The Balkan mountain range (Bulgarian and Стара планина, Stara planina, "Old Mountain"). The Balkan range runs 560 km from the Vrashka Chuka Peak on the border between Bulgaria and eastern Serbia eastward through central Bulgaria to Cape Emine on the Black Sea. The highest peaks of the Stara planina are in central Bulgaria. The highest peak is Botev (2,376 m), located in the Central Balkan National Park (established 1991). The mountain gives the name of the Balkan Peninsula. Stara Planina played an enormous role in the History of Bulgaria and the development of the Bulgarian nation and people.
Stara Planina is remarkable for its flora and fauna. Edelweiss grows there in the region of Kozyata stena. Some of the most striking landscapes are included in the Central Balkan National Park with steep cliffs, the highest waterfalls in the Balkan peninsula and lush vegetation. There are a number of important nature reserves such as Chuprene, Kozyata stena and others.
In geological term Stara Planina is a young mountain. It is part of the Alp-Himalayan chain which stretches across most of Europe and Asia. It can be divided into two parts: the main Balkan Chain and the Pre-Balkan which follows the main chain to the north.
The mountain is crossed by 20 passes and 2 gorges. There are paved roads crossing Stara Planina at the following passes (listed from west to east):
Stara Planina has a significant and special place in the history of Bulgaria from its foundation in 681. It was a natural fortress of the Bulgarian Empire for centuries and formed an effective barrier to Moesia where most of the Medieval capitals were located. The Balkan mountains were the site of numerous battles between the Bulgarian and the Byzantine Empires including the Battle of the Rishki Pass (759), Battle of the Varbitsa Pass (811), Battle of Tryavna (1190) and many others. In the battle of the Varbitsa Pass Khan Krum decisively defeated an enormous Byzantine army killing Emperor Nikephoros I. For many centuries the Byzantines feared that mountain and on several occasions Byzantine armies had pulled back only on the news of approaching Stara Planina.
During the Ottoman rule many haiduks found refuge in Stara Planina. Close to the highest summit, the Botev Peak, is Kalofer, the birth place of Hristo Botev, a Bulgarian poet and national hero who died in the Western Stara Planina near Vratsa in 1876 in the struggle against the Ottoman Empire. Also close to Botev peak is the Shipka Pass, the scene of the four battles in Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78 which ended Turkish rule in the Balkans. Close to the pass in the village of Shipka there is a Russian Orthodox church, built to commemorate Russian and Bulgarian bravery during pass defense.