Central Balkan was declared a national park in 1991 in order to preserve the unique nature of the Central Balkan Mountains and related traditions and livelihood. It is one of the most valuable and – with its area of 716 km2 – one of the largest protected areas in Europe – second category according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The National Park occupies the highest parts of the Balkan Mountains, with an average altitude of approximately 1000 meters. Its territory is occupied by approximately 61% of forests, mainly old beech forests. 36% are taken by high mountain pastures and meadows, and 3% by rock formations and sheer rocks.
There are nine Category I nature reserves in the park: “Boatin”, “Tsarichina”, “Steneto”, “Dzhendema”, “Severen (north) Dzhendem”, “Stara Reka”, “Kozya Stena”, “Peeshti Skali” and “Sokolna”. The entire park and eight of its reserves are included in the UN’s list of representative protected areas, and four of them have been designated as UNESCO Biosphere Reserves by the Man and Biosphere Program.
More than 1% of the forests in Bulgaria are located in the “Central Balkan” National Park, with an average age of over 110 years. The deciduous are more than 120 years old. Particularly valuable are the beech forests, very typical for the Balkan Mountains. Over 1900 higher plants can be found in the park – 13 of them are local endemics and over 200 species of medicinal plants. The diversity of the animal world here is great. Among large mammals, bears, red deer, wild boar and goat are most common. In addition, over 130 representatives of the ornithofauna, eight species of amphibians, 14 species of reptiles, dozens of species of butterflies living in the park are found. This wealth is complemented by 229 moss species, 256 mushroom species and 208 algae species.
Livestock has been a staple in the Balkans since ancient times. In recent years, traditional extensive livestock farming has been revived.