The Ayu-Dag Mountain is the most picturesque corner at the Southern Coast of Crimea and one of its main symbols. Ayu-Dag is Crimean Tatar for Bear Mountain. This name derives from its peculiar form, reminiscent of a giant bear, lying on the sea shore between resort settlements Partenit and Gurzuf.
It is this bear-form that caused multitude of legends about Ayu-Dag's origin. As one of them has it, thousands of years ago a huge bear wandered through Crimea's mountains and forests, and then it found itself in amazingly beautiful Partenit valley and decided to stay here forever. Being tired and thirsty, it bended down to the sea in order to slake its thirst. But the Sea God got scared that the huge animal would drink down the sea and turned it to stone.
Another, the most widespread legend about Ayu-Dag tells that once upon a time, a huge bear lived in Crimea; it fell in love with a girl and kept her by force for a long time. But once, the girl ran away on the ship, sailing by. Having lost its darling, the bear pined for her so long that finally turned to stone out of grief.
However, the history doesn't believe in fairy-tales and has its own, more plausible version of mysterious mountain's appearance on the Crimean coast. The scientists believe that Ayu-Dag was formed over 160 million years ago and is nothing but unaccomplished in the past volcano. Many kinds of different minerals were discovered here, and therefore, the Bear Mountain is now frequently called the natural mineralogical museum of the Southern Coast of Crimea.
The minerals are not the only Ayu-Dag's riches, though. Bear Mountain has a status of National Landscape Reserve, for its flora and fauna are unique in their own way. Mountain's slopes and peaks are covered with oak forests, pierced with ancient paths and shining with sunny glades; relict plants are of special value. Many trees' and plants' species that grow on Ayu-Dag, as well as animals that live here reckon among rare ones and are entered in the Red Book. Bear Mountain's marvelous nature, untouched by man and preserved in its primeval state, amazes imagination and takes one's breath away!
The Ayu-Dag is also interesting for the remains of the medieval constructions preserved here. Today one may see ruins of fortification facilities, dwelling buildings and temples on its top, slopes and at its foot. All these are evidences of the fact that since the 8th century, a fortified settlement stood on the mountain. It existed until Turks and Ottomans came to Crimea in 1475. Ayu-Dag settlements were formed near the St. Peter and Pavel Monastery, which had been built here somewhat earlier and turned the Bear Mountain in one of Christianity centers. Cloister's main temple was built at Ayu-Dag's eastern foot. Its remnants may be seen today on the territory of sanatorium 'Krim' in Partenit settlement.
When subduing the Bear Mountain, you should inevitably climb up to its very top, from where the wonderful panorama at the Southern Coast of Crimea and its azure bays and peculiar capes opens up.
Getting here. Ayu-Dag and adjoined 5 kilometers of the coastline are reserved area, and it's not easy to approach the mountain (it's surrounded with a fence). Although you may use one of many gaps in the fence, it is better to start a walking tour to the Bear Mountain along the tourist path. It starts on the territory of the military sanatorium 'Krim', located at Ayu-Dag's foot in Partenit settlement. It is possible to ascend the mountain from Gurzuf settlement's side, too.