Enchanting Rhodope Mountains
Rhodope Mountains is part of the Rilo-Rhodope massif, which is the oldest in the Balkan Peninsula. More than 80% of this mountain is situated in the south part of Bulgaria and the rest is in north Greece. The highest peak is called Golyam Perelik (2191 m).
There is a subdivision of the mountain into western (higher peaks, caves and pines), eastern (lower relief, deciduous trees) and southern (in Greece). Only when you visit, it will leave a deep imprint in you. Not only because it is the mountain of Orpheys (the Greek mythological poet) but also because of its enchanting nature, spirit, welcoming people, architectural monuments, unique folklore, culture and traditions.
The mountain had been inhabited by Thracians who left their foot print with temples, villages and fortresses. Back in the ages, Rhodope Mountain had been part of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. That brought ethnic and religious diversity in the area.
This route is created to meet you with the mountain, experience the way local people living, get to know their crafts and traditions, enjoy the local food, learn about the folklore and the history and be delighted by exquisite appearance of the nature.
We are going to start our trip from the west to the east Rhodope. You will find the difference yourself by the change of coniferous to deciduous forest, by the architecture of houses, local crafts and traditions.
The trip starts from the village of Trigrad and Yagodina, which are popular with the Trigrad Gorge, Buynovsko Gorge, Devil’s throat cave and the local tea production. Lush meadows covered with hundreds of kinds of herbs used by the locals for tea and medical treatment. There is a magical plant, the Rhodope silivriak that is the world record-holder in drought endurance, more than 30 months. After moisture it restarts its normal life. In this part of the mountain the wild life is presented by the brown bear (there is a brown bear museum that we will visit), 27 species of bats, wolfs, wild cats, foxes, roe - deers, etc. The height of the mountain in this part allows reaching points with spectacular views and we will have few opportunities to get to these panoramic places. The food in the west is more specific, related to the traditions of farming animals, mainly sheep. We are going to taste and take part in preparation of several local dishes that are most popular here such as: “Cheverme” (a lamb, slowly cooked in open fire, rotated manually on a wooden skewer), dishes prepared with beans (you will be surprised how many dishes locals have with the so called Smilyan beans), “kachamak”, “Rodopska banitsa” etc. In the architectural reserve Shiroka Laka you will see the old houses built in typical Rhodope style - two storey buildings with bay windows and internal wooden staircases. This village is the heart of Rhodope music with the The National School of Folk Arts, established in 1972. The most popular instrument that touches the heart of visitors is the Rhodope bagpipe (gaida). You will learn more about it and experience the unique music and folklore of Rhodope. Local crafts like weavering, saddlery, cutlery, pottery, wood carving, spinning, weaves, will be shown in Zlatograd and Shirka laka.
After we explore this part of the mountain, we will head to the east Rhodope. This part offers wonderful views to the “mild” peaks and narrow valleys, stunning meanders of Arda River (longest in the mountain) and Byala River, impressive dams and huge biodiversity thanks to the mild climate. We will visit Madzharovo, a beautiful village, situated in the east on the banks of the Arda River. Its territory was declared as an Ornithologically Important Place by BirdLife International. The only Bulgarian 'Vulture Centre' - the BSPB Nature Conservation and Information Centre 'Eastern Rhodopi' is situated here. East Rhodope is the place of huge variety of birds including 36 species of birds of prey. It is popular with species such as: wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria), griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), black vulture (Aegypius monachus), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and masked shrike (Lanius nubicus).
East Rhodope are richest on the Balkans megalithic monuments from Thracian times. Perperikon is one of the most ancient ones. It has been unearthed 20 years ago by prof. Ovcharov and there is still archeological work taking place there. A lot of layers of history on a high rocky hill. There are evidences that first Copper Age People were using the cliffs there for religious activities. In the last millennium of the old era and the first centuries of the new one, the place became a town of the Thracian tribe Bessie with buildings, streets and squares. Currently the archaeological complex of Perperikon contains a large megalithic Thracian sanctuary, a sacred city and medieval fortress.
We will also visit the Thracian Beehive Tomb in the village of Mezek. It has been built in the 4th century BC for a local ruler and it is entirely preserved. To enter the tomb you need to walk a 20 meters corridor when you reach two rectangular anterooms and a round funeral chamber with a beehive dome. Ancient pottery, jewellery and other belongings made of bronze, gold, iron and glass were found in there.
Here we will follow part of the road of silk with the most popular area in Bulgaria for raising silkworms. You will see the typical architecture of houses in Ivaylovgrad specially constructed for these farming purposes. Local merchants and producers of local food will impress us with the methods they use and the results of their efforts.
We will finish the tour with visiting the village of Mezek where we will taste local wine produced in the village. The winery follows the idea for “home winemaking” and most of the processes are performed by hand.
What to bring – comfortable shoes
Best time in the year – May-October
Accommodation – the hotels are 3* and 4* in double room with separate beds. There are options for
double room with a bedroom or single rooms or apartments (if available).
This tour includes:
- Transfer from and to the airport
- Transport with minibus, minivan or car
- 7 nights, with included breakfast and dinner (including wine tasting)
- 6 lunches from day 2 to day 7 including
- Tour Guide
- Entry tickets for museums
- Taxes and VAT
The tour doesn’t include:
- Flight ticket
- Alcohol, apart from the wine tasting
- Personal expenditures