The Rhodope mountain range features on the Top 10 of the 2011 National Geographic Traveler chart Best Tours in Europe. In the chart the mountain known as the birthplace of mythical singer Orpheus, has been singled out as one of the most luring adventure targets along with the Alps and the Caucasus.
“Carved by deep river gorges and riddled with vast networks of caves, southern Bulgaria’s Rhodopes mountain range is a wonderland for hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and spelunking. Do it all on this multi-sport family adventure, including a trek into the forested Chairite Reserve, where you’ll set up camp for the night and sleep under the stars”, the review reads. It invites adventurers to come and know one of Europe’s most picturesque nooks and have a most enriching experience in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian section of the mountain that stretches across the border and into Greee, has been recommended as a place that is good for both adventure and family trips. In fact the 2011 National Geographic Traveler Best Tours in Europe rates only two mountain destinations apart from the Rhodopes – the Alps and the Caucasus. The publication recommends the medieval towns and fishing villages of Croatia, Italy’s regions Piemonte and Veneto celebrated for their great food and sophisticated wines, and the Danube region in the territories of Austria, Hungary and Slovakia that offer ample opportunity for cycling.
It is not accidental that the Rhodope range has been positioned among Europe’s leading mountain destinations. Thousands of foreign tourists who have crisscrossed the mountain out of keen love for wild nature, have been left with very good impressions. National Geographic Traveler makes a special mention of the Chairite Reserve with its six breathtaking lakes that mirror the peaks of the central Rhodope range. The region abounds in green meadows and juniper forests imbued with the fresh scent of resin and mountain flowers. The Trigrad Gorge is quite close too, dotted with precipices and caves. Some of them such as the Yagodina Cave and the Devil’s Gullet have been adapted for tourist visits and resemble vast underground cathedrals with their amazing limestone formations. Accommodation is available in the nearby villages of Yagodina, Trigrad and Borino that boast of numerous idyllic views. Tourists coming to stay in guesthouses here, come under the spell of the authentic atmosphere of the villages, the great traditional food and the hospitality of locals. Despite the crisis the owners of horse riding bases in the region say there are many western tourists keen on riding who use their services. Some of the riding tours are long enough to cross into virgin areas of the neighboring Strandja Mountain to the east, or even as far as the southern Black Sea coast. Riders spend the night at either guesthouses, in tents or straight under the stars under the chorus of crickets.
The National Geographic Traveler has also highlighted the great opportunities for rock climbing in the Rhodope mountain range. Hundreds of climbing fans come to the region every year. Here they are assisted by expert instructors. For some of them this experience goes beyond a simple shot of adrenalin, as it is also a trip to a different world. The reason is that the Rhodope range was the home of a few pagan shrines some of them surviving to this day. One of the top climbing locations is near the town of Smolyan. Walking along the Rhodope trails equipped with a backpack, riding a horse or climbing to reach lovely rock wreaths, are all ways to have a densely spiritual and memorable mountain experience.
Translated by Daniela Konstantinova