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Village Tour, South West Bulgaria

Numerous pretty villages are scattered around south east Bulgaria in the areas around Sandanski and Melnik. Quest Bulgaria takes a tour out and about in this fascinating region.

Gotse Delchev - Situated along the banks in the pretty valley of the Mesta River, this town bears the name of the legendary ideologist and leader of the Bulgarians from Macedonia in their struggle against Ottoman domination.


Make a visit to the Town Museum of History which is in an old house dating back to 1879 (Hristo Botev Street). Also the Revival Architectural Complex of Rifat Bey in the old central part of the town; along Hristo Votev, Targovska and Ivan Vazov streets; the artisans’ workshops along Zvancharska Street contribute to the town’s atmosphere.

One of the things you won’t miss is the 500 year old plane tree being 24m high and 7.6 diameter trunk!

Above the town, perching high, is the small village of Delchevo. This is worth visiting for the amazing views from the steep slopes. Spectacular architecture of the houses gives the feeling of stepping back in the past. The village is amidst an old forest and truly gives a bird’s eye view of the Gotse Delchev ravine.


Petrich
Not far from Sandanski lies the town of Petrich, which is actually only 13 kms from the Greek checkpoint. It is set right at the foot of the Belasitsa Mountain along the banks of the Petrich River. The land here is particularly fertile and with the Mediterranean influence coming through the valley of the Struma River a lot of citrus fruits are grown here - lemons, kiwi, figs, etc.

On our list of things to see and do:

  • Town Museum of History which is right in the centre
  • Holy Virgin Church which was built in 1857 and is now a protected monument
  • Assumption Church - One of the most magnificent sights near Petrich is the Samouil Fortress (National Museum). It’s just 18 kms west of Petrich on the right bank of the Strumeshnitsa River.


In the 11th Century Tsar Samouil built a defence system against the Byzantine invasion in the Klyuch Saddle (between Belasitsa and Ograzhden mountains). In 1014 the Byzantine Emperor Vasilius II and numerous army entered the ‘saddle’. After a series of futile attacks on the Bulgarian defence he sent part of his army to march round the Belasitsa Mountain and attack from the rear. The defence was taken by surprise and 15,000 soldiers were taken prisoners. The Byzantine Emperor left one in every hundred soldiers blinded in one eye. Tsar Samouil was broken and on 6th October 1014 he died. Since those times the Byzantine Emperor has been called Vasilius the Murderer of Bulgarians.

There is a most imposing life size bronze statue of Tsar Samouil which shows clearly his anguish. On each side of this statue there are stones with figures of the blinded soldiers. The largest dwelling in the whole settlement is preserved under a glass dome. You can see the entire Klyuch Saddle from a 25m high panoramic platform.

For those who enjoy walking, the mountain of Belasitsa rises steeply south above the town and in fact is its biggest natural park. On the northern slopes you will find the largest area of edible chestnut trees.

The mountain spreads across the territories of three countries ... Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia.

The crossing point of these borders is Mount Toumba which is a 6 to 7 hour climb starting at the village of Gabrene - but you will probably have to ask the border authorities about this!


Rupite

Located on a volcano crater, about 10 kms from Petrich, Rupite is near the Struma River. Thermal curative springs attract many visitors, along with the two protected areas - the natural landmark Kojuh, a volcanic hill, and Rupite itself which is the only forest of silver poplar on the Struma River.

Rupite’s biggest claim to fame is being the home village and burial place of the famous Bulgarian prophet Vanga, who said that the whole region of Rupite is filled with special cosmic energy. Legend says that when she was six year’s old she saw an angel who offered her the choice between sight and clairvoyance - she chose the latter. Her prophecies and healing abilities gained her a wide following. Indeed, her vision of Varna engulfed by water was vindicated when it was discovered that the city stood upon an underground lake. Even in old age she had VIP visitors and her predictions were always heeded.

The location of Rupite being in the crater of an extinct volcano makes the place a powerful attraction for Bulgarian New Agers who also believe it has powerful energy.

The Church of St Petka was built at a site chosen by the legendary Vanga and is a place of worship for many as well as a renown tourist attraction. Vanga’s house can be seen nearby as well.