Blagoevgrad (population 70 900 inhabitants) is one of the largest towns in Southwestern Bulgaria. It is situated at the foot of the southwestern slopes of Rila Mountain, on both banks of Blagoevgradska Bistritza River, within the river-basin of the big Bulgarian river Struma. It is located 101 km south from Sofia.
Blagoevgrad area is part of the region, known as "Pirin" which is characterized by its unique geographic location, physical beauty of the surrounding mountains, and rich flora and fauna. Three majestic mountain ranges grace the plain - the Rila, Pirin and Rhodope Mountains. Picturesque lakes and roaring rivers provide the region with pure, fresh spring water. There are 30 mineral springs with temperature up to 55 C. This makes it a spa resort. The names of the local rivers Bistritsa, Glazene, Struma and Mesta echo in the songs and the folklore of the region. Blagoevgrad municipality has an ample supply of pure mineral water, river systems and lush mountain forests. The landscape is varied and beautiful. The physical characteristics combine to make Blagoevgrad the largest and most important town in southwestern Bulgaria. It is an important cultural, administrative, and industrial centre for the entire southwestern part of the country.
Human presence is detected from the New Stone Age onwards. Remains of a Neolithic settlement were found in 1959 at the nearby village of Tserovo. The settlement was within the Macedon Empire under Philip II. The nowadays town originated in the first years of the Ottoman domination at the place of the Thracian settlement Skaptopara, evidence of which we find in the notorious Skaptopraski inscription from 238. In the past the town was an important roadside fortress. In the 17th century monks from Rila Monastery opened an ecclesiastical school. During the second half of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century the town developed as a large centre of craftsmanship and commerce. After the Berlin Treaty, Gorna Djumaja (until 1950 the town has this name) remained within the borders of Turkey and that was the reason to turn into the cradle of resistance and people’s unity. The local population took active part in the uprising that followed. The town was liberated on the 5th of October 1912 (the Balkan War).
Blagoevgrad is rich in cultural monuments and interesting landmarks. The Museum of History is situated in Varosha district (the old part of the town). The museum-house of George Izmirliev – Makedoncheto, Stoyan Sotirov art gallery, Stanislav art gallery, Petit Bijoux art gallery, Vavedenie Bogorodichno (Assumption)church, as well as the renaissance houses in Varosha district are very interesting and attractive places to visit. In the town of Blagoevgrad one can find monuments of Illyo Voivoda, Gotse Delchev, of the eminent Bulgarian poet Peyo Yavorov, Kiril and Methodius, and of the Macedonian – Odrin volunteers, of those who perished in the Balkan War (1912-1913). As a venue of culture the town has several theatres: Drama Theatre, Puppet Theatre, Chamber Opera. Blagoevgrad is a big university centre.
Blagoevgrad is a major and important transport centre in this part of Bulgaria. It is the main stop on the international highway and railway line Sofia-Kulata-Athens. It maintains regular bus connection with the capital Sofia and many of the towns in Southwestern Bulgaria, as well as with the villages in the region. The bus station and the railway station are situated close to each other at the south-west end of the town.
At 3.5 km to the northeast, in the valley of Blagoevgraska Bistritsa River, is located Bachinovo Park, where annually, in June, a town festival is held. 30 km far from the town, in northwest Rila Mountain Bodrost resort is situated with many recreation houses, bungalows and villas. At 5 km distance from the resort is the oldest reserve park for coniferous species of tress in Bulgaria – Parangalitsa. At 16 km to the northwest of Blagoevgrad is situated the village of Stob famous for the nearby pyramids of Stob – exceptionally beautiful and elegant earthen pyramids, finished with rounded rocky blocks.
Other interesting sights around Blagoevgrad are the following: the antique fortress by village Klissoura, an ancient settlement, a necropolis and a late antique fortress – close to the Bodrost resort, the remains of an antique fortress near Gabrovo village, a mediaeval fortress between the town and the village of Tserovo, the church Ascension of Christ near the village of Pokrovnik, the church St. Archangel Michail and remains from a late antique fortress near the village of Leshko, the churches St. John the Precursor and St. George in the village of Bistritsa, the rock Markov Kamak south from Tsarev Peak, and the Black Rock over the right bank of Blagoevgradska Bistritsa River.