The Balkan Mountains are the longest range on the Balkan Peninsula. The main range to the south and the Pre-Balkan to the south are separated by a number of hollows and valleys. The length of the main range is about 340 mls. The Balkan Mountains stretch from the river Timok to Cape Emine of the Black Sea. They divide Bulgaria into two roughly equal parts - Northern and Southern Bulgaria. The mountains are an important climatic barrier - they protect Southern Bulgaria from the north winds and make its climate milder.
The ancient name of the mountains was Haemus. When the Turks invaded the Balkan Peninsula they called the mountains Balkan, meaning “a wooded mountain range” and the whole peninsula became known as the Balkan Peninsula. The Bulgarians call the mountains “St. Planina”, which means “old mountains”.
The Balkan Mountains are divided into 3 sections: Western, Central and Eastern. The highest section is the Central Balkan and the highest peak - Mount Botev (2376 m), is situated there. (Mount Musala, Rila Mountains - 2925 m)
The Balkan Mountains are the site of large deciduous forests, mainly of oak and beech. They contain deposits of coal, iron and copper. There are also a number of quarries which produce marble, limestone and sandstone.
The Balkan Mountains are the cradle of the Bulg. nation - Preslav, the capital in the 9-10th c., and Turnovo, capital in the 13-14th c. were founded in the foothills of the Pre-Balkan. During the Ottoman invasion in the 14th c. a large number of Bulgarians fled from the plains and found refuge in the Balkan. In later centuries the high mountains were a natural shelter for the Bulgarian insurgents. In 1877 Shipka Pass was the scene of the most decisive battle of the War of Liberation. During the II. World War the Balkan Mountains were again the shelter for the partisans, who fought against the Nazis. The mountains are closely associated with Bulgarian history. Their praises have been sung in many poems and folk songs.
The Balkan Mountains, their central parts and the Pre-Balkan in particular, are much visited by tourists and hikers. The towns, situated on their slopes and the numerous holiday houses and huts there provide good accommodation facilities.