“Rila” is a mountain range in southwestern Bulgaria, about 100km south of Sofia and it is the highest mountain range of Bulgaria and the Balkans, with its highest pike being “Musala” at 2,925m. More than one-third of the mountain is occupied by the “Rila National Park”, the rest lies within the “Rila Monastery Nature Park”. The name “Rila” means “well-watered mountain”. Culturally, Rila is famous for the Rila Monastery, Bulgaria’s largest and most important monastery, founded in the 10th century by Saint John of Rila. Alongside the cultural landmarks the mountain is also famous for the “Seven Rila Lakes”.
Rila is subdivided into several parts:
- EAST RILA or the MUSALA RIDGE isthe highest and vastest part. “LEDENO EZERO” (“Icy Lake”) lies in this part of Rila and it is the highest lake of the Balkans at 2,709m, as well as the “Musala Lakes”, “Maritsa Lakes” and the “Ropalitsa Lakes”. Here is also located the renowned mountain resort of “Borovets”.
- CENTRAL RILA or SKAKAVETS RIDGE is most famous for the glacial lakes-the “Fish Lakes”, “Dzhendem Lakes”, “Monastery Lakes”. The largest glacial lake of the Balkans, “SMRADLIVO EZERO” (“Stinky Lake”) is located in Central Rila, as well as the peaks “Kanarata”, “Cherna polyana”, “Malak Skakavets” and “Golyam Skakavets”, Rilets. The ridge of “Skakavtsi” rises isolated between the “Levi” and “Beli Iskar” rivers.
- NORTHWEST RILA is known for the “Seven Rila Lakes” that are the most important landmark in this part.
- SOUTHWEST RILA or KAPATNIK RIDGE has the oldest reserve of Bulgaria.
An important factor for the development of the educational tourism in the National Park of “Rila” are the archaeological, historical, architectural and cultural monuments and places in the Park and in the region.
Many cultural monuments of national importance are found in the park: The remains of an ancient Roman road in the place of “Pomochena polyana”; The Municipality of Kostenetz; the St. Todor Stratilat church – art monument (the village of Dolno Dragalishte); the St. Georgi church ( the town of Belovo) – architectural and art monument.