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Bulgarian Mountains

Bulgarian Mountains

It can safely be asserted that Bulgaria is a mountainous country. Approximately half of its territory is occupied by mountainous formations various in their area, height, nature and origin. All of them are a ring of the powerful range of the Alpine - Himalayan Massif comprising a multitude of mountainous systems on the two continents - Europe and Asia.

The mountains in Bulgaria are extremely diverse in kind. If they lack something, it is solely the cosmic altitudes and the everlasting snow and ice. Small and big, barren and forested, rounded and steep, low and high, rocky and openly Alpine all of them are accessible during the four seasons of the year and they provide for limitless opportunities for recreation, sports and tourism.

Geographical science indicates the existence of 37 mountains on the territory of Bulgaria, 36 of them situated in the southern part of the country and the mountain range of Stara Planina is the border between Northern and Southern Bulgaria. It is namely the mountain range of Stara Planina, the longest and the biggest in area, known as the Balkan Mountains, too, which gave the name to our Balkan Peninsula. The second longest mountain range in our country is spread in parallel to it, to the south - Sredna Gora. These two mountains, except their magnificent natural endowments, are closely related to the history of our people as well. The most impressive mountainous system, however, is the Rila-Rhodope Massif, including Rila, Pirin, the Rhodopes, Slavianka and Sturgach.

Rila is the sixth highest mountain in Europe and the highest mountain on the Balkan Peninsula (Mt. Moussala 2925 m). Pirin is the most beautiful and Alpine-like Bulgarian mountain. The Rhodope Mountains, the larger part of which are on Bulgarian territory (a smaller part is in Greece), are the second in area and one of the most interesting of our mountains in relation to flora and fauna, the architecture of the settlements and the cultural traditions of the population. Slavianka and Sturgach are border Greek mountains. Slavianka is a very interesting tourist site famous for its fields of Pirin tea.

Two lower mountains are situated to the east of the Rila-Rhodope Massif - Sakar and Strandzha. Strandzha is closely related to the struggles of Bulgarian people for liberation from Ottoman Rule.

Another mountain system is the Plana-Zaval Group, including 5 mountains in it - Zavalska, Viskiar, Liulin, Vitosha and Plana, situated in a line, to the south-east of the border with Serbia. The highest, biggest and most famous of them is the Vitosha Mountain. Located in the immediate proximity to the south of the capital city, it is the most visited mountain. The organised hiking movement in Bulgaria was commenced on the principal mount of this range - Mt. Cherni Vruh (2290 m). On 27th August 1895 at the appeal of the great Bulgarian writer and democrat Aleko Konstantinov, 300 citizens of Sofia climbed it on foot from Sofia-city - quite incredible for the time!

The Verila-Rui group comprises 7 comparatively low mountains, located between the border with Serbia and the Rila Mountain. These are Rui (bordering with Serbia and the highest in the group - 1706 m), Ezdimir, Strazha, Liubash, Cherna Gora, Golo Burdo and Verila. In spite of their low altitude above sea level and their small area, each of these mountains is interesting in itself. The Ostritsa Reserve, for instance, is situated in Golo Burdo and it is extremely rich in endemic vegetation kinds.

The mountainous system of Kraishte has 11 individual mountain formations. Like in the Verila-Rui group, the mountains here are small in area and comparatively low. The highest of these mountains are those bordering with Serbia - Milev and Kurvav Kamuk, 1733 m and 1737 m respectively.

The Osogovo-Belasitsa mountainous group is situated in the south-west corner of Bulgaria. Osogovo and Belasitsa Mountains are over 2000 metres high, and Vlahina and alashevska Mountain, follow them closely in altitude. The fifth mountain within this group is Ograzhden. Four of the mountains are on the Bulgarian-Macedonian border, and Belasitsa is situated on the territories of 3 states - Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia. Mt. Tumba (1881 m), is a knot between the three neighbouring Balkan countries.

Of all the 37 small and big mountains, 8 exceed the altitude of 2000 metres: Rila (Mt. Moussala - 2925 m), Pirin (Mt. Vihren - 2914 m), Stara Planina (Mt. Botev - 2376 m), Vitosha (Mt. Cherni Vruh - 2290 m), Osogovo Mountain (Mt. Ruen - 2252 m), Slavianka (Mt. Gotsev Vruh - 2212 m), the Rhodopes (Mt. Golyam Perelik - 2191 m) and Belasitsa (Mt. Radomir - 2029 m). All of them are subject to tourist and sports related activities and the Rhodopes are quite densely populated as well.

The high-mountain lakes add to about 400 in number and they are scattered around cirques of the Rila and Pirin Mountains and one - in Stara Planina. There are a lot more natural lakes of other origin, mainly around the Rhodopes and fewer around Stara Planina. This is a priceless wealth of Bulgarian nature, which shall henceforward attract and charm thousands of fans.

