Simply mentioning the Rhodope Mountains will make every Bulgarian smile. In addition to being the best mountains in Bulgaria where you can see traditional villages and festivals, the Rhodopes are the perfect place if you are in search of an adventure. Here’s a suggestion for a venturesome itinerary that will have you cycling, exploring caves, horseback riding and many more exciting activities.
Total distance (approximate): 205 miles / 330 km
Total driving time (approximate): 13 hours
Recommended number of days traveling: 6+ days
Best for: families and adventure junkies
Day 1: Shiroka Polyana Reservoir
Distance: 125 miles (200 km) if you come from Sofia, 69 miles (110 km) if you come from Plovdiv
Travel time: 3 hours from Sofia, 2 hours from Plovdiv
Arrive in the heart of the Rhodopes and immediately immerse yourself in what is one of the most tranquil places in Bulgaria – the Shiroka Polyana Reservoir. Enjoy the view of the pine trees, try some of the amazing Rhodope cuisine, and choose your favorite activity – cycling, kayaking, horse riding or hiking. The best place to stay here are the Romantika Bungalows, but keep in mind that you have to book early because they are extremely popular.
Mestnost Orlino, Sarnitsa, Bulgaria, +359 899 98 1280
Day 2: Golyam Beglik Reservoir
Distance: 30 miles (50 km)
Travel time: 1.5 hours
Continue to Golyam Beglik Reservoir for some more kayaking and cycling with a whole new set of scenery to enjoy. The best area to practice mountain biking here is called Chatama, where you will meet some of the great Bulgarian adventurers who spend a lot of time here.
Days 3 and 4: Trigrad
Distance: 37 miles (60 km)
Travel time: 2.5 hours
Trigrad is a small mountain village with a magnificent gorge named after it. Driving along the Trigrad Gorge is a bit tricky as the road is very windy and it gets very narrow at some points (only one car at a time can pass), but the views are worth it. In Trigrad, you can stay for a week and you won’t get bored. There are many caves (the Devil’s Throat with a 100-foot/30-m waterfall inside, the Yagodina Cave, the Haramiiska Cave), a via ferrata, a horse-riding base and numerous mountain trails around. Don’t miss the Eagle’s Eye (Orlovo Oko) observation deck (a 2-hour hike or 30 minutes by jeep) where you can admire the gorgeous panorama across the Rhodopes. The most adventure-friendly place to stay in the area is Arkan Han – they will help you organize all of the above-mentioned activities.
Day 5: Smolyan
Distance: 43 miles (70 km)
Travel time: 2 hours
Smolyan is the unofficial capital of the Rhodopes where you can enjoy tasty Rhodopes food, see the local History Museum, the Planetarium (with shows every day) and some of the best eco-trails in Bulgaria. Hike the Nevyastata Eco-trail and the Smolyan Fortress Eco-trail (they both start by the road between Smolyan and Pamporovo – look for the big arch and a restaurant) or plan a whole day for the Canyon of Waterfalls. Drive to Uhlovitsa Cave if you want some more time underground.
Day 6: The Wild Farm
Distance: 125 miles (200 km)
Travel time: 5+ hours
The Wild Farm is the other big name in adventures in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains. It’s situated in a tiny village and, at first sight, there doesn’t appear to be too much to do. However, once you look closer, you’ll realize you are right in the middle of everything – one of the big vulture colonies, the beautiful Arda River, and the only place where you can see wild horses (tarpans). The Farm will organize a semi-precious stone hunt for you, a forest bee-hive trip, kayaking, cooking lessons, fishing, etc. The list is endless! We recommend that you plan at least a three-day stay in order not to be sorry that you have to leave before having tried everything.