Official name : Republic of Bulgaria
Area: 110,910 square kilometers (42,811 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Musala (2,925 meters/9,596 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 2 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 330 kilometers (205 miles) from north to south; 520 kilometers (323 miles) from east to west
Land boundaries: 1,808 kilometers (1,343 miles) total boundary length; The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Macedonia), 148 kilometers (92 miles); Greece, 494 kilometers (307 miles); Romania, 608 kilometers (378 miles); Turkey, 240 kilometers (149 miles); Serbia and Montenegro (formerly part of Yugoslavia), 318 kilometers (197 miles)
Coastline: 354 kilometers (214 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
Bulgaria is part of the Balkan Peninsula (peninsula surrounded by, from west to east, the Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean, and Black Seas) in southeastern Europe. It has an eastern coastline on the Black Sea and shares borders with Romania, Turkey, Greece, the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia (Macedonia) and Serbia and Montenegro (formerly part of Yugoslavia). With an area of about 110,910 square kilometers (42,811 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of Tennessee. Bulgaria is divided into twenty-eight provinces.
Bulgaria claims no territories or dependencies.
Overall, Bulgaria's climate is temperate, with cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers. There is, however, a modified Mediterranean climate in the Thacian Plain, because of the protection offered by the Balkan Mountains.
Rainfall is generally light in the plateaus, averaging about 65 centimeters (25 inches) per year, and higher in the mountain ranges, where it can reach up to 152 centimeters (60 inches). Most rainfall occurs during the winter months.
|S EASON||M ONTHS||A VERAGE T EMPERATURE °C ELSIUS (°F AHRENHEIT )|
|Summer||May to September||22 to 24°C (72 to 75°F)|
|Winter||November to February||0 to 2°C (32 to 36°F)|
Bulgaria occupies a relatively small area, but is nevertheless a land of unusual scenic beauty. It has picturesque mountains, wooded hills, sheltered valleys, grain-producing plains, and a seacoast along the Black Sea that has both rocky cliffs and long sandy beaches.
In the north of the country is the Danubian Plain. The central portion of the country houses the Balkan Mountains and south of them is the Maritsa River. The Rhodope Mountains are found in the south and southwest areas of the country. Located on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate, Bulgaria is crossed by fault lines that cause frequent earthquakes.
Bulgaria has an eastern coastline on the Black Sea, an inland body of water between Europe and Asia. The waters of the Black Sea are calm and free of tides or dangerous marine life. Called the "Hospitable Sea" by the ancient Greeks, the Black Sea is half as salty as the Mediterranean Sea and has gentle sandy slopes, making it ideal for swimming.
Burgaski Zaliv is a bay that indents the coast deeply in the south. Cape Emine extends eastward in the north.
Bulgaria's coast on the Black Sea is curved, providing for many beaches along its 354 kilometers (214 miles) of shoreline. Many of the country's beaches have received awards from the European Union for their environmental excellence. The coastline is varied, with coves, rugged shores, wooded hills, orchards, and fishing villages dotting the expansive area.
Most of the estimated 280 glacial lakes are situated in the Rila and Pirin Mountains, at altitudes of 2,200 to 2,400 meters (7,216 to 7,872 feet). The highest of these, Ledenika Lake in the Rila Mountains, lies at an altitude of 2,715 meters (8,905 feet). Located in the Pirin Mountains, Popovo Lake, also known as the "Pirin Sea," is the largest lake in the country. It covers an area of 12.4 hectares (30.7 acres) and is 480 meters (1,575 feet) long and 336 meters (1,102 feet) wide.
The Danube (Dunav) River, which forms the majority of Bulgaria's border with Romania, is by far the longest river in the country and is the second-longest waterway in Europe. With a total length of 2,850 kilometers (1,770 miles), it is deep and wide enough to be navigable by ocean vessels throughout Bulgaria. Most of the northern part of the country drains into the Black Sea via the Danube and its tributaries. Many of these tributaries, including the Yantra and the Osum, rise in the Balkan Mountains. One notable exception is the Iskur, which rises in the Rila Mountains and flows northward, passing through Sofia's eastern suburbs before it cuts a valley through the Balkan Mountains.
