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Rhodope Mountains

The Rhodopes are a mountain range in Southeastern Europe, with over 83% of its area in southern Bulgaria and the remainder in Greece. Its highest peak, Golyam Perelik (2,191 m), is the seventh highest Bulgarian mountain. The region is particularly notable for the Karst areas with their deep river gorges, large caves and specific sculptured forms, such as the Trigrad Gorge.

The Rhodopes are spread over 14,737 km?, of which 12,233 km? are on Bulgarian territory. The mountains are about 220 km long and about 100-120 km wide, with an average altitude of 785 m. 15 reserves have been established in the region, some of which under UNESCO protection. There are many mineral water springs, the most famous being in Velingrad and Narechen.

The Western Rhodopes are the larger (66% of the area of the Rhodopes in Bulgaria), higher, most infrastructurally developed and most visited part of the mountains. The highest and best known peaks are located in the region (more than 10 are over 2,000 m) including the highest one, Golyam Perelik (2,191 m). Among the other popular peaks are Shirokolashki Snezhnik (2,188 m), Golyam Persenik (2,091 m), Batashki Snezhnik (2,082 m), Turla (1,800 m). Some of the deepest river gorges in the Rhodopes are located in the western parts, as well as the rock phenomenon Wonderful Bridges. Significant bodies of water include the Chaira lakes and the dams Dospat, Batak, Shiroka Polyana, Golyam Beglik and Toshkov Chark.

The city of Batak is also located in this part of the mountains, as well as the popular tourist centres Smolyan, Velingrad, Devin, Chepelare, the winter resort Pamporovo, the Eastern Orthodox Bachkovo Monastery, the ruins of the Asen dynasty's fortress, the caves Dyavolskoto Garlo, Yagodinska and many others. The highest village in Bulgaria, Manastir (over 1,500 m), is crouched in the northern foot of Prespa Peak. A number of architectural reserves, such as Shiroka Laka, Kovachevitsa, Momchilovtsi, Kosovo, are also located in the area.

The Eastern Rhodopes are spread over a territory of about 34% of the mountains' area in Bulgaria, constituing a much lower part. The large artificial dams Kardzhali and Studen Kladenets are located in this part of the mountains. The region is rich in thermal mineral springs. The waters around Dzhebel have national reputation for healing various diseases. Belite Brezi is an important healing centre for respiratory and other ailments.

The location of the Rhodopes in the southeastern part of the Balkan Peninsula determines the climate in the region to a great extent. It is influenced both by the colder air coming from the north and by the warmer breeze from the Mediterranean. The mild climate, combined with some other factors, works in favour of the development of recreation and tourist activities. The Pamporovo resort, where the microclimate permits a heavy snow cover to be preserved for a long time, is an excellent example.

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