Thanks to their spectacular nature and history, Armenia and Artsakh are increasingly being discovered by nature lovers from all over the world. AHA-Armenia's mission is to attract more of these tourists by building new hiking and biking trails, as well as bringing existing trails to international standards.
Ecotourism is one of the best ways to revitalize rural communities. By creating jobs and improving the standards of living, AHA-Armenia strives to stop - or at least slow down - the rate of emigration, which poses a serious threat to the very existence of those communities. AHA-Armenia is cooperating with individual donors, governmental agencies and various NGOs, like the Smithsonian Institution and the United Nations Development Programme, to make ecotourism an integral part of the economies of both Armenia and Artsakh, and it is confident that its initiative will yield positive results.
Beginning in March 2017, AHA-Armenia raised the required funds from individual donors and began the installation of stone markers along the most popular 36 trails in Armenia. The posts display vital information about the trails, such as direction, location coordinates, warning signs, and 911 assistance. The posts are cut from rocks native to Armenia and the labels are manufactured by a local company that employs disabled workers. The posts are installed by an enthusiastic group of AHA volunteers and members of sister organizations. All signs are displayed in 3 languages: Armenian, English and Russian.
This project is almost complete.
The Armenian Highland Trail will stretch from the border of Georgia to Iran, passing through villages and points of historic and cultural significance. It will be built in stages, from village to village, eventually bringing all trails in Armenia and Artsakh into one vast interconnected network. Planning and fundraising has already begun. Soon, three bridges will be installed on the trail from Shushi to Karintak in Artsakh, one of the most spectacular trails throughout the entire region, bringing it to acceptable international safety standards. Currently, the 3 crossings have logs acting as bridges, making the trail unsafe. There will also be several re-routes to improve the overall condition of the trail. Part of the funds for this project was raised by ultra-runner Telma Ghazarian Altoon, who ran from Vardenis to Hadrut in June of 2017, a distance of 178 miles.
The last phase of the project will involve selecting one rural community in Armenia with the most potential for adventure tourism and build infrastructure to support hiking, biking, off-roading, skiing and other types of activities. Many European countries have similar villages that attract tourists from all over the world all year round. In addition to acting as an important hub for adventure tourism in Armenia, such a village will bring new vitality for the entire region.
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