Central Balkan Stara Planina Mt-National Park

The Central Balkan National Park lies in the highest section of the Balkan (Stara Planina) Mountains, covering an area of 72.021 ha above 500 meters, in the heart of Bulgaria. Central Balkan National Park stretches on an east-west axis for approximately 85 km /with an approximate width of 10 km/, throughout the entire length of the country – from the Bulgarian border of Serbia to the Black Sea coast. The Central Balkan National Park contains sections of five administrative regions: Lovech, Gabrovo, Stara Zagora, Plovdiv, and Sofia. Its territory falls within eight municipalities — Teteven, Troyan, Apriltsi, Sevlievo, Pavel Banya, Karlovo, Anton, and Pirdop — and within 31 populated communities. The highest peak of the Central Balkan – Stara Planina Mountains is Mount Botev (2376 m a.s.l.). The most interesting tourist regions around the Central Balkan National Park are the regions of Teteven, Troyan, Apriltsi, Gabrovo, Kazanlak, Pavel Banya, Kalofer, Karlovo, Sopot, Koprivshtitsa, Pirdop. The western border of the Central Balkan – Stara Planina mountain is Vrushka Chuka pass while on the north, the natural border is the Danubian plain. From west to east the Central Balkan – Stara planina Mountain touches upon the Sofia valley, Sredna gora and the Upper Thracian valley. To the east, the Central Balkan ends with cape Emine. Within those borders the Central Balkan – Stara Planina National Park covers an area of 25 000 square kilometers.

The Central Balkan National Park contains rare and endangered wildlife species and communities, self-regulating ecosystems of biological diversity, as well as historical sites of global cultural and scientific significance. The broadest Beech forest belt in Bulgaria, one of the largest protected beech massifs in Europe, is to be found in the region of the Central Balkan – Stara Planina National Park. Century-old woods, with steep, even vertical rocks in some places, meadows, waterfalls and caves are just some examples of the natural wonders that can be found here. There are nine Reserves within the Central Balkan National Park: Boatin, Tsarichina, Kozya Stena, Steneto, Severen Dzhendem, Peeshti Skali, Sokolna, Dzhendema and Stara Reka. They contain representative examples of ecosystems that comprise unique, remarkable and/or characteristic plant or animal species in their natural habitat of 2340 species of plants, 60 species of mammals and 123 nesting species of birds which live in the Central Balkan National Park. All are areas of prime conservation significance – listed as Category 1 according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) classification. The brown bear is highly dependent on its habitat – it needs the wild forests’ calmness. Bulgaria – Central Stara Planina, Rila, Pirin and the Rhodopes are areas inhabited by some 800 bears, which make the core of the South European population of the species. The Central Balkan National Park and its surroundings offer the best living conditions for the bear in Bulgaria and shelter some 200 animals.

Central Balkan Mountain is a favorite recreation place for numerous tourists from Bulgaria and from around the world, with 670 kilometers of well-marked hiking trails. The local people of the Central Balkan National Park carefully develop and maintain traditional livelihoods and crafts, gladly representing them to visitors. There is enormous responsibility to preserve the unique environment of the Central Balkan National Park, following the principles of sustainable tourism and use of resources, while enjoying the incredible journey through the magic landscapes of the Bulgarian nature.

The mineral baths of Stara Zagora combine the benefits of relaxation in the mountains and the therapeutic effects of mineral water. It is believed that in Antiquity the location was a popular place to visit due to the healing properties of the water. It springs from a 1600 meters depth and has a 40°C temperature. The water is very beneficial for a multitude of illnesses among which are locomotive, nervous, gynecological and urological problems, illnesses of the stomach, liver and gallbladder. The baths are located in a beautiful picturesque region in close proximity to multiple landmarks. The place called Virgin Mary step – Bogorodicina stapka stands out. It is considered a holy place and represents a rock formation resembling a female footprint. According to the legend, the footprint belongs to Virgin Mary herself.

