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A plot of land with area of 44 472 sq.m in a complex of two golf courses in progress near Haskovo city. PRICE: 12 EUR per sq.m
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Bulgarian Mountains
Bachkovo Monastery
Located on the right bank of the Chepelare Rriver (Chaya), above the Plovdiv-Smolyan road, 29 km away from Plovdiv, 89 km away from Sofia and 10 km away from Assenovgrad.
Borovetz
The oldest Bulgarian resort dating back to the year of 1896 when the mayor of the town of Samokov of that time built a wooden chalet there to alleviate the fate of his wife who was ill of tuberculosis.
KOM - Emine Route
The longest marked tourist route in Bulgaria passes along the central ridge of Stara Planina, named after the names of its two final points - Mt. Kom (2016 m), in the immediate proximity to the border with Serbia, and the Black Sea Cape Emine - the eastern end of the mountain and the country.
Malyovitza
Malyovitsa is a smaller resort than Borovets but there is no other resort in the Rila Mountain but also in the whole Bulgaria, which can compare with its beauty and grandeur.
Melnik and The Rozhen Monastery
Melnik is the smallest and one of the most fascinating town-museums in Bulgaria. Nestled amongst the lowest southwestern fold of Pirin, it combines the memory of a prosperous past with the pastoral coziness and the unique in its kind countryside. It dates back to Thracian times.
Pamporovo
Pamporovo is the second mountain winter resort in the country after Borovets. It is located 1650 m above sea level in the Perelik range (Boukova Planina) of the Western Rhodopes in one of the most beautiful places of the Orpheus Mountain.
Pirin
There are no matches
Rila
Rila is the highest mountain in Bulgaria and on the whole Balkan Peninsula.
Rila Monastery
Among the bosoms of Rila at the altitude of 1147 m above sea level, on the right bank of the Rila River is situated the most outstanding monument of Bulgarian culture and architecture of the Revival period - the Rila Monastery, known also as the Holy Rila Retreat.
Shiligarnika
The biggest ski-centre in Pirin is situated at the distance of 9 km south-west of the town of Bansko, to which there is an asphalt road.
Shiroka Luka
This is a village - museum (an architecture and ethnographic reserve) well known not only throughout Bulgaria, but abroad as well, for its original Rhodope architectural style, musical traditions and history.
Stara Planina
Stara planina is also known as "the Balkan". It is the longest, the biggest and the "most Bulgarian" of all mountains.
The Rhodope Mountains
The Rhodope Mountains are the most lyrical of Bulgarian mountains combining the relief of mild oval forms, the colourful "rugs" of nature animated by the architecture of picturesque villages, by the hospitality of the people and the legendary songs of Orpheus.
Vitosha
Vitosha is the most visited Bulgarian mountain. It rises immediately above Sofia and is one of the symbols of our capital city.

Rila (top)
Intro:
Rila is the highest mountain in Bulgaria and on the whole Balkan Peninsula.

Full text:
It occupies the prestigious 6th place in the European "classification", preceded by: Caucasus (Mt. Elbrus - 5642 m), the Alps (Mt. Mont Blanc - 4807 m), Sierra Nevada (Mt. Mulasen - 3482 m), the Pyrenees (Mt. Aneto - 3404 m) and the Etna Volcano (3340 m). It is a central mountain for the peninsula and it is a main orographic and hydrographic junction. It is a composite part of the Rila - Rhodope Massif and occupies its northwestern end. The oldest name of the mountain is Dounkas, given to it by the Thracians. It means a place with a lot of water. Thracian's name was Roula, which was altered by the Slav to Rila. It is also related to the water abundance of the mountain (it means "water mountain"). The key constructive element in the mountain is granite. There are also marble, crystalline schist and others here. The two fold glaciating of Rila played an important part in the formation of its relief. The multitude of cirques, the well outlined glacial valleys, the Alpine peaks and the glacial lakes are evidence for this. The climate of Rila is determined by its geographical situation, on the border between the continental and the transitional Mediterranean climate and the microclimate - by the altitude zones and by the soil and vegetation cover. The lowest average monthly temperature was recorded during the month of February on Mt. Moussala - 11.6°C below zero. The absolute minimal temperature so far in Bulgaria was measured in the same place - 31.2°C below zero (during February). During the month of August, the average temperature of the mount is 5.4°C and the absolute maximal temperature measured on Mt. Moussala is 18.7°C. The winds in Rila blow predominantly from the west and the south-west. There are rarely northwestern and northeastern winds and they are more moderate, and the northern, southern and southeastern winds do not play an essential role. The quantity of precipitation is significant, about 1200 mm fall on Mt. Moussala per year, about 80 per cent of them being snow. The snow cover on the parts of medium altitude and the Alpine parts of the mountain often exceeds 2 meters. All these enumerated climatic factors create prerequisites, mostly in the Alpine parts of the mountain, for avalanches. Rila has the following boundaries (clockwise): on the north - the Dzhubrena River, the Klissoura Saddle and the Klissourchitsa River separate it from Verila Mountain. The Samokov Plain, the Bistritsa River, the Borovets Saddle, the Malka Slivnitsa, Slivnitsa and Maritsa Rivers (the Maritsa River up to Dolna Banya) separate it from Ihtiman Sredna Gora Mountain. Kostenets-Dolna Banya mountain valley, the Maritsa River up to its overfall with the Yadenitsa River separate Rila from the farthest southeastern sprouts of Ihtiman Sredna Gora Mountain. To the east, it borders on the Rhodopes through the Yadenitsa and Yundolska Rivers, the Yundola Saddle, Lyuta River, Avramov's Saddle, the Dreshenets River and the Mesta River to Razlog mountain valley. On the south is situated the Razlog mountain valley. It is separated by Pirin Mountain through the Rablevska River, Predela Saddle, and the rivers of Kulina, Elovitsa and Gradevska. On the west - the Valley of the Strouma River from the overfall with the Gradevska River to the overfall with the Dzherman River, the valley of the Dzherman River from the overfall with the Strouma River to the Doupnitsa Plain. Within the so outline borders, Rila occupies the area of 2396 square kilometers. Based on its orographic structures, characteristics, and morphographic features the mountain is divided into 4 main parts - Eastern, Middle, Northwestern and Southwestern. The following rivers serve as their borders - Cherni (Black) Iskar, Levi (Left) Iskar, Beli (White) Iskar, Rilska, Iliina, Belishka and Stankova as well as the ridge saddles -Kobilino Branishte, Kadiin Grab and Gorni Kouki. Each of the main parts, on its part, is subdivided into several subparts bearing the names of the highest or central peak. Eastern Rila is the highest (absolutely) and the most spacious of the four main parts and it comprises 37% of the total area of the mountain. Eastern Rila on its part is divided into 7 subparts. Three of them - the Moussala, Maritsa and Kovashki are situated on the Moussala edge and the remaining four - Slavov's, Belmeken, Ibur and Mustachal on the Ibur main edge. The two main edges cross at the junction Mt. Marishki Chal, situated at the main watershed on the Balkan Peninsula, between the water catchments areas of the Iskar, Maritsa and Mesta Rivers. The 11 highest peaks of the mountain rise in Eastern Rila headed by Mt. Moussala (2925.4 m). The second - Mt. Malka (Little) Moussala (2902 m) is situated to the east (they are linked by the narrow rocky edge Trionite (the Saws)). The third highest and unique between the altitude of 2800 and 2900 meters - Mt. Irechek (2852 m) is next to them, too. The lake groups of Moussalenski Ezera ("ezera" means lakes), Marichini Ezera, Ropalishki Ezera, Yakorouda Ezera and others are in this part as well. The highest lake in Rila is in the Moussala group - the Ledenoto (Glacial) Lake (2709 m). It is situated in the immediate proximity on the north under Mt. Moussala. There are nine tourist chalets and two high-mountain shelters in Eastern Rila. The highest meteorological station in South-Eastern Europe, built in 1932 is situated on the Mount of Moussala. Middle Rila is the smallest part of the mountain it occupies only 9% of its area. Its relief, however, is the most Alpine with the average altitude above sea level - 2077.17 m. Middle Rila has two main ridges - Skakavishko and Riletsko separated by the valley of the Rilska River. They are linked by Mt. Kanarata (The Rock) (2691m), occupying a focal place in the orohydrographic characteristics of the whole mountain, known as the "navel" of Rila. Three subparts are outlined along the Skakavishki Main Ridge - Skakav, Marinkov and Shishkov. There are three subparts along the Rilets Ridge, too - Kanara, Rilets and Brichebor, i.e. Middle Rila has six subparts. The highest peak is Mt. Karaalanitsa (Black Meadow) - 2716 m (14th highest in Rila). The following peaks are remarkable, too: Mt. Rilets (2713 m), Mt. Yosafitsa (2697 m), Mt. Aladzha Slap (2684 m), Mt. Vodniya Chal (Water Peak) (2683 m). Middle Rila is rich in glacial lakes. Here are: the Fish Lakes, Prekorech Lakes, Mermer Lakes, Karaomerish Lakes, Dzhendem (Hell) Lakes, the Monastery Lakes. The biggest glacial lake on the Balkan Peninsula - Smradlivoto (Srinking)Lake - with the area of 212 decares - is also in this part of the mountain. There are 3 chalets in Middle Rila and one high-mountain shelter. North-Western Rila, which is divided into low and high (Alpine) parts, occupies 24% of the total area of the mountain and is the third biggest in relation to average altitude above sea level, too - 1555.73 m. Its low part comprises the oblong Govedartsi mountain valley and the so-called Lakatish Rila, which is a fore-mountain of the main massif of Rila. The high (Alpine) part is divided into Malyovitsa, Damga, Kalins, Otovish and Kabul subparts. The most prominent Alpine sites of Rila and Bulgaria are located in the Malyovitsa subpart. These are the peaks: Mt. Malyovitsa (2730 m, a symbol of Bulgarian alpinism and mountaineering), Mt. Koupenite (the highest of them - Mt. Goliam Koupen is the highest peak in North-Western Rila - 2731 m), Mt. Elenin, Mt. Orlovets, Mt. Zliya Zub (Evil Tooth), Mt. Dvuglav (Two-headed), Mt. Lovnitsa, Mt. Petlite (Roosters), Mt. Orleto (Little Eagle) and a number of others. Some of the biggest and significant lake groups are situated in this part of the mountain - Urdini Ezera, Malyovishki Ezera, Elenski Ezera, Gradinski Ezera, Popovokapski Ezera, as well as the biggest and most famous lake group on the Balkan Peninsula - Sedemte Rilski Ezera (The 7 Rila Lakes). There are 10 tourist chalets and 2 high-mountain shelters built up in North-Western Rila.

