The Balkan mountain range ( Bulgarian and Serbian: Стара Планина, Stara Planina, "Old Mountain"; ; ) is a mountain range in the eastern part of the
Balkan Peninsula
Balkan Peninsula
. The range runs 557 km from the Vrashka Chuka Peak on
Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg, България, Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria ( bg, Република България, links=no, Republika Bǎlgariya, ), is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia a ...
Serbia Serbia (, ; sr, Србија, Srbija, ),, * cs, Srbsko, * ro, Serbia * rue, Сербия *german: Serbien *french: Serbie * uk, Сербія * hu, Szerbia * bg, Сърбия * sq, Serbia * bs, Srbija * officially the Republic of Serbia,, ...
n border eastward through central Bulgaria to foothills reaching Cape Emine on the Black Sea. The highest peaks of the Balkan Mountains are in central Bulgaria. The highest peak is Botev Peak, Botev at 2,376 m, which makes the mountain range the third highest in the country, after Rila and Pirin. The mountains are the source of the name of the Balkans, Balkan Peninsula. All, but its eastern foothills and a western gap, is the watershed between the Black Sea and Aegean Sea drainage basins. The western gap is, spectacularly narrow, Iskar Gorge, a few miles north of the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. The karst relief determines the large number of caves, including Magura Cave, Magura, featuring the most important and extended European post-Palaeolithic cave painting, Ledenika, Saeva dupka, Bacho Kiro cave, Bacho Kiro, etc. The most notable rock formation are the Belogradchik Rocks in the west. There are several important protected areas: Central Balkan National Park, Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park, Bulgarka Nature Park and Sinite Kamani Nature Park, as well as a number of nature reserves. The Balkan Mountains are remarkable for their flora and fauna. Edelweiss grows there in the region of ''Kozyata stena''. Some of the most striking landscapes are included in the Central Balkan National Park with steep cliffs, the highest waterfalls in the Balkan Peninsula and lush vegetation. There are a number of important nature reserves such as Chuprene, Kozyata stena and others. Most of Europe's large mammals inhabit the area including the brown bear, wolf, boar, chamois and deer. The Balkan Mountains played an enormous role in the history of Bulgaria since its foundation in 681 AD, and in the development of the Bulgarians, Bulgarian nation and people.


It is believed the name was brought to the region in the 7th century by Bulgars who applied it to the area, as a part of the First Bulgarian Empire. In Bulgarian, the archaic word ''balkan'' (балкан) was borrowed from Turkish and means "mountain". It may have ultimately derived from the Persian language, Persian ''bālkāneh'' or ''bālākhāna'', meaning "high, above, or proud house." The name is still preserved in Central Asia with the Balkan Daglary (Balkan Mountains) and the Balkan Province of Turkmenistan. In Ottoman Turkish language, Turkish ' means "a chain of wooded mountains" In Antiquity and the Middle Ages the mountains were known by their Thracian language, Thracian name: the Haemus Mons. Scholars consider that the name Haemus (Αἷμος) is derived from a Thracian language, Thracian word ''*saimon'', 'mountain ridge'. The name of the place where the range meets the Black Sea, Cape Emine, is derived from ''Aemon''. A folk etymology holds that 'Haemus' derives from the Greek word "haima" () meaning 'blood', and is based on Greek mythology. During a fight between Zeus and the monster/titan Typhon, Zeus injured Typhon with thunder; and Typhon's blood fell on the mountains, which were then named for this battle. Other names used to refer to the mountains in different time periods include ''Aemon'', ''Haemimons'', ''Hem'', ''Emus'', the Slavonic ''Matorni gori'' and the Turkish ''Kodzhabalkan''.


