Rila is the highest mountain in Bulgaria and on the whole Balkan Peninsula.
It is a part of the Rila-Rhodope Massif and occupies its north-east end.
Rila seems to be a piece of the Alps thrown into the heart of the Balkans
with its 130 Alpine peaks above 2000m, glacial valleys and lakes. The snow
cover on the parts of average altitude and the Alpine parts often exceeds
2m. Eastern Rila is the highest part of the mountain where one can visit
Rila's highest mount-Moussala (2925m) and the 10 top peaks, and the highest
lake in Rila-the Glacial lake (2709m). Northwestern Rila is the home to
some of the symbols of Bulgarian alpinism and mountaineering-Malyovitsa and
Kupenite peaks, and the biggest and significant lake groups, the most famous
and scenic of all - the 7 Rila lakes. The most of the chalets and high
mountain shelters are in this part of the mountain. Many marked tourist
hiking trails and high-mountain rock climbing tours originate from here.
Pirin mountain is the second highest in Bulgaria after Rila mountain. It is
situated in the southwest part of the country in a rather extended shape to
the northwest and southeast between the rivers Struma and Mesta. Pirin
mountain, a glorious glacial landscape of peaks and lakes, offers some of
the finest walking in Europe. Pirin has acquired an Alpine relief - rocky marble or granite peaks and
cliffs, deep cirques, well shaped glacier valleys and numerous lakes.
However, because of the well-expressed Mediterranean influence through the
valleys of the Struma and Mesta rivers, it is the mountain with the greatest
number of sunny days throughout the year and annual average temperature in
the area of Vihren chalet (2000m) of -3.7C. Northern Pirin is the home of the highest peak, Vihren (2914m), of 60 others above
2500m, and of all glacial lakes (140-150 in number). It is also the place
where one can find most of the region's ski resorts and hiking centers, as
well as 12 chalets and 4 huts which are open for mountaineers the year-round.
Because of its unique nature, in 1983 UNESCO decided to include the Pirin
National Park in the list of the world's cultural and natural heritage.
THE BALKAN RANGE
The Balkan Range cuts right across the country - from the border with Serbia
to the Black Sea coast, a forbidding mountain known to the Bulgarians as
Stara Planina or the "Old Mountains". The 550km-long granite Balkan Range
has become emblematic of Bulgaria - a birthplace of the Bulgarian
nation-state and a place where Bulgarian traditions and culture have been
preserved during the Ottoman occupation. It is also a climatic barrier
between north and south Bulgaria with more snowfalls on its northern slopes
than on the southern. Average temperature around Mount Botev, the highest
peak (2376m), are -8.9C in January, and 7.6 in July. Its 29 peaks above
2000m, some of which definitely Alpine, are of great interest to tourists
and climbers. The numerous alpine formations in the western part of the
mountain-caves, rocks, gorges, attract extreme climbers and mountaineers.
The Central Balkan range is the highest with the most tourist chalets and
high-mountain huts. Hundreds of tracks have been marked, most of them
leading to important historic and cultural places. A landmark is the
National Park "Central Balkan" with 10 biosphere reserves under the
protection of UNESCO.
The Rhodope mountains, the most lyrical Bulgarian mountains, is located in
the most southern part of the country. The Rhodope mountains are one of the
oldest mountains in Bulgaria - the land where panpipes, Orpheus and the
Orphic Cult originated, a region rich in gems and ores, mild oval forms and
rounded wooded peaks, picturesque villages and hospitable people. Very
interesting are the karst areas with their deep river gorges, large caves
and specific sculptured forms. What is typical for the Rhodope mountains is
that they are the most populated mountains in Bulgaria which together with
the mild climate and the numerous mineral springs, provides essential
advantages for the development of tourism. The best conifer woods in
Bulgaria can be found here, as well as 15 natural reserves, some of which
protected under UNESCO. The highest peak is Golyam Perelik at an altitude of
The Sredna Gora or "Central Highlands" stretch from the Pancherevo defile
outside Sofia as far as Yambol on the Thracian plain, south of the the
Balkan Range and the Valley of the Roses. With its forests of oak and beech
and numerous caves and hot springs, the region was inhabited by humans as
early as the 5th millennium BC. The Thracians left a hoard of gold treasure
at Panagurishte, and the Romans a crop of ruins at Hisar, but for
Bulgarians, the Sredna Gora is best known as the "land of the April
Uprising", which started in Koprivshtitsa. For tourists too, these
towns are the region's highlights and starting points for mountain hiking.