Nature

The natural landscape of Bulgaria is diverse, consisting of lowlands, plains, foothills and plateaus, river valleys, basins, and mountains of varying elevations. In the central part of the country lies the Balkan Mountain Range, with the highest peak is Botev (2,376 m). Between the northern arm of the Balkans and the Danube River lies the Danube valley, with an area of roughly 31,000 square meters. To the south of the capital Sofia raises the mountain Vitosha, whose highest peak is Cherni Vrah (2,290 m). Its foothills extend to the middle part of western Bulgaria, where low-lying and medium-elevation Mountains alternate. The highest Bulgarian mountains are in the Rila and Pirin ranges, situated to the east of the Struma River valley. The average elevation of these mountains is 1,258 m, and 60% of their area is higher than 1,000 m. There are 31 peaks in Rila with an altitude of over 2,600 m. Here is located the highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula, Musala (2,925 m). The Rhodope Mountains are located to the east of the Mesta River valley and Rila. There are 11 peaks with an elevation of over 2,000 m there, the highest of which is Golyam Perelik (2,191 m). The many natural landmarks – caves, waterfalls, and alpine lakes – attract scores of tourists every year. Bulgaria is located in the temperate continental latitudes, and its climate is favorable for the development of various types of tourism. The average annual amount of sunshine for the territory amounts to about 2,500 hours. Arctic and tropical air currents pass through the country in significantly rare cases. The average annual temperature in the country is between 10° and 14°С, with a predominant temperature between 11° and 12°С. In the mountains, at higher elevations thermal conditions are influenced by the thinner atmosphere, so that over 2,300 meters above sea level the average annual temperature is below zero (Mount Musala – 2.9°С). The highest average monthly temperatures are typically for the months of July and August. They range from 21 – 24°С. The regions outside the mountains to the north of the Balkans have an annual July temperature of about 22°С, and in the lowlands and foothills to the south temperatures range between 23° – 24°С. In the mountain regions (1,000 – 2,000 m) temperatures vary from 12° – 16°С, and over 2,300 meters, from - 5 – 8°С. The annual snow cover in Bulgaria is unstable, and shows significant deviations both with regard to elevation and geographical location. In the lower parts of the country, the snow cover lasts from December to March, while along the Black Sea coast and in the territory south of the Balkan Mountains it remains for only a month, from January to February. Snow occasionally falls during other times of the year (in November or April, for example). But in these regions there is almost no permanent snow cover. At an altitude of 1,000-1,500 meters, the snow lasts for 4-5 months, and over 2,000 meters - from 7 to 9 months. Our country is also rich in mineral water. Depending on the thermal level, the mineral springs are divided into cool springs (hypothermal with temperature of up to 20°С); warm springs (up to 20-37°С); and hot springs (hyperthermal with temperature of over 37°С). The spring with the highest temperature is the mineral spring in Sapareva Banya, the only geyser fountain in Bulgaria and in all of continental Europe (103ºС). Bulgaria’s natural lakes are concentrated along the Black Sea coast and the Danube, and in the alpine regions of the Rila and Pirin ranges. The glacial lakes have formed as a result of the glacial activity during the Quaternary period in the Rila and Pirin ranges. There are roughly 260 such lakes. They occupy the bottoms of the circuses, circus terraces, and trough valleys, and they are located at an altitude of 2,000-2,600 meters. The highest is the Gorno Polezhansko Lake in the Pirin (2,710 meters above sea level). Typical landslide lakes are to be found along the Black Sea coast north of Varna and near the Aladzha Monastery. The country’s favorable climate and natural attractions provide the basis for the development of its 142 resorts, of which 26 are marine resorts, 56 mountain resorts, and 58 are balneological resorts, not counting the numerous balneological and spa centers. Bulgaria is the second most biologically diverse nation in Europe. There are more than 12,360 plant species, 3,700 of which are higher species. Of these, 763 are included in the Red Book of Bulgaria, which lists rare or endangered species. About 750 plant types have been registered as medicinal, and 70% of these are economically valuable. The country exports about 15,000 tons of herbs each year. The forested areas amount to about four million hectares, which is 36.85% of the territory of the country. There are 27,000 species of invertebrate fauna in Bulgaria, and more than 750 species of vertebrates. Of these, 397 are birds, 207 are fresh-water and Black Sea fish, 94 are mammals, and 52 are amphibians and reptiles. Bulgaria is home to European, Euro-Siberian and Mediterranean flora and fauna, and the Mediterranean climate has strongly influenced the development of many species. The cave fauna in Bulgaria consists of more than 100 species. The Black Sea fish populations attract both sport and industrial fishing. Three national parks have been established in the country: Pirin National Park (a UNESCO natural heritage site), Rila National Park, and the Central Balkans National Park. There are also 11 nature reserves – Belasitsa, Balgarka, Vratsa Balkan, Golden Sands, Persina, Rila Monastery, Rusenski Lom, Sinite Kamani, Strandzha and the Shumen Plateau.