Marina Reka – a walk in the prehistoric forest

In this incredible place – the “Marina Reka” area, you will have the opportunity to observe into one small area plants that inhabited the whole of Europe during the Tertiary period. The locality attracts tourists because of its easy access, as well as being the closest destination to the sea, where the symbolic plant for Strandzha mountain grows. That is the rhododendron ponticum. The area is only 12 km west of Tsarevo and 45 km east of Malko Tarnovo.

The beginning of the hiking trail leading to the area starts from the main road Tsarevo – Malko Tarnovo. It is about 5 km after the village of Izgrev, Strandzha Nature Park. At the present time, there is only a small, hard-to-see sign where can park a car. It is preferable to reach that exit by vehicle (own or rent) because public transport doesn’t stop here. For more accurate orientation, you can download the GPX file attached below.

How to get to “Marina Reka” area in Strandzha Mountain – map, route and GPX file  
Download GPX file

Path characteristics

The total length of the path is about 1.2 km. It is suitable for all groups of people since the route is short and easy. The course is along an old carter path in an oak-beech forest consisting of Oriental beech ( Fagus Orientalis), Oriental durmast (Quercus polycarpa), Strandzha oak ( Quercus hartwissiana) and Italian oak (Quercus frainetto). The road is full and convenient, but quite steep, so it would be wise to equip yourself with hiking shoes or sneakers. In case you visit this place in the summer or the spring, there is a danger of ticks, so take the necessary precautions. Also in the summer – it’s possible to meet whole swarms of annoying flies typical for Strandzha mountain. So it is advisable to wear a hat and dark glasses that could somewhat protect you.

The sign on the main asphalt road from where the hiking trail to the "Marina Reka" locality begins
The sign on the main asphalt road from where the hiking trail to the “Marina Reka” locality begins. You can park a car here
Along the hiking trail, you can see signs with descriptions and pictures of the plant species and the animals that inhabit the area

As a portal of time, you will go in the time of 65 million years ago to see the vegetation of that time (the Tertiary is the period between the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago and the last glacial period 1.8 million years ago). Those species have encapsulated here since in the previous glaciation only Strandzha Mountain and the Caucasus from all over Europe were not stiff in the ice. You can see representatives of the so-called the Colchis flora: Black Sea holly ( Ilex colchica Pojark), cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum) and the most famous representative – the Rhododendron ponticum.

Rhododendron ponticum

It is a tall evergreen shrub, moisture-loving, and is generally very vulnerable to changes in environmental conditions. Carried even a kilometre, beyond the shady valleys of Strandzha mountain – it dies. It reaches up to 3 m in height and usually participates as undergrowth in forests of Oriental beech and oak. Rich in alkaloids and highly poisonous. It is a protected and rare species in Bulgaria, forbidden to tear. Of all Europe, it naturally inhabits only the Strandzha and the Caucasus mountains.

In England and Belgium, since 18th century the species has been introduced and used as an ornamental shrub in parks.

 Flowering Rhododendron Ponticum in May in "Marina Reka" area, Tsarevo
Flowering Rhododendron Ponticum in May
Rhododendron Ponticum closer
Rhododendron Ponticum closer

Every year, in May, during the flowering of Rhododendron ponticum, there is organised, one of the most significant events for the region – “The Festival of the Rhododendron ponticum.” Festival visitors participate in games, hiking tours, observe rare plants and animals, visit archaeological sites and other games to get acquainted with the Strandzha culture.

Walk in the “Marina Reka” area of ​​Strandzha Park – teleport in the lost world of prehistoric flora

The path to the "Marina Reka" Valley, Strandzha Nature Park, Tsarevo
The path to the “Marina Reka” Valley
 Rhododendron Ponticum - photographed in August
Rhododendron Ponticum – photographed in August, when flowering had already passed.
 Plenty of flowering Rhododendron ponticum - photographed in May
Plenty of flowering Rhododendron ponticum – photographed in May
The classroom in the middle of the forest – in case of the organised tour, here groups of tourists can take a lesson about flora and fauna of Strandzha Nature Park
Marina River, ( in the Bulgarian language "Marina Reka") whose banks are covered with rare plants
Marina River, ( in the Bulgarian language “Marina Reka”) whose banks are covered with rare plants
Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) near the classroom at "Marina Reka" area, Tsarevo
Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) near the classroom at the end of May when the fetus already had appeared. In Strandzha it grows as a low shrub (height no more than 1.5 m). In Burgas city, it is prevalent, but as a tall ornamental tree in the city parks. The leaves are much larger than those of the authentic Strandzha species. A photo of the flowered decorative Cherry laurel can see here.

A good time to visit this trail is the months of May and June, during the flowering of the Rhododendron Ponticum.

Preservation of the protected area “Marina Reka”

The area “Marina Reka” is declared a protected area. It is also a part of Strandzha Nature Park and the European ecological network Natura 2000. Therefore some rules should be observed when visiting to protect natural resources.

To put it briefly – do not throw away waste, do not tear plants, do not light a fire, no camping, and let the place look like you’ve found it!

For more details, or if you intend to carry out particular activities other than a tourist walk, the full text of the laws can read here.

  1. Protected area “Marina Reka” – current prohibitions and regimes ( the page of Bulgarian “Executive Environment Agency”)
  2. Strandzha Nature Park – current prohibitions and regimes ( the page of Bulgarian “Executive Environment Agency”)

Continue of the walk

If you drive in the west direction to Malko Tarnovo, you can stop in the villages of Balgari, Kosti, Kondolovo and Gramatikovo for more hiking trails, nature and historical landmarks and see old houses.

If you drive in the east, towards the Black Sea, you can visit Tsarevo, Varvara or Primorsko (north) for other sights, beaches and lovely seascapes.

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