VII.  NICE ROUTES IN MOUTAINS

RODOPE Mountains



      Have in mind, that most of the people living in the region of Rodopi Mountain are Muslims. They are friendly, peaceful and very workable people, they will be enjoyed to see bicyclists touring in this region. We are living together with them without any problems. People are very kind, several times an ordinary people invited me to spent a night in their home because it was powering rain. One time I was totally wet I was not able to refuse the invitation.

      Rhodope (Rhodopi, Rodopi, Rhodopy - you will see different transcriptions) Mountains is placed  in southern Bulgaria and northern Greece, it is a part of the Rila-Rodopi massif. It is the most extensive mountain range in Bulgaria and occupies about one seventh part of the Bulgarian territory. Its length is approx 220-240 km and has a width of 100 km. The total area of ​​the Rodopi Mountains is about 18 000 km2, of which Bulgarian territory is 14 738 km2; it is 81.88% of the total mountain area.

      Rodopi mountain is divided in two parts (the green line on the map): Western Rodopi Mountain and Eastern Rodopi Mountain.

      Western Rodopi mountain cover an area of ​​8732.1 km2 (approx 60% of mountain area) and here is the higher part of the mountain Goliam Pesenk, having altitude of 2190 m. The average altitude of this mountain part is 1100 meters.

      Eastern Rodopi Mountain cover an area of ​​6005.4 km2 (or 40%), it is the lower part of the mountain. The average altitude here is only 329 m, i.e. more than three times lower than the Western Rodopi. Nearly three quarters of Eastern Rodopi  area (71.5%) are occupied by a land with an altitude between 200 and 600 m. While keeping his massive mountain nature, Eastern Rodopi  are dissected by broad valleys, in alternating narrow gorges. Ridge of the mountain are less fragmented and have leveled look.

      In the Western Rodopi, because of the high altitude mountain climate prevails. The climate there is tempered by warm Mediterranean air masses penetrating along river valleys. This climate mitigation is more noticeable in the Eastern Rodopi, because there the altitude is less and river valleys offer an easy way for warmer air coming from the south. In the Western Rodopi  the Mediterranean influence is less, and in the East - stronger, as evidenced by both average year  temperature and average rainfall for five meteorology  stations:  Velingrad 9ฐC, 550 mm;  Smolyan 8,5ฐC, 981 mm; Zlatograd 10,9ฐC, 986 mm, Kardzali 12, 5ฐC, 663 mm;  Ivaylovgrad 12,7 C, 736 mm. In the Western Rodopi rainfall is mainly during the summer months, while in the east - in the winter.

      My favorite part is Western Rodopi  Mountain, each year I have several day tour in this area. I did not find time to explore eastern part of the mountain (except not big  area near Kardzali) – it is the only corner of the country I still did not explore. So, my further description will be only for the western part of the mountain. More information for rodopi Mountain:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhodope_Mountains

      http://bulgariatravel.org/en/object/385/Rodopite

 

  


      Some initial tips having in mind exploring of Rodopi mountains:

 

      A. Pazardjik (Pazardzhik) as a base point to explore Rodopi Mountain.

 

      According to me, Pazardjik is very appropriate to be regarded as an initial/end point, when the question is about routes in Rodopi mountain. It is not as big as Plovdiv, and the most important: the traffic in it also is not as intensive as in Plovdiv, it is easy to orientate in it, as well as it is easy to find very nice hotel/restaurant in it at an acceptable price. So, further, most of the routes I will describe will begin/end with Pazardjik.

      In the link below more information concerning this town is available, I will not write about it here.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pazardzhik

      For accommodation in Pazardjik, I would recommend Hotel Acropolis: http://acropolispz.com/index_eng.htm

 

Pazardjik
Boul. „Hristo Botev“ 17

tel: 034/45 10 45;

cell tel: 0898 662 702

e-mail: acropolispz@abv.bg

 

          According to me it would be nice to stay and relax here for a night, because:

-                        - It is very easy to find out this spot – I have shown it on the map, over more along the roads approaching to the hotel there are a lot of signs (the green “o” on the map above), pointing how to reach it;

-                - The place can be recognized easily by the new red bicycle lane just in front of it – the right side of the street going to North (the photos below);

-             - The place is very clean, rooms are supplied by R-conditions, which is very important in this town, where summer temperatures often are more than 40 deg C (above freezing);

-               - Opinions of the hotel guests concerning this place are very nice (bicyclists toured with me in BG – some of them are on the photo below – cooling with a glass of beer in the hotel restaurant - garden);

-               - Prices of Rooms (25 EURO/double room and 20 EURO/single room) are even low for the quality of the hotel;

-                - The hotel restaurant offer nice dishes, the staff speak almost fluent English;

             - Wi Fi;

-                - There is an easy access to a free room for bicycle and pannier storage.


