The Ancient Wonders of Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains

About

This tour encompasses some of the Rhodope mountains’ most mysterious natural and archeological wonders. Starting from the Kardzhali area, we will explore the ancient Thracian sanctuaries of Tatul and Belintash, each unique in the territory of Bulgaria. We’ll hike through the Chervena Stena nature reserve and to the top of Mount Chervena Stena. We will visit the second largest and most significant monastery in Bulgaria – Bachkovo Monastery.

Highlights

• Visit the ancient Thracian sanctuary of Tatul – unique in the territory of Bulgaria

• See the Belintash sanctuary – a mystical places that has baffled historians since its discovery

• Visit Bachkovo Monastery – the second largest in Bulgaria

• Hike through the Chervena Stena reserve

Description

Day 1

Your trip starts with a pick up from Sofia Airport. You will be transferred to the Kardzhali area to see the Thracian sanctuary of Tatul.

Tatul is considered one of the most fascinating and puzzling megalithic complexes in Bulgaria. The sanctuary itself is hand-carved into a rock massif, and the part of it that acts as a tomb is in the shape of a flat-topped pyramid – the only one of its kind in the country. The many objects found in the sanctuary date across several different time periods – from the Copper Age to Medieval times, meaning it was likely continuously used over a period of 5000 years. We will explore the sanctuary and learn more about its history and use.

Overnight at a beautiful hotel near Kardzhali.

Day 2

After breakfast, we’ll go on a short drive to the trail leading up to the Womb cave. With a moderately steep ascent through a sparse forest and past a few gazebos, we will reach the fascinating cave.

The Womb is naturally-formed cave that was used as a Thracian sanctuary sometime around the 11th century BC. It resembles a human womb, and every day around 12 o’clock noon, the rays of the Sun shine through the opening of the cave, symbolizing the merging of the sun and the earth to create life.

We’ll go back the same way. From there we’ll drive for another 2-3 hours until we reach the spacious mountain plateau of Dobrostan, where our hike to Mount Red Wall begins. We’ll enter the eponymous reserve and with a light ascent through centuries-old pine forests, we’ll reach the peak (1501 m above sea level). The view from the top towards the valley of the Chaya river and the Bachkovo monastery is gorgeous. We’ll head back to the car and spend the night at the base of the Belintash area.

Day 3

After breakfast we’ll begin a descent down the slopes of Belintash towards the picturesque valley of the Sushitsa river. Just up ahead, we’ll see the impressive Haiduktash rock formation.

Past it, we will go up a moderate slope towards the next sanctuary in our tour – Karadzhov Rock (1448 m above sea level). The eponymous rock formation takes the shape of a large rounded boulder caught between two imposing rocks. This was the site of religious rituals in pre-historic times. Numerous fragments of ceramic vessels have been discovered under the boulder, the oldest of which date back to the early Iron Age.

After we see the imposing rock, we will head back the same way towards the valley of the river, from where we will begin our ascent towards the third Thracian sanctuary for the day – Belintash. There is a powerful magnetic anomaly in the area that throws compasses off. Belintash is the second largest Thracian sanctuary in Bulgaria and was likely used as a Solar observatory. The rocks have been carved into shapes resembling the heads of gods and animals. The head of the god Sabazios faces east, towards the rising sun. The nature of this sanctuary is steeped in legend and mystery, and historians have theorized about its significance for centuries. We will climb up the rocks to the top. The view from up there is breathtaking, with Haiduktash and Karadzhov Rock visible before us. From there we’ll drive to the Bachkovo Monastery area, where we will spend the night.

Day 4

After breakfast, we will walk a short distance to the Bachkovo monastery – the second in size and significance only to the Rila monastery. We will explore the monastery complex and take in its tranquil atmosphere. After that, we will go on a short drive to the base of the cliff upon which Asen’s Fortress sits.

Asen's Fortress is a medieval structure built into the rocky ridge of the Rhodope mountains over the Asenitsa river. Parts of its walls remain intact, and there is a very preserved and still functioning church atop one of the ridges.

Once we have seen Asen’s Fortress, we will return to our car and drive south to the heart of the Rhodope mountains – the deep canyons of the inflows of the Vacha river. One of them – the Trigrad gorge – is near the Devil’s Throat cave, famous for having the highest underground waterfall in the Balkans and with its enormous main chamber. After exploring the cave, we will spend the night in the area.

Day 5

In the morning after breakfast, we can visit Yagodina cave.

Yagodina cave is 250 million years old, notable for its intricate stalactites, stalagmites, stalagnates and its so called “pearls” – lime beads formed out of the minerals contained within drops of water that fall on the small rocks paving the cave floor. Its beauty and romantic atmosphere make it a popular attraction for couples, and wedding ceremonies are often performed in one of its chambers. It is said that couples that get married in this cave never separate.

This is the last stop of our tour. After, we will head back for Sofia.

Price per person

• For a minimum of 6 people: 300 €

• For a minimum of 4 people: 370 €

• For a minimum of 2 people: 550 €

Inclusions / exclusions

The price includes

• A tour guide

• Transfers

• 4 overnights in comfortable hotels and guest houses along the way

300 €

per person

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Hiking

Kardzali, България

Starting point - Sofia Airport

5 days

Spring, Summer

Live tour guide available in English

Maxiumum number of participants - 10 people

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