By Samaneh Aboutalebi

Forest tourism, an untapped potential in northeastern Iran 

December 21, 2020 - 18:36

As ecotourism develops and becomes more popular around the world, the social demand for attractive, quiet, safe, and natural-looking spaces for recreation rises as well. 

This is where forests play a key role in attracting tourists and developing tourism, and Iran, as a four-season country is a home to several pristine forested lands.   

Different provinces across the country benefit from dense forests, their magnificence, sceneries, and the income they bring in, however, oak forests in North Khorasan are still less known to potential travelers and holidaymakers.

With an area of about 25,000 hectares, the forested land of the northeastern province, which is the only oak forest in the eastern side of the country, is located around the village of Daraksh, a tourist destination in Maneh and Samalqan county, while the Atrak River, as the only permanent vital artery in the northeast of the country completes the picture of this large ecosystem.

Due to the special climate conditions of this province and the topographic situation of the region, the medicinal plants have a lot of diversity and variety in this area. Some 1100 different plant species are existing in the province. 

The oak forests of this region are among the oldest in the world. Its oak species is known by the scientific name of Quercus castanifolia, which are currently subject to different university researches. 

Besides their value for the ecosystem and environment, these forests are very important in terms of tourism and economic prosperity and need proper protection and preservation.  

According to Science Direct Western, oak forests are home to many species including, the Persian squirrel which is the indicator species of this region. Persian squirrels and oak trees have symbiotic relationships, in which forests provide ecological requirements of Persian squirrels such as food and shelter, and, in return, the Persian squirrel contributes to seed germination and forests’ regeneration.

A large part of the experience of ecotourism and recreational landscape depends on the maintenance of forested land. Effective management of tourism and recreation in forests can provide extra income for the locals.

Though North Khorasan province may not be the first choice of regular travelers, its tourism is getting momentum. Most foreign tourists pass straight through North Khorasan in transit between Mashhad and Gorgan according to Lonely Planet, but if you have time to explore, it's worth diverting south from the capital, Bojnurd, towards Esfarayen, famed for its wrestling tournaments, the remarkable citadel of Belqays and the partly preserved stepped village of Roein some 20km north. Although a lot of new building spoils the effect in parts of the village, Roein is considered Khorasan’s answer to the well-known Masuleh and is a possible starting point for hikes to little-visited mountain villages.

ABU/AFM

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