National Park "Rila"
Rila National park is the largest national park in Bulgaria, spanning an area of more than 81,000 ha in the central and highest parts of the Rila Mountains. It was established to protect several distinct ecosystems, as well as quite a few historical and natural landmarks of national importance. Four Bulgarian nature reserves are included in the National Park - Parangalitsa, Central Rila Reserve, Ibar and Skakavitsa. National Park “Rila” is one of the largest protected areas in Europe. The Musala peak is situated within the Rila National park as well - the highest summit in the entire Balkan Peninsula. Some of the largest and deepest rivers in Bulgaria and the Balkans originate from the Park - Iskar, Maritsa and Mesta. In the Alpine parts of Rila there are over 120 permanent glacial and 30 seasonal lakes, mostly situated at the deep cirque bottoms. The territory of the park is covered with vast forest ecosystems – mostly spruce, fir, white fir, squat forests, etc. The plant and animal life in the National park is pretty diverse. There are about 1,400 species of vascular plants here, 105 of them – relict (a remnant of what was once a diverse and widespread population) and 57 endemic (species occupying a limited geographical area). The fauna is represented by 172 species of vertebrates, including 5 species of fish, 20 species of amphibia and reptiles, 99 species of birds and 48 species of mammals. The largest population of the Balkan Chamois and the only alpine population of the European ground squirrel inhabit the territory of Rila National Park; one of the four habitats of the Alpine Newt and one of the two Bulgarian nesting sites of the Pygmy owl are in the Park as well.