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Rila and Pirin Mountains – The best of nature in Bulgaria

Known as the earliest civilizations in Europe, Bulgaria is the country with the biggest settlements and burial tombs ever found.  Her antique culture has had influences by Greek and Roman Empire and some monuments are still preserved from those times.

Bulgaria has a diverse landscape, with plains, plateaus, valleys and mountains with different elevations. It also has a climate that is great for those who like walking or adventure holidays, with many days of sunshine and temperature around 10° to 14°С.

A place with centuries of history, Bulgaria also is one of the countries with beautiful landscapes and the one of the biggest mountains of the Balkans – Rila and Pirin Mountain.


Rila Mountain

Rila Mountain is in southwestern of Bulgaria. On third of the mountain is occupied by The National Park Rila. It is the biggest park in Bulgaria, with 81.046 hectares.

With a diverse flora, Rila Mountain is a place to connect with the nature. There are here 36 unique species of plants from the Balkans – three of them you can find only in Rila Mountain – Primula deorum, Rheum rhaponticum and Alchemilla pawlowskii

Some of these species have survived the glacial period.  Rila Mountain also boasts more than 200 glacial lakes and some of the longest rivers of the Balkans. That`s the reason the ancient Thracians – a tribe who lived there centuries ago and is mention in the book Iliad.  The Thracians called this place of ‘mountains of water’.

The fauna is also rich yet unfortunately, in danger. Of the 170 species of animals living in Rila Mountain, 121 of them are threatened species. The largest Bulgarian population of chamois live in Rila Mountain, as well the ground squirrel and one of the biggest nesting sites of the pygmy owl.

Rila Monastery

Rila is also famous for being the place of the largest and most important monastery of Bulgaria, the Rila Monastery. Founded in the 10th century, the monastery is located in the recesses of the mountain.

Its history is related to, St Ivan of Rila, who settle in a cave in that area and devoted his life to fasting and prayers. The monastery was built near to the cave where the saint lived and now is buried. There are 300 rooms in it, 100 of are monastic cells.

The monastery is a fortress and a place where monks dwelled in times of trouble. The chapel is dated from the 14th century and is full of amazing paintings that can be seen through the windows of the chapel.

Many artists and wood-carvers worked in the temple, but only one – Zahari Zograf, left his signature. The church also preserves the relics of the founder of the monastery, St Ivan of Rila.

Rila Monastery it is always known as a spiritual, educational and cultural centre of Bulgaria. In 1961 it became a National Historical Reserve. UNESCO declared it World Cultural Heritage in the 80’s.


Pirin Mountain

Translating the name to English, Pirin is the ‘snow-white mountain’.  Like Rila Mountain, Pirin has a National Park with 40.000 hectares.

In Pirin Mountains are the oldest reserves in Bulgaria and it is included by UNESCO on the list of reserves as part of the “Man and Biosphere” program.

In the park there are more than 180 species of medicinal plants such as Rosaceae, Lamiaceae and Asteraceae. There are also over 1.300 flora species.

This variety of plants support many kinds of animals – more than 2.000 in total, some of them in the list of endangered species as the Eastern Hermann`s tortoise for example.

In Pirin Mountains are a lot of trails too. There are 35 forest trails that go through the park, 8 hikers’ shelters and 4 hikers` huts.

The Pirin Nature Park is an important national resource. Visitors should take great care to preserve its beauty by not littering. Hunting is prohibited, as is fishing in many of the park’s rivers. Logging is also forbidden, as is tampering with the park’s signs and trail markers.
One of the most beautiful parts of Pirin landscape can be seen in the 176 crystal-clear lakes. All have glacial origin and they are surrounded by snow-capped peaks. The largest and also biggest is the Popovo Lake.


Walking Holidays in Bulgaria

For those who love walking holidays, Bulgaria Mountains are the perfect place to be. There are well-marked hiking routes in Rila and Pirin Mountains.

The two mountains are alpine, with steep ridges, high peaks and deep valleys. The highest peak is located in Rila Mountains – Mount Musala, with 2.925 m. In Rila Mountain are also a resorts for those who enjoying skiing.

Both Mountains are a hospitable places throughout the year. Don`t forget to be well prepared for a good walk and enjoy the beauty of the place.

To know more about Bulgaria, click here.

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