UNESCO Red Wall-Chervenata Stena-Biosphere Reserve

Photos:1,2,5 by Slow Tours Bulgaria; 3,4,6 Wikimedia Commons

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve - Red Wall (Chervenata Stena)

This is heaven for all nature lovers! The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve situated in the Rhodope Mountains, about 30 km south of Plovdiv and is one of the most biodiverse areas in Europe characterized by an immense variety of plant and animal species. 

The Man and the Biosphere Program was established by UNESCO in 1971 to protect nature by building a World Wide Web of Biosphere Reserves and Parks.

Today, 669 sites from 120 countries, including 16 cross-border biosphere reserves, are included in the World Biosphere Reserve Network.

The first biosphere reserves were announced in 1976. Bulgaria joined the Man and the Biosphere Program in 1977 with the announcement of 17 biosphere reserves, which are also strict natural reserves under Bulgarian law. This places Bulgaria among the top ten countries on the number of biosphere reserves.

The Red Wall Reserve (Chervenata Stena ) is one of the 17 sites announced in 1977 as a Biosphere.

Photos:1,2,3 Wikimedia Commons, 4 Slow Tours Bulgaria

Flora and Fauna 

The Red Wall (Chervenata Stena) Biosphere Reserve is part of a karstic marble massif, characterized by steep slopes and deep ravines.

 

Sub-Mediterranean forest of pine (Pinus nigra) and silver fir (Abies alba) predominate. Vestiges of relict hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), and oak (Quercus pubescens) can also be found here.

 

It is a typical botanical reserve with many relicts and palaeoendemic species of special interest from a conservation point of view, including large yellow lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium calceolus), spurge laurel daphne (Daphne laureola), common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), Haberlea rhodopensis, Lathraea rhodopaea and many more.


The area has been little affected by human activities and is only sparsely populated allowing for an abundance of plant and animal wildlife. 

The high parts of the park are important mammals habitats. Valuable species for conservation live in wooded habitats near Marziganitsa hut - brown bear, wolf, red fox, wild boar, chamois and many more are found here. The various habitats and topographic forms of the area offer the necessary food, shelter and hiding places for these mammals.

Biosphere Park "Red Wall" is very important for bats conservation. Within its area, there are many caves, niches and rock slits (part of Dobrostan karst massif). Several caves are a refuge for large colonies, one of which is of European importance for the conservation of this group of animals and is declared a significant underground habitat of bats.

The Red Wall (Chervenata Stena) Reserve is very interesting regarding bird variety too. Out of the 63 species of birds studied here 17 are included in the Red book of Bulgaria. 

The best way to explore the reserve

The biosphere reserve is divided into 13 protected areas designated to maintain and protect the characteristic landscape of the area and preserve the habitats and populations of endangered, rare and protected animal and plant species.

From a touristic point of view, a few of the protected areas are of particular interest. They can be explored on foot following marked trails (please note going outside of the trails is forbidden) and offer a variety of interesting activities like hiking, wildlife and rare plants sightings, rock formations that are also ancient heritage sites, beautiful show cave, local cuisine and much more. 

For those of you who would like to explore the Reserve with a mountain guide passionate about the area, we have created three tours of the UNESCO Red Wall (Chervenata Stena) Biosphere Reserve that covers a significant part of its territory. 

1. The lower part of the reserve in the area of Bachkovo Monastery 400 meters a.s.l. This is the easiest way to access the lower grounds of the Red Wall (Chervenata Stena) Reserve. The path begins opposite Bachkovo monastery gates in direction of the ossuary and leads to a waterfall, an open meadow, spring with a little Chapple build around it and a rock cave where the miraculous icon was found in in the 19th century. It is a total of 4 km walk with a mild elevation gain of 200 meters, and on average it can be completed in about 2 hours and a half. 

 

The tour organized by Slow Tours Bulgaria UNESCO Red Wall - Chervenata Stena, Bachkovo Monastery and Asen's Fortress also includes a visit to Bachkovo Monastery and Asen's Fortress and offers the opportunity to interact with local farmers, explore traditional food and local produce. For more information about the UNESCO Red Wall - Chervenata Stena - Bachkovo Monastery and Asen's Fortress Tour and to book it click here

Photos: Wikimedia Commons and Slow Tours Bulgaria own work

2. The upper (higher) area of the reserve (between 1200 and 1500 meters a.s.l.) is the natural habitat of many protected plant and animal species. Martsiganitsa area in the surroundings of Dobrostan village and the area around Dobrostanski Biser cave is of great conservation importance. Stunning views of the Rhodope Mountains and Thracian Valley, wildlife, endangered plants and animals, a beautiful show-cave, summarize the experience of visiting this part of the reserve. Due to the great concentration of wildlife, high cliffs (800 meters in some parts) and tourist paths lacking proper marking we recommend visiting the reserve with a mountain guide, knowledgable of the area and its specifics.

 

For more information about our guided services in the area see the Red Wall-Chervenata Stana-Peak (1500 m a.s.l.), Dobrostanski Biser Cave, and Martsiganitsa Protected Area-Day Tour From Plovdiv. 

 

Photos: Wikimedia Commons and Slow Tours Bulgaria own work

3. Rock Shrines, Natural Landmarks, Protected Areas and Ancient Thracian Heritage Sites. Three unique rock formations are included in the protected areas of the Red Wall (Chervenata Stena) Biosphere Reserve: Belintash, Karadzhov Rock and Haiduktash

Karadzhov Rock and Haiduktash are natural rock formations of spectacular proportions and appearance at an altitude between 1100-1500 m. a.s.l. The two rock complexes are situated at a distance of about 1500 m apart. Karadzhov Rock is located in the territory of Mostovo village, and Hayduktash in the area of Sini Vrah village, west of Ryakata neighborhood. The rock phenomena are made of volcanic tuffs (volcanic-sedimentary rocks) and their unique appearance is the result of centuries of weathering of the rocks. 

The wilderness of the area combined with a low anthropogenic influence determines the region's rich flora and fauna. Rare bird species are nesting here - black stork, golden eagle, long-legged buzzard, Egyptian vulture, peregrine falcon, Alpine swift, house martin, red-rumped swallow, wallcreeper, and many more birds of prey can be spotted at Karadzhov Rock and Haiduktash. The area around the rock complexes is inhabited all year round by chamois, brown bear, wild cat, wolf,  fox, pine marten, boar.