Smolyan is a town in the very south of Bulgaria, the administrative center of Smolyan Province. It is situated in the valley of the Cherna ("Black") and the Byala ("White") Rivers in the central Rhodopes at the foot of the mountains' highest part south of the popular ski resorts Pamporovo and Chepelare.
This part of the mountains is extremely beautiful. Unlike other bigger European mountains like the Alps, for example, the mountain chains there are slanting, they smoothly unfold in all directions and the climate is not at all severe. Century-old spruce forests grow at the highest parts of the mountain and beech and pine trees occupy the lower parts. The view which opens out from the highest points of the mountain are really overwhelming. The climate there is mild. All the four seasons are normally disturbed throughout the year. The summer there is cool and calm and the average temperature is of 19 degrees. The winter is long but mild, as well, as the influence of the Mediterranean climate is greatly felt .
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 Komotini (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.
Due to its suitable location on top of Mount Rozhen, the Bulgarian National Astronomical Observatory is located nearby. On September 6th 1975, the biggest Planetarium with public observatory in Bulgaria opened its doors. The Planetarium is the town's most frequently visited place of interest. For the past 30 years it has been visited by 2,000,000 people. The planetarium and observatory complex works with no day off and has a staff of 10 people.
There is one theatre, the Rhodope Drama Theatre, and a gathering of theatre practitioners and scholars known as the The Rhodopi International Theater Collective is held every summer. There is also a regional historical museum founded in 1935.
Smolyan has an elite division football team, PFC Rodopa Smolyan, that has been playing in the A Professional Football Group since the 2002-2003 season.
The largest church in southern Bulgaria, the Cathedral of Saint Vissarion of Smolyan, was inaugurated in the city in July 2006.