Wildlife in Bulgaria: Exploring the national parks, bears, and bird-watching!

Thanks to golden coastlines and impressive mountain ranges, wildlife in Bulgaria is as varied as the landscape – and that’s due to all the natural beauty this nation offers visitors. There’s twelve national parks here where you can discover rare wildlife, plants, and fauna. And you can get a sense of Bulgaria’s history within its ancient ruins whilst uncovering hidden caves and natural mineral springs. 

When it comes to wildlife though, Bulgaria is blessed with numerous wild animals that can’t be found in other European countries. The bird-watching opportunities are also arguably unparalleled on the continent. Therefore a good pair of binoculars, such as this one, would be invaluable.

Bulgaria Facts:

  • Bulgaria is situated on the Balkan Peninsula and flanked by the Black Sea
  • It shares its borders with Greece, Turkey, Romania, Macedonia, and Serbia
  • Bulgaria has 500 mineral springs!
  • It has seven principal mountain ranges 

Before we show you what wild animals reside in which nature reserves and national parks (so you can find them yourself), below is a run down of some of the must-see wild animals in Bulgaria that you could come across when visiting this spectacular nation!

Wildlife in Bulgaria

There is a saying in Bulgaria, “If you are afraid of bears, you shouldn’t go in the forest.” With that in mind, let’s look at the wild animals in Bulgaria you could encounter!

Bears

Yes, they exist, but they try to avoid humans! Watch out for them in the Rhodope Mountains, Rila Mountains, Pirin Mountains, Stara Planina (Balkan Mountains), or bear rehabilitation parks.

Wildlife in Bulgaria includes bears!

Horses 

You will find semi-wild horses roaming the hills of Stara Planina (Balkan Mountain).

Dolphins 

Everybody loves dolphins! They tend to hang out around the Black Sea coast. Take a coastal walk to get a glimpse of these beauties. 

Wildlife in Bulgaria

Vultures

A few species live in Bulgaria, and the best place to spot them is in the Madzharovo region.

Butterflies

Bulgaria is home to hundreds of species of butterflies, which you can see all around the country in the various nature reserves and national parks.

Wolves

An endangered species in Bulgaria – they live in Stara Planina (Balkan Mountains), Strandzha Mountains, the Rhodopes, and around the city of Ruse.

Wildlife in Bulgaria includes wolves!

Bulgaria’s national parks and nature reserves: A haven for wildlife

Over 30% of Bulgaria is covered in forest, and it has 470km of waterways, including the Iskar, Maritsa, and Mesta rivers. It’s no surprise then that Bulgaria has dozens of national parks and nature reserves, teeming with wildlife! Here our guide to some of the best beauty spots to visit.

Wildlife in Bulgaria: Nature reserves

The Kamchia Nature Reserve

Situated in the lower valley of the Kamchia River, near Varna, this is one of Europe’s last remaining grove forests.

You’ll come across over 245 species of plants, forests, and swamps. It’s incredibly rich in endemic plants that can only be found here! They include a purple-flowered primula and an extremely rare orange poppy from the glacial era.

The river is home to 39 fish species, swamp turtles, and the Hermann’s tortoise. You will also be able to spot black storks, the lesser spotted eagle, and the Orco falcon. 

The Danube River Region

This mighty river flows through ten countries and ends it trans-European romp here, reaching the Black Sea. The area it resides in remains relatively unexplored by tourists, yet there is plenty to discover in this small and wild region.

The Danube islands are accessible by kayak or small boat, which you can rent. The islands of Mishka and Aleko have gorgeous white sands and lush forests to explore. 

Natural Park Persina

Some of the Danube islands are also nature reserves. Natural Park Persina is made up of four islands near Nikopol and 19 more islands near Belene.

They protect the Danube wetlands, so it is the perfect place to go bird-watching.

The Sreburna Nature Reserve

This popular nature reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is roughly two kilometers from the Danube River.

Over 100 species use its freshwater lake as a breeding ground, including great egrets, mute swans, the Dalmatian pelican, herons, and animals such as otters and turtles. It’s also home to unique flora and fauna.

You will find Roman remains in the fishing village of Vetren where the local community still wear traditional dress and work hard to preserve their culture. 