South-Western Rila comprises 30% of the mountain - the lowest part with the average altitude above sea level of 1306.63 m. It is divided into two main ridges - northern, consisting of Mechi Vruh and Tsarev Vruh subpart and southern, divided into Parangal, Kapatnik and Hurs. Mt. Angel is the highest in this subpart (2643 m). Some of the more remark¬able peaks here are Mt. Goliam Mechi Vruh (Big Bear) (2618 m), Mt. Uzunitsa (2606 m), Mt. Tsarev Vruh (Tsar's Peak) (2378 m), Mt. Kapatnik (2170 m) and others. There are two tourist's chalets in South-Western Rila. One of the oldest biosphere reserves in Bulgaria is located on the territory of this part-Parangalitsa, known also for its centuries-old spruces. Some of the biggest Bulgarian rivers that flow their waters in the direction of both the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea spring from Rila, i.e. the main watershed of the Balkans passes through it. Solely the Iskar River drains into the Black Sea, but its water catchments area in Rila is big enough including its initial tributaries Cherni (Black), Beli (White) and Levi (Left) Iskar as well as a lot of other smaller ones. The Chanakski Ezera (Chanak Lakes) in North-Western Rila are considered the spring of the Iskar River near the cirque of the 7 Rila Lakes. The longest Bulgarian river - the Maritsa River as well as the Mesta River empty in the Aegean Sea, beyond the territory of Bulgaria. The first flows out of Marichini Ezera (Maritsa Lakes), south of Mt. Moussala, and the second drains the southern slopes of Eastern Rila. The water catchments area of Strouma River (taking its rise from Vitosha Mountain) is spacious, too. It catches the waters of the western and southwestern slopes of Rila and empties into the Aegean Sea, on the territory of Greece. Among its Rila tributaries of greater importance are the Rila River, the Dzherman River, the Doupnitsa River and the Blagoevgrad Bistritsa River.

Rila Monastery (top)
Intro:
Among the bosoms of Rila at the altitude of 1147 m above sea level, on the right bank of the Rila River is situated the most outstanding monument of Bulgarian culture and architecture of the Revival period - the Rila Monastery, known also as the Holy Rila Retreat.

Full text:
For centuries on end, it played an extraordinary part in Bulgarian history, in the struggle of our nation for spiritual and political freedom. Sveti Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila) - patron of Bulgaria, founded it during the 10th century. The Monastery was built as it stands now by Bulgarian master builders in 1816-1847. Whilst on the outside it reminds one of a powerful Medieval fortress, inside, the beauty of the Bulgarian Revival style emanates from the central Birth of the Holy Virgin Church and from the remaining monastery buildings, ornamented with colonnades, staircases and balconies.
The attention of the visitors is drawn to the first monastery kitchen (magernitsa) with its structure of octagons rising at the height of 22 meters crowned with a dome. In the middle of the monastery yard stands high the Hrelyo Tower - a powerful stone fortification, the sole preserved building of Medieval Times (1335). The Preobrazhenie (Transfiguration) Chapel housing mural paintings of the 14th century is on the top floor. The mural paintings in the remaining three chapels are remarkable, too, as well as the mural paintings on the arches of the yard facades, in the parlours, in the churches built in the areas surrounding the Monastery - all of them work of master builders from Samokov and Bansko Art School of the 19th century. Scenes from the Bible along with pieces of art of secular nature - the portraits of the founders of the Monastery are painted on the Cathedral. The enormous iconostasis in the Holy Virgin Monastery Church ornamented with open-worked woodcarving on walnut-tree wood, gilded later on, is a masterpiece of the art of woodcarving. The ceilings of the restored and furnished parlours, the interior of a monk's cell of the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the permanent ethnographic museum collection, the monastery library housing 16 000 volumes of valuable and unique books are of interest, too. A museum has been arranged in the newly built eastern wing of the monastery building that houses the gate of the Hrelyo Church, ancient weapons of the monastery guards and certificates of merit of Bulgarian tsars. Ornaments, ancient coins and church plate are exhibited here. There is an entire hall dedicated to a collection of icons, brought as presents from all over the country. The wooden cross on which monk Rafail worked for 12 years (from 1790 to 1802), finally growing blind from this amazing work leaving for us behind a unique piece of art, is exceptional. The Rila Monastery is under UNESCO patronage as a monument of an extraordinary value and significance for world culture. One can get to the Monastery along a first-class asphalt road. There is regular bus transport connecting it to the town of: Rila (19 km), Blagoevgrad (40 km), Doupnitsa (44 km) and Sofia (110 km).
A tourist town has sprung round the Monastery, offering accommodation to the numerous visitors and admirers. If you have decided to spend the night here, you have a choice: it is the most romantic to do this in the Monastery itself and the cheapest way to do this, although with only basic conveniences, is in the tourist hostel (in seven-, nine- and twenty-bed rooms. The biggest hotel in the area - the Rilets Hotel is situated at a distance of 1 km in the direction of Kiril Meadow. The Tsarev Vruh Hotel (two-star) has been completely renovated offering servicing of high quality and traditional Bulgarian cuisine in its several establishments. The asphalt road continues after the Monastery (into the mountain) for up to 7 to 8 km, to Kirilova Polyana (Kiril Meadow), where there is another tourist's settlement with accommodation and catering opportunities. After about 30-40 min walk eastwards along a marked route one can visit the retreat and the grave of Sveti Ivan Rilski, today with a small chapel nearby. There is a belief that the one who succeeds passing in the hole of the cave, where he had retreated as a hermit, without leaning on or touching the rocks is considered pious... The Rila Monastery is a point from which one can set out on several marked hiking routes around the Rila Mountain: To the Ribni Ezera (Fish Lakes) Chalet, through the above mentioned Kiril Meadow (4 to 5-hour walk), to Macedonia Chalet (a 5-hour walk), to the Ivan Vazov Chalet (a 5-hour walk), to the 7 Rila Lakes Chalet (6 to 7-hour walk), to the peak and the chalet of Malyovitsa (6 to 7-hour walk).

Borovetz (top)
Intro:
The oldest Bulgarian resort dating back to the year of 1896 when the mayor of the town of Samokov of that time built a wooden chalet there to alleviate the fate of his wife who was ill of tuberculosis.

Full text:
Today Borovets is the biggest, first-class mountain resort in Bulgaria. Spread out on the bordering Borovets Saddle as well as along the northern slopes of Moussala Ridge of Eastern Rila, amongst centuries-old coniferous forests, its altitude above sea level is from 1230 to 1390 m and its climate is one of the healthiest. It is pleasantly cool here in summer (the average July temperature is 15.2°C), and the winter is mild and snowy (the average January temperature being 4.8°C). Borovets is connected to Samokov (12 km), Sofia (72 km), Kostenets Station (27 km), Doupnitsa (52 km) by a first-class road network. There is regular bus transport to them, the buses to Samokov running every 30 minutes. The genuine charm of Borovets can be seen and felt in winter. Then harmony with nature is complete. The perfect opportunities for practicing winter sports and skiing most of all attract thousands of fans of the mountains from Bulgaria and abroad. At their disposal are over 45 km of ski runs varying in difficulty and grouped in three regions: Sitnyakovo - Martinov woodsheds - 8 ski runs, Markoudzhik - 4 ski runs and Yastrebets - 3 ski runs. The Yastrebets ski runs are first-class and all ski races of greater significance within the resort are held on them. Rounds of the World Cup on ski-Alpine disciplines are also held here. The Alpine skier Peter Popangelov, the Bulgarian legend in winter sports started from here, too. He contributed a lot to the international recognition of Borevets. There are dozens of ski-running and biathlon tracks, too. The resort is the regular host of races held in these sports. A multitude of facilities (draglifts, baby tows, seat chain lifts) cross the mountain above Borovets, but the cabin cableway to Mt. Yastrebets is the most imposing one (2363 meters above sea level). The difference in altitude is 1046 m and the length of the route is 4827 m. Its capacity adds up to 1200 people per hour. The journey takes 23 min. Getting off of the cableway one faces the Paradise of Rila - the highest peaks of the mountain - Mt. Moussala, Mt. Malka (Little) Moussala, Mt. Irechek, Mt. Deno, Mt. Aleko. Hiking trails may be undertaken from Borovets along marked routes to various sites in Rila: to Mt. Moussala (6 hours, and from the upper station of the cabin cableway - 3 hours), to Sitnyakovo Palace (1.30 hours), to Chakur Voyvoda Chalet (2.30 hours), to Saragyol Palace (3 hours), to the Maritsa Chalet (4.30 hours), to the Zavrachitsa Chalet (6 hours).

Accommodation: The Samokov Hotel is the most luxurious - four stars. The 3-star hotels are the most in number, the biggest of them being the Rila Hotel with 2000 beds. The Olymp Hotel is of medium size (308 beds); it goes for the Yastrebets Hotel (on the road to Beli Iskur, after the Bistritsa Palace and opposite Yastrebets-3 ski run). The following hotels are smaller and very cozy as well: the Breza Hotel (55 beds in seven single rooms, 21 double rooms and two suites), the Moura Hotel, the Flora Hotel (100 beds). The older but renovated hotels are as follows: the Bor (Pine) Hotel, The Edelweiss Hotel, the Sokolets Hotel, which also offer superb accommodation. The little houses of the following villa settlements are idyllic, too: Polyana (Meadow), Yagoda (Strawberry), Malina (Raspberry), the latter two belonging to Vilni Selishta PLC, Borovets. The little houses Yagoda and Malina host four people. Accommodation is on offer for tourists with more limited financial capacities, too: the Fournir Villa and the tourist chalet of Shoumnatitsa (at the distance of 3 km along the road to Dolna Banya and Kostenets. It is understood that there are a lot more hotels, private villas, holiday homes where one can get accommodation. In summer, the prices for accommodation are reduced. There are many public catering establishments, which offer various specialties from Bulgarian cuisine. The big, modern base of the Mountain Rescue Service is located at a 3 minutes-walk form the lower cabin cableway.

Malyovitza (top)
Intro:
Malyovitsa is a smaller resort than Borovets but there is no other resort in the Rila Mountain but also in the whole Bulgaria, which can compare with its beauty and grandeur.