The unique mountainous nature of Bulgaria is increasingly becoming a foremost concern for the state in view of its preservation for the present and the future generations. Dozens of biosphere reserves have been established and huge territories of Pirin, Rila and Stara Planina were declared National Parks. The Pirin National Park was included in the UNESCO list of protected territories and natural sites, representing super-national, universal values.

The opportunities offered by Bulgarian mountains in relation to the pleasant and beneficial use of ones free time are great in number. For motor tourists there is a sufficiently branched road network providing access to the most interesting natural, historical and cultural places of interest, as well as to all the settlements and resorts. Hiking tourism related opportunities are unlimited in number and hiking can be practised during all four seasons of the year. It is mainly for its purposes that over 300 chalets (for information and reservations contact tel.: 02 9801285) and high-mountain cabins were built in the Bulgarian mountains, a sufficiently dense network, which allows for the longest mountain hikes to be concluded within one day.

Thousands of kilometres of marked trails provide a high degree of security when moving around in the mountains. The four-colour marking characteristic of most European countries with developed hiking is adopted in Bulgaria. The key colours in it are red, blue, green and yellow, and white colour is an auxiliary one. It should be known that the red marking, in principle, is for ridges. Winter marking consists of yellow-black metal stakes, at a height of between 3 and 4 metres and indicates the comparatively safest way along a certain route in the event of serious snow cover. The greater part of the routes, particularly in Rila, Pirin and along the ridges of Stara Planina, have azimuth table plates in addition to the numbering of the stakes.

There are very good ski-sports opportunities in four big ski-centres in the Bulgarian mountains - Borovets (Rila), Pamporovo (the Rhodopes), leko (Vitosha) and Bansko (Pirin). Of them Borovets has got the highest coefficient where the European Cup races are organised. Borovets was the host of a round of the World Cup as well. The smaller ski-centres of local importance include Semkovo, Panichishte, Rilski Ezera (Rila Lakes), Maliovitsa and Govedartsi in Rila, Bezbog in Pirin, Petrohan, Kom, Strazhata, Beklemeto, Pleven, Uzana, Chumerna in Stara Planina, Zdravets, Byala Cherkva, Persenk, Yundola, Martsiganitsa in the Rhodopes, Vetrovala and Konyarnika in Vitosha and others. Not only the slopes of the Alpine-like mountains of Rila and Pirin offer marvellous ski-tourism related conditions but so do Stara Planina, the Rhodopes, Vitosha, and Osogovo as well.

Bulgarian mountains offer excellent conditions for one of the most attractive and emotional kinds of sports in the open air - mountaineering. Alpine sites in our country, which are of interest even to the most outstanding climbers in Europe add up to dozens. In the first place, without a rival, is the Maliovitsa mountain ridge of Rila - the cradle and centre of Bulgarian mountaineering - a vast Alpine stadium, among which the most beautiful Bulgarian peak rises Mt. Maliovitsa (2730 m). Other well-known Alpine sites are Vihren and Stapalata (the Stairs) in Pirin, Vratsata, Lakatnik, Raiski Skali (Paradise Rocks), Severniya Dzhendem (Northern Hell), Maglizh and Karandila in Stara Planina, Kominite (the Chimneys) and Reznyovete in Vitosha, the gorge on Erma River.

There are very good conditions for other modern mountainous sports, too - mountain marathon, mountain biking, delta- and paragliding, rafting and kayaking.

Their beauty, diversity and accessibility during all the seasons of the year make Bulgarian mountains an object of desire for home and international tourism.

The perfectly organised and equipped Mountain Rescue Service (MRS) and 15 well-trained dogs take care of the health, life and security of tourists and sportsmen in the mountains. About 50 permanent and 700 voluntary mountain rescuers provide for the security of the territory of all the Bulgarian mountains and through their dedicated labour and love for the people and the mountain they inspire calmness and more confidence in all nature admirers. The Central 24-hour Check Point is located in the MRS Station in Lozenets district of the capital city, tel.: 02 9632000; 0481843; 088621286. A permanent radio connection is maintained with over 250 chalets and MRS check-points. Several central bases function with the Mountain Rescue Service - in Borovets, Maliovitsa, Bansko, Dobrinishte above Mt. Bezbog and Pamporovo, Mechi Chal above the town of Chepelare, as well as a great number of local bases - Aleko, Cherni Vruh and Opheliya in Vitosha Mountain, Vezhen, Buzov Dial, Uzana and Bulgarka in Stara Planina, Osogovo in the mountains above the town of Kiustendil, Zdravets in the Rhodopes, above Plovdiv. There are a lot of temporary and permanent rescue check-points as well - Rezena and Konyarnika in Vitosha Mountain, Markudzhitsite and Tchatarluka in Rila, Chalin Valog, Yavorov Chalet and Shiligarnika in Pirin.

The Mountain Rescue Service structures have successfully participated in stamping out the consequences of earthquakes and other natural distasters in Turkey, Greece, Armenia, Egypt and in Bulgaria, as well. Since 2000 the Vitosha Life Insurance Company PLC offers mountain life insurance. The annual fee of 20 Leva covers first aid in the mountain, transport to a hospital and treatment.

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