Bulgaria: Nature and Wildlife
Despite its small size, Bulgaria is very geographically diverse. In order to protect such geography, the country hosts 3 national parks, 11 nature parks, and 54 nature preserves. Popular parks include Vitosha Nature Park, Rila National Park, Central Balkan National Park, and Pirin National Park.
When Vitosha Nature Park was established on October 27, 1934, it became the first such park on the Balkan Peninsula. It is home to Vitosha Mountain, which covers over 26,000 ha, and two nature reserves: Turf Reserve and Bistrishko Branishte Biosphere Reserve. Within Bistrishko Branishte Biosphere Reserve is one of the largest spruce forests in the country. UNESCO recognized the area when it became part of the Man and Biosphere Program in 1977.
Rila National Park was established in February 1922. It is located in the heart of the Rila Mountains and is Bulgaria’s largest national park. Rila is home to Musala, at 2,925 m (9,596 ft), it is the highest peak in the Balkans. It is therefore not surprising that the country’s oldest ski lodges are found here, making it incredibly popular with winter sports enthusiasts as well as hikers who enjoy the several eco trails that are on offer. There are more than 120 natural lakes in this part of the country, and the park is also home to four reserves. One of these reserves, Parangalitsa, has been named as part of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Reserve.
Central Balkan National Park was established in 1991, and as its name suggests, is found in central Bulgaria, in the highest section of the Balkan Mountains. One of the main features of the park is the Central Stara Planina Mountains, of which, the highest peak is Mount Botev at 2,376 m (7,795 ft). There are also nine conservation areas found in the park, the most famous of which is Dzhendema. This reserve is the largest in the Balkan Range, and is the second largest in Bulgaria. It is located on the south slope of Mount Botev and is one of the most visited reserves in the country.
Pirin National Park, found in southwestern Bulgaria, was designated as a national park in November 1962, before becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. It was given such distinction due to its limestone mountain landscapes and for its remoteness. This park is home to various animal and bird species but is particularly famous for the extensive plant life that grows here.
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