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Balkan Mountains – WorldAtlas

Often called Stara Planina or “old mountain”, the Balkan Mountains are a mountain range located in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula in south-eastern Europe. The Balkan Mountains were colloquially known by their Thracian name, Haemus Mons, since ancient times. However, the term “Balkan” is a Turkish word for a forested mountain range. The geographic region of the Balkans was named after the Balkan Mountains.

Where are the Balkan mountains?

Map of Bulgaria and the Balkan Mountains.

The Balkan mountain range stretches approximately 557 km east from the Vrashka Chuka peak located on the border between Bulgaria and Serbia and through the central part of Bulgaria ending at Cape Emine on the coast of the black Sea.


Botev Peak, Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria. Image Credit: yakinii / Shutterstock

The Balkan Mountains cover a total area of ​​approximately 11,596 km2 and the width of the mountain range varies between 15 and 50 km. Located in the central part of Bulgaria, Botev Peak, which rises to 2376 m above sea level, is the highest peak in the Balkan Mountains. It also makes the Balkans the third highest mountain range in Bulgaria after the Rila and Pirin ranges. The Balkan mountain range divides Bulgaria into two halves, namely the northern and southern halves. The mountain range can be divided into three major sections: the Western Balkan Mountains, the Central Balkan Mountains and the Eastern Balkan Mountains.

The Western Balkan Mountains stretch for about 190 km and stretch from Vrashka Chuka peak on the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Arabakonak pass. Midžor Peak, which rises to 2,169 m, is the highest peak in the mountains of the Western Balkans.

The Central Balkan Mountains stretch for about 207 km and stretch from the Arabakonak Pass to the Vratnik Pass. Botev Peak, the highest peak of all the Balkan mountains, is located here.

The Eastern Balkan Mountains stretch for about 160 km and stretch from the Vratnik Pass to Cape Emine on the Black Sea coast. It forms the lowest part of the entire Balkan mountain range. Balgarka Peak, which rises to 1,181 m, is the highest point in the Eastern Balkan Mountains.

Geologically, the Balkan Mountains are a chain of young folded mountains and form a continuation of the Alpine-Carpathian system. Together with the Alps and the Himalayas, these mountains form the youngest folded mountain ranges on the planet. The Balkan Mountains form a major divide between the Danube in the north and the Maritsa River in the south. The Iskar River, the widest in Bulgaria, crosses the mountains and forms the Iskar Gorge, 70 km long. The rivers Archar, Timok, Lom, Osam, Ogosta and others originate in the Balkan mountains and flow into the Danube. Numerous waterfalls have been observed in the central and western parts of the Balkan Mountains. Some of the major waterfalls include Borov Kamak, Raysko Praskalo, Babsko Praskalo, and Karlovsko Praskalo. About 20 passes are located in the Balkan mountain ranges. Some of them are Shipka Pass, Petrohan Pass, Vratnik Pass and Beklemeto Pass.


A golden jackal in the Bulgarian mountain.

The Balkan mountain ranges are famous for their diverse flora and fauna. Vast uninterrupted expanses of coniferous and deciduous forests and alpine meadows have been discovered in the mountain ranges. Trees such as Bosnian pine, Macedonian pine, and King Boris fir are endemic to the Balkan mountain ranges. Several important mammals like the brown bear, wild boar, chamois, deer and wolf are found here. Many protected areas and important nature reserves are also located in these mountain ranges.

Brief history

Since the founding of the Kingdom of Bulgaria in AD 681, the Balkan mountain ranges have historically been important to the nation and served as a natural fortress for the Bulgarian Empire. Several battles between the Bulgarian and Byzantine Empires took place in these mountain ranges. The mountain town of Kalofer located near Botev Peak is the birthplace of famous Bulgarian national hero and poet Hristo Botev. The Shipka Pass also served as the site of many battles during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.