Musala (Bulgarian: Мусала; from Arabic through Ottoman Turkish: "near God" or "place for prayer") is the highest peak in Bulgaria and the entire Balkan Peninsula, standing at 2,925 m (9,596 ft). The summit of the Rila mountain in southwestern Bulgaria, Musala is the highest peak between the Alps and the Caucasus and the highest in Eastern Europe bar the Caucasus.
Musala is situated within the Rila National Park, which is noted for its rich flora, including species such as Macedonian Pine and Bulgarian Fir in the forests on its middle slopes, and fauna; it is one of the easiest places in Europe to see the wallcreeper. All major mountain ranges of Bulgaria can be seen from the top; these include Vitosha to the northwest, Sredna Gora towards the northeast, the Balkan Mountains along most of the northern horizon behind Vitosha and Sredna Gora, the Rhodope Mountains to the southeast, Pirin to the south, Osogovo and Ruy Mountain to the west, and of course Rila.
With an average annual temperature of -3 °C Musala is the coldest place in Bulgaria and the entire Balkan Peninsula. Temperatures stay below 0 °C for about 8 months each year. Due to this about 45% of the annual precipitation on Musala is snow, and snow cover lasts for about 200 days (more than 6,5 months). Three of the main rivers of Bulgaria, the Iskar, Maritsa and Mesta have their sources near Musala.
The easiest climb is by a straightforward footpath from the ski resort of Borovets, 10 km to the north; there is also a Gondola lift from Borovets to the Yastrebets peak at 2,369 m altitude and several mountain chalets. From Yastrebets it is a one hour hike to the Musala chalet (2,430 m), from which the ascent to the summit takes another 1,5 to 2 hours via the shelter Everest, the highest mountain hut in Bulgaria. A cosmic ray study station functioned at the summit until it was devastated by a fire in 1984.
The station was re-opened in 1999 as the Environmental Observatory "Musala" of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences where air pollutants and space radiation are monitored. Also there is a meteorological station, that is doing regular synoptic and climatic observations. The station belongs to the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (NIMH) and functions without breaks since 1933.