Photography by Sergei Gapon for UNDP in Belarus

During COVID-19, when most of the people are trying to stay away from crowded places and have spent a lot of time in isolation/quarantine, outdoor activities have gained popularity. Such activities away from city gives us a great opportunity to hide from corona virus,  disturbing news all around and spend time  uniting with nature. But it is important  to have comfortable and safe conditions for complete relaxation.

Mereya is a  place which fulfills all the criteria, the camping site was developed here in 2018 as part of the Polish development cooperation program The site is at the lake shore , in a picturesque corner of the Vitebsk region between the Braslav lakes  and the crane-inhabited Yelnya wetlands.

In 2020, under the "Supporting Entrepreneurship in Tourism at the Local Level in the Republic of Belarus" UNDP project, steps were taken towards infrastructure development and outdoor equipment procurement for organizing tourist leisure activities. You’ll find there all the necessary amenities for a comfortable stay. Camping grounds, places for setting up tents, wooden pergolas, places for bonfire and barbecue, a pier, playground, showers and toilets.

In "Mereya" everyone will find something to their liking, regardless of age and physical capabilities. You can come in a small group, individually or with family.

For families with children, the site is equipped with a playground, rental bicycles, children and adult helmets. For lovers of extreme who are not afraid of cold weather and would like to spend a night or two, rental tents are available.

A range of lakes will not leave aside inveterate fishermen who can come for a day or with an overnight stay in a nearby farm, a forester's or a hunter's lodge. Fishing is a safe and peaceful activity during the COVID, allowing staying in the fresh air alone with nature. You can fish from the shore or rent a boat. Even the fishing equipment such as fishing rods, spinning rods, hooks can be rented on the spot.

During these difficult times of coronavirus, when companies are bound to cancel corporate events so as not to gather many people in an enclosed space, organizing a holiday in nature is a good alternative to indoor programs. Camping Mereya is a large area equipped with electricity and water, perfect for organizing a corporate party/event. Within the framework of the project, sports equipment for playing tennis, badminton, and volleyball were also supplied.

An extensive cultural program that you can arrange for yourself will not let you get bored here. For example, you can go to Miory, visit Disna, the smallest city in Belarus, or go to see Yelnya - one of the oldest and unique swamps in Belarus ...

Within the framework of the project, travel routes are being developed, which will be posted on the camping website and added to booklets. The camping has wooden pergolas that can be used for picnics as a safe alternative to restaurants by people preferring social distancing these days.

The site is gaining popularity among lovers of nature. This year,  63 people have visited Mereya camping. Due to the coronavirus, these were mainly residents of the Vitebsk region.  A new job has been created in the camp administration to keep it well-maintained - an administrator who monitors the cleanliness and order on the territory, but this is only a beginning.

The plans are to further develop the infrastructure, aiming towards becoming a popular site for campers and get into the European caravanning network, which will attract foreign campers to the site. Improving the infrastructure and promoting the facility within the framework of the project will increase the flow of tourists, which in turn will entail the creation of new jobs, local farmers and artisans will be able to offer their products to tourists. All this will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the economic development of the region.

In 2021, an International Campers' Meeting is planned in Moscow and the level of infrastructure at the Mereya Camping corresponds to accepting caravanners in transit through Belarus.

The Miory region is a lake-bog land with a unique nature, the development of infrastructure will contribute to the effective use of the tourism potential in the region and increase the competitiveness of tourism facilities far from big cities.

Disna Forestry and Camping "Mereya" is one of the pilot sites of the "Supporting Entrepreneurship in Tourism at the Local Level in the Republic of Belarus" project, funded by Polish Aid development program and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Sports and Tourism of Belarus.

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