Home » Top-3 Nature destinations in central and eastern Europe

Top-3 Nature destinations in central and eastern Europe


1. The beautiful Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria

The Rhodopes are a mountain range in Southeastern Europe, mostly in Bulgaria and the rest in Greece. The beautiful mountain area is famous for deep river gorges, large caves and specific sculptured forms. Cultural heritage is also rich, and it includes several medieval castles, churches, monasteries and traditional villages. The Rhodopes are more than 240 km’s long and approximately 100 km’s wide. Average altitude is about 800 meters, and the highest peak, Golyam Perelik, is 2191 meters high.

Some of the fifteen reserves in the region are under UNESCO protection. The area is famous for the largest coniferous woods in the Balkans, their mild relief and the also for the abudance on birds of prey in the eastern areas. Almost every species of the European birds of prey, including the very rare ones, nestle in rocks and forests of the Eastern Rhodopes.

The mountains also have a dense network of mountain springs and rivers. The natural lakes are few, the most famous are the Smolyan lakes situated at several kilometers from the same named town. Some of the country’s largest dams, used mainly for hydro-electric power generation, are also located in the Rhodopes. There are also many mineral water springs. Especially the eastern Rhodopes region is famous for the therman mineral springs, and waters around Dzehebe have national reputation for healing various diseases.

The Western Rhodopes contain 66% of the area and are higher and most visited part of the mountains. Pamporovo and Chepelare are famous winter resorts and during summer there is a number of resorts and camp sites. The mild climate is great for the development of recreation and tourist activities. For example in the Pamprovo the microclimate permits a heavy snow cover to be preserved for a long time.

Rock phenomenon, Wonderful Bridges, is located in the western part, as well as some of the deepest river gorges. Popular tourist centers like the Eastern Orthodox Bachkovo Monastery, the ruins of Asen dynasty’s fortress and some of the most famous caves (Yagodinska, Vievo..) are can also be found in the Western Rhodopes. The caves are popular among speleologists with their spectacular forms and underground lakes and rivers. The Rhodopes have been inhabited from the Prehistoric age and many achaeological finds of tools have been found in some of the caves.

2. The breathtaking Balaton Uplands National Park

The park is located about 40 km from Zalaegerszeg, to the north of Lake Balaton, the largest (more than 70 km long) freshwater lake of Central Europe. The basalt mountains of the unique area habitated by many rare plants and animals. Balaton uplands is also famous for its picturesque geological relics, as well as of the architectural relics of the hills and villages, ruins of castles, churches and palaces.

The monadnocks are peculiarly shaped results of the volcanic activity from the end of the Pannonian Age. At the slopes of Badacsony, huge rock-glaciers and block fields can be found.

Several botanical rarities live in the extreme climatic and geological conditions of the basalt mountains. A unique acidophilic ash-beech forest occurs on the rocky escarpments of the Badacsony. From Balaton uplands you can also spot a very rare Cheilanthes marantae blooms which is unique in Hungary. Several local subspecies of sorbtrees find habitat in the unavailable rock cracks. On the top of the Tóti Hill there is a beautiful flower field.

The region of Lake Balaton changes along with the seasons: picturesque colours and species change in every season and atmosphere. For all that we can thank for the lifegiving water of the lake. On the rocks and in the basalt hill forests many rare birds are nesting.

Conservation and restoration of these areas are very important tasks. Environmental protection in Hungary has actually made its significant steps in the area of Lake Balaton. In spite of the fact that there is a unique symbiosis in the area of Little Balaton, it was close that the water would be drained in the beginning of the 1900s. Finally after long fights this habitat of the birds was declared protected in 1946.

The Tapolca Cave with its underground lake became protected earlier in 1942. The cave is particularly protected due to its unique value and thousands of people visit it to make themselves familiar with the process of karsting. Warm water rushing up from the deep mixes with the cold karst water near the surface, reforming the old limestone. After times they formed passages and halls. Besides the Tapolca Cave other cavities were excavated by explorers. The similarly protected neighbouring Hospital Cave was also utilized for health purposes, and the sterile air full of calcium ions is being used for treating respiratory diseases.

Besides the monuments of the peninsula, Balaton Uplands is also famous mainly for its formations of volcanic origin. The weird-shaped rock chimney-rocks of post-vulcanic origin arising from their surroundings are the world-famous sights of Tihany today. The most famous geyser cone of the peninsula is the so-called Golden House near the Inner Lake, which was named after the yellow lichen covering the rock.

One of the greatest results of Hungarian environmental protection was the closing of the basalt mines on these unique monadnocks. The mountains of the basin offer a magnificient sight with the old cellars, small churches and castle ruins. The ‘basalt organs’, which are the column-like fragments of the edges of the basalt mountains, are famous all over the world.

The Keszthely Mountains became protected in two phases, in 1953 and later 1984. The typical fundamental rock of the area covered almost entirely with woods is the dolomite. Besides the stone booths, various rock formations and canyons, in the row of geological sights we could mention several caves under exploration in the eastern limestony areas, including the ‘Wonder-berry Cave’ which could take pride in stalactites as well. These caves are available only for scientists.

In 1997 the Pécsely Basin was the last among the regions of the Balaton Uplands to be declared protected. Gently sloping hills, wide valleys and flat uplands are typical of the region. The century-old forms of farming in harmony with nature, vineyards, orchards, fields and pastures alternate with woods preserving ancient fauna and flora give joy for everyone from a normal tourist to the nature experts.

3. The Retezat National Park – the beauty of Romania

is a protected area located in the Retezat Mountains in Huneodoara county, Romania.

Containing more than 60 peaks over 2,300 metres and over 100 crystal clear deep glacier lakes, the Retezat Mountains are some of the most beautiful in the Carpathians. Retezat has the highest number of mountain peaks over 2000 meters in Romania, over 20. In 1935 the Government of Romania set aside an area of the Retezat Mountains creating the country’s first national park. That makes the Retezat the oldest national park in Romania.

Currently the park has 380.47 km2. The area shelters one of Europe’s last remaining intact old-growth-forest and the continent’s largest single area of pristine mixed forest. The highest peak is Peleaga, 2,509 metres and is also located in the park.

In 1979 the Man and Biosphere Program of UNESCO included the park in the international network of biosphere reserve.

The flora consists of approx imately 1190 plant species, of which 130 have the “endangered” or “vulnerable” status. Wolves, brown bears, wild boars, Eurasian lynx, European Wildcat, and smaller carnivores like Eurasian badger populate the park. Traditinal grazing activities are still practised by local people.

Sources: Wikipedia, https://www.bfnp.hu/english/pages/introduction, visit-hungary.com,
http://www.panparks.org/Network/OurParks/Retezat