The Eastern Rhodope Mountains are well away from any major Bulgarian cities. They are located in one of the poorest areas of the country, where rural live still revolves mainly around sowing and herding cattle. It is most certainly what you call a backwater. But what a backwater!
Marvel at wild and authentic landscapes, a rarely seen richness of wildlife, flowers, butterflies and the highest raptor diversity in Europe! Encounter long forgotten relics from ancient times! Experience the friendliness and hospitality of the locals! Learn to appreciate and enjoy local cuisine and some of the best wine you have ever had!
You will experience all this and more during our 8-days long Wild Eastern Rhodopes Adventure & Culture Program.
April – June
We pick you up at a time and location of your choosing in Sofia or Burgas
Easy – this program is accessible to almost everyone, including children
Upon arrival in Bulgaria, our guide will peak you up from a location of your choosing in Sofia or Burgas.
Today is all about the birds! Bulgaria is the second most important bird habitat in Europe. This makes it the ideal location for birdwatching. Even if you are not a dedicated birdwatcher yourself, our visit at two Black Sea protected areas with our friends from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds and Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation is a true experience. And who knows, it might trigger a new passion in you.
Today we begin our journey through time at the ancient Thracian sanctuary of Beglik Tash in Strandzha Mountain on the Black Sea coast. Located only an hour from Burgas, this is a mystical place, rich in nature and history alike. Often called the Bulgarian Stonehenge, this megalithic formation is without equal and tells a millennial history.
Our next stop for the day is the town of Svilengrad in South-East Bulgaria. At its outskirts you will find one of the most famous boutique wineries in the country – Katarzyna Estate. Its vineyards give birth to some of the best wines in Europe. We will tour the estate and taste a selection of Katarzyna wines, which include practically every major grape variety grown in Bulgaria.
After this late afternoon delight, it is time to relax.
After breakfast we leave Svilengrad behind and head to the nearby village of Mezek, where we will visit a remarkable Thracian tomb and the remains of one of the best preserve Medieval fortresses in the Rhodope Mountains.
Both sites are located just outside the village itself. The two attractions will give us the opportunity to learn more about the ancient civilization of the Thracians and the history of the first two Bulgarian Kingdoms.
Our next destination is the town of Ivayovgrad in Southern Bulgaria, where we will visit one of the most interesting monuments from Roman times that you can find in Europe – the antique Villa ‘Armira’. It is a prime example of the splendor of Roman architecture, with a strong influence and striking resemblance to the structures of Pompei.
Our morning begins with a light tour around town, with a stop at the local Ethnographic Museum and its old church, where we will discuss the time of Ottoman reign over Bulgaria and the consequences thereof. We will also learn about and get a teste of a locally produced delicacy – sesame tahini.
In the afternoon we head towards the small mining town of Madzharovo. Our route takes us along the shores of Ivaylovgrad Reservoir and the Arda River. There we will visit the ‘Eastern Rhodopy’ Nature Conservation Center. We will learn more about local efforts to preserve and expand the raptor population in Bulgaria, especially the globally endangered Egyptian Vulture.
Our accommodations for the night are in the closely located village of Gorno Pole, in a guesthouse of local farmers, who will treat us with traditional, homemade Rhodopean dishes, wine and ‘rakia’ (a favorite Bulgarian liquor) from their own organic produce.
Early in the morning we will have the chance to experience a local attraction of a different kind. We get to observe vultures feeding in the wild and we might perhaps also have a glimpse at the Egyptian Vulture. After all, there are over 20 pairs nesting around Madzharovo alone.
The afternoon is reserved for visits to interesting natural and historical sites in the area.
After a long and exciting day, we had back to the guesthouse in Gorno Pole.
In the morning we say farewell to our hosts and head to Kardzhali, the biggest town in this part of Bulgaria. On our way there we will make a stop and visit the rock city of Perperikon. It is one of the oldest monumental megalithic complexes in Europe and probable location of the long-lost temple of Dionysus – the God of Wine.
In the afternoon we will tour the town of Kardzhali itself, whose inhabitants are to a large part of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria.
Our day ends at the shores of Kardzhali Reservoir, where we will have dinner on a floating restaurant.
Today we head to the second largest city in Bulgaria and 2019 European Capital of Culture – Plovdiv. To make it more interesting though, we will make two stops along the way.
First, we visit the town of Asenovgrad and its medieval fortress, which for a time was held by the Crusaders. This will give us the opportunity to revisit the history of the first two Bulgarian Kingdoms. Thereafter, we head to very special winery – Dragomir. If you are a fan of high-quality wine, you will most definitely appreciate this vineyard’s selection. Our tasting will include several indigenous Bulgarian wines that are unfamiliar to most.
A stroll through Plovdiv’s art district in the evening will complete this rewarding day.
We start our last day with a walking tour of Plovdiv’s Old Town. We will learn about the Roman influence on the Balkans and visit some of the best-preserved Roman structures in the country, including the Basilica, the Roman Theater and Eirene Villa. However, probably even more memorable will be our visit of some typical Balkan-style houses from the 17-19th century that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
In the afternoon we head back to Sofia or Burgas, where we say goodbye.