Rhodope Mountains

Summer in Bulgaria tends to be hot and a good way to escape the heat is to visit mountains. One of the big mountain chains in Bulgaria are the Rhodope mountains. Bordering on Greece this is the are part of the are part of the Rilo-Rhodope massif, which is the oldest landmass on the Balkan peninsula. Visiting Bulgaria this year, we went to visit the town of Pamporovo, situated at 1620 meters in the Rhodope mountains. In the summer many of the hotels and much of the towns restaurants and shops in Pamporovo are closed, only opening for the winter masses. Mountain bikers visit in the summer with excellent trails laid out throughout the peaks and forests and it also offers nice day hikes.

A big attraction towards Pamporovo is the Bachkovo Monastery. Less impressive as the Rila Monastery this monastery still looks great and was founded in 1083 by Georgian brothers Gregory and Abasius Bakuriani, aristocrats in Byzantine military service. It flourished during the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 – 1396) but was ransacked by Turks in the 15th and 16th centuries. Major reconstructions began in the mid-17th century. The monastery is filled with fresco’s and icons from the 17th century.

Other highlights on the road from and to Pamporovo besides the many awe inspiring vistas are the Marvelous Bridges (or Wonderful Bridges, in Bulgarian: Чудните мостове, Chudnite mostove). A small and winding road leads high up in the mountains to the natural formed bridges which were formed by the erosive activity of the Erkyupryia River. It transformed the marble clefts into a deep-water cave, the ceiling of which eroded through time and collapsed, possibly during an earthquake. Geologists suggest that the water carried the debris away. The Wonderful Bridges are included among the 100 National Touristic Places of the Bulgarian Touristic Union.

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