South of the Balkan Mountains, most rivers flow south into the Aegean Sea. Most notable among these rivers are the Mesta, the Struma, and the Maritsa, and the Maritsa's tributaries, the Tundzha and Arda. Together, these waterways provide drainage for most of the Thracian Plain. The Kamchiya River in the northeast is the only large river to flow directly into the Black Sea. In the southeast, the Ropotamo River is the center of a large habitat for birds.
There are no desert regions in Bulgaria.
The Thracian Plain and Danubian Plain, both of which exist on large plateaus, have great varieties of vegetation. They are both densely populated and cultivated.
The north-flowing rivers have cut deep valleys through the Balkan Mountains and the Danubian Plain.
The famous Valley of Roses lies between the Balkan and Sredna Mountains. In this valley, hundreds of thousands of roses are in bloom during the months of May and June. At least 80 percent of the world's attar of roses (the fragrant oil used in perfumes) is produced here.
The Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina) comprise the biggest and longest mountain chain. As an extension of the Carpathian Mountains, the Balkans cover 700 kilometers (435 miles) across the central portion of the entire country, declining in altitude towards the east. The range's highest peak is Botev at 2,376 meters (7,793 feet). Just to the south of the central part of this range are the Sredna Mountains (Sredna Gora), a 160-kilometer (100-mile) long ridge that runs almost directly from east to west at an average height of 1,600 meters (5,249 feet).
The other major mountain range is the Rhodope. These mountains mark the southern and southwestern borders of Bulgaria and include the Vitosha, Rila, and Pirin Mountains. These last two ranges are largely volcanic in origin and are the highest mountains on the Balkan Peninsula. Musala in the Rila Mountains is the tallest peak in the country at 2,925 meters (9,596 feet).
The densest forests in the country are in the mountainous regions. Broadleaf forests blanket the low areas of both the Balkan and Rho-dope ranges, while conifers thrive at the higher elevations. In general, broadleaf forests are the predominant forest throughout the country.
Tirgard Gorge is located in the West Rhodope Mountains, near the town of Devin. The gorge is about 500 meters (1,640 feet) long with cliffs above 300 meters (984 feet) high. The path to the gorge consists of an 80-meter (262 feet) rock tunnel.
Novi Iskur Gorge, surrounding the Iskara River, is located between the towns of Novi Iskur and Chomakovtsi. This gorge stretches for a length of about 156 kilometers (97 miles) and features a variety of rock formations.
The Balkan Peninsula, the southernmost peninsula of Europe, borders the Adriatic and Ionian Seas to the west, the Black and Aegean Seas to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The countries within this region are collectively called the Balkan States. These nations include Albania, Bulgaria, continental Greece, southeast Romania, European Turkey, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia.
More than two thousand caves are scattered amidst the limestone layers of the Pirin and the Balkan Mountains. The most notable of these caves are Bacho Kiro, Ledenika, Magura, Snezhanka, and Jamova Dupka.
The Danubian Plain extends from the Serbia and Montenegro border to the Black Sea. The plateau rises from cliffs along the Danube River and extends south to the Balkan Mountains at elevations as high as 457 meters (1,500 feet). On the southern side of the Balkan Mountains is another plateau, the Thracian Plain, which is drained by the Maritsa River. Both plateaus are fertile regions of hills and plains, gradually declining in elevation as they approach the Black Sea.
The Melnik Pyramids are natural rock formations found in the southwestern slopes of the Pirin Mountains. These amazing monolithic sculptures come in a variety of shapes, including some that look like Egyptian pyramids and Gothic temples.
The Ivanovo Rock Monasteries, located in the Roussenski Lom River valley in northeast Bulgaria, have been designated as a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site.
Hermit monks built the monastery during the twelfth century, carving the cells and chapels of the structure into the rocks. Two hundred years after the construction, the walls of most of the rooms were covered with exquisite fresco paintings.
Cary, William. Bulgaria Today: The Land and the People, a Voyage of Discovery. New York: ExpositionPress, 1965.
Detrez, Raymond. Historical Dictionary of Bulgaria. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1997.
Hoddinott, Ralph F. Bulgaria in Antiquity: An Archaeological Introduction. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1975.
Pettifer, James. Bulgaria. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.
Bulgarian Travel Guide: Explore Bulgaria. http://www.travel-bulgaria.com/content/explore_bulgaria.shtml (accessed May 2, 2003).