The Kara-Dag Nature Reserve is a true Jurassic Park. Its dramatic landscape is the work of an extinct volcano (Kara-Dag, or 'Black Mountain' in Tatar) that spewed lava and debris over land and sea during the Jurassic period. Over millennia, the elements have moulded the volcanic rocks into striking shapes, with names like 'The Devil's Finger', 'The King and the Earth', and the most striking, 'Golden Gate' (Zolote Vorota), a freestanding arch in the sea. These all circle the 575m craggy Mt Kara-Dag; the friends of Koktebel-based poet Maximilian Voloshin used to tell him he looked like it!
The Kara-Dag Nature Reserve bio-station is on the outskirts of Kurortne. Anyone is free to visit the aquarium, dolphinarium and botanic gardens, but for environmental reasons you're not allowed in the main part of Kara-Dag territory without a guide.
The park administration offers several group hikes a day (except Tuesday), which cover 7km and last four hours (per adult/child 70/35uah).
An alternative is a boat trip around the Kara-Dag coast from Koktebel or Feodosiya. The three- to four-hour journey on the deck of a tug-sized ship doesn't get as up close and personal to the reserve as a hike. However, it's less strenuous and your boat does sail through the arch of the lava-formed Golden Gate. Bring your swimwear for one of the most pleasant dips in Crimea, when the boat stops for 20 to 30 minutes in a deep, clean stretch of the Black Sea.
In very hot or rainy weather the Kara-Dag administration may cancel all hikes and then a boat trip will be the only option.