Western Caucasus

Orekhovsky waterfall in Sochi

The Western Caucasus comprises the extreme western edge of the Caucasus Mountains, from the Black Sea to Mount Elbrus. Together with the Virgin Komi Forests, it is one of only two large mountain areas in Europe that has not experienced significant human impact.

Its habitats are exceptionally varied for such a small area, ranging from lowlands to glaciers.

The area includes:

- Caucasian State Nature Biosphere Reserve

- Sochi National Park

- Bolshoy Thach nature park

- the nature monuments of Buiny Ridge

- the headwaters of the River Tsitsa

- the Pshecha and Pshechashcha rivers

Fauna includes wolf, bear, lynx, wild boar and the reintroduced European bison which are globally endangered.


Community Reviews

Iain Jackson - January 2017

UNESCO describes this site as "...one of two large mountain areas in Europe that has not experienced significant human impact." And I can vouch for that. This human found it very difficult to have any impact on it.

In 2011, with wife Freda and son Euan, I based myself in Sochi for a few days as we tried to find a way into this vast area from the southern side. We went north by bus to the end of the line at Krasnaya Polyana and from there took a cable car up the mountain. From here we could see (within the WHS) beautiful green mountainsides topped by grey rocky crags but we could not get amongst them. Whether even this is possible now I do not know as the area will have been transformed by the works undertaken for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

For 9 of the last 10 years the site has been the subject of reports to the WHC because of threats to its OUV. These threats usually arise from the activities of some branch of government for example, road building or tourist development, or are, at least, officially connived at, for example, logging and grazing of livestock. The WHC has threatened to threaten the relevant authorities with placing the site on the Register of WHS in Danger and the relationship with UNESCO remains difficult.

In June 2016, alone, I approached the area from the north in a hire car picked up when I arrived at Krasnodar airport. I stayed the night in Dakhovskaya and next day early drove to Guzeripl where there is an entrance to the park and a small Visitor Centre. Here, in the forest I came to a fork in the track and chose what seemed to be the road less travelled. This led for several hours, during which time I saw almost no-one, through beautiful green trees in dappled sunshine till I judged I must turn back if I was to have time to investigate the other branch of the track. This soon led, alongside a swiftly flowing stream, to a small, not very interesting, museum and a kind of dolmen erected over some large rocks.

On the basis of this little excursion I would not say I have gained any substantial knowledge of the site. I found almost no useful literature at the site and signing was poor. However I am disinclined to spend any more of my declining years trying to penetrate it and with a clear conscience I stake my claim to be one of the first of Els' people to visit this site

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Site Info

Full name: Western Caucasus

Site History

  • 2004 - Not approved

    Extension not approved: recommends a comprehensive assessment of the Western Caucasus to identify all potential sites that may merit inclusion in a serial World Heritage site
  • 1999 - Inscribed

    Reasons for inscription


The site has 6 locations.

  • Bolshoy Thach Nature Park Russian Federation
  • Buffer zone of the Kavkazkiy Nature Reserve Russian Federation
  • Headwaters of Rivers Pshecha and Pshechashcha Nature Monument Russian Federation
  • Kavkazkiy Nature Reserve Russian Federation
  • Ridge Buijnij Nature Monument Russian Federation
  • River Tsitsa headwaters Nature Monument Russian Federation


The site has 18 connections.


  • Tumuli There have been numerous findings in the tumuli including unique golden adornments and artifacts of metal and clay. (EOEarth)



  • Black Sea 
  • Caucasus 
  • Glaciers IUCN review of 1999 - Contains "60 remnant glaciers (total area 18km2)". The unapproved proposed extenion of 2004 would have included the higher peaks of the W Caucasus.
  • On National Border On Georgia border


  • Early Hominid Remains Archaeologists have found more than 150 Neanderthal sites along with the remains of mammoths, aurochs, and wild horses. (EOEarth)


WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process

  • Sites for which a reduction is/was planned "intention of the State Party to submit a proposal for a boundary modification by excluding parts of the Lagonaki plateau from the property which are reported to be degraded" (2014)