Khosrov Forest State Reserve
Khosrov Forest State Reserve, which covers 23213.5 hectares, is one of the oldest protected areas in the world and the largest natural reserve in the country. It was first established by King Khosrov III, a Christian monarch, around the year 330 in order to improve climatic conditions in the nearby city of Artashat.
One of the leading attractions in Armenia offering fun, adventure and amusement in a pristine natural setting, is the Khosrov Forest State Reserve located in the province of Ararat. Here, locals and tourists alike can enjoy every minute spent getting acquainted with the reserve’s amazing and wonderful landscapes, enchanting flora and fauna, as well as the legends each stone has to tell.
Historical evidence regarding the reserve was found in the writings of Armenian historian Pavstos Byuzand. There were initially two forests; one was called Tachar Mayri, which lays between the Garni temple and Dvin city, while the other was called Khosrovakert that lays between the cities of Artashat and Dvin. Tachar Mayri is translated as “Sacred Forest,” and Khosrovakert means “founded by Khosrov.” With centuries passing by, the forest of Khosrovakert was lost and there remained only the Sacred Forest. The latter was then merged with the surrounding natural forest.
The region was declared a reserve zone in 1958 by the Government of Soviet Armenia. The goal of the reserve was once again clarified and goes as follows, “The purpose of Khosrov Forest State Reserve is the protection of Azat River resources, juniper and oak, arid mountain vegetation, rare animals and plants.”
Khosrov Forest State Reserve, which covers 23213.5 hectares, is one of the oldest protected areas in the world and the largest natural reserve in the country. It was first established by King Khosrov III, a Christian monarch, around the year 330 in order to improve climatic conditions in the nearby city of Artashat. Trees were planted on the high slopes and populated with wildlife for royal hunting parties. It is believed that this reservation was the only one of its type in the Roman Empire.
The Khosrov Reserve extends along the Geghama Ridge at an altitude varying between 700 and 2800 meters and is noted for its diversity in unique European and Asian flora and fauna. With approximately 30 percent of the reserve forested, Khosrov is reputed for its spectacular scenery, pristine environment, and rich historical legacy, including associations with the Silk Road. The reserve has been granted official status by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and is now managed and operated as a non-profit organization.
Remarkably, the reserve has four diverse ecosystems: semi-desert, mountain steppes, woodlands, and alpine meadows – all boasting a rich variety of flora and fauna depicted in the new Visitor's’ Center for the Reserve constructed in Garni. Around 15% of the Reserve is composed of forest and 20% is open grassland meadow. Khosrov holds an impressive variety of flora comprising 1849 species, including endemic, rare, and endangered plants. The semi-arid areas are dominated by wormwoods, buckthorn, almond, caper, and thyme. Arid grasslands have small strands of junipers, almond and maple, as well as extensive areas of oak.
Khosrov is home to 33 species of reptiles which populate a range of habitat from semi-desert to the subalpine meadowlands. The main varieties of lizards found in the Reserve are the Caucasian Agama, Snake-eyed Lizard, and the Caucasus Emerald Lizard. The main snakes found in Khosrov are the Wood Snake, Mountain Grassland Viper, and the Armenian Viper. Several varieties of rare snake species are also present, including the Golden Grass Mabuya, Black-headed Ground Snake, and the Transcaucasian Rat Snake.
Incredibly, 56% of all the bird species present in Armenia can be found within the Khosrov Reserve. This amounts to a total of 192 species of which 83 are migratory. The Reserve is particularly rich in raptors with the Bearded Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Eurasian Griffon, Peregrine and Lanner Falcons all found in Khosrov. Species included a number of endangered genera, such as the Black Vulture, European Roller, Mongolian Finch, and the exceptionally rare Red-tailed Wheatear. A wide variety of avian habitats exist in the Reserve although perhaps none is so impressively striking as the ‘Bird Fortress’, a towering and heavily eroded cliff side that has been colonized by white-chested crows. Located in the Center of the Reserve, this site can only be accessed by horseback through areas of wild forest, a journey of immense interest for nature enthusiasts.
There are no less than 41 mammal species within Khosrov, including wild boar, Grey Wolf, Eurasian Lynx, Red Fox, and badgers. Species include the Ussurian Spotted Deer, which was introduced in 1594 and now thrives in the area. A number of rare and endangered animal species roam wild within the park and are best observed either early in the morning or evening, these include: the Persian Leopard, the Bezoar Ibex, an impressively large horned wild goat, the Marbled Polecat, the European Wildcat, and last but by no means least, the Brown Bear.
Access to the reserve is strictly controlled and permissions must be obtained from the Reserve Director, who is based in a headquarters building on the outskirts of Vedi to obtain a visitors pass, the cost of which will vary dependent on the itinerary that you wish to follow within the park. Tours of the park are guided by a Ranger and use park vehicles as no private transport is allowed to circulate within the Reserve.
Entering the park from the direction of Vedi, the visitor arrives at a new multifunction visitor Center which comes with an information desk, restaurant, kitchen and six bedrooms for up to 20 guests. The Center also has toilets and guest bathrooms. Laying close to the Visitor Center a very attractive camping area has been developed with tent pitches, toilets, barbecue, covered dining area, and even a traditional Armenian bread oven (“tonir”). The reception area also has ample parking spaces, park ranger accommodations, and large stables for the horses used by Rangers and visitors to gain access to some of the more remote areas of the Reserve.