The Kara-dag reserve on the coast of Crimea, between the village of Kurortnoye and the resort of Koktebel, is one of those places where, whatever your religion, you can feel the hand of the Creator at work. Indescribably beautiful, this unique Jurassic landscape is the result of an extinct volcano, which thousands of years ago spewed lava and debris into the sea. The elements have weathered the volcanic rocks into fantastic shapes and produced flora and wildlife unique to this part of Crimea.
Kara-Dag was declared a national reserve – in 1979, and since then careful steps have been taken to protect it. There is a visitor centre with a small wildlife museum, and here you can buy a ticket for a guided walk. Independent walking is not allowed because of fears of fires and erosion, and also because the iron content in some of the volcanic mountains is so high that it generates a magnetic field which can interfere with compasses, so a good knowledge of the mountain paths is essential. But the four-hour guided hike will take you right up into the most interesting parts of the reserve with a ranger who is extremely knowledgeable (but take an interpreter – they don’t usually speak English). It’s a unique, unforgettable experience!