Stara Planina Mountain

Stara Planina Mountain

The elongated, 130 km-long ridge of the Stara Planina Mountain /Old Mountain/ forms a natural border between Serbia and Bulgaria. Another name for Stara Planina Mountain is the Balkan Mountain, after which the entire Balkan Peninsula was named. Some of the most striking Balkan landscapes which are pride of both Serbia and Bulgaria are situated on Stara Planina Mountain. Stara Planina Mountain in Serbia spreads on the surface of 1500 km2 capturing Knjaževac, Zaječar, Dimitrovgrad and Pirot Municipalities, while in Bulgaria its slopes reach the Black Sea. Stara Planina Mountain is an extension of the Carpathian mountain ranges. The highest peak of the Stara Planina Mountain is Botev peak (2,376 m), located within the Central Balkan National Park in Bulgaria. In recent decades there is enormous responsibility and unbearable challenges to preserve the unique environment of Stara Planina Mountain, following the principles of sustainable tourism and responsible use and management of resources.

The range of Stara Planina Mountain forms the major natural division between the Danube River in the north and the Maritsa River in the south. The slopes of Stara Planina Mountain towards Bulgaria are steep and hardly accessible, while the western side of the mountain gently descends towards the Nišava river valley. However, the Serbian border area towards Bulgaria, called the Šopluk features extraordinary natural beauties and cultural elements and well-preserved customs! Here on Stara Planina Mountain there are tiny scattered /and often nearly deserted/ sleepy villages of traditional architecture, spectacular mountain peaks, numerous breathtaking waterfalls and lakes, forested valleys intersected with mountain streams, gorgeous ravines and caves. There are numerous options and well-marked trails for hiking and trekking, along the hiking paths through forests and meadows of varied difficulty levels, that are part of the EU Hiking Corridor E4. The specially attractive is to hike to the highest peak of the central Serbia -. the Midzor peak, 2169 meters, along the hiking trail which starts from the Mountain hut and the Babin zub Hotel on the Stara Planina Mountain.

Stara Planina Mountain is very rich in waters, mountain streams, river canyons, colossal rocks and waterfalls. The whole watershed of Stara Planina Mountain belongs to the Black Sea watershed. In Serbian part of Stara Planina Mountain all rivers flow into Timok or Nišava rivers. Trgoviški Timok River sources just beneath the Babin Zub peak, while Nišava River source is situated beneath the Kom peak (2016meters) in Bulgaria. Other important rivers and streams of Stara Planina Mountain are Toplodolska, Visočica, Dojkinačka, Jelovička and Rosomačka Rivers. All of these rivers and streams join in the following way : Rosomačka river flows into the Visočica river, the Jelovička and the Dojkinačka rivers join and together flow into Visočica river, Toplodolska river and Visočica river join and create Temštica river, which afterward flows into Nišava river. Visocica river creates the Zavojskor lake on its lower course. The highest and most amazing waterfalls on Stara Planina Mountain are situated within the Arbinje Nature Reserve /strictly protected area of Stara Planina Mt/ that provide unique impressions of visitors – the  Tupavica Waterfalls, the Koprenski vodopad waterfalls, the Čunguljski vodopad – Cungulj Waterfalls, which is 42 meters high, Tri kladenca waterfalls and the Piljski vodopad – Pilj Waterfalls, whose cascades are 64 meters high.

The area of Stara Planina has a typical sub – Alpine climate with a considerable number of sunny days, heavy snowfall… On Stara Planina Mountain you can find snow about 120 days per year. Ski Center “Babin zub” contains ski runs on locations of “Konjarnik”, “Sunčana dolina” and “Markova livada”, which provides skiing under stars – night skiing due to lit trails. Ski Center of “Babin zub” features brand new 4-seater gondola of “Konjarnik” with moving belt for embarkation of skiers, with capacity of 1500 skiers in hour, and the ski lift of “Sunčana dolina” with capacity of 1200 skiers per hour, as well as the ski-lift of “Markova livada” which also provides exceptional ski enjoyment.

