Bulgaria is truly a land of outstanding beauty and astonishing heritage linking the East and the West, located on the northeastern portion of the Balkan Peninsula, in southeastern Europe and on the Black Sea. Bulgaria borders five other Balkan countries: Romania to the north /mostly along the Danube/, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south. Population of Bulgaria is approximately 8.8 million, of which about 1,2 million inhabitants live in the Capital of Sofia. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometers, Bulgaria ranks as the 16th largest country in Europe.
Bulgaria has a wealth of attractions for visitors, much more beautiful and diverse than you would ever expect, including wealth of historical monuments, long and beautiful sandy beaches, gorgeous mountain landscape with intriguing caves, waterfalls, striking rock formations, picturesque lakes and rivers, numerous different species of birds, plants and butterflies, ancient cultural and religious monuments, well-preserved medieval monasteries, vineyards and wineries, delicious traditional food, and welcoming and nice people. Many villages hidden in the Bulgarian mountains, pretty and colorful, keep alive the spirit and the culture of the Bulgarian Revival. The houses in the Bulgarian villages and small towns are all surrounded by plots with grapes, sunflower, fruit trees, vegetables, roses, tobacco and lavender. Bulgaria is a vibrant Balkan country and therefore offers a wide variety of holidays as memorable cultural tours, beach holidays, ski holidays, golf, lakes and mountains holidays, horse-back riding and city breaks.
Bulgaria’s geography varies from vast lowlands in the north, highlands and elevated plains in the south, and the beautiful Black Sea coast in the east. Bulgaria features notable natural diversity, which consists of the Rila, Pirin and the Balkan Mountains landscape of the Alpine snow-capped peaks, the mild and sunny Black Sea coast, the fertile area of the typically continental Danube Plain /ancient Moesia/ occupying one-third of the country and the strong Mediterranean climatic influence in the valleys of Macedonia and in the lowlands in the southernmost parts of Thrace. Plains make about 30% of Bulgaria, while plateaus, mountains and hills account for 41%. The part of Southern Bulgaria that is not taken up by mountains carries the ancient name of Thrace (Northern Thrace, to be exact) and is home to wineries, orchards and fields of roses, sunflowers and tobacco.
Several mountainous areas define the landscape of Bulgaria. Stara Planina Mountains /Balkan Mountains/ spread most notably west east through the middle of the country covering more than the half of the country, north of the Rose Valley. “Balkan” means “a chain of wooded mountains” in Turkish. South of the Balkan range lie the Rhodope Mountains, and the two chains meet in the region of Sofia, in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula. Between the Balkan and the Rhodope ranges is the broad valley of the Maritza /Evros-Hebros-Ibar/ River, continuing as the undulating plain to Istanbul. Rhodope Mountain ranges are lower but more extensive and stretch further east, as well as the Rila Mountain range, which includes the highest peak in the Balkan region, Musala at 2,925 meters.
The wildlife of Bulgaria includes some of the rarest species in Europe. Hilly countryside and plains lay to the southeast, along the Black Sea coast, and along Bulgaria’s main river, the Danube to the north. Strandza Mountain forms the tallest mountain in the southeast of Bulgaria. Few mountains and hills exist in the northeast region of Dobrudzha. If you are looking for ski-holiday, you have the option to pick from Bulgaria’s three wonderfully established ski resorts: Bansko, Pamporovo and Borovets with Bansko being the most modern of them all. Bansko is Bulgaria’s premier ski resort which has the best snow record and the longest ski season found in Bulgaria. The ski season in Bansko typically lasts 5 months, from mid December to mid April. Pamporovo, the pearl of the Bulgarian mountain resorts, nests in the heart of the Rhodopes, 260 km from the capital Sofia, and 85 km south of the city of Plovdiv. Magnificent pine forests, green meadows and mountain peaks bathed in sunlight – these are the incredible Rhodope Mountains you never forget. Altitude of the Pamporovo resort is 1650 meters while the highest point Snejanka is 1926 meters high. Pamporovo is the sunniest Bulgarian mountain resort with wonderful snow throughout the whole season. One day on the slopes of Pamporovo is enough to give you a nice golden tan. These Bulgarian ski resorts cater for everyone, from beginners to intermediates, from skiers to snowboarders.
Three National Parks – The Central-Balkan National Park, Rila National Park and Pirin National Park, 11 Nature Parks and 17 Biosphere reserves exist on Bulgaria’s territory. Nearly 35% of its land area consists of forests. The brown bear and the jackal are prominent mammals, while the Eurasian lynx, and the Eastern Imperial eagle and the European mink have small, but growing populations. In summer of 2012 thousands of Bulgarians protest against changes to the law on forest funds, which would allow the expansion of ski slopes into the parks. Especially at risk is Vitosha Park, the green lung of the capital Sofia.
Bulgaria has a dense network of about 540 rivers, most of them short and of low water-levels with the notable exception of the Danube. Bulgarian rivers mostly flow through its mountainous areas. Other major rivers of Bulgaria include the Struma and the Maritza Rivers in the south. The Maritsa is the principal river of Bulgaria – the ancient Hebros River, which took its name from a Thracian river-god, but the Danube runs through this country as well. In contrast, the Danube Plain in the north and the Upper Thracian Plain in the south make Bulgaria’s lowest and most fertile regions. The 378-kilometer Black Sea coastline covers the entire eastern bound of Bulgaria. Stunning beaches, picturesque lagoons and bays covered with fine, natural sands attract visitors all year long. Some of the most popular Bulgaria’s summer resorts are Sunny Beach, Golden Sands, Albena, Duni and Nessebur.
Bulgaria has large deposits of bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, bismuth and manganese. Smaller deposits of iron, gold, silver, chromium and nickel exist. Bulgaria yielded in 2010 3,900,000 tons of wheat. In 2010 Bulgaria exported 1,590,426 tons of wheat that is almost doubled quantity of its 2009 wheat export. The European Investment Bank (EIB) is lending EUR 50 million to CIBANK to finance projects promoted by small and medium-sized enterprises and mid-cap companies in Bulgaria. EIB funds will support projects across the whole country, significantly supporting employment, crucial for further development of this sector, which is the backbone of the Bulgarian economy and the main driver of growth and employment. Besides roses, Bulgaria is still the global leader in the production and export of organic lavender oil and organic and natural honey. There are available specially selected varieties of traditional Bulgarian lavender growing organically at the foot of Stara Planina – Old Mountain and in the Kazanlak region.