Archive for the ‘Rhodope Mountains’ Category

The Village of Leshten – Somewhere in Space and Time

May 25, 2010

Where: another alternative destination in Bulgaria – the village of Leshten. It is situated in the SouthWest end of the Rhodope Mountains – about 220 km from Sofia. The road is windy and uneven but it is absolutely worth the trouble. Our first impression – a magnificent view towards Pirin Mount!

The village of Leshten, according to different sources, is an ancient village and many traces of old life, culture and architecture have been found in the region. It used to be a municipal and trade centre in the past. I find it hard to believe this, looking at a small stony village of 30 houses – about 300 years old – and a single permanent resident.

That’s right, “stony village”, everything is made out of stone – the roads, the houses, the fences. No wander this specific technique of building was the core means of living here back in the Bulgarian Revival. It’s a great thing that the authentic look of the village is preserved. Even the 15 renovated houses, which host tourists, have kept their old style – stone plinths, roofs covered with hand cut tile-stones, high stone fences, small windows and wooden flooring. So solid and so great!

Where to stay: in one of the 15 renovated houses. They are supplied with all the modern comforts, a fireplace and a kitchen. Below is the house where we stayed at. If you need help with reservation write me an e-mail to or use the contact form.

the house we stayed at

Where to eat. There is one single place to eat in the village. I find it relaxing not to have a choice for once. The restaurant is in the building of the old monastery school. I haven’t eaten there yet but most people say the food is local, authentic and very delicious and… it is not cheap.

Things to see: the village of Leshten is a historical monument by itself. The ancient architecture and the great natural location is a winning combination. The spirit of the once lively municipal centre is asleep but it’s still there.

The village church – St Paraskeva – had its last service in 1957 but you can still enter the church and light a candle. The wall paintings are quite bright, kind of modern and curious.

The clay house – this one is a favourite tourist destination not because it is ancient or has any historical value but because it is one of a kind. It is made entirely out of clay. There are no sharp square shapes – the whole house is soft and oval. Even thought it looks simple and primitive the clay house actually offers luxury accommodation, which combined with location and view is probably worth the price – around 60 euro per night.

the Clay House

the clay house's porch

The gallery – one of the houses functions as a classy gallery from where you can buy sophisticated pricey art-icles.

The village of Kovachevitsa – nearby village, also an architecture monument – post about the village of Kovachevitsa coming soon

a street in Kovachevitsa village

Koziat kamuk (the Goat’s Stone) and Chernata skala (the Black Rock) – ancient sanctuaries of Thracian times (or so they say)

Fossil Deposit Site near the Village of Garment

Natural sights:

The Blue Pool – a beautiful pool of Kanina river

The Dark Forest – a forest reserve

Manoilova Dupka Cave- with various cave formations, underground river and waterfalls. It is the home of globally protected bat species. Entrance to the cave is limited.

Rizova Dupka Cave – a rare type of cave formed not by erosion but by vertical slicing in a gneiss rock, caused by its won weight

The Zagrade Plane trees: these are two incredible sycamores (plane trees) over 600 years old; they can be seen on the right side on the road from Gotse Delchev town to the village of Marchevo. In the Tertiary (or so the sources say) there used to be a huge forest of such trees along the valley of Mesta river.

If you need any help with reservation or a tourist guide to show you around write me an e-mail to or use the contact form.

A Place in the Rhodope Mountains where no Phones Work

January 20, 2010

No cell phone coverage, no internet, no fax and phone lines – just crystal mountain air and the sound of the forest. That’s the only way to get away from the routine and give your mind some peace.

I know such a place in the Rhodope Mountains. The area is called “Karatepe” and is about 25 km South from Velingrad. See a map with directions Sofia – Karatepe.

Where to stay: a small, secluded complex consisting of 3 wooden bungalows. They are set on a sunny meadow by a pine forest and a small lake, full of trout and carp.

There is hardly any info about the complex in the public space. It belongs to the State Forestry and is mainly visited by hunters. But when the hunters are not around it really is a wonderful Alternative Tourism destination.

the lake and the arbour

Getting there: not an easy job, unless they’ve fixed the road from Velingrad. But that goes with the territory – no easily reachable place can stay that wild and beautiful.

The bungalows: There are 6 private bedrooms, altogether in the complex. One of the bungalows has a fully equipped kitchen and a small dining room with a fireplace. The bungalows don’t offer luxury, but they provide more than the basic comforts.

the bungalows

The food: is your responsibility. The kitchen is equipped with everything you need. Just make sure you do your grocery shopping in advance because there is no store anywhere near the place. In the summer you can eat outside.

eat outside

Pros: great location, beautiful wild nature, peace and quiet, budget destination

Cons: hard to get there, the kitchen and rooms are not very well-maintained

Prices: 30 levs per room per night or 15 levs per bed per night. To use the kitchen the price is 60 levs per day.

