Smolyan region (also Smolian, Smoljan) is a province in Southern Bulgaria. It borders Greece and is situated in the heart of the Rhodope Mountains. The district's economy is largely based on tourism, mining, timber and machine industries and livestock raising. The main crops of the region are potatoes (about 30% of the national production), rye and barley; but sheep, pigs and cattle are of greater importance for the agriculture. In the eastern parts of the province are located more than 20 lead and zinc mines, which form one of the most extensive ore deposits in the Balkans. The dence coniferous forests are prerequisite for well developed timber industry in Dospat, Smolyan, Devin. In Smolyan there are big plants producing machine tools and other machinery, while textile industry is mainly developed to the east in Nedelino, Zlatograd, Madan and Rudozem. There is also a synthetic rubber plant in Madan.
Nowadays, tourism is the backbone of the economy, especially in winter due to the excellent ski resorts of Pamporovo and Chepelare; having been completely renovated and modernised. The only factory for skiing equipment is located in Chepelare and employes 400 people. The mineral springs in Devin and Beden are very popular among tourists. The beautiful, unspoilt nature and the spectacular gorges, rock bridges and caves attract many people from around the country as well as foreign tourists, while the numerous dams are popular with campers and fishermen.
The administrative center is Smolyan, and other municipalities are: Banite, Borino, Chepelare, Devin, Dospat, Madan, Nedelino, Rudozem and Zlatograd.
According to archaeological evidence, the area around Smolyan was first settled in the 2nd-1st millennium BC. It acquired its name from the Slavic tribe of the Smolyani that settled in the region in the 7th century. Part of the Byzantine and Bulgarian Empires during the Middle Ages, it was ruled by the 14th-century Bulgarian feudal lord Momchil along with the whole Rhodopes for a while before being entirely subjugated by the Ottoman Empire. Smolyan remained under Ottoman rule for five centuries, a township of the Ottoman Gümülcine sanjak in Edirne vilayet between 1867 and 1912. It was known in Ottoman Turkish as Paşmaklı or Ahiçelebi.
The area was occupied by the 21st Sredna Gora Regiment led by Vladimir Serafimov in 1912, during the First Balkan War. The modern town of Smolyan was formed by the merger of three existing villages — Ustovo, Raykovo and Ezerovo — in 1960.
Pamporovo ski resort is set in the southern Rhodope Mountains at an altitude of 1620 meters above sea level. The highest peak in the area, Snezhanka, at 1928 m, is several hundred meters above the resort. Pamporovo is around 260 km away from Sofia, 85 km south of Plovdiv, 15 km north of Smolyan, and 10 km south of Chepelare.
The resort has 25 km of ski-runs and 38 km of cross-country skiing tracks served by 18 lifts with a total capacity of 8500 persons per hour. Four snow-levelling machines and six snow cannons guarantee skiers comfortable and enjoyable downhill rides. More than 100 highly qualified ski instructors, fluent in various languages, are available to aid both beginners and intermediate skiers as well as snowboarders.
The winters in Pamporovo tend to be mild, but have around 150 days of snowfall each year. This combination allows for a long skiing season at the resort. Pamporovo is renowned for its large number of sunny days during the winter, often topping 120 days from December to May.