Stara planina (in English Old Mountain) belongs to the Balkan Mountain Range. This range extends from the Black Sea in the east to Vrska Cuka in the west. This mountain range is around 530 kilometers long. The highest peak 2,377 m of this range is settled in Bulgaria and it is called Botev. This range is also called Balkan and represents the source of the name of the peninsula, the Balkan Peninsula.
This mountain represents one part of a huge mountain range which is called Carpathian-Balkan range. Only a small western part of this range is settled in Serbia. The highest peak in Serbia is Midzor (2.169 m). This mountain range is spectacular and represents one of the most beautiful in this part of the world. It forms the watershed between the Black Sea and Aegean Sea catchment areas. The exception is one part in west crossed by the spectacular Iskar Gorge. This area is known for its karst relief, with large number of caves such as Magura, Ledenika, Saeva dupka, Bacho Kiro, etc. The most notable rock formation is the Belogradchik Rocks in the west.
This range has several protected areas. Some of them are Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park, Central Balkan National Park and many others. There are also many nature reserves. Stara planina is remarkable for its flora and fauna. Here you will find steep cliffs, the highest waterfalls, lush vegetation, in other words-everything. In this area there are some of Europe’s largest mammals such as brown bear, boar, wolf, deer, etc.
This mountain played an important role in the history and development of people here.
The name of the range was probably brought in the 7th century by Bulgarian people. In Bulgarian the word Balkan means “mountain”. This mountain range changed its name or it was called differently throughout history and by different nations.
Climate and relief
Stara Planina is characterized by moderate continental mountain climate. If you go from lower to higher parts you will face lower temperatures and higher humidity. The coldest month is January (average temperature 0, 5 degrees) and the warmest is July (about 22 degrees).
The relief of Stara Planina is of tectonic origin and is characterized by sharpened and deep valley with short flows.
Flora and fauna
Both, flora and fauna of Stara planina are incredible and very rich. There are over 1200 types of plants here (over 100 protected and about 50 that are listed as endangered).
When it comes to animals, the Nature Park Stara planina is home for many birds, mammals, amphibians, fish and reptiles.
Stara planina is a natural jewel. Seeking for adventures, many tourists enjoy fast but short mountain rivers. They simply hold your breath. They are incredible. Here you may find those safe and accessible waterfalls as well as those completely isolated and inaccessible. There is a data that the largest number of waterfalls in Serbia is actually here (almost every third). The area of Stara planina is far away from civilization, well hidden and preserved so most of these waterfalls are only available to experienced hikers and tourists who are really into adventures. The nature here is intact, beautiful and perfect. Some of the most famous are: Tupavica, Bigar, Piljski, etc.
If you like adventures and especially intact nature Stara planina is a place for you. But be advised to go with some experienced hiker or a person who knows this area very well. This is a place far away from civilization, wild and free.
Like everything in this mountain the dairy is also special. You won’t be able to resist its specialties. I recommend a meal called “Belmuzh”. It is made of only two things: cheese and flour. It should be cooked in caldrons, and beside salt, no other ingredient should be added. Cheese can be made from cow’s milk, but it is better when it’s prepared with sheep’s milk cheese (then it’s a real thing). The cheese shouldn’t be older than two days. People here say that it’s complete only when it’s made by man hand because it’s believed that this gives the strength and power to Belmuzh (It only consist of two things so it needs man’s hand to give it strength.).
Kacamk (a thing similar to polenta) and corn bread, made of flour ground on water mill, mixed with sheep’s milk cheese are something you shouldn’t miss if you come to Stara planina.
Cheese and milk, especially made of sheep you can’t skip here. If you add a cheese pie to it, you’ve found a perfect, unsurpassed breakfast.
Since everything here is wild and intact, a wild garlic salad is also a great choice. Combine it with meet specialties (of wild animals). Dried meat is also very popular in Stara planina.
If you enjoy fruit, try blueberry, blackberry or elderberries. Different juices and jams are made of these.
Stara planina is most certainly a place where you can experience adventures. Its intact nature, wild life, perfect flora and delicious food will make you lose your breath and forget even for a while that there is such a thing as civilization. You will enjoy away from your phones, tablets, computers, every day rush and stress and fell like the time has stopped.