Contacts: the website was not working at the time I wrote this post. The phone number: +359 35951937.

If you have additional questions use the contact form or simply write me an e-mail to: .

Things to do: talking on your cell phone and browsing the net is not one of them. There is no network coverage – that’s the best part! For emergency situations there are two certain spots on a meadow nearby, marked by wooden signs where you can get coverage of 2 mobile operators. You have to stay exactly at that designated spot to get coverage, its quite funny:)

a spot with network coverage

Having lost connection with civilization you are free to do whatever you want: hunt, fish, walk, pick blueberries and mushrooms, see the villages around or just hang at the arbour in the middle of the lake and watch the fihes.

gypsy camp

In the summer you will see a large authentic gypsy camp on the road from Velingrad to Karatepe Area. The gypsies live there throughout the summer and pick blueberries. They really make a mess around their camp – there is garbage and plastic bags everywhere. Still, it might be interesting for some of you to see the gypsy way of life. When we asked to be let in the camp to look around they were really friendly and chatty.


If you have additional questions use the contact form or simply write me an e-mail to: .

A Bagpipe Fest You Will Never Forget

November 29, 2009

A Bagpipe Playing Contest in Bulgaria’s Greenest Mountain

A view of the village of Gela

The Ilinden Fest takes place in the first weekend of August in a beautiful area, next to the small village of Gela in the Rhodope Mountains. There, by the tiny St Iliya chapel, pipe players from Bulgaria and all over the world come to sound their pipes over the green mountain slopes.

This will give you only a slight idea of the event.

People hold hands and dance the Bulgarian folk dance “Horo” or just chill in the shade with a  cold beer and enjoy the mastership of the pipe players. Nature and music blend in an intoxicating mixture and you don’t want this to end.  It makes you wander how can such beautiful music  come from a kidskin bag!?

The contest takes place during the day, but  it is when the sun goes down that the  real party starts – a different kind of party.  People make fires, play music and sing songs until they can. Some of them sleep in tents, some in their cars, others under the sky…

Later on

Later-er on

Useful info about the Pipe Fest

When: first weekend of August

Where: in Bulgaria, by the small village of Gela in the Rhodope Mountains. Gela is a very, very old settlement. The legend says that Orpheus, the famous Thracian singer and musician was born in this area.

How to get there: see driving directions from Sofia to the village of Gela. The journey takes about 3 hrs.

Who goes there: everyone who wants to listen to some beautiful pipe music in the heart of the most beautiful mountain in Bulgaria – the Rhodope Mountains. I’ve seen all kinds of people there – young, old, musicians, software engineers, Americans, Dutch, Chinese. I even met my English teacher from high school there.  She came to Bulgaria to teach English and she fell in love with our country.  She is an American and she played the “Horo” dance better than most Bulgarians:) Way to go Kate!

What is there to eat and drink: a lot. You can buy beer and soft drinks, rotisserie-roasted meat, BBQ, sandwiches, nuts and sweets.

Where to stay:

– you can camp in the area but remember: it is not a camping ground and there are no showers or lavatories. There is a fountain with natural, cold spring water, which is good for drinking.

The area of the Pipe Fest from afar

– there is a Tourist Information Centre in Shiroka Laka village, about 8 km. from the village of Gela.  See directions from Shiroka Laka to Gela village. Here are the contacts of the Tourist Information Centre: tel. +359 03030 / 233, They can help you find an accommodation that is suitable for your needs – a hotel  or a room in a local family house. The local families are known to be very hospitable and clean.

Here are some links to accommodation in the area:

Filter Guest House, spelled “Филтер” in Bulgarian (no English version of the website) – we’ve stayed there. It is situated in the very village of Shiroka Laka. It is nice and clean with a large kitchen space with a fireplace. There are 4 rooms in the house – 2 rooms  for 2/3 people and 2 rooms for 4 people. Each room has a separate bathroom. See the gallery for pictures of the house and the rooms.

Kalina Hotel – we’ve stayed there as well; It is in the centre of the centre:) of Shiroka Laka and it gets quite crowded during the Pipe fest. Its restaurant is always crowded – not because its so good, but because it became a popular place. People like to chill there for 2 reasons: to watch the street and to listen to bagpipe maestros who often play there. Contacts – see the website of Kalina Hotel.

The following we have not stayed at but they look decent:

Tishina Villa in the village of Gela

Gela Hotel in the village of Gela – a quite expensive hotel

Beevski Villa in the village of Gela

If you have questions about Gela Pipe Fest or about accommodation in the area you can use the contact form or write to me at

The road to Shiroka Laka