Full text:
It is situated within the Malyovitsa sub-part of North-Western Rila, at about 1700 meters above sea level. An asphalt road connects it to the village of Govedartsi (13 km) and to the town of Samokov (27 km). There is a regular bus transport to the village of Govedartsi and once per day to the town of Samokov. Malyovitsa is a symbol of Bulgarian alpinism and mountaineering and a natural base for alpine sports. Along with the sublime mount of Malyovitsa, a dozen more Alpine peaks rise within the region, which turn Malyovitsa sub-part into the most preferred site of high-mountain rock climbing in Bulgaria. It is namely here that the highest Alpine walls and the most difficult rock tours are located. One of the most beautiful high-mountains on the Balkan Peninsula - the Strashnoto Ezero (the Frightful Lake) is located in its proximity, too. Unique in its kind on the Balkan Peninsula and one of the few in Eastern Europe, the School for Training of Mountaineering Sports Qualified Staff was established here during the1950's. It is a centre for the training of mountaineers, instructors, hiking instructors, mountain guides, ski-tourism instructors, ski-lecturers etc., also known under the name of Central Mountain School of Malyovitsa (it was until recently called the Hristo Prodanov Malyovitsa Training Centre after the first Bulgarian who set his foot on Mount Everest). Many marked hiking tracks begin from the resort towards North-Western Rila - to the Ivan Vazov Chalet (7 hours), to the Ribni Ezera (Fish Lakes) Chalet (9 to 10 hours), to the Rila Monastery (6 hours), to the Strashno Ezero (Frightful Lake) Shelter (3 hours), to the BAC (Bulgarian Alpine Club) Shelter (2 hours), to the Vada Chalet (1.30 hours), to the Lovna (Hunter's) Chalet (2.30 to 3 hours), to the 7 Rila Lakes Chalet (8 hours along the ridge and 5 hours under it), to the Mechit Chalet (4 hours). The Malyovitsa Chalet (an old and a new building as well as wooden bungalows) is situated at an hour-walk from the resort, against the stream of the Malyovitsa River, at over 2000 meters above sea level, where one can find accommodation and buy some cooked warm food. The Mount of Malyovitsa can be climbed along a marked (summer and winter marking) trail for 2 to 3 hours leisurely walk. There are several ski runs and ski-sports related facilities within the region. The accommodation facilities are comparatively limited here. The Malyovitsa Hotel hosts the greatest number of beds (180) as well as a restaurant, a discotheque, a coffee bar, entertainment games hall, a souvenir shop, ski-equipment rental and acquired an Alpine relief - rocky peaks and cliffs, deep cirques, well-shaped glacier valleys and numerous lakes. Pirin has the typical climate of a mountain but with a well-expressed Mediterranean influence, mainly through the valleys of the Strouma and Mesta rivers. This is why Pirin is the mountain with the greatest number of sunny days throughout the year in comparison to Rila, Stara Planina, Vitosha and Ossogovo. The average annual temperature in the area of the Vihren Chalet (at an altitude of about 2000 meters above sea level) is 3.7°C; the average temperature in January is 4.2°C below zero while in August it reaches 12.8°C. Precipitation (predominantly snowfalls) is higher in November and December and least in August. The average rain and snowfall at Mt. Vihren is within 1500 to 1600 millimeters per square meter annually. It is cloudy mostly in May and December. The dominating winds in winter are those from the north-west and during the summer - from southwestern direction. Pirin's borders (clock-wise) are: to the north - the Rila Mountain along the banks of the rivers Gradevska, Elovitsa and Kulina, the Predela Saddle (1142 meters above sea level) and the Rablevska River. To the east it is the Razlog Valley, the Momina Klissoura Pass and the Gotse Delchev Plain - the Valley of Mesta River divides Pirin from the Rodopes. To the south, the border of the Pirin Mountain goes initially along the banks of the rivers Mutnitsa and Burovitsa, which separate it from the Stargach and Slavyanka mountains while the Paril Pass (1170 meters above sea level) separates the mountain from Slavyanka with the help of the rivers Goleshevska and Kalimanska. To the west, Pirin shares a border with the Petrich Plain, the Kresna Pass and the Simitli Plain - the bank of the Strouma River separates it from our western national border - the mountains Ograzhden, Malashevska and Vlahina. The overall area of the Pirin Mountain is about 1210 square kilometers. In spite of this modesty of dimension and well-formed upper ridge, it is divided into three parts - Northern Pirin, Mid-Pirin and Southern Pirin. Borders between them are the two saddles of the central ridge of the mountain - Todorova Polyana (1883 meters above sea level) and Popovi Livadi (Papaz Chair - 1430 meters above the sea). Northern Pirin is the biggest in area (74% of the overall area of the mountain), the longest (42 km bird’s flight), the highest, the most spectacular and the most visited of the three. There are sixty peaks at an altitude of above 2500 meters. The highest of them is Mt. Vihren (2914 m) and Mt. Kutelo is the second above 2900 m (2908 m). There are also Mt. Banski Suhodol (2884 m), Mt. Golyam Polezhan (2851 m), Mt. Mafuk Polezhan (2822 m), Mt. Kamenitsa (2822 m), Mt. Bayuvi Doupki (2820 m) and some others as well as the unique Koncheto Karst Edge (The Small Horse), which does not fall below 2810 meters. Along the Northern Pirin karst and granite ridges flow one after another but the three highest peaks and the Koncheto Edge are to be found on the main karst plateau edge, together with some other high and interesting side ridges - Stupalata, Sredonos, Koteshki Chal, Tsurnomogilski Chal. From the central ridge, Northern Pirin branches in four directions. From the north - Sinanitsa branch, which bears the name of the most spectacular and most often, visited of all Pirin peaks, the Mt. Sinanitsa (2516 m). A higher peak along the Sinanitsa branch of the mountain is Mt. Georgiitsa (2589 m); Todorino mountain branch with the highest Mt. Todorin (2746 m) along the side-slopes of which are the best ski runs in Pirin; the Polezhan branch with the highest Mt. Golyam Polezhan (2851 m) and with one of the most beautiful peaks - Mt. Dzhengala (2730 m); Mt. Strazhite (The Guards) (2810 m), Mt. Gazei (2761), Mt. Disilitsa (2700 m); the Kamenishko branch with the highest Mt. Kamenitsa (2822 m), which is spectacular and somehow full of a specific grandeur with its two peaks, Mt.Malka Kamenitsa (2679 m), Mt. Yalovarnika (2763 m), Mt. Zubut (2688 m) and Mt.Kouklite (2686 m). This part of Pirin hosts all glacial lakes (140 - 150 in number) where among the most interesting lake groups are the Bunderishki Ezera, Vasilashki Ezera, Georgiiski Ezera, Vlahinski Ezera, Valyavishki Ezera, Kremenski Ezera, Samodivski Ezera and Gazeiski Ezera (‘ezera’ means lakes). The biggest lake in Pirin is the Popovoto (Papazgyol) - 124 decares - which is also the deepest - 29.5 meters. The glacial lake at the highest altitude in the Balkan Peninsula is the Gorno Polezhansko Ezero (at 2710 meters). Tevnoto Ezero is of particular interest with its not only position, dimensions and beauty but also with its historical significance - it is thus one of the symbols of the Pirin Mountain. Along the Koncheto Karst Edge Northern Pirin is the place where one can find almost all kinds of boarding facilities (except only two of the chalets). The area hosts 12 chalets and 4 shelters, which are at the disposal of mountaineers and tourists the year-round. Marking (winter and summer) is exceptionally clear and perfectly maintenained. The smallest part of the Pirin Mountain is the Mid-Pirin sector, which amounts to 6.7% of the overall area. It is also the shortest and in its greater part is covered with broadleaf vegetation. Here is the kingdom of the Pirin tea, which grows along the highest and barren parts of the mountain. The highest peak in Mid-Pirin is Mt. Orelyak (Eagle) (2099 m) where at present a television transmission tower is in operation. Seen from the west, it looks like an eagle, with wings open and ready for flight. Other peaks of interest are Mt. Baba, Mt. Chala, Mt. Senoto, and Mt. Mourata - all below 2000 meters. The southern part of this sector is marble-based while the northern part lies over granite. There are no lakes here. Only two chalets give shelter to visitors - Popovi Livadi Chalet (Papazchair) and Malina Chalet. The only marked track passes close by the ridge of the Mid-Pirin. Southern Pirin lies over an area, amounting to 19.3% of the overall area. This is the lowest, most rounded and most rarely visited part of the mountain. Its highest parts are covered in coniferous trees (spruce, pine-trees), sometimes accompanied by broadleaf (oak trees). The highest peak is Mt. Sveshtnik (Chandelier) (1975 m), followed by Mt. Motorog (1970 m), Mt. Ushite (The Ears), Mt. Sarapelya, etc. The mountain lies over granite in its central part and marble along the periphery. No lakes can be found here and no boarding facilities. There is only one marked mountain track between the Popovi Livadi Chalet and the village of Petrovo as part of the international E-4 highway. Pirin Rivers gather their waters from its snow-white peaks and blue lakes to pour them into the Strouma or Mesta rivers. The main ridge of the mountain is the division line between these two big Bulgarian rivers. Some bigger tributaries of the Strouma from north to south are the rivers: Vlahinska, Sandanska Bistritsa, Melnishka Reka and Pirinska Bistritsa (the longest river springing out of Pirin). The rivers that flow into the Mesta (north to south) are: Bela Reka, Iztok (collecting greater part of the underground waters of the karst ridge), Glazne (flowing under this name after the spot where Banderishka and Demyanishka rivers merge their waters), Disilitsa, Retizhe (the beginning of which starts at the biggest Pirin lake - the Papazgyol), the Kameniza, Breznishka and Matnitsa rivers. Because of the unique nature of the Pirin Mountain, in 1976 the Pirin National Park was found to cover - at present - nearly the whole of Northern Pirin to an area of some 40 000 hectares. Due to its extraordinary value and importance far outside of the country, in 1983 UNESCO decided to include the Pirin National Park as a biosphere national park in the convention on the protection of the world's cultural and natural heritage. There are three biosphere reserves in Pirin, as well: Bayuvi Dupki - Dzhindzhiritsa (within the National Park), Tissata (in Northern Pirin. too) and Orelek (Mid-Pirin).

Pirin (top)
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Melnik and The Rozhen Monastery (top)
Intro:
Melnik is the smallest and one of the most fascinating town-museums in Bulgaria. Nestled amongst the lowest southwestern fold of Pirin, it combines the memory of a prosperous past with the pastoral coziness and the unique in its kind countryside. It dates back to Thracian times.

