Strandzha Natural Park

When you make for the most south-eastern part of Bulgaria, straight south from Bourgas to Malko Turnovo or along the sea coast to Ahtopol or Sinemorets, you fall into the tender arms of the Standzha Mountains, spreading like a large sea, and soon after that you find yourselves in the center of the park of the same name the biggest and one of the most exotic natural parks in Bulgaria. Declared as such at the beginning of 1995, it has a territory of 1161 sq. km and includes the central Bulgarian part of the Strandzha Mountains with an outlet on the Black Sea between the Villages of Rezovo and Tsarevo.

The geographic situation, natural and climatic conditions and cultural and historical characteristics of Strandzha determine a continuous quickening of the interest towards it. The presence of a healthy climate, forests, water basins, historical and cultural monuments from different ages, the preserved old-time way of living and customs make the whole region attractive and interesting to local and international tourism.

PROTECTED TERRITORIES

Strandzha and many of its parts are defined as areas with unique ecological systems and territories of a great ecological importance.

Reserves

Silcosia 396,5 ha, near the Village of Kosti. Silkosia is the first reserve in Bulgaria. It has a considerable richness of vegetation: 260 species of high plants, 16 relicts and 3 endemic plants.

Uzunbudzhak (Lopushna) - 2 581,5 ha, on the land of the Village of Slivarovo. The biggest biospheric reserve in Bulgaria. Oak tree forests are prevailing here. The largest areas of old primary oak and mixed oak and beech forests in Strandzha are presented here.

Vitanovo 754,5 ha, between the town of Malko Turnovo and the Village of Brushlian. 40% of the forests are of Oriental beech trees with an average age of over 100 years. 462 species of high plants are identified. The Karst springs in the Villages of Goliamo and Malko Aidere and the caves (Bratanova Cave) are valuable formations.

Sredoka 607,8 ha, on the lands of the town of Malko Turnovo and the Village of Stoilovo. This is an attractive territory with many steep slopes and rock formations on the right bank of the river Aidere.

Tisovitsa 749,3 ha, on the land of the Village of Bulgari. It is declared as a reserve in order to preserve the primary Oriental beech tree formations and the zone of evergreen shrubs the Strandzha periwinkle (Rhododendron) and the yew (Taxus baccata). It is of a high value of ecological preservation.

Protected Areas

Veleka Protected Area is on the lands of the Villages of Brushlian, Zvezdets and Stoilovo with an extremely interesting flora, fauna and rock formations.

Paroria Protected Area is on the lands of the Villages of Zabernovo and Kalovo. The thickest and probably the oldest tree in Strandzha is to be found here. It is of interest to lovers of nature and history.

River Marina Protected Area. Here people can find almost all species of evergreen shrubs, the most impressive yew formation and many protected herbaceous species. It is easily accessible for tourists and it is a natural botanical garden.

Rudenovo Protected Area is located in an old forest of Oriental beech trees with periwinkle plants on the lands of the Village of Slivarovo. The most impressive formation of the Strandzha blueberry is located here. Ancient mines and a Thracian necropolis are to be found near by.

Dokuzak Protected Area is on the land of the town of Malko Turnovo. The most compact formation of Crimean mountain tea (Sideritis syriaca), which is threatened with extinction, is here.

The Outfall of the Rivel Veleka Protected Area on the lands of the town of Ahtopol, the Villages of Sinemorets and Bradilovo. It is declared a protected area for the preservation of the typical coastal landscape, the rock formations and the specific vegetation.

Silistar Protected Area on the land of the Village of Rezovo. The coast with its fascinating rocks, the strip of sand and the specific vegetation are protected.

In order to preserve the places of nesting of rare and protected birds the following protected areas are declared: Krivinizovo, Kulkata and Morjane.

PROTECTED NATURAL SIGHTS

Rock Formations

Caves and springs on the Mladejka river, Elenina Dupka Cave near the Village of Bijala Voda, Bratanova Cave in Vitanovo Reserve, Kamuka near the road from the town of Malko Turnovo to the Village of Gramatikovo, Maharata Cave near the Village of Kosti.

Rare Shrubs and Herbs

Blue juniper near the town of Malko Turnovo, tree heath a shrub formation near the Village of Kosti.

