Nature park Vrachanski Balkan: Global information
The Nature Park Vratchanski Balkan was declared for a protected area at the end of 1989. The park covers the Vratchanska Mountain and the massif of the Lakatnishki cliff rocks. It has a territory of 28 844 ha most of which is covered with karst limestones, 1 300 meters thick. Unique in their beauty caves and chasms can be seen in the park. Their total number is above 500 and special interest attract Ledenika, Temnata dupka (Dark hole), Zmejova dupka (Dragon hole), Haidushka propast (haidushka chasm), Gardujuva dupka, Kalnata propast (Muddy chasm), Nevestina propast (Bride’s chasm) and Sokolova dupka (Eagle hole). On the territory of the park have been registered about 950 species of high plants, of which more than 80 are rare species. From scientific and preservation point of view the most interesting species are the groups living in the caves (vertebrates and bats) and the day birds of prey. There are 214 registered species of vertebrates in the park.
Within the limits of the park lies the reserve Vrchanski karst. It covers an area of 1453,1 ha, situated along the northern stone cliff slopes of Varchanska Mountain. The territory of the reserve is inhabited by the rare and endangered species of Egyptian vulture, peregrine falcon, short-toed eagle, long-legged buzzard, 8 species of bats etc. Other nature landmarks and protected territories in the park are: Vratzata (door) (the highest vertical lime stones on the Balkan Peninsula, and in Europe at this altitude), Ledenika – the first urbanized cave in Bulgaria with the first registered cave inhabitant – Pheggomisetes bureshi; Ritlite (cart-ladders); Skaklja (the highest waterfall in Bulgaria – 141 м); Lakatnishki skali (with the richest and well studied cave fauna in Bulgaria) etc. In the remote past the favourable climate and geographic conditions of Vratchanska Mountain, the valleys and hollows in the vicinity attracted people to settle in the region. At the territory of the park there are remnants of numerous culture monuments, witnesses of events and facts of the human history during the centuries.
The Charepishki monastery “Upsenie Bogorodichno” is situated at the right riverbank of the river Iskar, where the river has formed a picturesque meander. The monastery is one of the oldest in Bulgaria and is remarkable for its mural paintings, typical Bulgarian architecture and centuries-old history. The oldest evidence for its existence is the monastery statute called “tipik”, written in the period 1390-1396. The other monasteries on the territory and in the vicinity of the park are the Lopushanski monastery, the Klisurksi monastery, Ivan Pusti monastery, etc.
The place Vola where the famous Bulgarian revolutionary Hristo Botev found his death is situated in the park. Memorable for every Bulgarian are the peaks Kupena, Kamarata and Dalgija zaber which form a circle around the Jolkovitza valley, near which, at the slope of the Kamarata peak, was killed the revolutionary leader. The first proclaimed historic site in Bulgaria – a ravine called Rashov dol, is situated in the vicinity of the nature wonder “Ritlite” (cart-ladders) and commemorates the last battle of the twelve survivors, members of Hristo Botev’s revolutionary group.
At the foot of the natural landmark “Ritlite” (cart-ladders), which is in west direction of the village Ljutibrod there are remnants of fortress walls dating back to Roman and Byzantine times. This fortress has been part of the medieval town of Corintgrad (XV century). There can be seen also the medieval church “St. George” (X century) as well as remnants of tri-nave basilica from IV –V century – the period of early Christianity. The relief of the basilica makes it one of the rarest monuments of this kind found in Bulgaria.
The position of the park – its comparatively low altitude, the existence of numerous towns and villages in its peripheral area – is a prerequisite for a well-developed infrastructure.
Information for the tourists is provided by well-developed system of information and visitors’ centers.
The information center of the Nature Park Vratchanski Balkan was built in 1998 and is situated in the town of Vratza. The center provides updated information regarding the accommodation, tourists routes, expeditions in the caves, delta-planerism, provision of mountain guides’ services. The visitor center “Ledenika” situated 16 kilometers away form the town of Vratza is in the vicinity of the Ledenika cave. There can be learned many interesting facts for the formation of the caves. The visitor center “Ljutibrod” is situated in the municipality building of the village of Ljutibrod. The exposition gives an opportunity to the visitor to get acqainted with the territory of the park, rich in flora and fauna.
The park’s directorate directs its efforts towards development of specialized routes designed to educate the visitors. Among them are the eco route above the village of Zgorigrad, the educational routes “Karst and flora” near the Ledenika cave, “Botev route”, “Kleno-Rashov dol” and the route intended for small visitors – the Forest trail of fairy tales.