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Chepelare, Spring to Autumn

Many of this region's top tourist sites cannot be accessed during the ski season due to extreme conditions and poor road conditions. Several of the natural rock phenomenon are only open from spring to autumn, making this another good reason to visit the area outside of the main tourist season. Pamporovo also keeps its lift facilities open throughout the summer. A visit to this Rhodope area can be as rewarding in the warmer months as it can be for winter skiing.



Rozhen Observatory - The National Astronomical Observatory in Rozhen is about 14 km from Chepelare and 15 km from Pamporovo. It stands on a mountain peak, 1,750 metres above sea level. Tours to the facility are only possible after 2 pm with a group of 6 or more people.

The Wonder Bridges - The unique natural landmark, known locally as ‘Chudnite Mostove’ stands on the ridge of the Chernatitsa hill, close to Chepelare. An earthquake caused a cave in the area to warp and shatter; the result, two enormous stone hump back bridges arched over the tiny Aidarsko Dere River. The light grey of the smooth rock blends with the foliage of the lush pine forest. It has been under a preservation order since 1949. The Golyam Most Bridge is enormous and rises over a massive abyss. The smaller bridge lies 200 m away and is more of a tunnel. The tunnel begins with a wide opening that gradually wears out to a fracture in the rock. The river disappears into this opening and runs underground returning to the surface one and a half km away. The nearby Ice Cave is covered in ice all year round, but access is very difficult and only advisable if you have a qualified guide.

Bachkovo Monastery - The Bachkovo Monastery is the second largest monastery in the country. The Byzantine military commander, Grigorii Pakouriani and his brother Abazii built it in 1083. The walls are adorned with murals, particularly in the dining hall, which were painted in 1603 by an unknown artist. The true crowd puller is the icon of the Virgin Mary, which people believe is an inspirational miracle. On public holidays, there is often a long queue of people waiting to say their prayers to the miraculous image.

Assen’s Fortress - Close to Assenovgrad and Bachkovo lies an old medieval fortress and a stone church. They stand high above the town on a vertical rock face at the point where the mountain range merges into the Thracian valley.

The Trigrad Gorge & the Devils Throat Cave - The small village of Trigrad is situated close to the Greek border. The area is famous for its 200 caves and that is the reason why speleological expeditions are carried out here every year. The legend of Orpheus encompasses any visit to the cave. Orpheus was a talented flute player who gave up his music when his wife died. He went to the Devil’s Throat cave to get her back, as he believed that this was where Hell was and when you descend into the cave, you can understand why. It really is down in the bowels of the earth. Orpheus was allowed to take his wife back to earth on the condition that she followed him and that he didn’t look round until they were safely above ground, but as she climbed the 300 tiny, vertical steps she fell, called out his name and he turned around to witness her being pulled back to Hell - easy to believe when you find yourself puffing and panting your way out of the eerie darkness via those crudely cut steps.

The Devils Throat leaves you with an everlasting impression that somehow, you have touched upon a sinister part of history.

Yagodina Cave - The Yagodina Cave lies 8 km from the Devil’s Throat Cave in the Trigrad Gorge. It stands beside the Devils Bridge, a natural rock bridge, which legend has it, only the Devil himself could cross. It is one of the deepest caves in Bulgaria with a labyrinth of paths 10 km in length. The well-lit tourist trail is only 1,100 m long, but it takes visitors through a series of impressive rock formations of stalactites and stalagmites.

One of the most amazing sites is the rare cave pearls, formed by drops of water falling on tiny pebbles and gradually coating them with a lustrous shell. Archaeologists have found objects dating from the 4th and 5th centuries BC here.

Shiroka Luka - Twelve kilometres from Pamporovo lies the village of Shiroka Luka, known as “the living museum.” It is well known for its original Rhodope architectural style, musical traditions and history. Its roots can be traced back to the early years of Ottoman rule, which is the period when many Bulgarians were forced to convert to Islam. The first settlers here were villagers who originally lived on the outskirts of the Rhodopes, who fled to inaccessible mountain areas to escape the enforced conversion.

One of the best times to visit the village is towards the beginning of March when local villagers dress up in Kukieri costumes - animal skins, bells and exotic masks.
Mogulitsa - The quaint village of Moguilitsa village is home to Agushevi Konatsi, an early 19th century estate, which was once the residence of a Turkish feudal lord. This remarkable example of Rhodopean architecture consists of residential and agricultural buildings. Another interesting sight in the area is the Uchlovitsa cave.

 

Photograph of Bachkovo Monastery by www.bulgariaphotos.net