|2010||Extended||To include high mountain territory in the Pirin Mountains|
|1983||Inscribed||Reasons for inscription|john booth (New Zealand):
This is a site where the journey reaching it is more exciting than the destination. I travelled from Septemvri to Bansko on the slow narrow gauge railway that winds its way into the Pirin Mountains. The secenery and views visible from the train were well worth the 4 hour journey.
Bansko is essentially a ski resort, but in summer hosts a few hikers. From the top of the cable car there a number of trails up to viewpoints in the mountains.
Gotse Delchev is more laid back, and hikes to the Yulen Reserve begin in the town.
Buses link Gotse Delchev and Bansko with Blagoevgrad and Sofia.
Date posted: December 2012 G?ran Hansson (Sweden):
I visited Pirin National Park in the summer of 2006 on an organized trip for hikers. Staying in the small town of Bansko we did two day long hikes, and one longer hike with an overnight stay in a mountain station. We got up on the highest summit in Pirin, Vihren, 2914 m, and a couple of other peaks above 2500 m. We also walked through the pine and fir tree forests that cover the lower regions.
There are quite many peaks above 2500 m in Pirin and the topology is varying to say the least. Being a not so trained hiker I had to push my limits a bit. Still it was worth the effort since the scenery is mighty scenic. In between the peaks there are small lakes in some places, streams and waterfalls. My visit was in early July and there were still scattered areas with snow.
The only larger animals we saw where Alpine chamois (mountain goat). A really beautiful animal, slightly larger than I thought they would be. Among birds, the most numerous were Black Redstart, Lesser Crossbill, Ring Thrush and Nut Craw (in the lower regions).
There is also a rich alpine flora with many different colourful species (I am not an expert in the field). In one place we saw the Edelweiss.
Justification for WHS or not, I found Pirin National Park beautiful and interesting, well worth visiting.
Regarding other aspects of travelling in the area, Bansko is basically a pleasant town but there is a lot of new development for the ski tourism going on. Prices are still low compared to many other parts of Europe. We stayed in a medium class hotel that was really nice (great food!). Our mountain guide was very good. The mountain station where we stayed was a bit of an "old school eastern European experience" though.
Paul Tanner (UK):
“Natural WHS” seem to me occur in 2 categories – sites with a visible “Wow factor” in the form of some (near) “world unique” geological or wildlife sight which makes them worth undergoing a long journey to see (eg Grand Canyon or Bwindi), and those which, for reasons of remoteness, government action or luck have largely escaped the depredations of man and remain in a reasonably pristine state to demonstrate what some particular ecological niche or climatic zone once looked like. Usually in these latter cases the botanists or zoologists are still able to conjure up some relatively unknown species which is endemic to the area in order to back its “unique importance” (or am I guilty of “speciesism” in regarding a site containing “Gorilla gorilla” as more justifying WHS inscription than one containing “Pinus heldreichii”!!). In my opinion such sites are really only worth picking up if you are in the area and just want to experience some interesting countryside. If Pirin’s inscription has a justification it is of this second category!
It contains attractive, if unremarkable, mountain scenery which will provide a pleasant escape from civilisation and interesting hiking opportunities. As such it is clearly worth preserving. But there are already means of recognising and protecting such sites- The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve program is one and many of the “Natural” WHS are also listed under that scheme (http://www.unesco.org/mab/BR-WH.htm). Pirin is one of those on both lists – but only the “heart” of its WHS site is a Biosphere reserve. Given that WHS inscription is supposed to represent the “highest” level of recognition a place can be given I find this rather surprising.
Pirin was inscribed as early as 1983. The document showing the reasons for inscription is only in French but refers to the number of endemic species of plants – Bulgarian and Balkan. There is an “extremely rich flora which doesn’t exist anywhere else” with a wide mixture of species from various parts of Europe. I am no botanic expert but, apart from the species referred to (which differ at each site) , much of the argument seems remarkably similar to the that given for Dormitor (which in world terms is not that far away) when it was accepted 3 years earlier – Limestone karst, endemic species, glaciation etc etc.
I certainly didn’t find anything particularly special to photograph scenery wise so my photo, I am afraid, is merely a “family snapshot” of a pleasant day in the mountains! It is pleasant hiking country but, in the great scheme of things, not that special. In early June there was still snow around.
Date posted: February 2006
Have you been to Pirin National Park? Share your experiences!