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The Romans after them and later on the Slavs finally developed the town and made it an important religious, cultural and administrative centre. It was at the end of the 6th century that the Slavs gave the town its today's melodious name. The town was entered into the boundaries of Bulgaria after the 7th century. From the year of 1215, it was the capital of the independent despot Alexii Slav - boyar of the Melnik feudal principality and a son of Tsar Kaloyan's sister. After Bulgaria succumbed to Ottoman Rule, the town went into a decline but it reached its peak once again during the years of the Revival Period. Key occupation of the people in the region was the production of wines of high quality, which matured in the sand wine cellars around and under the town itself. Its citizens enjoyed wealth and prosperity. They started to build big, rich and beautiful houses and to set aside funds for education. They maintained their national spirit vigilant. The prominent enlightener and patriot Emanuil Vaskidovich was born here and the Revival Period functionaries Neofit Rilski (Neofit of Rila) and Hristaki Pavlovich worked here. After the Liberation Melnik - remained under Ottoman Rule and was on decline. The new boundaries discontinued its traditional links of the Aegean Sea region and Vardar Macedonia. The phylloxera, which destroyed the renowned Melnik vineyards at the beginning of the 20th century, played a big part in the decline, too. Moreover, the town was almost completely destroyed by fire during the Balkan War. Yane Sandanski with his detachment of armed volunteers liberated the town in 1912 a. However, no more than 1000 people were left from the old-time 12 000 inhabitants. Nowadays the town has about 500 inhabitants but possesses great potential for the development of tourism. The remains of the old-time splendour are sufficient for one to be engulfed into the atmosphere of long past centuries. The old Melnik houses are impressive with their architecture in conformity with the laws of nature, with their wealth, with their wine cellars, with Bulgarian sense of practicality and beauty. The more popular of them are as follows: Kordopoulovs' House - the biggest residential building on the Balkan Peninsula from the Revival Period, housing extraordinary mural paintings and an enormous wine cellar; The Bolyar House (the Byzantine one) - a valuable architectural monument of Medieval times, the oldest preserved residential building in our country; Pashovs' House - turned nowadays into a town museum of history; Velevs' and many others. The ruins of St. Nikola Monastery of the 12th century, the Slavovs' Fortress of the 13th -14th centuries, the Roman Bridge, the ancient Turkish bath are of interest, too as well as the ruins of the several churches, which in the old times added to 75 in number. Melnik is situated among whimsical sand pyramids-some of the most fascinating natural phenomena not solely in Bulgaria, but on the Balkans as well. The Melnik and the Rozhen Rivers along with their tributaries deeply cut into the sandstones. Rains and weather did the rest, sculpting peculiar and bizarre shapes - Gothic temples, towers, columns, mushrooms, fish fins and what not else. A real paradise for human imagination and fantasy! Melnik is situated at a distance of 20 km from the town of Sandanski and is linked through an asphalt road (12 km) to Sofia-Athens international road. There are regular bus connections with Petrich, Sandanski, Blagoevgrad and Sofia. The nearest railway station, Damyanitsa, on the Sofia - Koulata (Athens) railway line is at a distance of 12 km and there is a regular bus line to it. There are different accommodation and catering capacities. The big Melnik Hotel-Restaurant in the centre of the town offers the greatest number of conveniences. The most preferred, however, are the family hotels in the old houses, which offer home coziness and Bulgarian hospitality. Some of them are the Lumparovs’ House, the Uzunovs’ House, the Miloushevs’ House, Rodina. Each of them offers original Bulgarian cuisine. The cheapest accommodation is in the tourist hostel, located in the ancient Paskalevs’ house. There are about 20 private lodgings on offer, too. The historical Birth of the Holy Virgin Rozhen Monastery is situated at the distance of 6 km northeast of Melnik. It was founded in 1217 and was repeatedly destroyed by fire and plundered. Today’s church dates back to the year 1600, renovated in 1732, from which time period are most of its mural paintings. The Monastery Church has preserved mural paintings from 1597, 1611 and 1715, too. The mural paintings of the Rozhen Monastery as well as some iconostasis icons are exceptionally valuable monuments of our pictorial art. The church of the Monastery endows its visitors with its startlingly picturesque woodcarving of the altar iconostasis and the lectern. Unknown wood-carvers left their hearts in this extraordinary piece of art far before the commencement of the Revival Period - genuine evidence about the mastership of the Debur and Samokov Schools of Painting! There was a calligraphic school with the Monastery, too whose representatives - monks created the whimsical work of art "Interpretation of Jov", ornamented with 117 open-worked miniatures. Unfortunately, it was taken to Jerusalem in 1647. The great Bulgarian revolutionary Yane Sandanski found shelter here during the last years of his life, too. His grave is nearby - beside the St. Cyril and Methodius Church, erected at his initiative. There is regular bus line coming from Sandanski to the village of Rozhen (in the immediate proximity of the Monastery). Despite along the road, one can also reach Melnik in a 1 to 1.30-hour walk along a marked footpath through the Melnik Pyramids themselves - an incredible experience! A marked tourist route sets out from the village of Rozhen to the Pirin Chalet (6 7 hours walk). One can get accommodation in the Monastery and there are several taverns in the village, offering traditional local cuisine and homemade Melnik wine.

Shiligarnika (top)
Intro:
The biggest ski-centre in Pirin is situated at the distance of 9 km south-west of the town of Bansko, to which there is an asphalt road.

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There is no regularly functioning transport to it. In 1985, an open-seat cableway was built with a difference between the two levels of 706 meters and the capacity of 800 people per hour. It services some of the best ski runs in our country. Its upper station is at about 2450 meters above sea level in the locality of Echmishta, north under the rocky cairn of Mt. Todorka (2746 m). Here as well is the upper station of the draglift servicing the highest ski run in Bulgaria - Platoto where one can go skiing even at the end of May. A little tourist settlement grew up around the lower station of the open-seat cableway with many public catering establishments - tea rooms, coffee bars, little restaurants and the Shiligarnika Hotel offering 15 beds, a cuisine with culinary specialties from the region, a 24-hour bar and own transport. The road continues from the Shiligarnika to Bunderitsa Chalet (4 km) and Vihren Chalet (7 km), from which Mt. Vihren can be climbed or one can set out on some of the numerous marked hiking routes. One can find accommodation in the chalets.

Stara Planina (top)
Intro:
Stara planina is also known as "the Balkan". It is the longest, the biggest and the "most Bulgarian" of all mountains.

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It extends throughout the entire length of the country - from the Bulgarian border with Serbia to the Black Sea coast. Being 550 kilometers long, like the backbone of a fish it is such an inseparable part of the country and its history long become emblematic of Bulgaria, fortress of the national spirit. The highest peak - Mt. Botev - is at 2376 meters above sea level and ranks third in Bulgaria. Stara Planina divides Bulgaria in two parts - Northern and Southern Bulgaria. The name Stara Planina is derived from the age of our lands (translated as "the old mountain"). Some of the older names, which have come to us, are Haimon, Haimos, Hemus (of Thracian origin) meaning "ridge", "division line", "border". In later time, different parts of the mountain acquire individual names - Sreburna Planina (Silver Mountain), Matornie Gori, Zigos, Imm. The name Stara Planina appears for the first time in 1533 in the notes of the Dalmacian traveller Antun Vranchich. The name Balkan, however, is older and there are several theories about its actual origin. In spite of the fact that this is not an official name, it has become the most popular since the last centuries. It is from the name Balkan that the name of the whole Balkan Peninsula is derived - often referred to with the collective "the Balkans". In spite of the meaning of its name (old), as a geological formation this mountain is comparatively young. It is based on granite but there also are lime, gneiss and schist. In contrast to Rila and Pirin, only the highest parts of the mountain were covered with glaciers. The lack of completed cirques and the existence of a single lake of glacier origin is the most obvious proof of this theory. Part of the relief of Stara Planina, however, is decisively Alpine.

