The Eastern Rhodope Mountains are well away from any major cities in the region and are located in one of the poorest areas of the country, where rural live still revolves mainly around sowing and herding cattle. It is most certainly what you call a backwater. But what a backwater!
Marvel at wild and authentic landscapes, a rarely seen diversity of wildflowers, butterflies and the highest raptor diversity in Europe! Encounter long forgotten relics from ancient times! Experience the friendliness and hospitality of the locals! Learn to appreciate and enjoy local cuisine and some of the best wine you have ever had!
You will experience all this and more during our 7-days long ‘The Wild Eastern Rhodopes’ Adventure & Culture Program.
Upon early morning arrival at Bourgas Airport you will be greeted by our tour guide.
Today you begin your journey through time at the ancient Thracian sanctuary at Beglik Tash in the Strandzha Mountains on the Black Sea coast- a beautiful area, rich in nature and history alike.
Our destination for today is reaching the town of Svilengrad in South-East Bulgaria. At its outskirts you will find the one of the largest wineries in the country Katarzyna Estate. Its vineyards give birth to some of the best wines in Europe. We will tour the estate and taste a selection of Katarzyna wines, which include practically every major grape variety grown in Bulgaria.
After this late afternoon delight, we head to our hotel in the town of Svilengrad.
After breakfast we leave Svilengrad behind and continue on to the nearby village of Mezek, where we will visit a remarkable Thracian tomb and the remains of one of the best preserve Medieval fortresses in the Rhodope Mountains. Both sites are located just outside the village itself. The two attractions will give us the opportunity to learn more about the ancient civilization of the Thracians and the history of the first two Bulgarian Kingdoms.
Our next destination is the town of Ivayovgrad in Southern Bulgaria, where we will visit the Medieval fortress Lyutitsa just outside of town. After that we head for a stroll through the well preserved remains of one of the most interesting monuments from Roman times that you can find in Europe – the antique Villa ‘Armira’, which is a prime example of the splendor of Roman architecture, with a strong influence and striking resemblance to the structures of Pompei.
We will spend the night in Ivaylovgrad.
Our morning begins with a light tour around town, with a stop at the local Ethnographic Museum in Ivaylovgrad and its old church, where we will discuss the time of Ottoman reign over Bulgaria and the consequences thereof.
In the afternoon we head towards the small mining town of Madzharovo. Our route rakes us along the shores of Ivaylovgrad Reservoir and the Arda River and make a stop to try out a locally produced delicacy – tahini with honey.
Once we have reached Madzharovo, we will visit the ‘Eastern Rhodopy’ Nature Conservation Center. There we will learn more about local efforts to preserve and expand the local raptor population, especially the globally endangered Egyptian Vulture.
Our accommodations for the night are in the closely located village of Gorno Pole, in a guesthouse of local farmers, who will treat us with traditional, homemade Rhodopean dishes, wine and ‘rakia’ (a favorite Bulgarian liquor) from their own organic produce.
Early in the morning we will have the chance to experience a local attraction of a different kind – we get to see how vultures feed in the wild and we might perhaps also have a glimpse at the Egyptian Vulture, with by now over 20 pairs nesting around Madzharovo alone.
Our afternoon is reserved for some interesting natural and historical sites in the area.
After a long and exciting day, we had back to the guesthouse in Gorno Pole.
In the morning we say farewell to our hosts and head to Kardzhali, the biggest town in this part of Bulgaria. On our way there we will make a stop and visit the rock city of Perperikon – one of the oldest monumental megalithic complexes in Europe and probable location of long-sought temple of Dionysos.
In the afternoon we will tour the town of Kardzhali itself, whose inhabitants are to a large part of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria.
Our day ends at the shores of Kardzhali Reservoir, where we will have dinner on a floating restaurant and spend the night.
Today we head to the second largest city in Bulgaria and European Capital of Culture for 2019 – Plovdiv, where we will undertake a walking tour of the Old Town.
In Plovdiv we will learn about the Roman influence on the Balkans, visit some typical Balkan houses from the 17-19th century and speak about the cities modern development and art scene.
We will spend the night in the area around town.
On our final day we head back to Sofia and undertake a city tour of the Bulgarian capital. This will allow us to go through everything we learned about the centuries old history of Bulgaria on this journey, but also discuss more current events and developments over the past century.
In the afternoon you will have time to explore the city on your own or take the chance for some shopping.