Geologically, the Balkan Mountains are a mountain chain of fold mountains, a "young" part of the Alpide belt, Alp-Himalayan chain that stretches across most of Europe and Asia. It can be divided into two parts: the main Balkan Chain and the Pre-Balkans (Fore-Balkan) to the north, which intrude slightly into the Danubian Plain (Bulgaria), Danubian Plain. To the south, the mountains border the Sub-Balkan valleys - a row of 11 valleys running from the Bulgarian border with Serbia east to the Black Sea, separating the Balkan mountains from a chain of other mountains known as ''Srednogorie'' which includes Vitosha and Sredna Gora. The range consists of around 30 distinct mountains. Within Bulgaria the Balkan Mountains can be divided into three sections: * The ''Western Balkan Mountains'' extend from Vrashka Chuka at the border with Serbia to the Pass of Arabakonak with a total length of . The highest peak is Midžor at . * The ''Central Balkan Mountains'' run from Arabakonak to the Vratnik Pass (Bulgaria), Vratnik Pass with a length of . Botev Peak, the highest mountain in the Balkan range at , is located in this section. * The ''Eastern Balkan Mountains'' extend from the Vratnik Pass to Cape Emine with a length of . The highest peak is Balgarka at . The eastern Balkan Mountains form the lowest part of the range.


The Balkan Mountains form a water divide between the rivers flowing to the Danube in the north and those flowing to the Aegean Sea in the south. However, they are crossed by Bulgaria's widest river, the Iskar (river), Iskar, which forms the spectacular Iskar Gorge. Rivers that take their source from the Balkan Mountains and flow northwards to the Danube include the Timok River, Timok, Archar River, Archar, Lom River, Lom, Tsibritsa, Ogosta, Skat River, Skat, Vit, Osam, Yantra (river), Yantra, and Rusenski Lom. The mountains are also the source of the Kamchiya, which flows directly into the Black Sea. Although not so abundant in mineral waters as other parts of Bulgaria, there are several Spa towns, spas such as Varshets, Shipkovo and Voneshta Voda. There are a number of waterfalls, especially in the western and central parts of the range, such as Raysko Praskalo which is the highest waterfall in the Balkan Peninsula, Borov Kamak, Babsko Praskalo, Etropole Waterfall, Karlovsko Praskalo, Skaklya and others. Developments in the recent two decades completely changed the geography of Serbia, when it comes to waterfalls. Area of the Stara Planina has always been sparsely populated and inaccessible because of the rugged and forested terrain, but also as a location of the Serbian-Bulgarian border. As armies relinquished the borders giving control to the border police, civilians were allowed to explore the area. As a result, higher and higher waterfalls have been discovered on the Serbian side of the Stara Planina since then: Čungulj in 1996 - ; Pilj waterfall, Pilj in 2002 - ; Kopren Waterfall, Kopren in 2011 - ;vodopadisrbije.com Kopren (Stara planina)
/ref> Kaluđerski Skokovi in 2012 - .


The mountains are crossed by 20 passes and two gorges. There are paved roads crossing the Balkan Mountains at the following mountain pass, passes (listed from west to east): * Petrohan Pass: Sofia - Montana, Bulgaria, Montana * Iskar Gorge (''Iskarski prolom''): Sofia - Vratsa (also railroad) * Vitinya Pass: Hemus motorway (A2), Sofia - Botevgrad * Beklemeto Pass: Troyan - Sopot, Lovech Province, Sopot * Shipka Pass: Gabrovo - Kazanlak (also railroad) * Pass of the Republic (''Prohod na republikata''): Veliko Tarnovo - Gurkovo * Vratnik Pass (Bulgaria), Vratnik Pass: Elena (town), Elena - Sliven * Kotel Pass (''Kotlenski prohod''): Kotel, Bulgaria, Kotel - Petolachka (''Pentagram'') crossroads * Varbitsa Pass (''Varbishki prohod''): Shumen - Petolachka crossroads * Rish Pass (''Rishki prohod''): Shumen - Karnobat * Luda Kamchiya Gorge (''Ludokamchiyski prolom''): Provadiya - Karnobat (also railroad) * Aytos Pass (Aytoski prohod) - Provadiya - Aytos * Dyulino Pass (''Dyulinski prohod''): Varna, Bulgaria, Varna - Aytos * Obzor Pass (''Obzorski prohod''): Varna - Burgas, future Cherno More motorway (A5)


