The Balkan mountain range, also known as Stara Planina (Old Mountain), lend its name to the Balkan Peninsula. The major mountain chain of Bulgaria divides the country into northern and southern halves and extends over 555 km in an east-west direction from the border with Serbia to Cape Emine on the Black Sea. The Balkan Mountains are a young folded mountain range. It has a tall, elongated and well-shaped ridge with dozens of deep passages. Because of these features, the Balkan Mountains are easily passable in many places.
The most famous and rush passages are Petrohan, Trojan-Karnare, Vitinya, Tvardishki, Shipka, Hainboaz, Iskar Gorge, Vratnik, Botevgradski, Zlatishki and others.
Although very convenient in terms of transport, some of them are difficult to pass during the winter months, while others sometimes remain closed until spring.
The Balkan mountain range has steep and spectacular southern and gently sloping northern slopes. The low-lying areas are covered with vast deciduous forests dominated by oaks, beeches, maples, chestnuts and other species of trees.
The higher elevations are covered with thick coniferous forests, and in the highest parts you will find alpine meadows where grow some subarctic species.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful plants in the mountain is the Edelweiss. The gentle and extremely rare flower traditionally favors the most harsh and inhospitable places. The fauna of the Balkan Mountains is varied.
The mountain forests are home to bears, wolves, foxes, jackals, badgers, wild boars, deer, wild goats and a large number of species of birds such as eagles, owls, and recently the rare white-headed vultures.
The National Park of Central Balkan, one of three national parks in Bulgaria, is located in the central parts of the Balkan mountain range, and it includes within its boundaries nine reserves with heavenly beautiful sceneries and rich biodiversity.
The Balkan mountain range is an attractive place for tourism. It is known for its sharp relief forms, deep gorges, high waterfalls and foggy mountain peaks. The average altitude is about 722 meters, and several dozen peaks rise to a height of more than 2,000 meters.
Some of the most famous of them are the highest peak in the Balkan Mountains – Botev (2,376 m), Kom (2016 m) and Golyam Kupen (2,169 m), which is known for its difficult accessibility, raw beauty and steep slopes.
To the south, at the foot of the mountain, is located the Rose Valley – the place where some of the most fragrant roses in the world are grown.
In the Balkan Mountains you will find hundreds of exciting caves. Among the most popular not only in the region but also throughout Bulgaria are Ledenika, Magura, Temnata Dupka (Dark Hole), Bacho Kiro and Saeva Dupka (Saeva Hole).
In the western part of the mountain you will find some of the most interesting rock formations in Bulgaria – Vratsata and the Belogradchik Rocks.
The Balkan mountain range can not compete with the Rhodopes or Rila in terms of its lakes, but it boasts some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Bulgaria. Undoubtedly, the most spectacular is Rayskoto Praskalo.
With its 124.5 meters, it is the highest waterfall in the country. Much lower but unearthly beautiful, the Krushuna waterfalls are another major landmark.
They are situated not far from the town of Lovech. Among the biggest attractions of the Balkan Mountains are also the notorious waterfalls of Kademliiskoto Praskalo, Chiprovski waterfall, Borov Kamak (Pine Stone), Karlovskoto Praskalo, Vidimskoto Praskalo and others.
Like any other mountain in Bulgaria, the Balkan mountain range also offers a variety of mineral waters. The most famous are the springs of Varshets and Voneshta Voda.
Most large Bulgarian rivers, such as Yantra, Osam, Tunja, Kamchia and others, rise from the Balkan Mountains. Some of them run north or eastward and empty their waters into the river of Danube or the Black Sea. Other rivers, however, turn south and reach the Aegean Sea.
The second longest Bulgarian river of Iskar rises from the mountain of Rila in southern Bulgaria but successfully crosses the entire width of the Balkan Mountains in a south-north direction, forming the spectacular Iskar Gorge.
Unlike the mountains of Rila, Pirin, the Rhodopes and Vitosha, the Balkan Mountains are not so popular ski destination, although there are some good ski slopes, too. When we talk about cultural tourism, however, this part of Bulgaria is unrivaled.
The mountain has kept the spirit and traditions of Bulgaria throughout the centuries, and today it is extremely saturated with attractions.
Nowadays you can find many towns and villages with Renaissance spirit and architecture, situated amidst the amazing natural beauty of the mountain. It is in this part of the country where the decisive battles during the Russo-Turkish War were fought.
Among the towns and places you should not miss are Gabrovo and Etara, Dryanovo and the Dryanovo Monastery, the old capital Veliko Tarnovo and the village of Arbanassi, Troyan with its crafts, Karlovo and Kazanlak with the famous Rose Valley, Elena with the first class school in Bulgaria, the historic center of Koprivshtitsa and many others.
The Balkan mountain range has a temperate continental climate. Summers in the lowlands are hot and sunny, and winters are very cold.
Temperatures below 0°C in winter and over 30°C in summer are quite common. At higher altitudes, however, the weather is completely different.
Summers are fresh and cool with pleasant temperatures of between 16 and 24°C, while the average daily temperature in winter is approximately (-5)°C.
However, temperatures below (-20) and even (-30)°C are not excluded, although they occur less frequently. The Balkan Mountains play the role of an important climatic barrier.
They stop cold air masses coming from the north and warm air masses from the south. For this reason, differences of a few degrees between the temperatures on both sides of the mountain range are quite common.