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On a bicycle in the Rhodopes

Photo: newthraciangold.eu

It is not enough just to love nature, in order to fully enjoy it. For this purpose it is necessary to possess a certain attitude and motivation in order for one to go in search of wild spots that have preserved their natural beauty and biodiversity. A great number of such places can be found in the Rhodope Mountain in Bulgaria. The best way to get to know this ancient and mystical mountain is get on a bicycle and follow the routes that wind up and down the mountain’s gentle slopes, offering incredible views to rock formations, fragrant wild pastures, forests, etc.

© Photo: Veneta Nikolova

One of the newest biking routes goes along the banks of the Arda River, revealing some of the most beautiful places in the mountains. The route has a total length of 500 km. It crosses 18 settlements, passes near three dams and three deep rivers, as well as historical sites dating back to various periods. The curious traveler also has the chance to get acquainted with local culture. Most of those who want to cross the mountain on a bicycle are young people - not only from the country but also foreigners. There are Germans, Frenchmen and Dutchmen, who especially appreciate the opportunity to experience the contact with unique nature.

© Photo: Veneta Nikolova

The marked bike route is divided into 17 sections and can be finished in about 2 weeks. Guest houses offer accommodation along the way, which starts from Trigrad, not far from the famous Yagodinska Cave and the famous Trigradsko Gorge and reaches the Ivaylovgrad Dam with wonderful opportunities for water sports and entertainment. The most difficult part of the route crosses the Boinik region above the city of Kardzhali. The lightest section is the downhill part from the village of Gorno Pole to the village of Rabovo. Anyone who loves nature and outdoor activities can try the route, including families with children. We want to promote sustainable tourism in the region, explains Michaela Mircheva of the Bulgarian-Dutch "New Thracian Gold" project, thanks to which the new bike route in the Rhodopes is already a reality. 073-1 “The idea is not just to go from point A to point B, but to immerse in local nature, traditions and culture. One could choose to visit a village festival along the way,” says Mihaela Mircheva. “This is also an environment friendly way to travel through the mountains. This bike route managed to unite the various guest houses and accommodations into a network. When on a bike you don’t spend a few days in one and the same place and that is why guest houses along the route decided to cooperate in a network.” Cycling in the mountains is usually associated not only with climbing and descending down the steep slopes, but also with hiking, overcoming obstacles and other adventures that require certain physical preparation. The nice thing is that the Rhodopes are more accessible than other mountains. About 65 percent of the entire route is dirt roads and forest paths. The idea is to get from one guest house to another without entering big cities, so people spent their entire time in nature, says Kirill Makarov, the man who spent 2 years working on the route.

© Photo: Veneta Nikolova

The rocks in the Eastern Rhodopes

The environmentalist strongly recommends combining cycling in the area with rock climbing, bird watching, horse riding, photo hunting, fishing, and kayaking. One should not forget that tasty dishes are offered in huts and guesthouses, too. Guest houses in the village of Gorno Pole regularly welcome keen cyclists from Bulgaria and abroad.

© Photo: Veneta Nikolova

“We tried to make a list of houses that would appeal to people who like cycling and kayaking,” says Kirill Makarov. “When a cyclist arrives at a house, they will not listen to folk music and watch TV, but would instead look for a place to wash their clothes, eat delicious food, drink wine, have chat with friends and go to bed early, so they can continue cycling during the next day. Many of these guest houses also offer other services related to cycling.” One could find detailed information about interesting tourist sites in the region from the local Tourist Centers. Information can also be found on the web site of the New Thracian Gold Project.

English version: Alexander Markov

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