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On October 27-30 the Third World Rural Tourism Conference took place in Zhejiang province. It is traditionally held in Huzhou district, and that is not a coincidence: it is an example to follow to Chinese rural tourism. Its organizers were local authorities and Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

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For years, the name “Belarus” has not been on every tourist’s lips. Despite its pristine nature, rich Soviet legacy, developing agritourism and general safety for travelers, the country didn’t receive the attention it’s worth of. But things are going to change: the Republic of Belarus has opened its borders and is now visa-free for tourist from a number of states (including the UK), who travel by plane.

On February, 9 during a meeting in London AITO welcomed another associated member – the Republican union of tourism industry (RUTI), an organization that consolidates tour operators, DMCs, hotels and tourist attractions from Belarus.

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One visa-free zone “Brest-Grodno”

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has signed Decree No. 300 “On Establishing a Visa-Free Procedure for Entry and Exit of Foreign Citizens”, the press service of the president reports.

The previously separate Brest and Grodno visa-free zones for tourist and recreation purposes are now combined into a unified Brest-Grodno visa-free territory. It includes five districts: Brest, Volkovysk, Grodno, Lida and Shchuchin.

In this region, the period of stay without a visa is increased to 15 days for citizens of 73 countries. In addition, it will be possible to enter the country through two additional checkpoints: Bieniakoni and Berestovitsa.

Foreigners will be able to travel without visas throughout the western regions, provided that they are part of organized tourist groups on routes that provide for a visit to the visa-free territory of Brest – Grodno.

The decree comes in force three months after its official publication.

At the same time, a visa-free entry procedure for citizens of 74 states to Belarus for up to 30 days via Minsk National Airport is maintained, which is provided for by decree of January 9, 2017 No. 8 (as amended, effective July 24, 2018).

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As your know, HBO produced a new miniseries “Chernobyl”, a five-part historical drama about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986. Success of HBO’s drama became a reason of a new wave of tourists to Chernobyl area and to Vilnius, where it was shooting as well.

But not many foreign guests know, that Belarus also suffered terribly after this catastrophe. Back to 1988 The Polesie State Radioecological Reserve was established to enclose the most affected territory by radioactive fallout.

Since 1993 the total area of the reserve is 2,162 km2 (835 sq mi), which makes it the biggest Belarusian nature reserve and one of the biggest in Europe. It is located in southern Gomel Region and bordering the Ukrainian Exclusion Zone.

For 30 years, it has been a closed area, where research and experimental activities were done. Since December of 2018, it has become open for tourists.
Although the Belarusian part of the Exclusion Zone lacks such landmarks as Pripyat and Chernobyl itself, it has its own distinct feature: human influence factor has been minimized, and nature has claimed the abandoned settlements.

A visit would be a remarkable possibility both to visit the villages, evacuated in 1986 and see picturesque and pristine nature. The reserve hosts many rare and endangered species, which thrive there thanks to the virtual absence of humans. They include bears, European bison, Przewalski horse, Golden eagle and White-tailed eagle. It is home to the world’s largest population of the European marsh turtle.

You can visit this place and learn a lot about the history of one the most terrible man-made catastrophes, about modern life of scientists monitoring it’s results, and about nature adopting to new conditions.

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