Climate. Stara Planina is situated on the climatic border between the mild-continental climate of Northern Bulgaria and the softer climate, resulting from the Mediterranean influences in the south. It is a natural barrier against the influx of northern winds to the south, which, especially during winter, are particularly unpleasant. Quite often, they are the cause of the so-called "falling winds" (bora, wild wind), which coming from the north find their way through the ridges of the mountain and literally "fall" on the Sub-Balkan Valley with great speed - sometimes up to 30 m/sec. Such winds are characteristic of the area round the town of Sliven. Stara Planina is the most windy and foggy of all Bulgarian Mountains. Average temperature values at Mt. Botev are – January average temperature - 8.9°C below zero, July average temperature - 7.6°C and annual average temperature of 0.7°C below zero. Rainfalls are at their maximum in May and June and minimum (excluding the Mount Botev area) - in February. The snow cover is rather irregular not only in duration but also in territory. More snow and for a longer period of time falls and stays on the northern slopes of the mountain, while on the southern it will - in most areas - melt away quickly. Because of the powerful winds at the top of the mountain, and in particular the ridges, the formation of visors and avalanches is possible. The western border of the mountain is the Vrushka Chouka Pass while on the north the natural border is the Danube Plain. In some cases, Stara Planina is accepted by geographers to include the so-called "Pre-Balkan" while in other cases only the mountain itself bears this name. However, such a division is difficult to make. To the south, the mountain is steep and its borders are clearly defined. From west to east, Stara Planina touches upon the Sofia Valley, Sredna Gora with all its parts and the Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Lowland. Its connections with Sredna Gora are Gulubets, Koznitsa and Strazhata - natural orographic connections. To the east, the Balkan ends with Cape Emine, falling steeply down into the sea. Within these borders, Stara Planina covers an area of more than 25 000 square kilometers and the central chain alone amounts to 11 600 sq. km. The mountain has 29 peaks at an elevation of over 2000 meters, some of which are definitely Alpine and thus attractive for tourists and climbers. This biggest Bulgarian mountain is divided into three parts - Western Stara Planina, Middle (Central) Stara Planina and Eastern Stara Planina. They are additionally divided into sub-parts, usually named after the settlements established there. Western Stara Planina starts from the Vrushka Chouka Pass, which is located on the western border of the country with Serbia. It ends at the Zlatishki Pass (Kashana) which separates it from the Central part. This sector has the form of a bow opened to the east, which has a length of 215 kilometers as the bird flies. It is the longest section of the mountain and second in height with Mt. Midzhur (2168 m). Three other peaks are over the 2000-metres height - Mt. Obov, Mt. Martinova Chouka and the most popular and most often-climbed one - Mt. Kom (2016 m). The sub-divisions (west to east) along the main chain only (the Pre-Balkan part is excluded) are: Cape Babin with the peak of the same name - Mt. Baba (1108 m); Svetinikolska Planina with the highest point - Mt. Haidoushki Kamuk (1721 m); Chiprovska Planina with the highest in the whole division Mt. Midzhour (2168 m); Berkovska Planina with Mt. Kom (2016 m); Koznitsa with Mt. Todorini Koukli (1785 m); Golema Planina with Mt. Choukava (1588 m); Mourgash division with Mt. Mourgash (1687 m) with the meteorological station there; and Etropolska Planina with Mt. Govedarnika (1790 m). In general, the relief of Stara Planina does not have a well-expressed Alpine character. The Vratsa Mountain is an exception, which is within the Pre-Balkan. The karst of which it is formed, has given this particular mountain numerous Alpine formations. The natural rock phenomenon Vratsata is one supreme example and the focal point of climbing activities in Bulgaria. The existence of many caves explains the speleological activities in this region. Here, too is the extremely picturesque Iskar Gorge, which is another true nature phenomenon. This part of the mountain has 23 tourist chalets and a great number of marked hiking tracks thus being an attraction for both Bulgarian and foreign tourists "on foot". Mid or Central Stara Planina starts from the Kashana Zlatishki Pass and ends at the pass Vratnik (Zhelezni vrata, in translation "metal gates") on the east. The length of this part of the mountain along a straight line is 185 kilometers. This is the highest and the most attractive part and it is most frequented by tourists from Bulgaria and abroad. Apart from the highest peak Mt. Botev, there are 24 other peaks at an altitude of above 2000 meters. This is the true Alpine part of the mountain along the central ridge between Mt. Ambaritsa and Mt. Botev. Mid Stara Planina is divided into the following sub-parts of the central mountain chain only (the Pre-Balkan part is excluded) (from the west eastwards) with the highest peak: Zlatishko-Tetevenska Planina with Mt. Vezhen (2198 m) - one of the most massive giants of Stara Planina; Troyanska Planina with Mt. Golyam Koupen (2169 m), which is the most Alpine in shape and the most picturesque peak in the whole mountain; this sub-part includes also Mt. Ambaritsa (2166 m), Mt. Maluk Koupen (2141 m), Mt. Kostenurkata (The Turtle), as well as the narrow Alpine ridge Krusttsite - one of the most emotional but also most dangerous places to cross if one wishes to discover the top ridge of the Balkan Mountain. This sub-part houses also the Steneto Gorge (Gorge like a wall) in the valley of Cherni Osum River, which is a Nature Reserve; the Kalofer Mountain which is decorated by the highest peak in the whole of the mountain -Mt. Botev (2376 m). It is not in vain that its older name was Mt. Lumruka (The Fist) - it resembles a clenched fist, surrounded by stone cliffs and vertical walls attracting fog and tempest - as well as thousands of eager visitors. It is here that Nature has, indeed, created at will a mountain heaven - the Northern and the Southern Dzhendem, Raiski Skali (Heavenly Rocks) (a real challenge for the climber); Raiskoto Pruskalo (Heavenly Springer) (the highest water-fall in Bulgaria -124 meters) close to the small but cozy mountain Rai Chalet (Paradise). At the very top of the mountain, there is a television transmitter and a meteorological station. The Kaloferska Planina division has another 12 peaks at an altitude of above 2000 meters. Starting from the second after Mt. Botev - Mt. Golyam Kademliya (2276 m) they are: Mt. Mlechniya Chal (2252 m), Mt. Sarakaya (Zhaltets - 2227 m), Mt. Maluk Kademliya (2228 m), Mt. Paradzhika (2211 m), Mt. Mazalat (2197 m), Mt. Pirgos (2195 m), Mr. Yurushka Gramada (2137 m), etc. The Stara Reka (Old River) Gorge (passing through Karlovo) has also been declared a Nature Reserve. The Shipchenska Planina (Shipka Mountain) division of the Stara Planina is towered by the Mt. Ispolin (1524 m). The other peak - Mt. Stoletov (1328 m) is lower in the geographical sense, but unreachable in its historic importance. In August 1877, the Bulgarian volunteer army and the Russian regular forces held the most dramatic battle in the history of the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation in defence of the strategic Shipka Pass. Now, this sanctified peak hosts a 32-metre high memorial of granite - and the bones of the heroes - in memory of the days of glory. Another sacred place in the Shipchenska Planina is Mt. Bouzloudzha (1441 m) where in 1868 the volunteers in Hadzhi Dimitur's detachment held their last clash with the Turkish regiments and together with their leader, most of them met their death. On 20 July 1891 on the peak was held the congress for establishment of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party (D. Blagoev). The highest point of the Trevnenska Planina (Tryavna Mountain) part of the Central Balkan is Mt. Karadzhoolu Kula (1511 m) and the last part of it is the Eleno-Tvurdishka Planina with Mt. Choumerna (1536 m). There are 36 tourist chalets and about 10 high-mountain shelters in the Central Balkan. Hundreds of hiking tracks have been marked and most of them lead to important natural, historic and cultural places. The Central Balkan National Park is established in this part of the mountain. Within its territory, it hosts some 10-biosphere reserves, some of which have been included in UNESCO programme of preservation of nature. Eastern Stara Planina starts from the Vratnik (Zhelezni Vrata) Pass and ends at the waters of the Black Sea. In spite of the considerable length of 155 kilometers (in a straight line), the mountain here loses its monolith shape, so typical of the other two parts. Its height drops rapidly (the highest peak is Mt. Bulgarka at 1181 metres) and there are no Alpine formations (with a few exceptions in the Sliven Mountain). Even the mountain ridges in this area are covered by broad-leaved trees. As early as the Vratnik (Zhelezni Vrata) Pass, Eastern Stara Planina divides into two parallel chains - Udvoi Planina to the south and Mator Planina to the north, which is accepted to be the central ridge. Of Udvoi Planina the Sliven Mountain part deserves mentioning because of its height (here is the highest peak of the whole sector) and the Alpine character of the area around the Blue Rocks - the most beautiful and often visited sub-part of Eastern Stara Planina. Along the Mator Planina range, one can count Kotlenska Planina with the Mt. Razboina (1128 m) and the Vurbishka Planina with Mt. Karaborun (The Black Cape - 1053 m). From the gorge of the river Luda Kamchiya, Mator Planina itself is divided in two parallel ridges, both of them reaching the sea. The northern is the Kamchiya Ridge with the highest peak Mt. Kamenyak (627 m) while the southern ridge is the Eminska Planina with the highest point being in the Mandrabair Massif (621 m). The latter is considered a continuation of the main ridge and finishes at Cape Emine with a lighthouse. Here, too ends the marked track, which follows the top ridge of the Stara Planina throughout its entire length starting from of Mt. Kom. There are 10 tourist chalets built in this sector of the Balkan Mountain and several tourists’ hostels in the towns, offering boarding and food. In comparison with the other parts of the mountain range, it is less frequented. There are marked hiking tracks - especially in the Sliven Mountain, as well as some alpine mountaineering spots. Basic hiking route in this part of Stara Planina is the well-marked track along the Kom-Emine ridge. Over the greater part of the Central Stara Planina ridge runs the main Balkan water-separation line between the water-collecting systems of the White and Black seas. The Bulgarian rivers of greater importance, which flow from the mountain to the north and into the sea via the Danube River, are the rivers (west to east): Lom, Ogosta, Skat, Vit, Ossum, Yantra, Roussenski Lom and Kamchiya, the last flowing directly into the sea. To the south and into the White Sea flow the rivers Stryama, Stara Reka, Toundzha and Mochouritsa. In its western and eastern end the ridge is no more a water-separation line and there are rivers flowing south but pouring into the Black Sea - Nishava (in the west) and Hadzhiiska (in the east), as well as some smaller rivers. The Iskar River and Louda Kamchiya River are the two that flow right across the main mountain ridge thus creating exceptionally picturesque gorges. Both of them flow to the north and drain into the Black Sea.

KOM - Emine Route (top)
Intro:
The longest marked tourist route in Bulgaria passes along the central ridge of Stara Planina, named after the names of its two final points - Mt. Kom (2016 m), in the immediate proximity to the border with Serbia, and the Black Sea Cape Emine - the eastern end of the mountain and the country.

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It is approximately 650 km in length, measured with a mileage recorder of a bicycle along the terrain itself. The middle of the route is around the Uzana Chalet i.e. it coincides with the geographical centre of Bulgaria. Dozens of Bulgarians pass along the unique mountain "highway" each year. The hiking tour takes normally between 20 and 25 days under summer conditions and approximately 1 month under winter conditions (with skis). Kom -Emine is an arena of marathon competitions as well, the official record for the time being 5 days and 17 hours! It is the completing part of the European Transitional Pedestrian Route E-3 and that is why this designation is indicated in the marking. All the normal daily hiking tracks finish at a chalet or another sheltering facility. Bathing in the Black Sea is mandatory, regardless of the season and the meteorological conditions.

The Rhodope Mountains (top)
Intro:
The Rhodope Mountains are the most lyrical of Bulgarian mountains combining the relief of mild oval forms, the colourful "rugs" of nature animated by the architecture of picturesque villages, by the hospitality of the people and the legendary songs of Orpheus.

