The exceptional variety of flora and fauna is the main feature of Western Rhodope region. Protected areas are 10 in number and are shown in more detail in the text below. Magnificent forests, abundant water and clean air attract many visitors. Typical of the region and a favorite of tourists are the forest strawberries and blueberries and herbs – St. John’s wort, marjoram, thyme, mountain tea and others. The fauna is represented by Middle species – deer, red deer, wolf, fox, wild boar and others. On the territory of the tourist region Western Rhodopes are important habitats of endangered species such as otter and bear. Devinska River Valley is one of the richest habitats of wild goat.
Exceptional experience for fans ornithologists in the region is the surveillance of rare and protected species such as the golden eagle, falcon, peregrine falcon, lesser kestrel, corncrake, capercaillie, hazel, gray and black woodpecker and others.
Strong emotions for anglers provide the rivers and dams, rich in trout, rudd, carp, chub, and others.
At the territory of the municipality of Borino are seen coniferous, deciduous and mixed forests (fir, spruce, white and black pine, beech, birch, aspen, etc.), and shrubs (juniper, blackberry, raspberry, rose hips, sloes and other). There are a variety of herbs, many of them are included in the Red Book of Bulgaria (for protected species). There are also black, cranberry, wild strawberry and others. Of amphibians are found ordinary salamander, a large frog, yellow-bellied toad and others. The fauna is also rich. The most commonly found wild boar, roe deer, hare and fox. There is also a marten, marten, squirrel, wolf, jackal, bear, deer and others. There are different types of birds such as eagle, cuckoo, grouse, kinglet, woodpecker, capercaillie, hawk, owl. Since reptiles are found mostly snakes, lizards and more.
Among the Municipality of Bratsigovo’s flora representatives of deciduous species prevail. Typical of them are: oak, hornbeam, acacia, elm, poplar, willow, linden in the lower parts of the territory. Conifers are represented by white and black pine, fir and spruce.
Protected plants in the Municipality of Bratsigovo are:
- Rhodope merendera – Bulgarian endemic;
- Rhodope mountain mother – Balkan endemic;
- Stoyanovo buttercup – local endemic species. The deposit is near village of Ravnogor and is only found in our country.
Protected species that can be seen around the villages of Isperihovo and Byaga are:
- 5 copies of golden eagles (Aquila heliaca) – a globally threatened species;
- Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus), Kestrel (Kestrel) (Falco tinnculus) and others;
- Souslik (Citellus citellus).
The tree species that prevail on the territory of the Dospat Municipality are: white pine, spruce, birch, hornbeam, beech, winter oak, fir-tree, mountain ash, juniperр black pine. There are various wild mushroom species (edible boletus, parasol mushroom, chanterelle and others), herbs (chamomile, thyme, marjoram, centaury, marigold, nettle and others) and many fruits (cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and wild strawberries). There are also fern, corn-flower, thyme, primrose, lime-tree, hawthorn, briar, cornel-tree, dandelion and others.
The fauna is characterized by species typical of the Mediterranean region such as boar, roe, deer, hare, fox, brown bear, cock of the wood, hedge-hog and others.
The lake and the rivers in the vicinity are rich in trout, perch, carp and barbel.
Protected Areas in the Western Rhodopes
- Protected area The valley of Devinska river – a picturesque gorge with characteristic landscape and spectacular rock formations, habitats of rare and endangered plant and animal species like Rhodope haberlea chamois. The area is part of the best natural habitat for otter, deer, bear. The river has shaped many beautiful pools and meanders, reaching a depth of 2-3 meters.
- The Shabanitsa Reserve. The Shabanitsa Reserve is situated 25 km southeast of the village of Trigrad. It boasts a centuries-old beech-spruce forest where trees are as old as 200 years and some spruce trees are over 350 years. The region is characterized by an exceptional diversity of flora and fauna. The Rhodope Veronica, the Rhodope violet, Paphiopedilum, Sideritis scardica (mountain tea), Morina persica , Rhodope rye, Arenaria rhodopaea, Serbian minkomiya, yellow and Macedonian saxifrage, Greek cumin, Rhodope rock dill, Aaron’s rod and other Balkan endemic and relict species. The Haberlea rhodopensi, which is a rare endemic relict for the Balkans, is quite wide-spread and often compared to the mythical ambrosia. The story goes that this plant carried through time the spirit of the mythical Orpheus. Legend has it that the magical sound of Orpheus’s lyre made the wind in the tree branches subside and turned the beasts into docile lambs. When the maenads, the female followers of Dionysus, heard his music they became jealous and furious, they tore the singer into pieces and threw him in the river. But each drop of his blood turned into a magical mountain flower, called haberlea or immortelle.
- Chairite Protected Area. Chairite protected area is located 19 km east of the village of Trigrad. Here are preserved six fantastic natural landslide lakes from the Quaternary Period, among which is the phenomenon called The Drunk forest. The trees are inclined in different directions, many are half uprooted, and there is not a single vertical stem.
- The Biospheric reserve Kastrakli – the reserve is an exceptionally beautiful landscape with vertical rocks, centuries-old forests of white pine, fir, beech, sycamore, hop hornbeam and aspen (age 200 years). 25 protected plant species have been identified. Kastrakli is a kind of a paradise for butterflies, wild orchids, mountain flowers in general, etc. A small 18-meter deep reservoir (artificial lake) has been created with a water area of 35 decares which is filled by a small underground spring and is a tourist attraction in itself. Over 450 species of butterflies have been identified here, and a special natural center is being built that will house in a separate area the Museum of the butterfly.
- Reserve Kazanite situated in the land of the village of Gyovren. Keeps a forest of fir, and white pine, spruce and beech aged 80-100 years.
- Protected area Trigrad Gorge. Along the river Trigradska and the Devin-Trigrad road, 1.5 km away from the village, is located the majestic and strikingly beautiful Trigrad Gorge, also declared a protected area. The Trigrad Gorge is a deep gorge along the Trigradska River whose marble rocks reach a height of 290 m. over the dry river bed. This majestic view of vertical rocks partly covered by spruce and pine add special value to the natural reserve. The limestone cliffs of the gorge form one of the richest habitats of endemic, rare or relict plant species in Bulgaria. Many rare bird species such as the rock nuthatch, various birds of prey, woodpeckers and others nest here which attracts many birdwatchers.
- Protected area Atoluka – planted mainly with ancient forests of pine and spruce, located in the village of Ravnogor, Bratsigovo Municipality.
Protected area Tamrash – an area with beautiful scenery, interesting rock formations, vast meadows surrounded by forests; preserved old Roman roads and bridges (located in the Municipality of Bratsigovo).
- Important Bird Area Besaparski Hills – the low ridges, where many rare and protected birds live: Golden Eagle, Tawny Pipit, Long-legged Buzzard, Saker and Calandra Lark, lesser spotted eagle, short-Toed Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Curlew, Greater Short-toed Lark and others. Important Bird Area Besaparski Hills is located in the municipality of Bratsigovo.
- Protected area Karadzha dere, with a total area of 1009.3 hectares. Declared in 2008 to protect riparian and forest habitats of rare and endangered plant and animal species on the upper reaches of the Sarnena river and its adjacent areas. In its boundaries are included parts of two protected areas of national ecological network NATURA 2000 – Protected Area Trigrad – Mursalitsa BG0002113 and Protected Area Rodopi – West – BG0001030.