* Botev Peak (named after Hristo Botev) * Malkiyat yumruk * Golyam Kademliya (Triglav) * Mlechen chal * Zhaltets * Paradzhika * Vezhen Peak * Midžor , the highest peak in Serbia proper and north-western Bulgaria, 12th in the Balkan Mountains. * Golyam Kupen * Levski Peak (Bulgaria), Levski (named after Vasil Levski) * Yurushka gramada * Martinova chuka * Malak Kupen * Tetevenska Baba * Buluvaniya * Golyam Krastets * Kostenurkata (The Turtle) * Oba * Kartala * Pascal * Ravnets * Kom Peak * Kositsa * Replyanska tsarkva * Golema chuka * Svishti plaz * Mara Gidia * Todorini Kukli * Haydushki kamak * Murgash * Koznitsa * Chukava (Golema mountain) * Gorno Yazovo * Chumerna * Ispolin * Ravno buche * Buzludzha * Manyakov kamak * Guvnishte * Golemi Del * Vetren Peak * Shipka Pass, Shipka (Stoletov, St. Nikola) * Goten (Sofia, Sofiiska mountain) * Petrovski krast


The Balkan Mountains have had a significant and special place in the history of Bulgaria since its founding in 681. It was a natural fortress of the Bulgarian Empire for centuries and formed an effective barrier to Moesia where most of the medieval capitals were located. The Balkan mountains were the site of numerous battles between the Bulgarian and Byzantine Empires including the Battle of the Rishki Pass (759), Battle of Pliska, Battle of the Varbitsa Pass (811), and the Battle of Tryavna (1190). In the battle of the Varbitsa Pass, Khan Krum of Bulgaria, Krum decisively defeated an enormous Byzantine army, killing Emperor Nikephoros I. For many centuries the Byzantines feared these mountains, and on several occasions Byzantine armies pulled back on approaching the Balkan Mountains. During the Ottoman Bulgaria, Ottoman rule, many ''haiduks'' found refuge in the Balkan Mountains. Close to the highest summit, Botev Peak, is Kalofer, the birthplace of Hristo Botev, a Bulgarian poet and national hero who died in the western Balkan Mountains near Vratsa in 1876 in the struggle against the Ottoman Empire. Also close to Botev Peak is Shipka Pass, the scene of the Battle of Shipka Pass, four battles in the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78, which ended Turkish rule in the Balkans.




