Nature in Strandja
We first visited Strandja Nature Park in Bulgaria almost 10 years ago, and were smitten. So much wildlife everywhere, the variation and numbers of birds, butterflies, reptiles and wildflowers you can see here is truly amazing.
Strandja is Bulgaria's largest and most varied protected area in terms of species and habitats; tucked away in Europe's most south-easterly corner, Strandja is among the top wildlife sites in Eastern Europe.
Strandja's unique nature is a result of the area's geolological past, climate, geographical location and political history.
Living museum in Eastern Europe
The Strandja Mountains in Bulgaria have a unique flora and fauna. The nature park lies in the far south-east of Europe, where Europe and Asia meet. The plant communities in Strandja developed before Europe was separated from Asia. Land-ice never reached Strandja during the last ice ages, and this lack of glaciations has created a unique window to the past.
Almost the whole territory of Strandja is a refuge for relict species and communities from past geological times. Only in Strandja can you see plants that were once widespread in Europe, but vanished after the Tertiary period. These include spectacular species such as the Strandja Rhododendron. Strandja nature Park is a living nature museum in Eastern Europe.
Intact natural river systems
In Strandja you'll find naturally meandering rivers travelling through seas of green, hilly woods. The rivers in Strandja Park are among the last remaining intact natural river systems in Europe.
The longest of Strandja's rivers, the Veleka, flows into the Black Sea through a natural estuary. Both north and south of the Veleka Estuary you'll find quiet beaches and beautiful coastal landscapes.
Lack of human influence
Although Strandja Nature Park is the size of London in area, no more than 7000 people live in these low Bulgarian mountains.
The lack of human influence in Strandja results from its location in a former border zone. For almost 50 years, the whole nature park was a limited access zone. The few people continued their traditional way of life. This is why you can still find such undisturbed natural landscapes and unique wildlife here.
Picturesque villages are dotted throughout the area. Meadows and pastures full of wild flowers and butterflies surround them. Part of Strandja consists of extensive karst terrain, where you can find steep limestone cliffs, many mineral springs and complex cave systems.
Haven for wildlife
Strandja Nature Park is a haven for wildlife. Steep and stony hillsides, and deep gorges and ravines are home to all sorts of birds and mammals that are under threat elsewhere. During your holiday to Strandja you can see and hear species such as Wildcat, Golden Jackal, Otter, Black Stork, Golden Eagle, Eagle Owl and Corn Crake.
Strandja's woodlands are a biodiversity fortress that preserve Europe's largest oak massif. Thirty percent of these forests consist of old growth forests with many ancient trees.
Threatened reptile species such as turtles and tortoises are still relatively widespread in Bulgaria in general and Strandja in particular. You can even see Gecko's here!
In spring and early summer the grasslands are a stunning mosaic of colour, with many species of orchids (more than 35!). The variety of butterfly species and their sheer numbers will surprise you.
Via Pontica bird migration
Over 130 bird species breed in the Strandja Mountains, but you can see many more.
The Via Pontica bird migration route brings lots of species in large numbers to this special area. The total recorded number of bird species in Strandja is 270.
During the migration, enormous groups of storks, pelicans and eagles fly over Strandja's low mountains and along the Black Sea coast.
Largest nature park in Bulgaria
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.
Strandja is 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.
Currently, the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation is working on the designation of Strandja as a Biosphere reserve.
Biodiversity hotspots nearby
If you are keen to see more of Bulgaria's wildlife, you can visit other stunning habitats nearby Strandja.
One of them is Ropotamo, a beautiful river estuary with an extensive dune system that supports more than a hundred endangered plant species. White-tailed eagles breed on Ropotamo's rock formations. And the beautiful wide bay and quiet beach invite you for a swim when you have finished exploring.
Another biodiversity hot spot is the Burgas lakes. These Ramsar wetlands make up Bulgaria's biggest and most valuable wetland complex. Here you can see over 300 bird species breeding, resting, migrating or wintering, including several globally threatened species, such as Dalmatian Pelicans, White-headed Ducks, and Pygmy Cormorants.
By adding a few days to your holiday, you can extend your trip to also visit Madzharovo, a famous vulture conservation centre in the Rhodopi mountains.
Nature and wildlife holiday to Strandja
More about Strandja
- Map of Strandja
- Nature in Strandja
- Culture in Strandja
- Strandja's History
- When to Visit
- Bulgarian kitchen