Visit a Biodiversity Hotspot
Located along the Aras river, on the border with Armenia, is a conservation area for birds and other wildlife that is part of a biodiversity project. One of the objectives of the project is the promotion of ecotourism, especially birdwatching, since the region is located on a major flyway. On the first birdwatching tour organized by the project, participants saw 276 different species, many endangered or threatened, in three weeks. The region also offers diverse plant and butterfly species. Besides wildlife, the region offers canoing, rafting, mountaineering, nature walks, rock and ice climbing, ski, tours with horses, ice fishing and mountain biking. The region is mostly undiscovered by international visitors, but it is hoped that will change and ecotourism can become an industry that will promote conservation of this unique region.
Biyotematur, a non-profit ecotourism company that is a division of the Turkey-based non-government environmental foundation, TEMA, can arrange visits to the region. Funda Ozevin (firstname.lastname@example.org) can be contacted for any logistic questions. Birding tours generally consist of 8-14 people, but smaller groups can be accomodated.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
Armenian Church of Khtskonk
This was the consolation that the Digor police gave us after finally being denied permission to visit Mren Cathedral. We were told that we could visit Khtskonk church, but they would offer no protection. We were not asking for protection and they probably figured we would not attempt going to such a remote site. But we did! The church is difficult to find. The directions in the Rough Guide are as good as any. About 4 1/2 km. north of Digor, turn to the left onto a dirt trail above a quarry. Drive as far as you can and then follow the side of the hill, working your way to the right. You will come to a ravine. Follow the ravine up the hill until you come to a crossable site, cross over the ravine, and then follow it down to the gorge of the Digor Cayi. Follow the Digor Cayi northerly until you see the church. We did not descend all the way to the cayi, so we viewed the church from above.
The remaining church is the chapel of St. Sergius, built around 1029. There were originally 5 churches here, that were restored in 1878. The other 4 were destroyed (and this one heavily damaged) between 1920 and 1965 either by the Turkish army or by locals who moved into the area after the expulsion of the Armenians.
Finding the church is worth the effort!
The Armenian Cathedral at Mren was built around 640 and seems to rival in size the great Cathedral at Ani. We were denied permission to visit the cathedral--though the huge structure is clearly visible from the highway from Tuzluca to Digor. We appealed to the army, the jandarma, the police, even the governor of the province. All were polite, but the answer was always politely "No." It would seem that one could simply drive to the nearby village of Karabag and then just go on to the cathedral. Hopefully, someone will attempt this. But if you ask permission, expect it to be denied. Outside of Ani, the Turkish government, or at least the local officials, have so far failed to realize the tourist appeal of these sites.
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