Pelister National Park
West of Bitola, near the town, is the Baba (meaning Grandma) Mountain with the magnificent Mount Pelister (2601 meters, or 8533 feet). Pelister is the third highest peak inthe Republic of Macedonia after Korab and Titov Vrv.
Park straddles Macedonia’s southern border with Greece, running along the Baba Mountain (the third-highest in Macedonia). It is located only 15 km (9 m) from Macedonia’s second city, Bitola, and makes for an invigorating natural escape from urban life.
Pelister National Park is filled with exquisite flora and fauna. Among flora elements, the presence is especially significant of the five-needle pine molica (Pinus peuce)- a unique species of tertiary age being present on only a few mountains in the Balkan Peninsula. The beauty of the landscape is enhanced by the diversified wildlife: bears, roe deer, wolves, chamois, deer, wild boars, rabbits, several species of eagles, partridges, redbilled jackdaws, and the endemic Macedonian Pelagonia trout.
Pelister is also known for its two mountain lakes, which are called Pelister's Eyes. The Big lake is 2,218 meters above the sea level while the Small lake is 2,180 meters high. Here are the sources of many rivers. The climate in the Pelister National Park is diverse.
The best way to reach Pelister would be from Bitola, across the villages of Trnovo and Magarevo. Pelister is situated 14 km. from Bitola, 75 km. from Ohrid's Airport or 170 km. from Skopje's Airport. You can be sleep over in many hotels, or in 3 mountain houses.
Pelister national park was established in 1948 and is the first national park in the country.
Pelister is rugged and mountainous.
FLORA AND FAUNA OF THE NATIONAL PARK PELISTER The vegetation of Pelister is part of a Holarctic floristic region and Euro-Siberian floristic sub-region. The rich diversity of the flora and fauna of the National Park Pelister is the basic and most important characteristic of the bio-diversity of this mountain, for which reason Pelister was declared the first National Park in the Republic of Macedonia in 1948. The flora of Pelister consists of more than 1050 systemic units of superior plants of which most, that is more than 900 kinds, are hidden-seed plants. Among the superior plants about 90 are tree-like plants divided into 23 families. The Macedonian pine known as ‘molika’ Pinus peuce Grisebach*, 1843 is considered to be a Tertiary relict plant. This is the five needle leafed pine which forms the great compact forest vegetation in Pelister, which reaches up to a height of 2500 metres above sea level. The trunk of the pine is light in colour, soft, long lasting and has rough bark. It is used for building in construction and for furniture production, while its resin is used in the manufacture of microscopic equipment and optical instruments. The pine cones of the Molika contain ethereal oils such as alpha pinen, beta pinen and lemonen, while the younger ones contain terpene with several fractions. The pollen of this tree is characteristic and as a fossil residue it can be found in the peat soil below the Big Lake (Golemo Ezero) and in the peat soil on the mountain Jablanica. In the Republic of Macedonia, the Molika pine can also be found on Baba Mountain, Bigla, the Plaken-Snegovo massif (where it has been spread by the wind), Jablanica, the Mountain of Shara, Galichica, Mavrovo, Nidze and Kajmakchalan. This pine is also found in neighbouring countries such as Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia and Bulgaria. Thus it is considered an endemic of the Balkans.
There is the particularly rare species Taxus baccata, while the species Vaccinium uliginosum is a glacial relict, and Trollius europeaneus is considered to be a boreal relict. Diluvium relicts are Carex curvula and Gnapalium supinum which are of particular scientific interest along with numerous post-dilluvial plants such as Festuca kajmakcalana, Dianthus kajmakcalana, Crocus pelistericus and Pingula leptoceras. In the Alpine part of Pelister we can find rare kinds of ferns growing, like Cryptogramma crispa and Athrium disentifolium. True rarities of Pelister are the xerophytic plants: Sempervivum octopodes and Jovibarba heuffelii var. heufellii , which can only be found here.
Pelister National Park is the only territory where the Alchemia peristerica and Semn pervivum octopodes exist. Also worth mentioning are the species with limited distribution in the Republic of Macedonia.
Speaking of the vegetation of Pelister we may freely say that it is of great scientific importance. The molika pine, which was the primary reason for declaring Pelister a national park, can be found here in three associations such as molika with the eagle fern known as Pterideo-Pinetum peucis, molika with blueberry Vaccinio-Pinetum peucis while the alpine part of Pelister is marked by the Gentiano-lutae-Pinetum peucis association. Many plant communities have found a favorable place to vegetate on Pelister and in most of them there are elements originating from the Tertiary period. Some such associations are:
It should be mentioned that the present condition of the vegetation with its entire biodiversity can not be explained without taking into account an analysis of its development in the past geological periods, the anthropological influences of man, especially during the last centuries, as well as the influence of the current phenomenon of global warming. Namely, it has been shown that with a rise in temperature of one degree the microorganisms, in order to survive, migrate to distances of more than 100 km north in geographic length or 100 meters height above sea level. This is already reflected in the shifting of the upper border of distribution of certain alpine and sub-alpine plants and animals, as well as of the molika pine which has moved more than 100 meters to the north since the day it was declared a national park.
