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Ecotourism in the Balkan Peninsula

Eco tourism has never been so variable and exciting in this region, which has embraced the concept with seriousness and relish.

 


Bulgaria has a unique geographical location in the far Southeast corner of Europe on the Balkan Peninsula. The territory of the country is rather small only 111 000 km but it is situated at the crossroads of three bio-geographic regions. They are the Middle European forest, the Eurasian steppe, and the Mediterranean. This location with the huge variety of different landscapes – Black Sea, wide plains and steppes, rivers and lakes, valleys and forests, hills and mountains ensures a rich biodiversity. You can enjoy all four seasons, each one with its own character and colour.

Bulgaria has three National Parks – Pirin, Rila and Central Balkan. They have a total area of 193,049 hectares and comprise more than one-third of all protected areas in Bulgaria.

Pirin, Rila and Central Balkan are among the largest and most valuable protected areas in Europe. They contain some of Europe’s remaining, extant, wild regions. Identified as Category II protected areas by the World Conservation Union, the Parks are managed in accordance with the latest conservation principles and approaches.

In Bulgarian national parks, unique samples of natural habitats and elements of ecosystems are preserved within reserves.

The Bulgarian National Parks offer excellent opportunities for tourism, scientific research and education. The National Parks also include rivers, lakes, natural landmarks, waterfalls, and exceptional landscapes. National parks and local communities registered their first private-public partnerships in two regions near Rila and Central Balkan National Parks. The Central Balkan Ecotourism Association, Kalofer, and Rila Ecotourism Association, Samokov are among the newest models of ecotourism around the National Parks. These non-governmental organizations are alliances of National Park Directorates, local authorities, and private businesses.

Notwithstanding its limited surface area, Greece is endowed with a particularly rich and diversified natural environment as a result of a rare geomorphology, with many striking natural contrasts and areas of great ecological value. The country’s abundant natural gifts –thousands of indented coasts, imposing rocky massifs, caves, gorges, lakes, rivers, biotopes of spectacular beauty and unique natural habitats– coupled with the mild climate, place it among the ideal destinations for ecotourism and alternative forms of tourism.

When travelling in Greece, nature-loving tourists are offered the opportunity to wander in aesthetic forests or explore national parks not merely in the mountainous regions of the mainland, but also on certain islands or in the proximity of rivers and lakes.

The unique marine parks supported near the islands of Alonissos and Zakynthos, provide shelter to two protected species, the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus-Monachus) and the Mediterranean green loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) respectively.

Tourists can stay in agrotourist units which are being developed all over the country and afford visitors the opportunity to become familiar with vernacular architecture, cultural and gastronomic tradition, local products, farming activities and the daily life of local inhabitants.

In Serbia life as it was in the 19th century mountain village of Sirogojno has been preserved and reconstructed in the Museum of National Architecture, an open-space museum encompassing the whole village and consisting of several typical buildings, homesteads, workshops and a village church. Sirogojno is located in the hilly-mountainous Zlatibor area in southwest Serbia, 30 kilometers south of Uzice.

Near Mokra Gora is the ethno village of Drvengrad, a fully constructed new wooden village that was the creation of world-famous Serbian film director Emir Kusturica. While shooting one of his movies in the area, Kusturica noticed that although rain in the area lasted for days on end, one hilltop in the distance was nearly always in sunshine. He decided to build a village there that typified 19th century life on the mountains of Zlatibor and Tara. The village has several original and reconstructed cottages, a cinema, library, art gallery and shops.

In an area of northeastern Serbia, once covered by the ancient Panonian Sea, sits the Nature Reserve of Deliblatska Pescara. In attempt to curb erosion 200 years ago, this area was forested and is characterized by dense vegetation and abundant wildlife.

In Macedonia the village of Brajcino is situated 6 km from Lake Prespa in a valley on the edge of Pelister National Park. It's a perfect location for combining outdoor activities on the mountain with the leisure of the lake. The village has maintained its traditional character and an intimate link with its surroundings. Brajcino is a mountain village (at an altitude of about 1000 m. above sea level) disturbed only by the roaring sound of the local river and by the evening winds rustling through the trees. Occasionally you may hear a dog barking, a cock crowing, or a cow-bell ringing.

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