Aromunen and Wlachs who raised against the Byzantine rule have settled here in the Middle ages, and have established the Wallachian-Bulgarian Tsardom – Empire. During the following centuries this population entirely turned into the Bulgarians, with only some of the Wallachian-Bulgarian traces in anthropological types and psychical characteristics. Being hardly accessible in comparison to the other parts of the Balkans, the Sredna Gora and the Central Balkan Mountains are today almost entirely populated by the Bulgarians. Several settlements and villages of this area retained some kind of autonomy, due to the military services they provided to the Sultan. After the Ottomans were expelled, this population returned to its patriarchal state, being left to themselves.

Architectural and Historical Reservation of Bozhentzi is a small village and a monument of Bulgarian Revival architecture, tucked in the northern slopes of the Central Balkan Mountain range at 750 m above sea level. Bozhentzi village is situated 16 km to the east of Gabrovo and a 40 km drive from Veliko Tarnovo. The history of architectural and historic reservation of Bozhentzi goes back 600 years, since here used to pass a busy Roman road. Here nowadays the tourist would find peace and quiet stepping back into a world that is no more. Legend tells us the village was founded by Bojana – who took refuge in the mountains with her nine sons after Veliko Tarnovo fell to the Turks in 1393. The high stone walls, gates of carved oak wood, tiny cobbled streets, stone fountains, and miniature shops are true embodiment of the atmosphere of this heavenly nook of Bulgaria.

Tryavna is a small historical town in the north slopes of the Central Balkan Range Mountains, on the Tryavna River, near Gabrovo Ethnographic Reserve. This tiny and fully original town still bears the old bazaar and the spirit of the Bulgarian Revival from the 19th century and fresh mountainous air. Tryavna boasts some 140 monuments of culture, museums, galleries, workshops, crafts and artistic shops, and lovely traditional restaurants, coffee and pastry shops that await visitors. Those are the Museum of Woodcarving and Icon painting, the Clock tower, the Stone Bridge, the Old School, the Orthodox church Saint Archangel Michael, Daskalova House, Angel Kanchev Museum-House…. Tryavna is excellent destination for attractive touring, or romantic gateway with lots of opportunities to discover Revival old houses, small streets and cozy and welcoming places of the true Bulgarian spirit and heritage.

Nestled in the Stara Planina (Balkan Mountains) in Northwest Bulgaria, small town of Chiprovtsi features unique nature and old history, at some 30 km from the town of Montana and is ideal for hikers. Through the Chiprovtsi town flows the Ogosta river, coming from the high parts of the Stara Planina mountain. The Chiprovtsi town was famous as the biggest goldsmith center on the Balkan Peninsula in the 16th and the 17th centuries and the carpet industry which developed in 19th century. The unique Chiprovtsi carpets are made on hand from pure wool and are still very popular in the markets all over the world. We warmly recommend visit to the Historical Museum of Chiprovtsi which keeps various items and finds of the rich heritage of the area, with emphasis to the collection of wonderful colorful hand-woven carpets – kilimi. Day hikes to the Chiprovtsi Waterfall, Roman ruins, and nearby peaks are popular for picnickers who truly enjoy the ecological delicious food. For the more serious trekker longer hikes or jeep trips can be set up through local guides. Local mountain guides in Stara Planina offer more than 20 routes for hiking, gathering wild herbs and fruits, and fishing. Adventurous hikers can also find markings for trails to the waterfall and picnic area Svrachi Dol. Nearby are also the “Saint Ioan Rilski” Monastery and Lopushanski monastery of “Saint Ioan Predtecha” -the Forerunner. Visitors keen to learn new skills and explore the wonderful world of authentic Chiprovtski carpet weaving are more than welcome in beautiful rural facilities here, as original Chiprovtsi carpets are hand woven in natural colors, under recognizable patterns in traditional techniques by the local skilled masters and artisans. West of Chiprovtsi, an imposing green-brown ridge, known as the Chiprovska planina Mountain marks the border with Serbia.