The Bulgarian Countryside
By Petya Milkova
Bulgaria is a popular destination for sea and ski holidays. But the country also has other charming places yet to be discovered. These are the numerous mountains, plains, rivers, villages and many more.
Here you can practice many outdoor activities. Among the well developed are trekking and hiking, horseback riding, bird watching, etc. Other practiced activities are caving, paragliding, mountain-biking, rafting and kayaking, photography tours, botany, etc.
The unique geographical location of Bulgaria provides possibilities for all year round adventure activities. There are four snowy months, a mild and green spring when many flowers blossom, hot summers with less rain and colorful autumns.
Bulgaria is one of the few countries with very well preserved nature: Three National parks, nine Nature parks and many reserves (two of them included in the UNESCO list). There are eco-trails, which run through the protected areas and show unique natural wonders.
Everyone has a chance to observe the rich flora and fauna in their natural habitat. Especially for the bird watching lovers, the country is a must. With more than 400 species of birds, Bulgaria is justifiably known as a bird watcher’s paradise. There are over 200 Dalmatian pelicans in the colony at the Srebarna, a UNESCO reserve, which is the best European colony.
The chain of the Central Balkan National Park, Pirin and Vitosha mountains National Parks, Rila mountain with many mountain reserves, Rhodope mountain and in the far Southeast Strandza Mountain National Park and the local reserves, with their perfect woods and huge cliffs give great opportunities for raptors. The greatest autumn and winter migration in Europe, when thousands of rare birds fly the so-called “Via Pontica” way, can be observed on the Black Sea coast.
More than 2/3 of the territory of Bulgaria is mountain ranges within very close proximity. Malyovitsa range in Rila mountains is considered a very popular place for the Bulgarian rock climbers and mountaineers. The area is extremely beautiful and offers sites such as a 100m waterfall, overhanging 300m red granite walls, centuries-old forests, beautiful lakes, and rivers.
One of the most popular places in Rila is undoubtedly the region of the seven Rila lakes. Situated one above the other, the lakes form a brilliant necklace of crystal blue water basins.
Climbing the Evil Fang
The Granite Water refuge is a major starting point for rock climbs on the walls of the Evil Fang, the Devil’s Needles, Dvuglav, and the Needle peaks. Their overhanging granite walls are among the most difficult climbing routes in Bulgaria.
Another favorite attraction for hikers is the Zlite Pototsi (Evil Streams) – steep gorges with a vertical slope of more than 1,000m.
Mountaineering attractions in Pirin Mountain include Strazhite (The Guards), a group of sharp rocky peaks with alpine appearance. Vihren peak (2,914m) and the other high peaks in Pirin, are popular among lovers of climbing. Vihren is not only the highest peak in Pirin but also second highest in Bulgaria, after Musala – 2,925m, and third on the Balkan peninsula, after Musala and Olympus in Greece.
The backbone of Bulgaria, Stara Planina, which separates the country into two parts, lacks the high peaks of the other mountains and consists mainly of hills with grass and meadows. One of the most memorable places to visit there is the Rai ( Paradise ) Chalet and the highest waterfall in Bulgaria, Raiskoto Praskalo. Huge meadows and 150m high rocks above them characterize the place.
A hike in the great pine woods of the Rhodope Mountains – known as the green heart of Europe – will meet you with astonishing natural phenomenon, forgotten and abandoned villages, living traditions, and crafts.
The quaint architectural style of building in the village of Kovachevitza has not been changed since the founding of the village (the end of the 17 century) – only stone and wood.
Its narrow, cobblestone streets, the tall white-facade houses with stone-slab roofs are a unique example of the Bulgarian architectural genius. Stone and Wood
Shiroka Luka village is another architectural and ethnographical reserve, located in the valley of the Shirokolushka River and 20 km north-west from the Rhodopean town of Smolyan. The oldest houses date back to the beginning of the 19 century. The houses vary in design by the introduction of overhanging bays and forthcoming protrusions. There is a very famous music school teaching national instruments.
All these places are suitable for eco and rural tourism. The diverse relief, the richness of land formations, biological diversity and environmentally clean regions represent Bulgaria ‘s potential for further development of this type of recreation.
Nowadays, many guesthouses and family managed hotels are working all over the country. Hosts expect guests all year round and offer good service. The eco produce, which grows in the garden and in the near woods, guarantees a delicious meal. The taste of the local wine, honey or milk is unforgettable. You can even participate in preparing food on the spot.
Reprinted courtesy of our friends at Escape from America magazine