Ali Botush Wilderness
The Ali Botush Strict Nature Reserve was created in 1951 in the remote Slavyanka mountain range close to the Greek border. The aim was to protect the largest forests of Bosnian pine in the Balkan Peninsula. Ali Botush Strict Nature Reserve lies in a karstic area at altitudes between 1 140 and 2 212 m. The area is purely a forest reserve and the alpine zone, which has been intensively used in the past, is excluded. Because of this, the south border mainly follows the line between the mountain forest and alpine pastures.
For approx. the last 20 years the area is mostly abandoned and large areas without any signs of grazing provide a great example of spontaneous tree line restoration. This creates an opportunity for potential enlargement and creation of transboundary Wilderness in cooperation with Greece.
European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System
The 1 050 ha Ali Botush Wilderness was subject to a Pre-Audit in autumn 2019 and meets the Bronze Wilderness Quality Standard. After finalising the Quick-Audit, there is a large potential to expand Ali Botush Wilderness to the size of approx. 1 638 ha and increase its Wilderness Quality Standard.
- Protected area: Ali Botush Strict Nature Reserve
- Wilderness: Ali Botush Wilderness – Candidate
- Wilderness Quality Standard: Bronze
- Country: Bulgaria
- Size of the protected area: 1 638 ha
- Size of the Wilderness: 1 050 ha (with potential for enlargement to 1 638 ha)
- European Wilderness Quality Standard Pre-Audit: 2019
- Wilderness Uniqueness: The area is home to the largest forests of Bosnian pine in the Balkan Peninsula. Favourable habitat for wolf, bear and many other rare species.
- Number of visitors per year to the protected area: To be verified
- Number of visitors per year to the Wilderness: To be verified
Over the last several decades, Ali Botush Wilderness has been protecting a wide spectrum of mountain forest habitats and very rich flora and fauna. A wide variety of habitats are present along an elevation gradient.
The area contains plant species that are found both in Mediterranean evergreen forest biome and simultaneously also in temperate forest biome.
At the lowest elevation, forests are dominated by beech, hornbeam and sweet chestnut. Higher up, there is a coniferous belt with species like black pine and Bulgarian fir, as well as Bosnian pine which is climbing high up to the current tree line.
The area is home to over 1 500 vascular plants and more than 20 Bulgarian endemics species. The area provides a safe refuge for a number of larger mammals such as brown bear, wolf, chamois, roe deer, badger and golden jackal.
Wilderness Tourism Experience
Ali Botush Wilderness is located in the remote roadless corner of Slavyanka mountain range. From a touristic point of view, only a part of the Wilderness can be explored on foot following two marked hiking trails leading to the remote and otherwise inaccessible mountains. After passing the Wilderness and reaching the tree line, the trails offer extraordinary panoramic view to the Wilderness and surrounding mountains particularly along the Bulgarian-Greek border. The trails offer a variety of interesting activities like hiking, wildlife watching, rare plants sightings and first and foremost exploration of a unique Bosnian pine forest. Also, there is a good system of information boards at the trailhead offering maps and basic information.
- Ali Botush Wilderness – Candidate
- Ali Botush Strict Nature Reserve
- Address: Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water Blagoevgrad, 1 Svoboda Street
- Postal code city: 2700 Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria
- Phone: +359 73 8831 4012
- Website: www.protectedplanet.net/ali-botush-strict-nature-reserve