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Over 83 per cent of its area is on Bulgarian territory, the remaining are in Greece. It is located in the most southern part of the country and is the main mountain system in the Rila-Rhodope Massif. With its highest peak - Mt. Golyam Perelik (2191 m) it occupies the 7th place among Bulgarian Mountains. The Rhodope Mountains do not have a clearly outlined orthographic skeleton. They are a huge maze of hills of different length, height and direction divided by deep river valleys. The mountain has left an imprint on the history of Bulgarian nation. Its present name has been preserved through the centuries since the legendary Orpheus. It has been also called Slaveevi Gori (Nightingales' Woods) and Dospatdag but these names have not remained, and the Rhodope (Rodopa) has survived. The origin and the sense of this name remain unclear. Some people relate it to the ancient pagan goddess Rhodopa but others argue that is composed of the Slavonic words "ruda" (ore) and "ropa" - pit and this hypothesis has some reason given the fact that the mountain has been known for its ore-mining since ancient times. The Rhodops are some of the oldest mountains in Bulgaria, composed mainly of gneiss, amphibolites, and karst and granite rocks. Very interesting are the karst areas with their deep river gorges, large caves and specific sculptured forms. The tuff in the Eastern Rhodopes has created strange natural sculptures -mushrooms, pyramids, etc. The mountain had not undergone a glacier period so typical glacier forms cannot be found. The location of the Rhodope Mountains in the southeastern part of the Balkan Peninsula determines largely the climate here. It is influenced both by the colder air coming from the north and by the warmer breeze from the Mediterranean (The White Sea coast). The average annual temperature in the Eastern Rhodopes is higher and steadier and is about 12°-13°C. The temperature in the Western Rhodopes under the influence of the higher altitude varies from 5°C to 9°C. The transitional character of the climate in the Rhodope Mountains is demonstrated in the annual record of precipitation. The maximum value of precipitation in the Eastern Rhodopes is in December, while the minimum is in August. On the contrary, in the Western Rhodopes summer rainfalls prevail. The mild climate combined with some other factors favours the development of recreation and tourist activities. The Pamporovo Resort is an excellent example, where the microclimate permits a thick snow cover to stand for a long time - a real paradise for skiing. The borders of the Mountain. Clockwise, from the north it is the valley of the Maritsa river, that borders the Rhodope Mountains from the north and east; to the south - the White Sea Plain; to the west - the valley of Mesta River, the Dreshenets River, the Avramovi Kolibi Saddle, Lyuta Reka River, the Yundola Saddle, Yundola River and the river Yadenitsa utill its pouring in Maritsa River. The western border of the Rhodope Mountains separates (or connects) it to Pirin and Rila. The mountain has an orthographic connection solely to the Rila Mountain - the saddles Avramovi Kolibi and Yundola. The Rhodopes spread over 14 737 sq. km of which 12 233 sq. km are on Bulgarian territory, the remaining – in Greece. The mountain is about 220 km long and about 100-120 km wide with an average altitude of 785 m. The Rhodopes have two main ranges - Western Rhodopes and Eastern Rhodopes. The border between them passes (from north to south) along the valley of Kayaliika River (right tributary to Maritsa River), Kitkata Saddle, Yailudere River, Borovitsa River, Kurdzhali Dam, Vurbitsa River to the Tri Kamuka Saddle on the Greek border. This division is made on Bulgarian territory only. The two ranges are subdivided into many subranges. What is typical for the Rhodope Mountains is that they are the most populated mountain in Bulgaria. Unlike the other high (over 2000 m) mountains in Bulgaria, there are many towns and villages (14 of them are resorts) within the range. This fact provides essential advantages for development of tourism. The best conifer woods in Bulgaria are in the Rhodope Mountains as well as the best-preserved natural environment in the country. Fifteen reserves have been established, some of these are included in UNESCO list. There are many mineral water springs - a great natural wealth of the mountain. The European Pedestrian Route E-8 to Turkey passes through the Rhodope Mountains. The Western Rhodopes is the bigger part (8061 sq. km, constituting 66% of the total area), the higher, more developed and visited part of the mountain. The highest and best known peaks are also here (more of 10 are over 2000 m) including the leader - Mt. Golyam Perelik (2191 m). Among the interesting peaks are Mt.Shirokolushki Snezhnik (Karlak - 2188 m),Mt. Golyam Persenk (2091 m) covered with the impenetrable spruce forest, the beautiful Mt. Persenk (2074 m), the blueberry paradise - Mt. Batashki Snezhnik (2082 m), the huge massif of Mt. Syutkya - Golyama (1286 m) and Mt. Syutkya - Malka (2078 m), the wonderful Mt. Tourlata (1800 m) with a sharp straight peak, overgrown with spruces, and many others. Some of the deepest and most picturesque river gorges are here, too - the Trigrad, Buinovsko, of the Gerzovitsa River, of the Mostova Sushitsa River and others. The rocky phenomenon Choudnite Mostove (Wonderful Bridges), the Chaira Lakes and the dams Dospat, Batak, Shiroka Polyana, Iglika, Toshkov Chark and others excellently fit into the environment. The unbelievable architecture reserves Shiroka Luka, Kovachevitsa, Momchilovtsi, Kosovo and many other interesting villages are in the Western Rhodopes, too. The town of Batak is also located here as well as the large tourist centres Smolyan and Velingrad, the winter resort of Pamporovo, the Christian sanctuary - Bachkovo Monastery, the ruins of Assenova Fortress and many others. There are approximately 40 tourist chalets and near 15 hostels and tourist dormitories in the Western Rhodopes. There are hundreds of kilometers marked tourist routes good not only for hiking and skiing but for mountain biking as well. The subranges of the Western Rhodopes with their highest peaks are: from the west to the east - Alabak with Mt. Chernovets (1834m), bordered by the Rila Mountain - there are 3 chalets and many marked hiking tracks; Velishko-Videnishki subrange with the Mt. Golyama Syutkya (2186 m) - the largest and the longest but with few chalets and relatively few marked tourist routes; Dubrash with Mt. Beslet (1938 m) bordered by the Pirin Mountain, where there are no tourist chalets but there is the village of Kovachevitsa (where there is a tourist hostel) - practically no marked tracks; Batashka Planina with Mt. Batashki Snezhnik (2082 m) - a lot of towns (Batak, Rakitovo, Peshtera, Bratsigovo) and Batak Dam. There are two chalets and three tourist hostels as well as many marked routes; Perelik with Mt. Golyam Perelik (2191 m) - the leader of the whole mountain as well - this is one of the most visited areas. Here are the towns of Smolyan. Pamporovo Resort, the town of Shiroka Luka. There are four chalets, one tourist base and three tourist hostels, as well as tens of kilometers of marked tracks; Chernatitsa with Mt. Golyam Persenk (2091 m) - one of the most beautiful and definitely most visited subsection of the Western Rhodopes. Here are the rock phenomenon Choudnite Mostove (Wonderful Bridges) and the seven Persenk Peaks. There are more than 10 chalets, some hostels and dormitories and this is the area with highest density of marked tracks; Dobrostan with Mt. Staria Bunar (1517 m) - a karst massif with many caves (some of them explored, others - not). There are three chalets and a tourist hostel as well as enough marked tracks. One of the smallest sub ranges of the Western Rhodopes is the Prespan sector with Mt. Prespa (2000 m). The highest village in Bulgaria -Manastir (over 1500 m) is crouched in the northern foot of the peak. There are 6 chalets and 4 tourist dormitories and many kilometers of marked tracks. The range of Ardino is relatively less visited because of the border with Greece. The famous building Agoushevi Konatsi is here - in the village of Mogilitsa and in the hills of Kainadina, immediately to the south of Smolyan is Mt. Srednogorets (referred to as the Shipka Peak of the Rhodope Mountains). There are no chalets or hostels but nearby Smolyan offers lodging and food. Marked routes are available only in the Kainadina rocky area. The eastern sub-range of the Western Rhodopes is Zhulty Dyal (the Yellow range) with Mt. Buchovitsa (1319 m), but most impressive is Mt. Alada (1214 m) with the Alada Shelter next to it. Near the beautiful Belite Brezi area is the only chalet in the region with the same name. There are almost no marked tracks. The Eastern Rhodopes are spread over a territory of 4127 sq. km, or about 34 per cent of the whole area of the mountain. This is a much lower part - the highest peaks are Mt. Orlitsa (1483 m) and Mt. Veikata (1463 m) on the Greek boundary. Here the large flat wood covered massifs of the Western Rhodopes are replaced by wide, low hills with almost no verdure, with rocks and cliffs. But this landscape is extremely interesting and one finds himself in an unbelievable world! Such an experience is offered to you in the valleys of the Borovitsa and Vurbitsa rivers and some smaller ones. Here are the large artificial dams Kurdzhali and Stouden Kladenets that together with the rivers mentioned above offer great opportunities for water tourism. Due to their lower altitude, the Eastern Rhodopes are much more populated than the Western part. Here are the major towns of Haskovo and Kurdzhali as well as the smaller Momchilgrad, Kroumovgrad, Kirkovo. There are about 10 tourist chalets and hostels here but the towns and villages provide additional lodging opportunities. There are marked hiking tracks, too. The opportunities for biking are very good given the road network spreading throughout the area. The Rhodope Mountains are the greatest accumulator of water resources in the country although the Balkan watershed does not pass here. The rivers from the mountains flow into the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea. Three independent hydrographic systems have been formed - the Mesta River, the Maritsa River, the Arda River, and only the latter take its source from the Rhodope Mountains. The other larger rivers here are Dospat, Vucha, Chepelarska (Chaya), Borovitsa, Vurbitsa, Harmanliiska, Kroumovitsa and many others.

Pamporovo (top)
Intro:
Pamporovo is the second mountain winter resort in the country after Borovets. It is located 1650 m above sea level in the Perelik range (Boukova Planina) of the Western Rhodopes in one of the most beautiful places of the Orpheus Mountain.

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It received its name from the convoys of mules of the Raicho Belev, a man from the town of Smolyan, which followed one another as the wagons of a train (from the Turkish word for "train" - pampor) carrying goods. A man from Chepelare - Chichovski - built the first tourist hostel here in 1933, thus establishing the present resort. The specific combination of natural conditions makes the resort beautiful in summer and in winter alike - the large spruce forests, picturesque meadows, strange rocky forms (the Orpheus rocks and others), beautiful high peaks - Mt. Snezhanka (1925 m). Mt. Mourgavets (1858 m), Mt. Orleto and others. The mountain where Pamporovo is located is composed of marble that drains the water and dries the whole region. The hill has a hunchbacked form and is very airy so the air is always fresh. Due to the influence of the Mediterranean climate, the temperatures in the resort have small daily variations. The surrounding high peaks keep it from the winds and in winter preserve the snow cover on the northern slopes of the Snezhanka and Mourgavets peaks. The area is abundant in natural slopes where many ski runs have been built with different category of difficulty, served by sophisticated technical equipment. The resort offers 5 chair lifts, 13 tow-lifts and 17 500 meters of alpine ski runs. Pamorovo is 16 kilometers from Smolyan, 12 km from Chepelare, 35 kilometers from Devin, and 83 km from Plovdiv and 240 km from Sofia. There is a regular bus line connecting it to these towns. The high transmission tower on Mt. Snezhanka helps the location of the resort to be easily identified from far away (in a clear day). At the tower, there is a panorama coffee bar and it is reached by a chair lift. Pamporovo offers many accommodation opportunities for tourists. The only 5-star mountain hotel on the Balkans - Pamporovo Hotel is located in front of the Assumption Church. The 3-star hotels offer great comfort - Perelik Hotel, Arfa Hotel, Mourgavets Hotel and Prespa Hotel. The following are the 2-star hotels: Euridika, Rozhen, Orpheus, Panorama, Snezhanka. The one-star hotels are Belite Kushti, Bor, Duke's Place, Maistor Manol, Markoni, Gorski Rai. A pleasant atmosphere is also offered in the Malina cottage village. Visitors who cannot afford above hotels can also find lodging in the Stoudenets Chalet and the Smolyanski Ezera Chalet (located near one of the beautiful lakes between Smolyan and Pamporovo that could be reached from Mt. Snezhanka by the chair lift). A number of cozy restaurants offer traditional Bulgarian (Rhodope) cuisine. An example is the Chevermeto folk restaurant (mehana) where the visitor should try the incredible Rhodope lamb shish kebab. Pamporovo is the starting point for many marked tourist tracks to Smolyanski Ezera Chalet (2.15 hours or 0.40 hours with the two lifts), Izgrev Chalet (in Chernatitsa - 6 hours), Momchil Yunak Chalet (in Prespa - 4.30 hours), Perelik Chalet (under the mountain leader Mt. Golyam Perelik - 4.30 hours), the village of Progled (1.30 hours), the town of Smolyan (3 hours), the Orpheus Rock (20 min from Mt. Snezhanka), Mt.Mourgavets (1 hour). Stoudenets Chalet is a point of the European route E-8.

Bachkovo Monastery (top)
Intro:
Located on the right bank of the Chepelare Rriver (Chaya), above the Plovdiv-Smolyan road, 29 km away from Plovdiv, 89 km away from Sofia and 10 km away from Assenovgrad.

