Strandja Nature Park – Bulgaria’s forgotten beauty
Strandja Nature Park is one of the most special areas in Bulgaria. It is a place of extraordinary natural and historical riches. Strandja is tranquil, mysterious, very beautiful, and almost forgotten because of its location in a border zone. But now it is being discovered again, and for good reason.
A living museum
Located in the far South East of Bulgaria the Strandja Mountains form a bridge between two continents: Europe and Asia. This makes the area unique in Europe for its flora and fauna. The special nature here is a result of Strandja’s geolological past, climate and geographical location.
The plant communities in Strandja developed before Europe was separated from Asia by the formation of the Bosporus Strait that now connects the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Land-ice never reached Strandja during the ice-ages of the Pleistocene and the Holocene. And this lack of glaciations has created a unique window to the past. Plants that were once widespread on the European continent during the Tertiary period are now only preserved in Strandja. It is a living museum.
The landscape of Strandja is beautiful and friendly. A sea of green, hilly woods is intersected by naturally meandering rivers. The longest of these, the Veleka River, flows out into the Black Sea in an untamed estuary. There are quiet beaches and coastal paths to explore both North and South of the Veleka Estuary.
Quiet rural villages and two small towns are dotted throughout the area. Although Strandja Nature Park is an area the size of London, no more than 7000 people live in these low mountains. The villages are surrounded by meadows and pastures full of wild flowers and butterflies. The West of the park consists of extensive karst terrain, with steep limestone cliffs, many mineral springs and complex cave systems.
Het westen van het park bestaat uit uitgebreide karst landschappen, met steile kalksteen hellingen en complexe netwerken van grotten.
A haven for wildlife
Strandja Park is a haven for wildlife. Steep and stony hillsides, and deep ravines and gorges are the home of spectacular birds and mammals. Here you can see and hear species such as Wildcat, Golden Jackal, Otter, Black Stork, Golden Eagle, Eagle Owl and Corn Crake.
134 Bird species breed in the park, but many more can be seen. The Via Pontica bird migration route brings many more species in large numbers to this special area, bringing the total recorded number of bird species to 270. During the migration, enormous groups of storks, pelicans and eagles fly over the park and along the coast. A reservoir in the park is a haven for water birds in winter. Rare turtle and tortoise species occur throughout Strandja, and you can even see Gecko’s here.
Strandja Nature Park is Bulgaria’s largest protected area. More than 120 different types of habitat occur here, which makes Strandja the most varied park in Bulgaria in terms of habitats and species diversity. The area has been designated as one of the five top priority sites for protection in Central and Eastern Europe, and the whole park has been included in the Natura 2000 ecological network.
Culture and Folklore from East and West
Because the Strandja Mountains form a bridge between Europe and Asia, the area has a very rich culture and history. There are many remains of megalithic and Roman culture in the park, as well as relicts of the Greek and Ottoman empires.
The traditional Strandja houses characteristic for this area are both beautiful and enchanting. The Strandja folklore is still very much part of the way of life of the people that live here today. The roots of the musical folklore, and the traditional costumes and rituals extend back to pre-Christian times and are based on the esoteric knowledge of the mountain’s ancient inhabitants. The most special and famous cultural event that represents this is the Nestinari fire-dancing ritual held in June.