Stara Planina – the Great Divide
Old Mountain, as the name is rendered in English, is the longest and most imposing mountain in Bulgaria running from west to east to separate the country’s North from its South. Due to its immense length it is usually divided in three sections: western, central and eastern. They all have a lot to offer to tourists.
The western part of the mountain is where the Belogradchik Rocks stand. Together with Magura and Ledenika Caves they are the most remarkable rock formations in the region. Oh, let’s not forget to add the scenic Iskar Gorge to the list. The nature park near the town of Vratsa, 120 km north of Sofia, is perfect for those who love trekking and those who want to make a journey back in history and follow the steps of the 19th-century Bulgarian rebels who fought for the liberation of the country from the Ottomans.
Stara Planina’s highest peak - Botev (2376 m), is located in the central section of the mountain. Here lies Dzhendema – the biggest nature reserve on the territory of the mountain, home to many different animal and plant species and also to Raysko Praskalo Waterfall - the highest waterfall on the Balkan Peninsula. In the summer when the weather is hot and the sky is clear this place is perfect for camping and hiking. And if you don’t like sleeping in a tent there are more than twenty chalets with available accommodation in the region to pick from. Shipka and Buzludha Peaks are the two historically important summits in this part of the mountain. But there are plenty more historical and cultural sites at its foot. These are the Etar open-air architectural-ethnographic complex, the town of Tryavna, cultural and artistic centre, Klisura, Kalofer and Sopot, all of which were instrumental for the preservation and development of Bulgarian culture during and after the Ottoman Rule, the village of Bozhentsi, architectural and historic reserve and Kazanlak, the town of roses.
Eastern Stara Planina is the last section of the mountain. In this region one can visit the Blue Rocks Nature Park near Sliven, 100 km west of Burgas, the town of Kotel and the village of Zheravna, two of the most emblematic places from the Bulgarian Revival Period. But most importantly this is where the forests and the hills meet the virgin sands of Irakli. This is where the mountain meets the Black Sea.
Photos by D.Dimitrov, D.Alexov