5 min.
Eastern Rhodopes as Noah’s Ark

The tourist potential of the Eastern Rhodope Mountain has been growing in recent years and has been successfully presented not only at tourist exhibitions in Bulgaria but also at the world vacation fairs in London, Berlin, Istanbul and Moscow. The desire of local authorities is to not just increase the influx of visitors but also prolong the stay of guests on the territory of Kardjali.

Vultures, bison and wild horses

The Eastern Rhodopes are a heaven to ornithologists. IN the area around Studen Kladenets dam lake there are the largest populations of white-headed and Egyptian vultures in the Balkans. The lovers of birds are invited to visit the center in the village of Madjarovo where they will be shown the wealth of these particular vulture varieties. And a boat will carry visitors to the Studen Kladenets game breeding area, where not just fallow deer roam the forest but also the endangered species of European bison lives under protection. The first European bisons were brought and bred 5 years ago and have adapted themselves very well, they also have given birth to baby bisons. Wild horses were brought from the Netherlands 8-9 years ago. In the past spring steeds became larger with the addition of 16 colts. This brought the total number to more than 70, the team of the WILD initiative announced. The steeds have successfully dealth with cold winters and hot summers, they have found food themselves and managed to survive attacks by wolves. They are also a tourist attraction and are gradually turning into one of Rhodope Mountains' new symbols.

LED lamps light up stone phenomena

There are many rock formations in the Eastern Rhodopes with strange shapes. Three km away from Kardjali is the so-called Stone Wedding, and near the village of Beli Plast one can find the Stone Mushrooms. And these names are describing the shapes that can be seen. The municipality of Kirkovo, next to the border with Greece, is the crocodile. Naturally, one of the stone formations is in the shape of a crocodile.

The Stone Mushroom sculptured by nature in sandstone was declared a natural landmark in 1982. A most curious thing is that these nature phenomena around Kirkovo are currently lit up by LED lamps and these makes them even more attractive to tourists.

The mysteries of Orpheus and Perperikon

The Magic of the Megaliths in the Rhodope Mountains and Myths and Legends are among the most sought tourist routes in the Eastern Rhodopes. Most tourists arrive to walk them because of the mysteries of the ancient hero Orpheus and because of the spirit of ancient times and the middle ages that could be witnessed here in large quantities – Thracian sanctuaries, rock niches, dolmens and fortresses.

The most visited place is the rock city of Thracians near Kardjali that is called Perperikon. The imagination is challenged here by the magic of ancient times, and the palace that is cut into the rocks, which is 80-meter long and 30-meter wide. It is a complex architectural site with staircases, corridors and halls. There is a throne room in the middle. In the late Bronze Age (14th to 11th century BCE) it flourished as a Thracian city surrounding the Dionysus sanctuary that was built at an earlier village and on a rock formation. It survived periods of growth and bad times, existing well into the 14 century CE.
15 km away from the town of Momchilgrad is the Thracian sanctuary of Orpheus. And only a 200 m from the area called Caya Basi we find some of the most magnificent megalithic monuments in Bulgarian lands.
From Kardjali and on the way to the village of Nenkovo is the Utroba Cave (utroba means womb). An incredible Thracian sanctuary was built in the rocky area of Tangardic Caya. Tis shrine was the culmination of the Orphic beliefs.

The shadow of a young bride is imprisoned in the Devil's Bridge

This is a bridge to remember and its popular all over Bulgaria, while being included in many tourist routes and picture albums. Built in the 15th century on an ancient Rhodopes road that links the Aegean Sea with the Upper Thracian Valley. Legend says that the foot of the devil is imprinted in the nearby rocks. A story tells that the Bridge was built so well that it has never been subject to repairs. Its strength is explained by the locals with the fact that the shadow of a young bride is imprisoned in it. She used to bring food to the craftsman who built it – Usta Dimitar from the village of Nedelino. Soon after the completion of the Bridge the bride died. Others are certain that the man imprisoned the shadow of his own wife into the bridgestones to keep the construction strong for centuries. But mysteries do not end here. One of the key stones of the Bridges bears an inscribed hexagon – the so-called seal of Solomon. Hence, archaeologists suggest that there is a link between the Bridge and the sanctuaries in the Rhodopes. The emblem of the eastern Rhodopes – the Devil's Bridge is now lighted and is a beautiful sight in the night.

Hunting, fishing and bicycling

A serious benefit for the region is the presence of large dam lakes on the river Arda, like Kardjali and Studen Kladenets. Most often tourists that arrive in the city on the Arda (Kardjali) put up in the recreational area near the dam lake of Kardjali. On the shoe, at the village of Enchets, there is a restaurant-ship that offers sea shells brought directly from Kavarna on the Black Sea. Traditional fish from the lake here includes trout, catfish, perch pike, four varieties of sturgeon and others. A boat trip is among the local favourites.

The Eastern Rhodope Mountain is suitable for bicycling tourism. There are several routes that have been popular for years. They are well-marked and offer enthusiasts a combination of sport and visits to historical landmarks and nature wonders.
The Mountain of Orpheus (as the Eastern Rhodope Mountain is also called) becomes more and more attractive to off-road contestants and to lovers of jetski competitions on the Studen Kladnets lake as well as on the so-called Water Mirror in Kardjali, which are good for developing water tourism. The Eastern Rhodopes are a favourite spot for hunting tourism. Hunters have the chance to shoot mainly mouflon and wild boar. Each year, the local hunting farm of Zhenda welcome between 30 and 40 foreign groups. Even guests from as far as India have come to hunt in the area.

Close to the beaches of the Aegean

After the opening of the Makaza Pass on the border with Greece, now it takes just an hour and a half to make it from Kardjali to the Aegean Sea. There are many new hotels built in tis region, and some of them surprise guests with delights like Russian baths and horse ride. The comfort of small family hostels and guest houses, typical culinary specialties, the Rhodopes music, affordable prices and the hospitality of the locals, have turned this area into a favourite spot for Bulgarian, as well as foreign guests, especially from the nearby Greece.

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