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This is the second in size and importance monastery in Bulgaria - a real Holy Cloister. A prominent Byzantine political leader, of Georgian origin, founded it in 1083. It does not look the same as it was when established because it was destroyed by fire more than once and after that restored. The only part from its original struc¬ture that has survived is the charnel house with an interesting architectural design. An¬other building, which has survived, is the Saint Archangels Church dating back to the 12th century, the ground floor of which was painted by Zahari Zograf and his students in the year 1841. Unique frescoes were discovered in the dining room of the monastery featuring ancient philosophers and writers. Sveta Bogoroditsa (The Holy Virgin) Cathedral Church (1604) is the place where a most valuable icon of the Holy Virgin Eleussa, dated from 1310 is kept (brought from Georgia). The museum of the Monastery has a rich exhibition of church plate, icons, books, and the sword of Friedrich Barbarossa, the Crusader, and the Sultan's fir man from 1452, the wood-carved cross with mini¬atures. A fresco of the Doomsday, painted by Zahari Zograf in 1850 is retained in St. Nikolai Church and it is one of the most interesting pieces of Bulgarian Revival art. It is believed that Patriarch Evtimii was exiled by the Turks and died here. The broad branches of a Diasperus Lotus tree (dzhindzhifa), brought from Georgia more than two centuries ago stretch over the courtyard. Bachkovo Monas¬tery is directly subordinated to the Holy Synod. Accommodation for more than 200 people is provided in its buildings, against a few Leva only. A real tourist settlement clusters around the monastery with lots of shops, restaurants and a big camping site. There is a tourist hostel in the near-by village of Bachkovo (1 km away) which has 54 beds in rooms of 4, 6 and more beds. Lodging can be found in the town of Assenovgrad as well. Mountain hiking routes start from the Mon¬astery: to Martsiganitsa Chalet (4 hours) in the Dobrostan Massif, to Bezovo Chalet (3.30 hours) again in the Dobrostan Massif, to Momina Suiza Chalet (via Bachkovo 2.30 hours).

Shiroka Luka (top)
Intro:
This is a village - museum (an architecture and ethnographic reserve) well known not only throughout Bulgaria, but abroad as well, for its original Rhodope architectural style, musical traditions and history.

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It is located on the two banks of Shiroka Luka River and is 22 km away from the town of Devin, 12 km from Pamporovo Resort and 24 km from the town of Smolyan with which it is connected with a regular bus line. It is the centre of a region of five villages (Stoikite, Gela, Stickal and Solishta) populated by Christians and Muslims. It was founded after the most massive forceful conversion of the population of the Rodope Mountain to the Islam during the Turkish domination (17th century). A series of archaeological excavations in the area, near the village of Gela and Mt. Tourlata, resulted in the discovery of archaeological facts that show that the area was populated in most ancient times. The residents of the village built the Holy Virgin Church in 1834 in 38 days only. The brothers Zahari and Dimitur Zograf painted the frescos and a school was opened in it only one year later. In those difficult years, the village was a place where Bulgarian spirit and traditions were retained. The natural conditions, the uncertainty prevailing in the centuries of the Ottoman rule, the national identity of the people and their economic prosperity were reflected in the architectural style of the houses that belong to the type of a "large Rhodope house". They are two-storied, with bay windows and high stone chimneys, thick walls, small windows, forged doors, internal wooden staircase and a small cellar with a hiding place. The rooms have cupboards hidden in the walls, closets, etc. The yards are small, stone paved, with an outdoor drinking fountain. All this is built with exquisite taste in harmony with the environment. Most prominent among these houses are Kalaidzhiiska, Uchikovs', Grigorovs', Bogdanov' houses, Zgourov Inn, etc. The arched bridges above Shiroka Luka River and some of its tributaries add romanticism to the village. The songs of the village are unique, melodious and very lyrical. They are sung to the accompaniment of kaba-bagpipe, flute and rebeck. The legendary Captain Petko Voivoda (The Commander) has visited the village many times. One of the two secondary music schools in Bulgaria is located here. Tourists would find especially fascinating the Pes Ponedelnik Koukerski Festival that takes place every first Sunday of March. Accommodation is scarce: Chevermedzhiinitsata Hotel-Club. It is in a building, which is a monument of architecture and has five two-bed rooms. Vaska Hotel - is also in an old house with a beautiful panoramic view and it offers three rooms with two, three and four beds. The most luxurious is the 3-star Margarita Family Hotel. Beds are also provided in private family houses. For information: Tourist Informational Centre, Shiroka Luka, e-mail sh.luka@mbox.infotel.bg. Well marked hiking routes start from Shiroka Luka: to Izgrev Chalet in Chernatitsa (5 hours), Perelik Chalet (under Mt. Golyam Perelik - 3.30 hours), Lednitsata Chalet (4 hours) also in the Perelik range. It takes 1.30 hours walk on a truck road to reach the village of Vurbovo interesting for its location and architecture.

Vitosha (top)
Intro:
Vitosha is the most visited Bulgarian mountain. It rises immediately above Sofia and is one of the symbols of our capital city.

