Rhodope Mountains

One of Europe’s biodiversity hotspots

Rhodope Mountains is the most important breeding area for griffon vultures in Bulgaria. The whole region is also a stronghold  for wolf and jackal.

The last remaining breeding colony of black vulture in South-eastern Europe is situated in the Dadia forest on the Greek side of the border and these huge birds regularly come over to the Bulgarian side of the mountain in search for food. Among the dozens of other raptor species Eastern imperial eagle, Saker falcon, Levant sparrowhawk, Peregrine falcon and several other eagles can be mentioned. The whole region is also a stronghold within Bulgaria for wolf and jackal. The brown bear has begun to recolonise the Rhodopes in recent years and bear watching is returning to the Western Rhodopes.


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Rhodope Mountains

Because of its location at the crossroads between the European and Asian continent, the impact of the Mediterranean, its pristine landscapes and the variety of habitats here in combination with the relatively small human disturbance, the Rhodope Mountains have a huge variety in species and habitats, and have become one of the bird watching hotspots in Europe. We combine this exceptional biodiversity with a fascinating and diverse ancient heritage and a thriving gastronomy and wine scene.

Rewilding vision

For each rewilding landscape Rewilding Europe has developed an inspiring vision that shows their ambition for the next ten years. Together with their local partners they work to make this vision a reality.

Rewilding Efforts

Together with partners, Rewilding Europe is creating space for natural processes like forest regeneration, free flowing rivers, herbivory and carnivory to impact ecosystems. Across the continent, the interaction of these processes leads to constantly evolving landscapes rather than fixed habitats – this dynamic is the key to preserving Europe’s rich biodiversity.

The work of Rewilding Europe and Rewilding Rhodopes is now seeing increasing numbers of keystone herbivores such as red and fallow deer, European bison and horses in the Rhodope Mountains rewilding area. Grazing trials with free-roaming wild horses will allow us to determine whether open habitats will stay open when this native herbivore is present in natural numbers. The Rhodope Mountains is one of the case study areas of the three-year GrazeLIFE project. The project evaluates the benefits of various land management models involving domesticated and wild/semi-wild herbivores.

The Rhodope Mountains area, with its mosaic of open landscapes, oak and beech forests, grasslands and rivers, as well as rocky slopes and cliffs, has become one of the most exciting wild areas in South-Eastern Europe. An area mostly regulated by natural ecological processes, in which the wildlife species thrive in their natural densities. This new, wilder dimension, in combination with some of the old cultural traditions and local products from here, has become the basis for creating new sources of income and pride for the people who live here, and for Bulgaria as a country.
Greater Côa Valley frog
Greater Côa Valley frog

TRIPS TO THE Rhodope Mountains

Greater Côa Valley
Signature adventure
Wild Rhodope Mountains

“This type of food chain is unique”

Andreana Trifonova
Team leader of Rhodope Mountains

How would you characterise your rewilding area?
Rhodope Mountain is the oldest land mass in the Balkan Peninsula. Eastern Rhodope is probably the most biodiversity rich part of the whole European continent. It represents a mosaic of diverse landscape including grass meadows, pastures, wooden land, formed by the grazing animals, not only domestic animals but also free roaming bisons and horses fallow and red deer. Alltogether they maintain a half open landscape while offering food for large carnivores and scavengers and ensuring sustainable food chain functioning. In addition to the natural richness there is unique mixture of ethnicities, traditions and religions in the region. Local people live in harmony with each other and with nature which is yet another really inspiring and fascinating feature.

What have the major achievements been in your rewilding area to date?
Rhodope Mountains landscape witnessed an impressive rewilding transformation over the last several years as the number of the free roaming wild herbivores increased significantly as a result of our rewilding efforts. Fallow and Red deer populations are increasing sustainably, European bisons in the area are now more than fifteen, the number of Karakachan and Konik horses free roaming in the area is over 170 animals maintaining the natural meadows, supporting germination of herbs and trees as well as increasing the availability of food for scavengers. This, in turn positively impact the number of visitors and thereby boost the area’s nature-based economy.

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