The natural world and wildlife in Turkey, Spain, Slovenia and Romania
One of the true wonders in Kars is Lake Kuyucuk. The lake is ideally located about 38 kilometers from Kars City and was designated as a wildlife reserve in 2005. The Lake is known for its amazing bird-watching and is a prime place for sightseeing and trekking.
Kars is filled with many archeological sites. Ani, a medieval city located close to Lake Kuyucuk and the spectacular Arpacay Canyon, was once the capital of the ancient Urartian civilization. This abandoned city is definitely worth seeing as many churches, palaces, bridges and baths still stand today.
Another main attraction in Kars is Seytan Kale (Satan's Castle). This mysterious castle dates back to around 880 BC, but its exact time of construction is unknown.
The castle rests on the highest hill in Karacay Valley and offers incredible panoramic views of the region. To reach this formidable castle, there is a rugged 3.5-kilometer trail that winds its way to the top.
The feeling one gets when visiting the Kars region is truly everlasting. For stargazers, Lake Kuyucuk is said to be one of the best spots in all of Turkey due to there being minimal light pollution. In the warmer months, butterflies fly freely through lake-lined flower meadows as visitors relax lakeside.
Another beautiful lake in the region, Cildir Lake, is a lovely place to relax and have a picnic. In the winter, Cildir Lake freezes over and attracts many ice skaters.
Kars is also a food-lovers paradise. The locals are known for their rich dairy products, including world-class cheeses, and their roasted domestic goose, which can only be found in this part of Turkey.
Ongoing studies that monitor the ecological impacts on the lakes and other shoreline vegetation are taken seriously. Designated parking, picnicking and walking trails have also been introduced to help preserve the lands.
There has also been a focus on improving the quality of tourism in the area. Visitor and information centres have been built, while new accommodations have been going up to handle the greater number of visitors exploring the region.
The Ebro Delta - Spain
The breath-taking landscapes and calmness of the Park make it an ideal destination where one can step out of the hustle and bustle of city life into the tranquility of nature.
If you are into bird-watching or wildlife, the region boasts a number of lagoons with majestic viewpoints and walking trails. The Punta de la Banya (The Gem of the Park) is the Delta's largest natural area and one of the Mediterranean's most important waterfowl breeding areas.
And that's not all, the Park boasts a number of bike trails leading to some of the most amazing lookout points that the Ebro offers.
Surrounded by the park's lagoons is La Punta del Fangar, a desert-like area with vast sand landscapes and dune formations. It is one of the most exotic places in all of Spain. Vantage points in this natural oddity give way to sweeping views of the Bay of Fangar, where one can sometimes see mirages
An unmatched experience when visiting the Ebro Delta is the feeling that you are one of the few lucky outsiders to actually take in this spectacular experience. Only the local residents from Cataluña have fullydiscovered the hidden pleasures in the Ebro Delta.
As in the case of most places of splendour, beauty draws crowds. In 2006, the Ebro Delta adopted the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism, thus protecting the park's natural heritage. Public and private investments are made to ensure that the area monitors the adverse impact of tourism on the landscapes.
A commitment has also been made to protect the park from excessive tourism development.
Sol-~avsko - Slovenia
With many of the peaks more than 2,000 metres in height, you can hike high or low at any time of the year either in Alpine meadows, misty beech forests or banks of wild strawberries. There are hundreds of walking trails here and apart from a scattering of farmhouses it is easy to find solitude.
In Logarska dolina, visitors can see more than forty natural attractions, which include waterfalls, springs, rock pillars, glacial boulders and ancient trees. In fact all of the valleys offer adventure sports in summer and winter. For instance you are in striking distance of the ski slopes at Krajiska Plenina, while the high mountains are geared for snowshoeing, ski touring and ice climbing, biking and hiking are also popular.
It is a region of waterfalls - there over 20, of which Rinka, is the most spectacular. The 80-meter arch of water drops in a sinuous, willowy curve, like a sleek pony tail. It is one of the highest free-falling waterfalls in Slovenia and is a protected natural monument
For an authentic Slovene experience, you can stay with a family and get your breakfast and dinner home-made every day. It is a great place for delicious mountain fare. For instance at the Tourist Farm GovcVrsnik - the locals flock here for lunch and the views are stunning.
This is a pristine Alpine environment, the local government and tourist authorities are keen on keeping it that way. But it is not just about the environment, the Slovene culture here is just as important - it is one of foresters, charcoal burners and farmers. All of them have coexisted with nature over the centuries.
Apuseni Natural Park - Romania
With over 1500 caves located in the park, Apuseni is an explorer's paradise. Hodobana, a massive underground labyrinth that meanders more than 21 kilometers, is a "must-see" attraction, as is the Zgurasti Cave, which shelters a spectacular underground lake. There is also the Valea Rea, which is one of the world's most significant caves, containing over 35 different types of minerals.
Another unique phenomenon in the park's landscape is the Groapa Ruginoasa. This colossal ravine has a diameter of about 450 meters and is over 100 meters deep. It was formed by water erosion that cut through the layers of sandstone and red-violet clays.
Apuseni is also home to an excess of alpine sports. Hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing are just a few of the many sports that draw visitors to the area.
The region is constantly evolving, with peat bogs emerging in the higher altitudes. The park is also home to over 1,550 different plant species. Spruce forests fill the mountainsides, while wild cherries and black walnuts grow in the meadows.
Recently, carnivorous wildlife, which was previously unknown to science, was discovered in some of the mountain's caves. These discoveries, combined with the already vast numbers of bear, lynx and wolves, make the region a truly remarkable habitat for wildlife.
Tourism continues to steadily grow in the region andthe Apuseni Natural Park has been able to meet this challenge. Developing tourist areas like Vladeasa and Albac offer top-notch accommodations and easy access to the park's attractions.
Having four distinct seasons is also a plus to the region. Tourism is spread out evenly through the year, allowing programs to be implemented to ensure the rehabilitation of the park's hiking and skiing trails. Romania has also reached out to other countries to discuss new and evolving environmental issues and measures. Apuseni Natural Park is a special place and the government plans on it remaining this way.
Valere is editor of the Sustainable Tourism Report Suite 2011 Special Offers HERE
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Tuesday, July 5, 2011