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Welcome to the Pirin region, which is named after the glorious Pirin Mountain, the third highest mountain in the Balkan Peninsula. There is no other region in Europe hosting nine mountains divided by two river valleys and many fast-running springs. On this relatively small territory lies the Pirin National Park and, partially, the Rila National Park; ten reserves maintain the virgin beauty of priceless natural assets; over 200 mineral springs offer healing and relaxation.
Pirin shows the traces of many cultures - Thracian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine, Slavic and Old-Bulgarian; the memory of the vicissitudes of time and history is still alive. Maybe this is why local people are so proud of their cultural heritage: the architecture, arts and folklore which display such a variety of shapes, colours, and sounds.
Combining this with the advantages of a Mediterranean climate: southern sun and sparkling snow, the abundance of fruit and vegetables, the delicious Pirin cuisine and the special aroma of local wine, we believe that Pirin will remain in your heart forever.
Pirin National Park
Pirin National Park is situated on the highest part of the Pirin mountain range whose peak's surpass 2,500 metres, and thanks to the influence of the Mediterranean climate the beautiful landscape abounds with rich vegetation and fauna. The visitor has a choice of zones within the park itself, including the forest of Bosnian pine where the ancient Baikusheva pine stands guard as it has done for centuries past. The crystalline limestone allows such delights as the near extinct edelweiss and the Pirin poppy to flower and grow among the rocks. The Pirin lakes, surrounded by an area of Macedonian pine and Silver fir and spruce, teem with animal life, and eagles and falcons have made their homes high up in the mountains. The park is listed as a World Cultural and National Heritage site.
Culture and History
The Pirin region has a rich historical heritage featuring all epochs of human development - from prehistoric to modern times. The most significant archaeological evidence from Antiquity are the remains of four settlements: the Roman Town (1st-6th c.) under present-day Sandanski; the town of Neine (1st-3rd c.) near the village of Dolna Gradeshnitsa, Kresna Municipality; the Roman town (4th-6th c.) in the Roupite locality, near Petrich, and Nikopolis ad Nestoum (1st-6th c.) close to Gotse Delchev. A better idea of the ancient Thracian, Greek and Roman culture can give the archaeological expositions of the museums in Sandanski, Blagoevgrad, Razlog, Belitsa, Gotse Delchev and Petrich.
Medieval history is also very well illustrated by the remains of a large number of settlements, fortresses, necropolises, and churches. Its most significant monument is the town of Melnik, a historic and architectural reserve. The Rozhen Monastery with the Yoan Predtecha Charnel-House near it, and the Sveti Sveti Theodor Tiron and Theodor Stratilat Church in the village of Dobarsko are among the best-preserved Christian monuments from that period. The medieval Samouilova Krepost (fortress) near the town of Petrich is a national sanctuary, related to the end of the First Bulgarian State after the Belasishka Battle in 1014.
The traditions of the National Revival Period (18th-19th c.), characterized by the formation of the Bulgarian nation, are still alive in this area, preserved in the architecture, arts, crafts, folklore and cuisine. Examples of five different types of architectural styles are kept in the towns of Bansko, Melnik and Razlog, in the villages of Kovachevitsa, Leshten, Dolen and Delchevo, and in the Varosha Quarter of the town of Blagoevgrad.
The numerous churches from this period portray the brilliant achievements of National Revival arts - icon-painting, wood-carving, iron-casting. The churches of Ouspenie Bogorodichno (1804) and Sveta Troitsa (1835) in the town of Bansko, Vavedenie Bogorodichno (1844) in Blagoevgrad and Sveti Nikolai Choudotvorets (1756) in Melnik have been officially designated Cultural Monuments of National Importance by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture. Parts of the national treasure Rozhen Monastery also belong to the National Revival Period.
Several artistic styles known as Schools have emerged during National Revival and have left some outstanding samples to the future generations. Among those are the Bansko and Melnik Schools of Arts. The idea of the National Revival heritage can be enriched by visiting the museum house of Neofit Rilski, Velyanovata Kashta (Velyanovs' House) and the icon-exhibition at the Convent of the Rila Monastery in Bansko, as well as the historical museums around Pirin.
Pirin folklore is characterized by imagination and a great variety of sounds, colours, and shapes. It is the product of a centuries-old interaction between natural environment, history, local culture and the culture of neighbouring nations. Most important is that folklore traditions are still alive and practiced in everyday life. The most significant folklore event in the region is the Pirin Sings Festival, held every two years at the Predela locality, where Pirin and Rila serve as a natural background for the best of local singing, dancing, customs and rituals.
Pirin offers a magnificent variety of landscape: the sharp ridges and impressive deep cirques of Pirin and Rila Alpine parts; the gentle forms of the Vlahina, Maleshevska, Ograzhden, Belasitsa, Slavyanka, Stargach and Rhodoppi Mountains; the fertile river valleys and gorges of Strouma and Mesta; the mysterious rock formations and caves. Altitude varies from 60 m (near the southern border) to 2,914 m at Mt. Vihren, the highest peak of Pirin.
Climate is also extremely varied in this area. While in the valleys of Strouma and Mesta it is influenced by the warm Mediterranean air, the mountains show all the features of clearly expressed altitude belts. The region boasts the highest average number of sunny days per year in all of Bulgaria. In the valleys, winter is snowy and mild, spring comes early, summer is sunny and hot, and autumn is warm and rainy.
Pirin hosts about 20% of all rivers in Bulgaria, more than 200 mountain lakes and about 230 mineral springs (1/3 of the mineral waters of the country). The numerous tributaries of Strouma and Mesta fill nature with music and life, while the crystal-clear calm waters of the lakes are covered with ice during most of the year. Among all mineral springs, those in Sandanski, Dobrinishte and Ognyanovo are best known for their healing and relaxation effects.
The plantlife of Pirin is characterized by unique biodiversity, well established in altitude belts. The unique combination of Central European, Alpine, Balkan, sub-Mediterranean and relic species living together is a priceless asset. There are 104 Bulgarian endemic species, of which 45 cannot be seen anywhere else on Earth. The Pirin region is also extremely rich in herbs: 81% of all 763 medicinal species of Bulgaria can be found here.
The diversity of animal species is also remarkable. Of 15 Bulgarian amphibian species, 13 can be seen here, of 36 reptile species - 30, of 350 birds - 300, and all 75 species of mammals. Diversity with invertebrates is even greater, having for example 40 fresh-water fish species. A large number of the animal species are endemic, many of them are rare or endangered and protected by international law.
The Pirin and Rila National Parks, together with ten nature reserves (Parangalitsa in Rila, Bayuvi Doupki - Dzhindzhiritsa, Yulen and Orelyak in Pirin, Tisata in Maleshevska and Pirin, Sokolata in Maleshevska Mountain, Kongoura in Belasitsa, Alibotoush in Slavyanka, Temnata Gora and Konski Dol in Rhodoppi Mountains), provide protection for a great number of invaluable natural sites. There are 4 protected localities and 69 individual sites, of which 41 are centuries-old trees. Of 290 protected animal species, 280 belong to the class of vertebrates. Protected plants are 'only' 84 species.
Pirin and Rila are best developed in terms of mountain tourism infrastructure. In Pirin, for example, a well-established network of 13 major and 17 secondary routes connects 8 huts and 5 shelters on the territory of the National Park. Several mountain resorts offer good skiing conditions, the best known being the town of Bansko, the Gateway to Pirin.