets hide the remains of a late-antique settlement. The old road to the spring of St. Anastasia passes near the mountain, in the Middle Ages, there was a Christian temple there.
The famous Golitsyn trail goes along the slope of Mount Koba Kaya, it's an about 5 km long path cut in the rock. The trail leads to a natural grotto, where there was a monastery in the Middle Ages, and at the beginning of the 20th century, the owner of the estate in Noviy Svet, Prince Lev Sergeyevich Golitsyn, built a Variety Hall with a small stage and niches for storing wine. The grotto has excellent acoustics, and the legend has it that Feodor Chaliapin performed there. Annually, our contemporaries hold performances and poetry readings by candlelight in the grotto.
After the Chaliapin grotto, the trail leads to the shores of the Blue Bay. Cape Kapchik borders it from the west side, the silhouette of the cape resembles a giant lizard. A tunnel of tectonic origin goes through the rock mass of the fossil coral reef. In 1902, Golitsyn was the first to research the Through grotto. And in our time, curious scuba divers with the help of local instructors have discovered several underwater galleries here that transform into dry caves in the body of the cape.
The main attraction of the Light Blue Bay is the Tsarsky Beach, where Nicholas II with the family actually landed with the yacht Standard. Above the Light Blue Bay, there is Karaul Oba, or the Watchtower Mount, with an archaeological monument, a Taurus sanctuary and the Hell and Heaven gorge. On one side of the gorge is the realm of a stone chaos, on the other is a juniper and pine forest. Between them is an ivy-covered cleft, the Adam's Bed. By the way, in the 15th century, there was the village of Paradise in place of the Noviy Svet village.
A walk along the Golitsyn trail and a trip to the Hell and Heaven gorge are parts of the ecological routes around the reserve. Moving through the territory beyond the tour trails, pitching tents and making fire is prohibited in the reserve.