National park Tsentralen Balkan: General information
The name of Stara planina mountain –Balkan – is connected with the ancient history of our land. It is not surprising that the whole peninsula is named after the mountain. Despite the severe climate, the inaccessible gorges and the awesome valleys it has given shelter to people since ancient times, during the Thracian and Roman days, up to the present. The Balkan reflects all the cultural and historic developments and has always played a significant role for the destiny of the region.
During the centuries the people living in the mountain used and preserved the natural resources. Stone instruments and remnants of ceramic utensils remind of the ancient people who lived in the mountain. The remnants of ancient dwellings in the caves show that the primeval people used well the conditions provided by the mountain. Greeks, Macedonians and Celts passed the mountain and used the natural resources to build villages and to develop economy based on ore processing, hunting and timber processing. Traditionally, nowadays, people also gather hey and timber, make special dishes from wild fruits and mushrooms, use wild herbs in which the strength of the mountain is concentrated. The animal breeding is a traditional occupation for the people in the mountain. There are remnants of ancient diary farms where the famous white and yellow Balkan cheese were produced.
The Central Balkan is one of the biggest and most precious of the protected territories in Europe. It is situated over a territory of 716 m2. It consists of ancient beech trees, heady waterfalls, deep canyons, vast high mountain pastures and a range of mountain peaks with the highest peak in the mountain – Botev – among them. The National park treasures extraordinary biological diversity with cultural and scientific significance.
One third of the park’s territory is covered by nine reserves. 1900 species of higher plants (over 50% of the flora represented in Bulgaria) can be found in the park, 30 species of which can be seen only in Bulgaria and 11 species and 2 subspecies grow only on the territory of the Central Balkan park. This part of the mountain is inhabited by 70% of the invertebrates species and 62% of the vertebrates species in Bulgaria. The wild magnificence of the Balkan includes also 229 species of moss, 256 species of mushrooms, 208 species of algae and more than 200 species of herbs. The bird life in the park is represented by more than 130 species – a variety which makes the National Park “Central Balkan” an ornithological object of international importance. More than 130 species represented in the park – higher plants and vertebrates are included in the Bulgarian and in the World Red books. The park contributes to the protection of 19 species of invertebrates and 21 species of vertebrates threatened with extinction worldwide. Among the latter species are the imperial eagle, corncrake and ring ouzel. The Central Balkan is one of the last existing habitats in Europe of the big rapacious birds, the bear, the wolf and the Balkan chamois. The territory of the park is of national importance for preservation of the populations of white-backed woodpecker, the imperial and the golden eagle, the pine-marten, the Ural owl and the hazel hen.
Hundreds of waterfalls are dashing from the high mountain peaks losing themselves in the forest valleys. Among them are the highest and most impressive waterfalls in Bulgaria – Raisko praskalo (the Heaven sprinkle) (125 m), Karlovsko praskalo, Vidimsko praskalo and Kademliisko praskalo (the Lucky sprinkle). Numerous caves are hidden in the mountain’s bosom due to its lime stone structure. The largest cavities in Bulgaria – Raichova dupka (377 m), Malkata yama, Borova dupka and Pticha dupka are situated in the park.
The hospitality of the local people, the favourable climate and the unique nature, the numerous historical, natural and cultural landmarks give excellent opportunities for recreation and entertainment. Many marked tourist trails lead to the most magnificent places of the mountain and connect the 22 mountain hostels and shelters in the park. Along the mountain’s ridge passes the European tourist route – E-3 – the Atlantic Ocean – Carpathians – Stara Planina Mountain – the Black sea. A system of places for recreation, camping and fire making has been built to facilitate the mountaineers. Different trails have been developed for wild life admirers, extreme sports enthusiasts, horse riders and cyclists. There are four tourist information centers – in the towns of Klisura and Karlovo, in the villages of Cherni Osam and Ribariza. New ecological, educational and informational centers will be built in the near future.
The National park gives great opportunities for development of all kinds of ecological tourism. Here the visitors can walk, ride or cycle along the mountain trails in the open air. The guests can visit the local historical and natural science museums, see the ethnographic collections, exhibitions of local crafts, participate in the traditional folk and religious festivals, and swim in the natural mineral water pools. The wild life admirers can take the opportunity to visit remote and wild places revealing secrets of the real mountain. At the end of the exciting day the tourists may enjoy the peacefulness of a mountain hostel or a village house, songs of sheep bells, sounds of shepherd’s pipe around the fire, under the stars. The villages around the park provide good opportunities for the tourists – there are numerous small hotels, restaurants and shops, tourists’ centers which offer tourist guides’ services, horses and cycles for lease. Nowadays, the National park Central Balkan has become a favourite place for tourists, nature lovers and for all who have felt its magic power.
The directorate of the National park – a regional structure of the Ministry of Environment and Waters – is responsible for the protection and preservation of the natural resources. The park officials control and coordinate the activities on the territory of the park of all organizations, institutions, tourists and nature lovers. The park employees from the seven local offices facilitate the tourist visits – they secure their safety, prevent acts of violence and monitor the flora and fauna in the park. The directorate has developed a rich data base and elaborates and applies educational programmes for the visitors.