Rila National Park
Tremendous natural resources within the Rila National Park extend a total area of 81, 046 hectares of the mountain massif of Rila, which is situated in Southwestern Bulgaria. Rila National Park covers about 30% of the entire mountain massif in the central and highest parts of Rila. Located only 100 km in a south direction from the capital, the largest national park in Bulgaria is one of the most valuable and largest protected areas not only in the country but in Europe. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Park Rila is of the second category.
Rila National Park has four reserves that are in the List of Protected Areas of the United Nations. Reserve "Parangalitsa" and former "Marichini lakes", which is included in the territory "Central Rila Reserve" are part of a worldwide network of biosphere reserves under the program "Man and Biosphere" by UNESCO.
The territory of National park Rila is the biggest reserve in Bulgaria - "Central Rila Reserve". Its area covers 12 393, 7 hectares of the total area of the park. In Rila National Park is located one of the oldest reserves in Bulgaria - "Parangalitsa" which was declared a protected area in 1933
The park includes portions of woodless ridges of mountains and the pine forest of the complexes under it, in the four main parts of the mountain: East, Middle, South and North. The average height of the peaks is about 2700 meters. 53 481 hectares of the total area of the Rila National Park are occupied by forests. This makes for two thirds of the entire park area and over 1.5% of the total forest area in Bulgaria. – the treeless area is 27.565 hectares and it includes alpine meadows in the highest parts of Rila. 90% of ecosystems in this incredibly valuable area are natural. The total area of the four reserves is 16 222, 1 hectares in Rila National Park and include the highest mountain peak on the Balkan Peninsula, Musala, at 2925 m altitude and the Seven Rila Lakes. Lowest point of the park is over Blagoevgrad, with 800 m altitude.
Rila National Park is the most developed tourist area in Bulgaria. There are many opportunities for tourism development, largely due to the numerous summer and winter resorts, which are part of the park. The main activity that may be exercised in the National Park "Rila" is hiking, for which are provided the prerequisite huts and maintained network of hiking trails. Through the park pass two major European tourist routes - E4 and E8.
The territory of Rila National Park has 17 chalets built with about 1500 beds. In addition, there are also 4 tourist shelters used in bad weather.
There are 8 main entrances of the Rila National Park. For lovers of wildlife, extreme sports, horse riding and mountain biking in some places in the park are being developed specialized itineraries. One of them is already operational - a botanical trail "Friends of Plants."
Furthermore to its inexhaustible natural resources, the region of Rila National Park is rich in cultural and historical sights that are a prerequisite for another huge tourist attraction. There are hot springs in some of the settlements, which allows for the development of health resorts.
In Rila National Park can be seen 326 Bulgarian national monuments, two of these objects are of global importance, and several sites have been declared monuments. In the immediate vicinity of the Rila National Park is the Rila Monastery, which is one of the main tourist destinations in this part of Bulgaria.
Rila National Park is part of a movement founded in 1966, called the 100 National Tourist Sites of Bulgaria.