Venerable Trees

The Standzha oak (Quercus hartwissiana) a grove near the Village of Kosti, Oriental beech and Hungarian oak (Quercus fraineto) near the Village of Zabernovo, pedunculate oak near the Villages of Zabernovo, Tetrabair and Zvezdets, durmast oak - in the Stoilova Chuchurka Area near the town of Malko Turnovo.

Historical Areas

The Marble Beehive Tombs Mausoleums in Mishkova Niva and Propada Areas as well as numerous funeral mounds, fortified walls and ancient Roman roads are relics from antiquity.

Churches in the villages on the territory of the park are guardians of Christianity of the people from the Strandzha region. Icons from 18 19 c. are preserved in them. The iconostasis of St. Cyril and Methodius Church in the Village of Kosti is impressive. The chapels (also called small monasteries) that are built either in the middle of the forest at places where small springs which are considered healing are to be found, or at places connected with Thracian sanctuaries are characteristic of the area.

FLORA

The characteristic climate of the Strandzha Mountains is the reason for the peculiarities of the vegetation in the mountains, which make it different from the European plant formations and make it resemble the flora of the Caucasus and Asia Minor.

More than 1700 species of high plants representing 50% of the vegetation of Bulgaria are to be found in the Strandzha Mountains. From 700 species of plants registered in Bulgaria, 70 are protected in Strandzha. The area of the forests is more than 150 000 ha. Most interesting in terms of the flora and the preservation of nature for Bulgaria and Europe are the Oriental beech formations with a mixture of durmast oak and, more rarely, of Hungarian oak, with a zone of periwincle plants and other evergreen shrubs. The yew (Taxus Baccata) is quite rare for these forests. Extremely valuable for the flora are the Strandzha periwincle (Rhododendron), Strandzha oak (Quercus hartwissiana), the Caucasus primrose, the colouring Klamathweed (Hypericum perforatum), the heather (Calluna vulgaris), Daphne pontica, the firethorn (Pyracantha), the Strandzha blueberry (Vaccinium arctostaphylos).

FAUNA

In ancient times the territory of the Strandzha Mountains remained out of the main roads of Europe and Asia. In more modern times the totalitarian government put restrictions on visits and economic activities in large areas of the mountains, having a common boundary to Turkey. As a result of this the fauna of the Strandzha Mountains has preserved in a high degree its identity and richness.

The variety of birds is impressive. The migration route from the North to the South Via Pontica passes over the Strandzha Mountains. Throughout the whole year or only in some seasons 261 species of birds or 68% of the ornithofauna of the country are counted in the mountains. The Red Book of Bulgaria includes 17 nesting birds, such as the black stork (Ciconia nigra), the pern (Pernis apivorus), the small vulture, the imperial eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the corncrake (Crex crex), the woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), the Stock dove (Columba oenas), the white back woodpecker (Dentocopus leucotos) and the black woodpecker (Drycopus martius) and 57 species of migrating birds.

54 species of mammals are described in the Strandzha Mountains but their actual number is probably bigger because the cave fauna still remains uninvestigated. The wolf population numbers 20 25, jackals 2000, red deers over 200, roes 660, wild boars 460. The otter population in the Veleka river is the best preserved in Europe where this is an extinct species. The Red Book of Bulgaria also includes the marten (Martes martes), the wolf, the marble polecat (Vormela peregusna), the Mediterranean Monk seal (Monachus monachus) living along the Strandzha seaside coast and it is included in the World Red Book as well. The Veleka river and its tributaries Aidere, Mladejka and Elenitsa where 16 species and sub-species of fish could be found are suitable for fishing.

ETHNIC IDENTITY

The ethnic identity of the Strandzha Mountains is marked by the unique presence of rituals, which are not to be found anywhere else on Bulgarian lands. A characteristic feature is the abundance of summer festivities the so-called panagiri where people from the whole village take to rest during the hot days. It is the only place where one can see the customs called filek, Mara and Lishanka and the mystic fire-dancers. Fire-dancing is an unique phenomenon and it is not only a spectacle dancing of barefooted people on live coals but an ancient priestly custom from antiquity as well. This unique ritual is performed today only in the Village of Bulgari on 3rd 4th of June on the patronal festival of the Saints of fire-dancers St. Konstantin and St. Helen.