File:Stara planina10.jpg, upright=0.9, The Nature Park Stara Planina First group of trees was protected in 1966, followed by the creation of 7 special nature reserves and 3 natural monuments in the 1980s. Nature park Stara Planina was established in 1997 and since 2009 is in its present borders, covering an area of . The protected area was expanded in 2020. Limestone terrain is known for the short losing streams and tufaceous waterfalls. There are canyons and gorges, like those of the Temštica, Toplodolska reka and ''Rosomačka reka'' rivers. Underground waters on the mountain reach the surface in the forms of common springs, well-springs (''vrelo'') and diffused springs (''pištevina''). There are some 500 springs with the flow of over . The strongest spring is the intermittent ''Jelovičko vrelo'', known for its fluctuations, characterized by the bubbling and foaming. Montane ecosystems are diverse and include several plant communities: forests, shrubs, meadows, pastures and peatlands. There are six different vegetation zones (mountains), vegetation zone in the park. Oak, beech, spruce, subalpine zone of the shrub vegetation of common horsetail, blueberry, subalpine spruce and mugo pine. Other plants include shrub alder, steppe pedunculate oak, but also rare and endangered species like European pasqueflower, yellow pheasant's eye, Paeonia peregrina, Kosovo peony, common sundew, Heldreich's maple, martagon lily, pygmy iris and marsh orchid. The area is a salmonid region, inhabited by the Salmo trutta fario, riverine brown trout. Another 25 species of fish live in the rivers and streams, so as the fire salamander and newts. There are 203 species of birds, of which 154 are nesting in the park, 10 are wintering, 30 are passing and 13 are wandering. Important species include golden eagle, Ural owl and hawk. As the park is the most important habitat in Serbia for long-legged buzzard, Eurasian woodcock and an endemic horned lark, Balkan horned lark, an area of was declared a European Important Bird Area. The griffon vulture disappeared from the region in the late 1940s. In 2017 a program for their reintroduction began within the scope of a wider European program. Among other things, the feeders will be placed along the vultures' migratory route. Over 30 mammalian species are found in the park, including lesser mole-rat, hazel dormouse and the Tertiary relict, European snow vole. Brown bear became extinct in Serbian part, but evidence showing the presence of the bears were found in 2014. The bears have been photographed in 2015, before disappearing again until 2019 when a young brown bear was filmed on camera. Human heritage spans from the prehistoric remains, Classical antiquity including the Roman period and late mediaeval monastic complexes. Some of those older monuments are fragmentary and relocated from their original locations. There are numerous examples of the ethnic edifices characteristic for the architecture of the region in the late 19th and early 20th century (houses, barns, etc.) Serbian section of the mountain is seen as a location for dozens of micro hydros, mini power plants which caused problem with the environmentalists and local population. Even the Ministry for environmental protection halted some of the projects and litigated with the investors. They also announced the change of the Nature protection law, which will permanently forbid the construction of plants in protected areas. In order to prevent further degradation, the Nature Park Stara Planina was nominated for the UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme and for the world list of geoparks, while over tens of thousands of citizens signed petitions against the micro hydros and numerous protests have been organized by the local population. This prompted similar protests in other parts of Serbia and the association "Defend the rivers of Stara Planina" was founded, which expanded its base of operations outside of the Stara Planina region. The activism resulted in various physical altercation between the local citizens on one, and contractors and their security guards on the other side, amidst the police interventions. In October 2018, Ministry of Environmental Protection (Serbia), Minister of Environmental Protection Goran Trivan, said that the current law allows for the micro hydros to be built in the protected areas. The government allowed the construction of 800 micro hydros, which has been described as "megalomaniacal" by the ecologists, as they would produce less than 1% of the total electricity. Environmentalists also accused the government of destroying the plant and animal life using the pretext of renewable energy. In September 2019, Pirot city administration announced it is removing from the spatial plan all 43 existing locations for the micro hydros on the protected area of Stara Planina. There are 15 locations remaining in the unprotected sector of the mountain, but city officials announced abolishing of these locations in the future, too.

See also

* Balkans * Botev Peak * Bulgarka Nature Park * Central Balkan National Park * Kom–Emine, a high-mountain long-distance trail along the main ridge of the Balkan Mountains * List of mountain ranges * Sredna gora * Rhodope Mountains, Rila, Pirin, Dinaric Alps, Šar mountain, Pindus, Strandzha – other major mountain chains in the Balkan region * Svishtiplaz * Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park

Notes and references

External links

Regional tourist association

Euroregion Stara Planina

Hiking in Balkan Mountains

Controversy regarding ski resort development in ostensibly protected areas. (World Birdwatch, March 2009)

Tourist portal Stara Planina
{{Authority control Balkan mountains, Mountain ranges of Bulgaria Mountain ranges of Serbia Protected areas of Serbia Balkans International mountains of Europe Bulgaria–Serbia border Geography of Southeastern Europe Landforms of Vidin Province Landforms of Burgas Province Landforms of Plovdiv Province Landforms of Sofia Province Landforms of Sofia City Province Landforms of Veliko Tarnovo Province Landforms of Sliven Province Landforms of Montana Province Landforms of Vratsa Province Landforms of Lovech Province Landforms of Stara Zagora Province Landforms of Gabrovo Province Landforms of Shumen Province Landforms of Varna Province Landforms of Blagoevgrad Province Euroregions of Bulgaria Euroregions of Serbia