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Rila as seen from space
Rila as seen from Kostenets
Rila mountains with snow

Rila (Bulgarian: Рила, pronounced [ˈrilə]) is a mountain range in southwestern Bulgaria and the highest mountain range of Bulgaria and the Balkans, with its highest peak being Musala at 2,925 m. The massif is also the sixth highest mountain in Europe (when each mountain is represented by its highest peak only), coming after the Caucasus, the Alps, Sierra Nevada, the Pyrenees and Mount Etna, and the highest between the Alps and the Caucasus. The larger part of the mountain is occupied by the Rila National Park.

The name Rila is allegedly of Thracian origin and is thought to mean "well-watered mountain", owing to Rila's abundance of glacial lakes (about 200) and hot springs in fault areas at the base of the mountain. Some of the Balkans' longest and deepest rivers originate from Rila, including the Maritsa, the Iskar and the Mesta.

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.



Rila is a dome-shaped horst mountain, part of the Balkans' oldest land, the Macedono-Thracian Massif. It was formed by granite and gneiss rocks and crystal schists during the Paleozoic (250,000,000 years ago). Rila's alpine relief was formed during the Pleistocene by a series of glacial periods. During the most recent, so-called Würm glaciation, 10-12,000 years ago the permanent snow line was at 2,100 m above sea level. Above this line glaciers radically changed the existing relief, carving out deep cirques, sharp pyramid-shaped peaks, rock pinnacles, various valleys, moraines and other typical glacial formations.

Borders and climate

Rila has an area of 2,400 km². The dome of the mountain rises over the surrounding mountain valleys, with the Borovets Saddle (1,305 m) connecting the main Musala Ridge with the Shipchan and Shumnitsa ridges that connect to the Ihtiman Sredna Gora mountains through the Gate of Trajan pass. The Yundola Saddle (1,375 m) and the Abraham Saddle (1,295 m) link Rila with the Rhodopes to the east, while the connection with Pirin is the Predel Saddle (1,140 m), the one with Verila being the Klisura Saddle (1,025 m).

The climate is typically alpine, with 2,000 mm of precipitation on Musala yearly, about half of which is snow. The lowest average temperature ever measured in February on Musala is –11.6°C and the absolute minimum is -31.2°C. An average temperature for August is 5.4°C, the maximum being 18.7°C.

Map of Rila mountains in English

Flora & Fauna

The flora of Rila contains three local endemics which are seen only in this mountain. These plants are Primula deorum (with the largest population), Rheum rhaponticum and Alchemilla pawlowskii. In the mountain thrives also 36 plants as Campanula lanata, Centaurea mannagettae which are endemic for the Balkans. Some of the plant species has been survived the last glacial period by turning into relict organisms. There is also many similar animals. Some of the members of this kingdom which lives in Rila are in danger. Such animals are Barbus cyclolepis (which is rare because of the habitat loss and the river pollution), Triturus alpestris, Spermophilus citellus (European Ground Squirrel) and others.

List of mammals in National park Rila

There are 48 mammal species in National park Rila


Eastern European hedgehog





European rabbit


• Wild mice


Water vole

Spermophilus citellus


Grey wolf

Red fox


European pine marten

Eurasian badger

Least weasel

European otter

Brown bear

Wild cat

Even-toed ungulates

Wild boar

Roe deer

Red deer

Alpine ibex

Wild goat


The average annual precipitation in Rila is several times the average for Bulgaria
The source of the Maritsa under Marishki vrah
Landscape from Rila close to the Seven Lakes

Rila is subdivided into several parts depending on their geographic position.

  • East Rila or the Musala Ridge is the highest and vastest part. The highest peak, as well as 12 of the 18 peaks over 2,700 m are located there — Musala, Yastrebets, Irechek, Deno Mancho, etc. The Musala Lakes lie in this part of Rila, as well as Ledeno ezero ("Icy Lake"), the highest lake of the Balkans at 2,709 m. Other lakes in East Rila include the Maritsa Lakes and the Ropalitsa Lakes. The renowned mountain resort of Borovets is also located in this part of the mountain.
  • Central Rila or the Skakavets Ridge is the smallest part (1/10 of the total area), most famous for the glacial lakes — the Fish Lakes, Dzhendem Lakes, Monastery Lakes. The largest glacial lake of the Balkans, Smradlivo ezero ("Stinky Lake") with an area of 21.2 km² is located in Central Rila, as well as the peaks Kanarata, Cherna polyana, Malak Skakavets and Golyam Skakavets, Rilets. The ridge of the Skakavtsi (the peaks of Golyam Skakavets and Malak Skakavets, Pchelina and Sveti Duh) rises isolated between the Levi and Beli Iskar rivers. Another well-known ridge in the area is the one of Marinkovitsa and Vodniya chal, extending to the forest reserve of Kobilino branishte.
  • Northwest Rila takes up 25% of Rila's total area. The highest peak is Golyam Kupen at 2,731 m. The Seven Rila Lakes are an important landmark in this part, as well as the many remote peaks and small lakes.
  • Southwest Rila or the Kapatnik Ridge occupies 30% of Rila and has the oldest reserve of Bulgaria. Apart from its small northern part, Southwest Rila does not have the alpine appearance of the other parts.

Peaks in Rila

  • Musala — 2,925 m
  • Malka Musala — 2,902 m
  • Ovcharets (Yurushki chal) — 2,768 m
  • Golyam Kupen — 2,731 m
  • Malyovitsa — 2,729 m
  • Popova kapa — 2,704 m
  • Malka Malyovitsa — 2,698 m
  • Lopushki vrah — 2,698 m
  • Lovnitsa — 2,695 m
  • Kanarata — 2,691 m
  • Orlovets — 2,685 m
  • Pastri slap (Aladzha slap) – 2,684 m
  • Zliya zab — 2,678 m
  • Eleni vrah — 2,654 m
  • Kovach (Nalbant) vrah - 2,640 m
  • Suha Vapa vrah - 2,638 m
  • Ravni vrah (Ravni chal) — 2,637 m
  • Belmeken — 2,627 m
  • Kamilata — 2,621 m
  • Golyam Mechi vrah — 2,618 m
  • Dvuglav — 2,605 m
  • Golyam Mramorets (Golyam Mermer) — 2,598 m
  • Dodov (Drushlevishki) vrah — 2,597 m
  • Kozi vrah — 2,587 m
  • Iglata — 2,575 m
  • Mechit — 2,568 m
  • Ushite — 2,560 m
  • Ptichi vrah (Ashiklar) — 2,536 m
  • Malak Mechit — 2,535 m
  • Yanchov vrah — 2,481 m
  • Malak Mechi vrah — 2,474 m
  • Strazhnik (Kurdzhilak) — 2,469 m
  • Budachki kamak — 2,447 m
  • Kukov vrah — 2,411 m
  • Tsarev vrah — 2,376 m
  • Ivan Vazov (Damga) — 2,342 m
  • Markov kamak (Gorna Kadiitsa) — 2,342 m
  • Malka Popova kapa — 2,180 m
  • Treshtenik — 2,020 m
  • Angelov vrah
  • Malak Lopushki vrah
  • Malak Mramorets (Malak Mermer)


Rila Point on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after Rila Mountain.

Panoramic views

Winter panorama of Northwestern Rila seen from Yastrebets
Panorama of the Seven Rila Lakes circus in Rila mountain

External links

Coordinates: 42°08′N 23°33′E / 42.133°N 23.55°E / 42.133; 23.55

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