Rilski Manastir

Rilski Manastir Forest Reserve, Bulgaria

Around Rila Monastery (Rilski Manastir), there is a forest reserve (37 km2) on south and north-facing steep to very steep slopes (photo below) of the west-east orientated Rila Valley at elevations of 1100–2750 m, with 9.5 km2 of virgin forest1. The valley bottom is not included, so the Rilski Manastir Reserve is in two separate parts. Mean annual temperature is about 3–5.5°C and annual precipitation about 950–1050 mm 1. Granite is the most extensive base rock1. Soil fertility is high1. The reserve is a part of Rila Monastery Nature Park, which is adjacent to Rila National Park.

North-facing slope on the left, south-facing slope on the right. Silver birch (Betula pendula, foreground), Macedonian pine (Pinus peuce, the trees behind birches), European silver fir (Abies alba, left between Macedonian pines), Norway spruce (Picea abies, behind silver fir)

At lower elevations, the most important tree species are European beech (Fagus sylvatica), European silver fir and Norway spruce on the north-facing slope, and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) on the south-facing slope. Towards the timberline, the forest is mostly composed by Norway spruce, Macedonian pine and Scots pine. Above the timberline, there are low dwarf mountain pine (Pinus mugo) thickets, which are not included in the figure of 9.5 km2 of old-growth forest (see above).1

Rilski Manastir Reserve is difficult to visit. In addition to the steep slopes, the few marked trails cross only short sections of the reserve.



  1. Popov, E. B. et al. (2005): Virgin Forests of Bulgaria. Royal Dutch Society for Nature Conservation, Bulgarian Forest Research Institute.