Kaliakra Nature Reserve

Kaliakra is a natural reserve for birdwatchers who come to watch migratory birds from August to October. It’s 13km southeast from Kavarna, and its sheer cliffs drop 70 meters into the Black Sea. Atop the cliffs is a fourth century BC fortress which has a bloody past.

Nowadays, this is a pleasant stroll where you can see rare birds on the lake. In the caves is an archeological museum. In nearby Bâlgarevo, there is a visitor center with interactive exhibits (in English) on flora and fauna at the cape.

Wildlife in Bulgaria: The National Parks

Central Balkan National Park

As the name suggests, the Central Balkan National Park is in the middle of Bulgaria in the Balkan mountain range.

It was established to protect its forest massifs, plants, and wildlife, which interest visitors and scientists! Botev Peak is the highest peak and part of the Stara Planina Mountains, which is ideal for hikers. If you want to hike in Bulgaria’s national parks, then we’d recommend a good hiking book with many routes – such as this one.

There are also extraordinary rock faces, deep canyons, magnificent waterfalls, and a plethora of peaks to explore. It also shelters some rare animals ranging from wolves, otters, wild cats, bats, wild goats, royal eagle, and semi-collared flycatchers. A great place to see wildlife in Bulgaria.

wildlife in Bulgaria

Rila National Park

Bulgaria’s largest national park has over 3000 species of animals and 120 natural lakes. The Rila National Park is located 100km south of the capital city of Sofia. It covers four nature reserves – Parangalitsa, Central Rila Reserve, Ibar, and Skakavitsa.

A massive 90% of its territory is made up of coniferous trees such as white fur, spruce, and Scots pine. Despite this, there are lots of beautiful eco trails, hikes, and mountain biking routes. It’s also home to Borovets, the country’s oldest ski resort. 

Seven Rila Lakes and Sapareva Banya

The Seven Rila Lakes are a popular day trip from Sofia. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or beginner, these glacial wonders are on everyone’s list when they visit Bulgaria. You will need three hours to visit all seven lakes, so it’s a six-hour round trip with plenty of panoramic views. 

After a long hike and wildlife spotting on Rila mountain, you will be warmly welcomed in Sapareva Banya, a famous ancient spa town. They have the hottest mineral waters in all of Europe at 103 degrees Celsius, and the only geyser within the Balkan Peninsula resides here.

Around the town are mineral baths, spas and you can visit nearby churches and monasteries, such as The Resilovski Monastery. Enjoy nature’s offerings surrounded by gorgeous mountain views.

Pirin National Park

The Pirin mountain range is home to 170 lakes, and the national park is in southwestern Bulgaria. You’ll also find coniferous forests and lakes, waterfalls, caves, and the country’s oldest tree, Baykuchevata, which is an incredible 1353 years old!

The award-winning Bansko ski resort is tucked away in the Pirin mountains. There are hundreds of wild animals roaming these mountains, including brown bears and wild goats. One of the best destinations to see wildlife in Bulgaria.

Wildlife in Bulgaria

Vrachanski Balkan Natural Park and Ledenika Cave

In the northwestern region of Bulgaria is Vrachanski Balkan Natural Park. It’s hard to choose just one cave as this part of Bulgaria has a whopping 500 caves to explore!

Ledenika Cave is easily accessible from the nearby town of Vratsa, and they run tours inside to see its icy stalagmites, stalactites, and impressive columns. It’s 320 meters long and has ten halls – they even host an annual underground cave concert here! The caves and gorges in Vrachanski Balkan Natural Park do an essential job providing a home to 53 species of insects and bats.

You’ll also find over 170 waterfalls in this region, including Skaklya Waterfall and Borov Kamak Waterfall. There are over 140 climbing routes, and the park is a magnet for mountain sports enthusiasts. 

Getting to Bulgaria

Depending on which national parks and nature reserves you want to explore in order to see wildlife in Bulgaria, a good starting point is to fly, train, or bus into the capital city of Sofia, Plovdiv, or Varna on the Black Sea coast. To get around it’s recommended to rent a car as relying on public transport might slow you down. 

Recommended for your trip to Bulgaria

If you’re interested in seeing wildlife in other parts of the world, check out our guides to wildlife in Indonesia, Trinidad and Tobago, and more!

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