We should keep in mind that during these global climate changes, the invasive species within the frame of National Park Pelister and in the wider region will take advantage of the effects of climate change and will colonize the areas of the less adaptive species of plants and animals. Thus in the future preventative measures must be undertaken in order to help the endangered species. All this needs to be regulated by law before it is too late. With all the global climate changes in recent times, perhaps the effects on the flora and fauna can not be eliminated in the short term, that is, the invasive species can not be eradicated. Nevertheless, some influence could be exerted over the other factors of anthropological origin , such as eliminating the pollution, the salt and acid content of the soil and water, controlling the grazing of the domestic livestock, etc. All this means that we must focus our attention on sustainable development. Only a healthy eco-system provides natural prevention from the invasive species. It must be noted that following the proclamation of the National Park and with the protection of the lands from livestock grazing and other exploitation, the molika pine has since spread to above the villages of Trnovo, Magarevo, Rotino and also covered new areas along the rocky rivers and towards the Fat Hill ( Debel Rid ) and the Red River (Crvena Reka). This is an excellent example of how we should continue to act in the future. Apart from the plant world, National Park Pelister is abundant with rich endemic and relict fauna. A large number of invertebrate animals are endemic, tercial, glacial and relict fauna but no less is the number of vertebrate animals whose characteristics are distinctive only for Pelister and Baba Mountain. Their number is quite large and comprises microorganisms, algae, protozoa, worms, mollusks, limbed animals and vertebrate animals. Of the invertebrate animals we would mention the three south Balkans endemic naked snails Limax macedonicus leucopus, Tandonia mecedonica and Dorocera turrcicum which inhabit the alpine part of Pelister. The parasitic nematode Chaboudgoldwania terdentatum which lives as a parasite in the Greek frog Rana graeca is quite rare in the southern parts of Europe. In the Pelister trout known as Slamo truta peristericus we can find the parasites Eubothrium salvelini and Cystidicoloides tenuissima vegetares, which are distributed in north Europe and in cold waters rich with oxygen. In addition, the monogenic thrematode Discocotyle letnica has so far only been confirmed in the Ohrid Lake. The water string Gordius aquaticus found in Sapunchica and Shemnica is characteristic only in waters rated as first ‘A category’. The leech Herpobdella testacea has its residence in the Small Lake (Malo Ezero), while the olgohetics Rhyncelmis komareki and Haplotachis gordioides dubius can be found both in the Big Lake and Small Lake. The red fairy crayfish Chirocephalus diaphanous carinatus lives in the Small Lake as a Balkan relict, while the amphipod crayfish Niphragus pancici peristericus lives in the Big Lake as an endemic relict. In the so called ‘Pelister Eyes’ lakes, a little crayfish Arctiocampus mecedonicus is an endemic species. All the Pelister lakes as well as the mountain streams are inhabited by endemic crayfish Iliodromus peristericus and Eucypris diebeli. Of the insects which are found around the mountain streams and rivers of Pelister, it is worth mentioning the relict endemic plecoptherus Neumora peristeri. Many species of butterfly endemic to Pelister can be seen here, such as Scytris crypta, S. similes, Hadena clara macedonica, the rare butterfly Zerunthis polyxena, and here you will also find the Pelister millipede Brachydesmus peristerensis, hard-wing bumblebee Alpaeus mecedonica, Cychus attenuatus peristericus, Platyduvallius macedonicus, Duvaliotes peristericus etc. The vertebrate fauna of Pelister has been researched more and here we should mention the stream snake-fish of Malovishka River and Sapunchica as a rare kind, as well as the endemic Pelagonian trout Salmo trutta pelagonicus which inhabits the Sapunchica and Malovishka River, often swimming into the Strezevo accumulation capacity, the Red River, Capari River, Rotino River and the rivers flowing in the foothills of Baba Mountain, such as the Bistrica River, and Eleshka River in Greece. On the Prespa side of Pelister we find another kind of trout, that is, Salmo truta peristericus in the Kranska River, Brajchino River as well as in the rivers in Greece and Albania which flow into the Prespa Lake. These are endemic species of trout.
All in all, there are more than 170 species of vertebrates existing on Pelister. Here we would mention the most distinctive and the rarest kinds. The amphibian family is represented by the common worm Salamandra salamandra, which can often be seen after rainy spells in Spring, the Macedonian reef water lizard Triturus carnifex macedonicus, the forest frog Rana dalmatina, the Greek frog Rana graeca, the ‘sorceress’ Hyla arborea, the big scabby frog Bufo bufo spinosus, the common turtle Testudo hermanni, Ablepharus kitaibeli, the bat Anguis fragilis. In the areas above the Big Lake, the red-beak alpine crow Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax docili can be found nesting in the rocks. Many birds have found their permanent residence in the molika pine forests as well as in the surrounding woods , including Fringila coelebs, Carduelis chloris, Parus ater, and the forest pigeon Columba palimbus. The molika pine seed is the only food for many species of birds such as Passer montanus, Loxia curvirostra, Serinus serinus, Cocothraustes cocothraustes, Pyrrhula pyrrhula, Carduelis chloris, Carduelis pinus, Carduelis carduelis, Fringilla coelebs, Fringilla montifringilla, Parus caerulaeus, Parus major, Columba palumbus and mammals Sciurus vulgaris, Apodmys sylvacicus, Meles meles and others.
