The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is expanding its tourist services with a 32-kilometer trail that connects the Akhaldaba and Nedzvi villages with the Didi Karta and Shuano mountains. The trail offers visitors panoramic views of the Nedzvi Managed Reserve, the Mtkvari River and historical sites such as the ninth century Tamar Castle. Tourists can follow the trail’s international system of hiking markers for the day, stay at either a modern camping site or a new tourist cottage, and make use of other infrastructure, all of which comply with ecotourism standards.
The Agency of Protected Areas built the trail with GEL 230,000 in support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility and the Caucasus Nature Fund. This support draws on a broader program to help Georgia improve the sustainable management of its 12 largest protected areas: Algeti National Park, Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, Javakheti National Park, Kazbegi National Park, Kintrishi Protected Areas, Lagodekhi Protected Areas, Machakhela National Park, Mtirala National Park, Pshav-Khevsureti Protected Areas, Tusheti Protected Areas, Tusheti Protected Landscape and Vashlovani Protected Areas.
Environmental Protection and Agriculture Minister Levan Davitashvili, UNDP Acting Head Anna Chernyshova, and Caucasus Nature Fund Executive Director Tobias Muenchmeyer visited the tourist trail on 8 June.
“A new hiking trail in the Borjomi-Kharagauli Protected Areas is located at 2,000 m above sea level. It will attract visitors interested in exploring ecotourism opportunities and fascinated by the beauty of Georgia’s nature,” Davitashvili said. “Ecotourism development and the rehabilitation of hiking trails is important for Georgia’s economy. In 2020, even during the pandemic lockdown, the Ministry rehabilitated 200 kilometers of ecotourism trails in protected areas. A further 1,200 kilometer of hiking trails will be rehabilitated in the next three years.”
“Protected areas are priceless resources that safeguard the environment, promote tourism and create economic opportunities for people,” he noted. “Environmental tourism is one of the ways to ensure that protected areas are financially sustainable and that they benefit local communities.”
“The travel restrictions and lack of tourist activities over the last year had environmental benefits and reduced pressure on rivers, forests and other ecosystems,” Chernyshova highlighted. “As economic and tourist activities come back, we need to ensure that they develop sustainably and benefit the economy, people and the environment.”
UNDP has been assisting Georgia reform and develop its system of protected areas for over a decade. With funds from the Global Environment Facility and the Government of Sweden, UNDP has been working with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, the Agency of Protected Areas, educational institutions, local authorities and communities to help introduce development strategies for protected areas, improve their management and financial sustainability, train and equip park rangers, promote ecotourism, develop tourist infrastructure and carry out public outreach campaigns.