Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is the pride of Georgia, a country in the Caucasus region that is rich in natural treasures and tourist attractions. Boarded by the Black Sea and dotted by picturesque mountains of the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountain ranges, Georgia is one of the most spectacular places that have been blessed by Mother Nature. It is almost a crime of nature for putting together all its treasures in one geographical location.
Found in central Georgia near the equally interesting city of Borjomi, the National Park is one of the largest parks in Europe, covering at least 76,000 hectares of untouched forests and alpine meadows. It is almost 1% of the country’s total land area. The park is teeming with rare animal and plant species that never fail to attract scientists, nature lovers, tourists, backpackers, locals, and children. Visiting Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is simply magical.
Not only is the park the largest in the country, it is also the oldest; the first that was established in the Caucasus region. It was first cordoned as a protected hunting area during medieval times. In the 19th century, it was converted into a national park by the ruling Russian Empire. Mikhail Romanov, brother of the Russian Emperor, Alexander II, fell in love with the beauty of the region and so restricted hunters and tree cutters from entering the reserve.
During the Soviet years, the park was enlarged to 18,000 hectares. In 1995, four years after the Soviet rule ended, the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park was finally established with the help of the German government and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). It officially opened in 2001.
Today, freely roaming inside the thick forests and meadows are wildcats, leopards, striped hyenas, brown bears, badgers, deer, wood and rock marten, Caucasian turs, mountain goats, gazelles, otters, minks, and lynxes. The park is home to about 130 mammalian species and more than 6,400 plant species. There are also endemic species of moles, shrews, lizards, and snakes. Snake and reptile lovers are best to come in June when these beautiful slimy creatures are easily spotted.
Bird watchers will also get a heyday. Spotted in the park, to name a few, are the imperial eagle, eagle owls, woodpeckers, hawks, falcons, pigeons, and wrens, as well as the endemic Caspian snowcock, Caucasian chiffchaff and Caucasian black grouse.
Visiting this immense park should take at least three days to a week. Walking through the park’s trails that run a total of 17 kilometers will take visitors to an amazing journey through canyons, gorges, mysterious forests and over Mount Sametskhvareo, the park’s highest peak at 2,642 meters. One of the top draws is the amazing view of the Black Sea and the Great Caucasus Mountains.
There are nine official forest trails that go through four shelters for tourists. There are fireplaces here to keep visitors warm but the basic shelters lack beds and cooking facilities. There are also picnic areas and campsites for families and children to enjoy. The trails are open from April to October.
Meanwhile, if for some illogical reason Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park fails to satisfy, tourists can check out a number of nearby attractions, which include the Atskuri Forest, Khertvisi Fortress, authentic medieval villages, and the ancient city of Borjomi.