Osogovo Mountain has enormous potential for development of cycling tourism, but regional institutions and local entrepreneurs have to be involving in the process. This was the conclusion of the cross-border forum that gathered dozens of representatives of forestry regional institutions, border police, municipalities, tourist companies, cycling societies and cyclits from Macedonia and Bulgaria. The forum "Natural potential and sustainable tourism in Osogovo" was organized by the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation (BBF), Bulgaria and the Macedonian Ecological Society (MES).
Osogovo is suitable for this type of tourism, because of: its relief, its proximity to Sofia and Skopje, the existence of centuries-old trees, species that meet only there.All this can attract thousands of tourists – said Petko Tsvetkov and Tania Schnel, who presented the activities of BBF in the region over the years and the natural potential for which Osogovo is part of the European Green Belt.
The cultural heritage, well-preserved biodiversity, spas and folk traditions make Osogovo a place suitable for longer tours tha can last even more than a wee and this can be builf throuh cooperation with the municipalities and the initiative of the local people – stated the representatives of MES. One of the advantages of Osogovo that was noted at the meeting was the possibility of organizing cross-border tours in both parts of the mountain due to the close natural and climatic conditions between Bulgaria and Macedonia.
New bike routes described with GPS coordinates onboth the Bulgarian and Macedonian sides of the mountain were presented at the forum. They are designed for experienced cyclists as well as for beginners and are suitable for almost year-round use, with the exception of the winter season. The routes have been developed within the project "Sustainable Future for Nature and People in Osogovo" on the principle of "self-guided tours", Svetoslav Velkov from Treventuria explained. This means that tourists can ride on their own routes as long as they download the GPS track based on their own preferences and thus becoming independent from organized tours."In order for the tourist product to be completed and be suitable for use, the local guest houses in the region, the hotels as well as the local entrepreneurs that can provide transportation and bicycle repair services have to be ready for cooperation and joining forces in development of the product" he added.
"The cycling tourism can contribute to the development of the regions and Galicnik can serve as a wonderful example that illustrates this," said Alexander Panayotov, who presented a successful example from Mavrovo National Park, Macedonia. It is the frequent bike tours that are gradually developing the area, because they provide income for the local guest houses, restaurants and business. To be successful, the cyclint tourism should be combined with other form of tourism - cultural, sports, culinary, thus you can keep lovers of bicycle travel for more than a day in the region at stake. Specific tradition as the famous Galicka wedding or a festival, craft demonstration, traditional meals , horse riding or extreme sports can be part of the attractions that can keep the cycling tourists for longer time.
A successful example from Bulgaria was presented by Sofia Ilkova, who presented the biking tours “Winter Belasitsa”0- part of the popularization of Belasitsa that included accommodation in local guest houses combined with folklore performances and tasting of traditional meals.
During the discussion that followed the presentations, institutions, tourist societies and cyclists discussed the possibilities for the future development of cross-border mountain biking routes, for cooperation and joint initiatives between the tourist companies from Bulgaria and Macedonia, as well as the challenges that need to be overcome in order to realize the idea . The representatives of the institutions - forestries, border police, municipalities and others that attended the forum have pledged assistance to enable Osogovo’s development of cycling tourism to be realized and to benefit both humans and nature.
The forum was preceded by a two-day tour in which dozens of cyclists from Bulgaria and Macedonia managed to test the new routes described in the two countries. Their route passed through the localities Tri buky, Dvete reki, Kalin Kamen - Tsarev vrh- Ponykva, Radkova skala - Shalkovitsa - Zletovo. The eventwas organized as part of the project "Sustainable future for people and nature in Osogovo". The project is transboundary and is implemented in partnership with the Euroatour Foundation, Germany and the Macedonian Ecological Society, Macedonia, and is funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU), the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and the partners' own contribution.
More information for the routes can be found at: http://bbf.biodiversity.bg/bg/Novi-velo-marshruti-v-Osogovo-nepoznatata-velodestinatsiya.p1925