Monday, 21 August 2017

Julian Perry's Walks in Bulgaria's National Parks

Julian Perry, author of Walking in Bulgaria’s National Parks, describes three of his most loved routes through the Bulgarian mountains for the readers of His book was published by Cicerone press last month.

Text and photographs by Julian Perry

For walkers and naturalists Bulgaria is paradise. Thousands of kilometers of marked hiking trails thread their way through a ever-alternating succession of stunning landscapes and exceptional wildlife habitats. For almost a quarter of a century now I have been walking these trails, exploring the Bulgarian mountains on foot in search of their unique flora and fauna. It was to enable others to share some of my favourite wildlife walks that I decided to write my new book Walking in Bulgaria’s National Parks.

Although there is wonderful walking and wildlife watching opportunities to be had throughout Bulgaria, I chose to focus the book on Bulgaria’s three national parks, Central Balkan, Rila and Pirin, since they not only include the highest and wildest mountains in the country, but are also easy to explore with their network of well-marked hiking trails. These paths not only offer spectacular scenery but also a wonderful chance to see some of Bulgaria’s rarest plants and animals.

As well as giving detailed route descriptions for some of the best walks in the Central Balkans, Rila and Pirin Mountains, I have also tried to give comprehensive background details about the flora and fauna of these regions. As I pointed out in the introduction to the book: ‘Mountain walking in Bulgaria’s national parks provides more than simply a physical challenge – it is a unique opportunity to experience wilderness and to glimpse the rare flora and fauna that still manages to find a safe refuge there.'

The book Walking in Bulgaria's National Parks, describes 12 routes (of one to four days duration), which thread their way amongst ancient forests, past shimmering glacial lakes, along panoramic ridges, as well as over the two highest peaks in the country, Musala and Vihren.

I am often asked which are my favourite walks, but this is very hard to answer, as not only are all the routes described great mountain walks in their own right, but an unexpected wildlife encounter such as a glimpse of brown bear, Balkan chamois or golden eagle can make each and every day in Bulgaria’s national parks an unforgettable experience. However, if I was pressed, then I would have to chose the following top three walks, one from each of the national parks:

Central Balkan National Park

Walk 2 in the book describes a challenging route through the heart of the Central Balkan National Park from the Pleven mountain hut above Apriltsi to the village of Cherni Osam. The first day is short and gentle, skirting the edge of the Severen Dzhendem Reserve. The second day then involves a long steady climb up and over the main spine of the Stara Planina, before threading along the southern flank of the ridge at the edge of the Stara Reka Reserve. After a short third day through a mix of ancient forests and open pastures, the walk culminates on the fourth day with a long demanding descent through the heart of the Steneto Reserve, one of the wildest parts of the Stara Planina.

Rila National Park

Starting at the Rila Monastery, Walk 5 in the book describes a wonderful four-day circular trek that takes in some of the most spectacular parts of the Rila Monastery Nature Park and Rila Monastery Forest Reserve. As well as leading through spectacular mountain scenery, including a section of the Malyovitsa ridge, this route is also rich in both natural history and cultural highlights.

Pirin National Park

Another route that combines culture, wildlife and fantastic mountain scenery is Walk 9, a traverse of the Pirin Mountains from Bansko to Melnik following the line of an ancient wine route. The route begins by following the valley of the Demyanitsa into the heart of the Pirin Mountains, then having crossed over a couple of high mountain passes, leads on down the valley of the Demirkapiyska River. Finally, having left the borders of the national park, one enters into the stunning sandstone labyrinths of the Melnik Pyramids. And what better way to celebrate finishing a wonderful mountain walk than to sit at a traditional inn in Bulgaria’s smallest and most beautiful town, enjoying a glass of rich red Melnik wine.

Walking in Bulgaria's National Parks was published by Cicerone press in January, 2010. More information on the book and purchasing it can be found here.




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