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Kirkovo village – horse riding and breathtaking scenery

БНР Новини
Photo: Lyna horse riding school

Like all other border areas in the Eastern Rhodopes, for many years Kirkovo was a village discarded and forgotten at the tail end of Bulgaria. But as the Bulgarian-Greek Makaza-Nymphea border checkpoint opened, everything changed. Now, the new roadway to Greece’s resorts passes through Kirkovo and all of a sudden, the forgotten little village with a dwindling population changed beyond recognition. Hundreds of motorists stop here every day for a meal or to refuel, as petrol here is cheaper. People from Greece come to Kirkovo to do their shopping or “for a night on the town”. But many spend more time here, some even opt to spend their whole vacation in the village.

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Not that Kirkovo has many landmarks. The village, some 10 kilometers from the border checkpoint does not offer a beach on the sea, but there is a river. Rather than at the foot of spectacular ice-capped mountains, it is tucked away in the rolling folds of the Eastern Rhodopes – a territory as yet unknown to tourists. The village has no high-end all inclusive resorts with saunas or swimming pools, but there are several family hotels offering rural tourism of the best variety. And what attracts people most – Kirkovo has a riding school with well-trained horses for hire. People from Bulgaria come to ride horses on the hills of the Rhodopes, but also from Greece because there this would cost them a packet.

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“We have twelve horses and an open-air riding ring but we intend to grow. So we shall apply for financing under a European programme,” says 51-year-old Vladimir Ivanov, owner of the riding school and proud father of four. He explains that he relies heavily on the riding instructor who has prestigious international certificates and is wonderful with foals. It takes no less than two years to train them to obey certain commands. Their character is also very important. “We train them to be well-bred and gentle, so as to prevent surprises,” says their owner.

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But horses are not the only thing that brings tourists in – Kirkovo has its charms and hidden treasures. Some of them have been included in a series of horse-riding itineraries:

“We now have 14 organized itineraries, we are renovating mills, fortifying ancient Roman bridges so as to provide access to them on horseback,” Vladimir Ivanov says. “There are natural assets in these parts, places wrapped in legend. The riders are accompanied by a guide to show them the local sights. We organize picnics and barbecues. For people who are not into horse riding we provide jeeps to take them to some of the most beautiful locations in the vicinity.”

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Besides people from Bulgaria and Greece there are guests from Romania, Serbia and even USA who come here to see the countryside on horseback and to enjoy the hospitality of the local people. More about the things that attract tourists and keep them in Kirkovo:

“The countryside here is unique, the air is crystal clear! Take a look at the scenery, the rock formations,” Vladimir Ivanov says. “There are abandoned villages here where our guests can see what life was like 200 years ago. Fortunately, the years have not devoured everything and people can take a look at the houses where animals once lived on the ground floor and people – on the second floor. These are now ghost villages, no one is living there anymore but they are magical. Tourists who reach the mountain’s higher reaches have sweeping views of the country; the eye can see as far as 100 kms. Combined with the local cuisine and organic products, this is what keeps tourists from Bulgaria and abroad here, in the village of Kirkovo.”

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English version: Milena Daynova

Photos: Lyna horse riding school


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