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Few are the big cities in the world, and capitals are even fewer, that possess such a natural advantage. Vitosha Mountain is the most significant part of the Plana-Zavala Mountain System. With its highest peak - Mt. Cherni Vruh (The Black Peak) (2290 m) it occupies the fourth place among Bulgarian mountains. Vitosha is the cradle of hiking tourism in Bulgaria. The date 27 August 1895 is considered the beginning of the organised tourist movement in the country. After the invitation of the renowned writer and democrat Aleko Konstantinov 300 men and women then climbed Mt. Cherni Vruh - something incredible and unbelievable in those times. Since then thousands of hikers climb the peak every year on this day. In ancient times, the mountain was named Skomios, Skopios, Skombros, meaning in Old Greek "the sharp, steep mountain". These names are preserved in the present name of Mt. Boyana Waterfall Skoparnik. The name Vitosha appeared in the Middle Ages and for the first time it was used in a document from the 11th century. There are two versions about its origin: the first of them says that the name is of Thracian- Old Bulgarian origin and means a "binary", "dividing" mountain; the second (more likely to be true and acceptable) says that Vitosha comes from the personal name Vitosh. Vitosha is a typical dome-like mountain – one of the few in Bulgaria. It has a slightly prolonged profile from north-west to southeast. It consists primarily of granite rocks, but there are karst rocks as well especially in the southern part. A unique natural phenomenon are the so-called "stone rivers" (moreni) - piles of huge rounded granite stones along many of the river valleys, reaching up to 2 km in length and 50 m in width. Especially expressive and beautiful are the moreni in the Zlatni Mostove area (Golden Bridges). Similar phenomena can be seen in other Bulgarian mountains, too, the Vitosha moreni however being unique. They are the symbol of the mountain. Since 1935, a meteorological station has been operating on Mt. Cherni Vruh, with many services, mostly in the chalets. Comparative data about Sofia and Mt. Cherni Vruh weather conditions: the average monthly and annual temperature - for the coldest month - January - in Sofia is 17°C below zero and on Mt. Cherni Vruh - 8.3°C below zero. For the warmest month - July in Sofia - 21.2°C and for Mt. Cherni Vruh - August - 9.0°C. The average annual temperature in Sofia is 10.5°C and at Mt. Cherni Vruh - 0.3°C. A characteristic feature of Vitosha climate is the inversion (mostly in December and January). When Sofia is covered by thick fog and cold, the Vitosha Mountain shines in sun and warmth. This happens in an average of 15 days per year. An average of 140 days per year are very cold on Mt. Cherni Vruh - the maximum values in these days are below zero and there are 222 frosty days (when only the minimum temperatures are below zero). The winter in the high parts of the mountain lasts between 5 and 7 months, and truly, summer months are only July and August. The average precipitation rate on Mt. Cherni Vruh (mostly snowfalls) is 1178 liters per sq. m. and June is the most rainy month -142 litres per sq. m., while September has the lowest figure - 71 litres per sq. m. Most thick snow coverage is formed in March. Mt. Cherni Vruh is quite inhospitable, having an average of 250 foggy days in the year and only 50 clear ones and it is one of most windy peaks in Bulgaria. With an average wind speed of 9.3 m/s, it occupies the second place among the monitored peaks after Mt. Mourgash in Stara Planina (10.3 m/s) and before Mt. Botev (9.1 m/s) and Mt. Moussala (7.6 m/s). Only 7 per cent of the days on Mt. Cherni Vruh are windless. Clockwise, the borders of the mountain are as follows: to the north and north-east - the Sofia Plain, to the west - the Egulo-Palakari Saddle (1195 m above sea level) separates the mountain from the Plana Mountain; to the south it reaches to the Samokov Plain, and the Buka Preslav Saddle (1090 m) separates it from Verila Mountain, the next to the west is the Pernik Plain, and to the north-west the border with the Lyulin Mountain passes through the Vladaya Saddle (860 m above sea level). Vitosha has an area of 278 sq. km -18 and 20 km in length and width. In spite of its expressly compact nature, the mountain is conditionally divided into 4 main ranges - Northern, Eastern, Southwestern and Northwestern. The slopes of the Northern Range descend steeply to the Sofia Plain above which dominates Mt. Kamen Del (1862 m above sea level) after which this range is also called the Kamendelski Range. On its turn it is divided into four sub-parts: Vladaya (without expressed peaks, but one of the most popular tourist sites -Zlatnite Mostove is located here); Knyazhevo (here the highest peak of the sector is Mt. Luvcheto (The Small Lion) (2052 m above sea level), as well as the peaks - Mt. Sredets (1969 m), Mt. Chernata Skala (The Black Rock) (1869 m), Mt. Kopitoto (1348 m with the TV-tower); Dragalevtsi - with the two-headed alpine peak - Mt. Kominite (1620 m), Mt. Ushite (1960), Mt. Kamen Del and others) and Simeonovo sub-part with no distinct peaks. There is a cabin cableway to the Aleko Challet. The Eastern Range, also called Koupenski, borders the Plana Mountain. Some of the highest and well-known peaks are here - Mt. Golyam Rezen (2277 m - the second after Mt. Cherni Vruh), Mt. Maluk Rezen (2191 m), and the interesting Mr. Golyam Koupen (1930). The eastern edges of the Rezen peaks are particularly expressive - they offer a site for Alpine rock climbing. Under this crown of peaks spreads Bistrishko Branishte Reserve. The well known Vitosha Resort and Aleko ski-centre are located in the eastern part as well. The South-Western Range is the largest but least visited in the mountain. It borders the Verila Mountain. It is subdivided into three parts. The first part is the Vetren Part. It is the most eastward with the high peaks - Mt. Skoparnik (2226 m), Mt. Koupena (2195 m), Mt. Siva Gramada (2003 m). The middle part - Petrouska part which is the lowest with its Mt. Petrous (1454 m); and to the west end is the Bosneshka part with its flat and low ridge, where the highest peak is Mt. Krasta (1561 m). The longest cave in Bulgaria -Douhlata is located here as well as the interesting karst water spring - Zhivata voda. The North-Western Part borders the Lyulin Mountain and is called Silimishki. It is dominated by the ridge beginning at Mt. Samara (2108 m) and then continues with the peaks Mt. Silimitsa (2014 m), Mt. Ostrets (1836 m) and Mt. Ostritsa (1696 m). To the north of the ridge is the specific Mt. Vladaiski Cherni Vruh (1641 m). The four main ranges of the mountain pile together to Mt. Cherni Vruh (2290 m) as a true centre of the mountain. Part of the Balkan watershed, dividing the basins of the Black Sea and the White Sea (Aegian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea) passes along the mountain. The southwestern rivers flow to river Strouma and tendon to the White Sea, while the eastern, northern and some of the western -through Iskar River and then the Danube flow to the Black Sea. The longest, the biggest and the most popular river taking its rise from the Vitosha Mountain is Strouma River. Its total length is 415 km, 290 of which - on Bulgarian territory. Mutnitsa, Kladnishka and Roudarshtitsa rivers are among its biggest tributaries from Vitosha. Among other bigger rivers flowing to Iskar are Palakaria (39 km long), Vulchi Dol River, Selskata (Zheleznishka) River, Bistrishka (Stara) River, Yanchevska River, Simeonovska River, Dragalevska River, Boyanska River, Perlovska River and Vladaiska River. There are no lakes in Vitosha. There were lakes in the past but they have been drained due to ore mining. Many artificial lakes have been built in the lower parts of the mountain near the resort villages, the most beautiful among which is the Boyana Lake (since 1906). In the year of 1934 it was seen the establishment of the first national park in Bulgaria, enclosing the greater part of Vitosha and aimed at preserving for the next generations the beauties of the mountain. Vitosha, nevertheless, has been developed. There are more than 100 places for accommodation with almost 6000 beds (not counting beds provided in near-by villages), 2 cabin elevator lines, numerous open-seat lifts, catering facilities, mountain shelters, and kilometers of asphalt roads. All these are concentrated mainly along the northern slopes of the mountain, facing Sofia. There are two main tourist centres – Aleko and Zlatnite Mostove (The Golden bridges). The first is at about 1800 m above sea level in the eastern part of the mountain and is one of Bulgaria’s biggest ski centers. There are several hotels – the 3-star Prostor Hotel, Aglika Hotel; The 2-star Moreni Hotel. There is an Aleko Chalet offering 88 beds in three suits and rooms of 2,3,4,8, and more beds. The chalet is a starting point of the Bulagrian section of European hiking route E-4. Above it, it is located the huge slope Stenata – the biggest natural ski track in Bulgaria. There are lots of facilities to add to the comfort of the skiers – open-sit lifts snow-levelling tracks, special marking, etc. Nearby shops, booths, coffee bars and restaurants offer wonderful opportunities for a pleasant stay. Behind Aleko Chalet is the office of the Mountain Rescue Service. Aleko is also the starting point for climbing the highest peak of Vitosha - Mt. Cherni Vruh. The steep climb, at a difference of altitude of approximately 500 m typically takes 1.30 hours, and for those who think it is difficult, there is a lift to Mt. Maluk Rezen, from where they can proceed along a flat route and reach the dreamed peak in 30 minutes only. All routes to the peak are marked by high metal pickets or pass by skiing facilities, thus reducing to the maximum the possibility of one getting lost. Still it is not recommended to climb the peak in bad weather! On the peak itself, besides the meteorological station and the base of the Mountain Rescue Service, there is a tourist station where one can find shelter in bad weather (no beds, however). Tea and warm cooked food are also offered. Marked hiking tracks start from Aleko: to Zlatnite Mostove (2-3 hours, passing through the Platoto, Bor Chalet Tintyava Chalet Momina Skala Chalet), Academic Youth Base (1.30-2 hours), to the village of Bistritsa (1, 30-2 hours), to Simeonovo Quarter (1.30-2 hours), to Dragalevtsi Quarter (1.30-2 hours), to Prespa Chalet (30 min). Besides on foot, from above villages and Sofia quarters, one can reach Aleko by car -16 km on a road starting from Dragalevtsi Quarter, or by regular bus line No. 66 starting from Hladilnika Quarter. Also by Bai Krustyo-Goli Vruh chair lift, whose first station is above Dragalevtsi and can be reached with bus line No. 93 starting from Hladilnika Quarter or with bus No.64 and then 20 minutes walk from the central square of Dragalevtsi; by the modern cabin-lift Simeonovo, starting in Simeonovo Quarter (to which one can take bus line No. 122 from Hladilnika or No. 123 from Durvenitsa). Zlatnite Mostove (Golden Bridges) is the another popular tourist centre, located at an altitude of 1400 m above sea level in the Vladaya sub-part of the Northern Range of Vitosha. Most notorious here is the phenomenon we mentioned above - the moreni. In old times, this was a place where gold was washed out of the sands, hence the name of the area and the tourist settlement. The Zlatnite Mostove Hotel-Restaurant is currently under reconstruction. Around it, there are numerous booths, shops, coffee bars, villas, rest houses, alcoves, a children playground. Zlatnite Mostove is also a starting point to Mt. Cherni Vruh (about 3 hours), which route passes by one of the oldest and most beautiful chalets in Vitosha - Koumata Chalet (1 hour) and Konyarnika Ski-Centre, which is at 15-20 min walk above the chalet. There are marked hiking routes in other directions as well: the chalets Planinarska Pessen, Borova Gora and Boeritsa (1 hour); the chalets Edelweis and Zvezditsa (about 1 hour), Ostritsa Chalet (a little bit more that 1 hour) and Selimitsa Chalet (yet another 1 hour), Bor Chalet (45 min), the chalets Septemvri (25 min), Momina Skala (30 min), Rodina (35 min) and Tintyava (45 min), the chalets Sredets (40 min), Esperanto (45 min), Kamen Del (1 hour), Planinets (45 min), Kikish Shelter (1.15 hours), Belite Brezi Chalet (15 min) and Sofia quarter Knyazhevo (1.30 hours), quarter Vladaya (1 hour), the Kopitoto Area with the TV tower (1 hour). There are signs showing all tracks, and occasionally - information boards. Besides on foot, from Sofia quarters Knyazhevo and Vladaya, to Zlatnite Mostove one can also drive along a 14 km road, starting from Boyana Quarter. A city bus line No. 261 is also available starting in Ovcha Koupel Quarter (by Slavia Stadium). There is a station of the Mountain Rescue Service in the Ofeliite Area - no phone line. Another smaller tourist centre is established in the area of Kopitoto (1350 m above sea level - in the Knyazhevo part of the Northern Range) with a TV tower, newly built hotel-restaurant, shops, catering establishments, etc. The cabin-lift starting from Knyazhevo reaches this place; bus line No. 62 from Ovcha Koupel is also available. It takes 1.30-2 hours walk from Knyazhevo and about 1.30 hours from Boyana to reach the area. Marked tracks start here to Zlatnite Mostove (1 hour), Planinets Chalet (40 min), Momina Skala Chalet (45 min), Esperanto Chalet (40 min), etc. A small tourist centre is formed around Selimitsa Chalet (1300 m above sea level, in the northwestern range of the mountain). There are several rest houses and restaurants there. It takes a 15 minutes walk from there to reach the interesting Saint Nikola Kladnitsa Monastery. Marked tracks lead to Ostritsa Chalet (1 hour), Edelweiss Chalet (1.30 hours), Mt. Selichitsa (1.30 hours), Mt. Cherni Vruh (2.5-3 hours), the village of Chuipetliovo (2.5-3 hours) A starting point for this tourist centre is the village of Kladnitsa (3 km road, 1 hour walk along the road and then along a marked path). The village of Kladnitsa is 22 km away from Sofia and is connected to it by bus line No. 60, starting from Ovcha Koupel Quarter, and 16 km away from Pernik, with which it is also connected with a regular bus line. 3 km before Kladnitsa is the resort village of Roudartsi with an open-air mineral water pool. All chalets in Vitosha (about 15) offer tasty dishes from the Bulgarian cuisine. The marked tracks are typically broad alleys, very good for mountain biking. There are two special ski-tracks down the hill (Aleko - Dragalevski Monastery and Mt. Ushite - Knyazhevo). Small resort villages and villa areas, which were picturesque mountain villages in the past, surround almost the whole mountain and now some of them are Sofia suburbs. Chuipetlovo, Bosnek, Kladnitsa, Rudartsi, Marchaevo, Vladaya, Knyazhevo, Boyana, Dragalevtsi, Simeonovo, Bistritsa, Zheleznitsa, Yarlovo are starting points to the mountain, connected with Sofia and Pernik with regular bus lines, and offering lodging in family hotels and food in attractive restaurants. Sofia quarters of Knyazhevo, Dragalevtsi and Simeonovo are first stations of cable lifts (cabin-and open-chair). There are a number of valuable historical monuments here, the most popular among them being the Boyana Church (1259), whose frescos in the traditions of the Turnovo Art School are the best of their kind in Europe retained from these early times. The church is included in the list of UNESCO of most valuable works of art. It is open from 9 to 12 a.m. and from 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. It is in the centre of Boyana Quarter (bus lines No. 64 and No. 107). The Dragalevtsi Monastery was founded under the reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander in the middle of the 14th century. It had been one of the prominent monasteries of the so-called Mala Sveta Gora. During the Turkish yoke, it was a centre of culture and dissent. Vassil Levski was often sheltered here and a secret revolutionary committee was established in the monastery in 1873. It is located 3 km above the village of Dragalevtsi on the road to Aleko. It takes 30-40 min walk from Dragalevtsi. The monastery is open to visitors all week round. The St. Georgi Church in Bistritsa is located on the place where the main monastery of Mala Sveta Gora was in the past. There are mineral water springs in some of the villages mentioned above - Roudartsi, Knyazhevo, Zheleznitsa. Even though it is smaller in area than the other high mountains in Bulgaria, Vitosha has a lot of attractive advantages - high and beautiful peaks, thick woods, many tourist and two alpine sites, sufficient snow fall ensuring stable snow cover, pure air, hundreds of kilometers of well marked tracks, numerous lodging places and restaurants, comparatively well preserved nature, clean water, wonderful skiing facilities, rich history. Adding to all these, its closeness to the biggest city, which is the capital of Bulgaria - this explains why the mountain is so often visited and so much loved.

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