The Serbian part of the Nature Park of Stara Planina Mountain covers the surface of 114000 hectares. Stara Planina Mountain is mountainous area with exceptional natural richness and biological diversity. The Serbian part of the Stara Planina Mt has at least 1742 growing plant species (including 41 indigenous orchids), of which 160 (9.2%) are locally or regionally endemic. Stara Planina is one of the richest plant areas of Serbia, with about 1,190 plant and 51 moss species, equivalent to 34% of the nationally identified plant species. The main vegetation formations of Stara Planina Mountain are forests, shrub vegetation, grasslands (cutting meadows and grazing pastures) and bog plant associations. Endemics are the most threatened category and also the most important florist element of the biodiversity of Stara Planina Mountain. 224 bird species are found on Stara Planina Mountain. In forests and on lush pastures of Stara Planina live foxes, wolves, roe-deer, eagles and semi-wild horses. Ancient forests of Stara Planina are home to large carnivores such as wolves and brown bears.

The highest peak of the Serbian part of the Stara Planina Mountain is Midzor (2169 m above sea level) at the same time the second highest peak in Serbia. Other important peaks of Stara Planina Mountain are Golema Cuka 1961 meters, Vrazja Glava 1938 meters, Srebrna Glava 1933 meters, Kopren 1963 meters… They are true challenge for remarkably endurance climbers and mountaineers. Stara Planina Mountain also features excellent terrains for mountain biking, canyoning, trekking, endurance and gliding ! Stara planina Mountain is almost five months covered with snow, on its ski terrains at the altitude between 1100 and 1900 meters, providing excellent conditions for ski and winter sports. The climate of the Stara Planina Mountain is characterized as a transitional zone between the moderately continental and the mountainous climates, influenced from the west by the Vlasina plateau, the Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea, from the south by the Mediterranean sea and from the Balkan Mountain as a whole. Yet Stara Planina Mountain is particularly deceptive and dangerous for hikers who are not well prepared, well equipped or well acquainted with the mountain. The deceptively warm sunny weather is very quickly replaced by thick fog, cloud cover and sustained winds. Temperature fluctuations on Stara Planina Mountain are also sharp and drastic.

Have you ever tried the Stara Planina hard cheese ? If not, make sure you taste this unique product  on your fist visit to this gorgeous Mountain – Beauty ! Locals say the best way to feel the richness of the herbs of Stara Planina Mountain is through the taste of the sheep’s milk, from which hard and matured kackavalj cheese is produced. Famous delicious pirotski kackavalj, which used to reach the Sultan table in the past, usually comes from milk of the two indigenous Stara Planina sheep breeds – pirotska pramenka and pirotska pramenka oplemenena, /Pirot sheep improved/ selected by local breeders over the centuries. The archives tell us that the nomadic and pastoral Tsintsars – Aromunen contributed to the modernization of Serbia with the technique of kaškavalj cheese production. This region had in the past relatively strong rural economy based on sheep and goat dairy products and livestock production used to be functional part of the West Stara Planina agro-ecological landscape. Indigenous sheep, goat, cattle flocks and traditional extensive farming systems shaped for centuries the valleys, meadows, pastures, forests and the culture of the various Balkan ethnic groups in the Stara Planina Mountain. Perfectly organized systems of livestock primary production, processing and trading, long and high quality experience in organizing co-operatives in Stara Planina Mt area has provided welfare to the rural population for ages. The meat and diary products of those breeds are part of the tradition and have very high value because of their excellent nutritional qualities. Pirotski kackavalj or Staroplaninski kackavalj is manufactured traditionally by soaking of mature cheese (baskija) and hand making a wheel of cheese. Ripening and salting of cheese in the climate conditions of Stara Planina Mt, gave recognizable taste of the renown Pirotski kachkavalj – featuring mark of the protected geographic origin for domestic and international market.

Museums, handcraft exhibitions, rural tourism suppliers, picturesque Medieval churches and monasteries, and various tourist-hotel facilities and other types of comfortable /and affordable/ accommodation, and hidden sights of interest give a full idea of the Stara Planina region’s cultural and historical heritage, its traditional arts, unique crafts as pottery and folklore. The precious Pirot ćilims – wool carpets preserve the century old tradition of Stara Planina and are famous for their extraordinary quality, creativity of design and patterns, and beauty of colors. Stara Planina Mountain in Serbia is located some 70 km from the Nis, 300 km from Beograd, 50 km from the city of Pirot.