Ecotourism is growing more and more popular throughout the world with each passing day. The main principles lying at its heart are preserving biodiversity in natural recreational areas, economic growth in areas that are popular with tourists, and raising the level of environmental awareness among holidaymakers.
The XXII Olympic Winter Games and the XI Paralympic Winter Games will be a catalyst for the development of ecotourism in Russia. By way of example, Sochi National Park is one of the first sites created in Russia with the aim of preserving and restoring part of the natural world. There are a host of tourist routes through the park, winding their way through specially equipped recreational zones. These zones are situated in various corners of the park - from Lazarevskoe village to Krasnaya Polyana.
Many tourists visiting Sochi National Park make a beeline for one of its most fascinating and popular sites - Mount Akhun. Few can fail to be impressed by this five-kilometer mountain ridge, situated parallel to the sea coast. In the 1930s a 30m tower in the Medieval Romanesque style was erected on one of its rock faces, which is 662.7Â m above sea level. This is now no better viewing platform from which to admire the city.
From here, an unforgettable panorama stretches out before you, incorporating Sochi, Khosta and Adler. On the southern slope of Mount Aigba, in the upper reaches of the Bezymyanka River, one of the highest waterfalls in the Krasnodar Region can be found - the Aibginsky, also known as the Bezymyanny. The height three of its rungs is 75m. In the sunlight the jets of the waterfall are infused with all the colors of the rainbow - a magical trick of the light caused by the presence of argillite, sandstone and clay shales.
In addition to Sochi National Park, the Caucasian Biosphere Reserve also provides ecotourism services. Here, tourists can choose between eight different environmental routes, designed to have something to please everyone. These routes can be enjoyed on foot, on horseback, on bikes, or, in the winter months, even on snowmobiles.
The most interesting place in the Caucasian Biosphere Reserve is the Khostinsky yew-tree grove. The pre-glacial forests, which have survived by some miracle in the unique climate of the North Caucasus, leave visitors awe-struck by their outstanding beauty and sense of mystery. The sun's rays barely penetrate the roof formed by the gigantic, centuries-old trees, and this means that the grove is permanently in a state of semi-darkness. A landscaped nature trail, "The mysterious world of the ancient Colchis forest", and a nature museum within the grove are open to guests all-year-round. Not far from the grove is a picturesque relaxation area. Here you can bathe in the river or enjoy a picnic: picnic tables and fireplaces for cooking have been specially put in place for tourists.
The XXII Olympic Winter Games and the XI Paralympic Winter Games will, needless to say, only serve to encourage the further development of ecotourism in the region where they are being staged. The reintroduction of a population of Persian leopard, the creation of new tourist routes and recreational areas - all this was made possible thanks to the combined efforts of federal and regional administrations, the active efforts of staff at Sochi National Park and the Caucasian Nature Reserve, and those involved in the Sochi 2014 Project. The natural beauty of the region where the Games are to be staged is unique. It hides a great many secrets and mysteries that remain to be uncovered.