Summer University on "Integrated Management, Sustainable Tourism, and Promotion of Biosphere Reserves"



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Summer University on "Integrated Management, Sustainable Tourism, and Promotion of Biosphere Reserves"

July 21 - July 28


The Central Balkan Biosphere Reserve is located in the central part of Bulgaria and covers an area of 369.003,92ha, including 5 municipalities and 7 nature reserves, as well as over 580 km of tourist trails (for horse riding, cycling, and wildlife observation). Parts of it were first declared a protected area in 1948, whereas the territory was designated as a Biosphere Reserve with its current boundaries in 2017. The Summer University will be held in both the northern and southern part of Central Balkan BR and will be used to further promote the MAB programme in the region. In this regard, although the protected area is well-known, the BR concept and the possibilities it gives are still not well understood and promoted, and further information is needed.


The Central Balkan BR region is one of the most significant natural centers for the protection of biodiversity and wildlife in Europe and is also one of the most important ecological corridors in South Eastern Europe, supporting genetic exchange, distribution, and movement of species from the Carpathians and other mountains in Eastern Europe, to the southern parts of the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor. Due to its high diversity and the fact that it hosts a considerable number of rare and endangered species and habitats, the region has already been integrated into various protected area programmes. Furthermore, the ancient Beech Forests in Central Balkan BR hold a great relevance: in the core area of the BR, some outstanding patches reach 240 years old. Their importance led to their addition in 2018 to the UNESCO World Heritage List under the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe (together with 12 other countries).

Furthermore, the region is very rich in terms of cultural and historical heritage. Many of the settlements in the transition area have been renowned crafts centers in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, and even today traditions have been preserved and continue to be developed by the successors of the old masters.

Another unique feature of Central Balkan BR is its southern part, known as the “Valley of Roses” where the best quality rose oil is produced from the Rosa damascena roses from centuries. Hot mineral springs are also common in the BR and, combined with preserved natural sights, they provide great opportunities for sustainable tourism.

Videos about Central Balkan National Park and Biosphere Reserve: and


The Summer University seeks to provide a high-quality training to post graduate students, young scientists, and practitioners from Biosphere Reserves from Europe and the Mediterranean on “Integrated management, sustainable tourism, and promotion of biosphere reserves”. Additionally, the Summer University will seek to engage the participants through an active learning process, providing them with the opportunity to develop ideas for joint projects focusing on further promotion of BRs and the MAB programme, while also experiencing first-hand the rich natural and cultural heritage of the Central Balkan BR.

The Summer University provides an intensive, multidisciplinary, and experiential training aiming to develop the understanding and competences of the trainees on the multiple values of the Biosphere Reserves as "laboratories" and "catalysts" for Sustainable Development. It specifically aims to deepen the understanding of and offer insights on the integrated management approaches and sustainable tourism strategies for Biosphere Reserves and their promotion, through presenting a plethora of BR management examples.

The Summer University intents also to stimulate the participants, thought interactive and project work methodology, to contribute to the development of ideas for joint projects and future collaborations.

The working language of the event is English. In this regard, the participants are required to have a good level of English.


The event will include theoretic sessions, discussions, and interactive sessions as well as group work and field visits and meetings in significant 'hotspots' in the area (organic farms, guest-houses, open-air museums, eco-paths). The detailed daily program will be available and circulated soon. Please keep in mind that one of the days will include trekking in the mountains, so it is highly advisable to bring comfortable or hiking shoes.

During the group work sessions, each group (facilitated by a tutor) will investigate a specific topic, while combining their findings with input from lectures and visits. The foreseen topics are:

  1. Large-scale joint communication projects promoting the MAB programme (locally and internationally)*
  2. Connecting and involving young people into the MAB network*
  3. Enhancement of local products and tourist services for the sustainable development of the territory
  4. Education for Sustainable Development projects within BRs

*Groups A and B are preferably aimed at participants who are in connection with a Biosphere Reserve

The lectures and group work will be held by highly experienced professors from the University of Athens, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Sofia University, as well as experts from Italy, Spain, Greece, and Bulgaria, such as prof. Michael Scoullos, dott. Filippo Lenzerini, and Jonathan Baker.


The expected number of trainees is estimated to be 25-30. Participants are expected to be:

  • people actively working or involved within existing Biosphere Reserves or from areas that are currently developing their nomination process to the MAB Programme;
  • employees in management bodies or local authorities of Biosphere Reserves and/or other designated areas or in private/public organization working on Sustainable Development;
  • young scientists, recent graduates, or researchers on Sustainable Development and Management, Biosphere Reserves, Environmental Policies, Tourism, and/or Protected Areas.


Participants will be selected in order of priority while considering gender and geographical balance. Higher priority will be given to candidates:

  • with an existing strong connection with a BR (or BR in the application process);
  • with a compelling motivation statement covering their reasons to apply to the Summer University, as well as how they intend to capitalize on it and use this experience in their professional activity;
  • young participants under the age of 35.


The trainees successfully completing the Summer University will be awarded a certificate of participation provided by the UNESCO Chair of the Bulgarian National MAB Committee and the director of Central Balkan Biosphere Reserve


Thanks to the support provided by the sponsors of the Summer University, no inscription fees will be requested. The organization will cover:

  • accommodation and meals;
  • connection with the Sofia airport, Bus and Train Station
  • all local transport; and
  • equipment and guide(s) for excursions and visits.

The travel costs to reach and leave Bulgaria will have to be covered by the participants. All participants shall arrive before July 21st (Sunday). There will be a limited number of scholarships available for sponsored participants based on their profile and motivation described in the application form.


All the participant shall arrive:

  • by car directly to Chateu Copsa close to Karlovo on July 21st;
  • by bus or train to Sofia Bus Station where shuttle buses will be expecting them no later than early afternoon on July 21st (Sunday); or
  • by plane, landing in the morning/early afternoon of July 21st (Sunday) at Sofia Airport where a shuttle‐bus will collect them.

In the afternoon of July 28th (Sunday) Summer University shuttle‐busses will bring the participants back to Sofia.


The trainees will be hosted in two main seats – one close to Karlovo and one close to Troyan which will be the two main locations of the summer university. Accommodation will be in double shared rooms with bathroom. Most breakfasts and dinners will be provided by these hotels. Some pocket lunch will be foreseen in the excursion days. Any food intolerance or special request will be accommodated and must be indicated in advance to the organizers.


In order to apply for this summer university, please fill out the registration form on this link by May 20th, 2019.


The draft agenda is available below. Please note that there might be some changes and this is not the final version.


The Summer University is co-organized and supported by:


Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation


Central Balkan Biosphere Reserve


UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe



Ministry of Environment and Water of the Republic of Bulgaria and Bulgarian National MAB Committee


Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development ( through its education initiative MEdIES (


UNESCO Chair and Network on Sustainable Development Management and Education in the Mediterranean of the University of Athens


Rozino Organic Farm and Gelatto and Latte



Hotel Casa Art, Orershak, Troyan


Chateau Copsa, Karlovo



Sunday, July 21, 2019 12:00 PM
Sunday, July 28, 2019


Central Balkan National Park


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