Finally it must be mentioned that there are some very rare bird species and endemic mammals which can be seen from time to time or are always in the National Park Pelister. Among then there is Bonasa bonasia which comes occasionally from the Mountain of Bigla, the owl Bubo bubo, Caprimulgus europaeus, Picus viridis, Dryocopus martius, the eagle Aquilla crysetos, the hawk Accipiter gentiles, the falcon Falco subbuteo, the polecat Glis glis, forest rabbit Lepus europaeus, the fox Vulpes vulpes, the wolf Canis lupus kurjak, the lynx Lynx lynx martinoi, the brown bear Urcus arctos – which is a mascot of the National Park Pelister, the boar Sus scrofa, common deer Cervus elepas, the hind Carpeoolus carpeolus, the chamois Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica which lives in the rocky areas around the Red Rocks (Crveni Steni) and other rocky alpine areas. In those regions, many reptiles have also found their permanent residence, including the high-mountain lizard Lacerta agilis, the adder Vipera berus, Turdus torquatus, Monticola saxatilis, Alectoris graeca, Pyrrhocorax pyrrcohcorax docilli, Sorex minutus, Sorex araneus, Microtus subterraneus, Microtus felteni, Talpa stankovici, Nannospalax leucodon and many others.
Grisebach had just finished his studies of Medicine and Botany and, at the age of 25, was appointed assistant professor at the University of Getinngen, Germany. He came from a wealthy family and his father, Rudolf Dietrich Grisebach, was a general. His mother’s maiden name was Louise Mayer and it was her brother Georg F.W. Mayer who steered the young August in the direction of the natural sciences. His Botany professors were the well known botanists Friedrich Gottlieb Bartling (1798-1875) and Henrich Adolf Shreder. On his own initiative and with the financial support of the Getinngen University, matched by an equal amount of his own funds, on 17th January 1839 the young August started on a scientific research expedition on the Balkan Peninsula (Rumelia) and Little Asia (Bithynia).
During his visit to Pelister he was accompanied by Nikola Sterju from the village Magarevo. On 2nd July 1839 Grisebach collected samples of the Macedonian pine – ‘molika’ believing it to be Pinus cembra, which can be seen by the original holotype of the pine in Grisebach’s herbarium which has been preserved in the Institute of Botany in Getinngen. Later, in 1843, in the publication entitled Spicilegium Florae Rumelicae et Bitynicae, synopsis plantarum, vol. primum, Brunsvigae he established that the pine was an entirely new species and published it under the name of Pinus peuce sp. nov, and in his holotype he personally crossed out the previously incorrectly established species and added the word peuce.
The name ‘molika’ was given by the academic Jovan Cvijic on his discovery of this species in Serbia. Speaking of names, Tanchevski also supposes that the name Pelister came from the five-needle shaped leaves of this pine, that is from ‘pet-lister’ (five leaved) which later became Pelister. Later, many other scientists explored Pelister and established new species in botanical science whose locus clasicus is Pelister, such as: Allchemia peristerica, Crocus pelistericus, Scorzonera purpurea ssp. peristerica, Sempervivum octopodes, Silene ventricosa, and Viola veluntina.
In the above mentioned study Grisebach described many other species new to science whose locus clasicus was Pelister, such as: Dianthus myrtinervius Grisebach, 1843; Stachys germanica var. subalpina Grisebach, 1844; Veratrum album var. flavum Gris, 1846; Orobanche cruenta Bert. var. leiostemon, 1844; Plantago gentianoides Sibth et Sm. var. scardica Griseb., 1846; Festuca ovina L., var. secunda Gris., 1846; Poa alpine L., var. polystachya Gris., 1846; Ranunculus psylostachys Grisebach, 1843; Saxifraga rotundifolia L., var. geoides Griseb., 1843; Saxifraga rotundifolia L., var. glandulosa Gris., 1843 and Pedicularis orthantha Grisebach, 1844 elutina, Viola orphanidis and many others.
The climate is diverse all over the park.
Bus from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia
Eurobus is an international coach operator based in Struga that has almost daily tours from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia to major cities in Macedonia. Prices from 70€ and possible to get student discount.
The most convinient way to visit the park is to drive to the visitors center. With a taxi this would cost you around 250den from Bitola. The official taxi's have a fixed pricelist for places like this and won't go with meter. The visitors center is helpful with some maps and guidelines, however, we found it very difficult navigating with the signs only. Beware it is somehow different then the alps.
The most easy stroll is the war memorial track. Wich is about 30min to a nice picknick place.
Pelister is known for great skiing.