        B. Varvara (or Vetren Dol) as a base point to explore Rodopi Mountain

     Varvara is even a better place to be used as a base point when enter in Rodopi mountains – there is a nice motel and swimming pool of mineral water there. Have only in mind that weekends in the summer time (June - August) this spot is overcrowded by relaxing tourists and there will be not free beds (Friday & Saturday nights) in the motel.

         There are another possibilities for overnight accommodation in Varvara or Vetren Dol.

      The left photo - a motel ("ะ๎ไ๎๏๑๊๎ ๕เํ๗ๅ") in Varvara (nice restaurant and small swimming pool are available here as well) - on the road coming from Septemvri (I recommend it);

 

 

      The right photo - a private home-hotel (ะเไ๎โเ๒เ ๊๚๙เ) in Vetren Dol - on the road coming from Pazardjik.


      C. The narrow-gage train Septemvri - Dobriniste As the traffic along the road N 84 is intensive,  an appropriate way to enter in Rodopi Mountain is the narrow - gage train serving the line Septemvri - Dobriniste.

      The red line on the map below shows places where the line is not next to the road.

 

      More information concerning this amazing train can be seen here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septemvri-Dobrinishte_narrow_gauge_line

      The narrow gage train can be taken on in Septemvri (at 8. 30 am), but my suggestion is to take it in Varvara (at 8.46 am). This place can also be used as an initial point to explore Rodopi mountains. There are several reason to use this amazing train when you begin exploring Rodopi mountains:

-          - I think there are no many such trains in the world. Its velocity is 25 – 30 km/hours, the scenery of the area it is going is marvelous as it can be seen from the photos below; Each year I travel by it at least one time;

-          - It is not a problem to load your bicycle in it (if bicyclists are more than 4 – use different carts to load baggage (buy an additional ticket for the bike – 1 EURO);

-          -There is a traffic Varvara – Velingrad and never mind it is not so intensive it would be better  this road segment to be traveled by the train;

-          - Some climbing can be avoided: altitude of Varvara is 270 m., Velingrad – 750 m., the highest point Avramovo line station – almost 1300 m. My suggestion to tourists having a restricted time for touring is to take on the train and enter in the mountain. It will save some time which can be used later to visit more exciting places in the mountain;

-          - Depending of the route you have decided to do in Rodopi mountain, you can take off the train in Velingrad or Avramovo train station;

-          - The train can be used also for a route in Rila Mountain (see the Chapter for routes in Rila mountain);

-          - In the opposite direction it would be unnecessary to travel by the train. The pedaling down the mountain along the line is very pleasant.

The train station in Varvara. The train from Varvara to Velingrad is here at 8. 46 am. Inside the cart - no problem to load your bicycle in it. The diesel engine - there are such engines made in Romania and former East Germany. At work since 1963.
Avramovo Line Station.
Avramovo Line Station - the highest on Balkans - alt.1267. There are a lot of tunnels along the line. Inside the engine - some time I arrange tourists to travel inside it.
The visibility in the engine is much better than in the cart, but it is not easy to arrange to travel in it.
In the mountain there are several serpentines of the line.  Velingrad Line Station.
Old steam engines can be seen in Bansko Line Station. Rocks on the line after powering rain. Some time in the mountain it happens ...

      There is one original steam engine still at work, it is used only when there is a group of tourists  paying in advance for such a traveling; See the video - speaking in Germans:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JbJvinBQ8s

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N2FfKQjvtg


Always when explore Rodopi mountains, bring with you  a spray against dogs !


    

The routes I will give further are (the map below):

 

         Route 1. Pazardzhik –  Varvara - Velingrad - Gotse Delchev (Ognyanovo) (points H - L - B);

 

         Route 2. Velingrad – Dospat (points L - C);

 

         Route 3. Pazardzhik – Dospat points H - C);

 

         Route 4. Pazardzhik – Devin (points H - M);

 

         Route 5. Plovdiv – Asenovgrad - Smolyan (points F - D);

 

         Route 6. Gotse Delchev (Ognyanovo) - Dospat - Devin - Smolyan - Kardzhali  (points B - C - M - D - E);

 

         Route 7. Kardzhali - Haskovo (Plovdiv) (points E - K, and  E - F).

 

      The logic, when design a tour in Rodopi Mountains, is to enter in the mountain in the direction North – South (routes 1 to 5), after to pedal the route 6, or a segment of it, and be back to North. So, I will begin with routes 1 - 5.


      Route 1

 

     Pazardjik (Varvara) – Velingrad - Yakoruda - Gotse Delchev (Ognyanovo).

 

      This route is along very scenery countryside, my suggestion is to use it when enter in Rodopi Mountains. I will not describe it here, because a detailed information concerning this route and some alternatives along it can be found out in:

      Chapter III. Crossing Bulgaria from north (Romanian border) to south (Greece&Turkey borders):

Point: 11. Pazardjik - Gotse Delchev - Border Checkpoint Ilinden (Road N 84 and Road N19) – Drama (Road N57).

 

      Here I will mention only that it would be nice if you include Ognyanovo in your route:

       Chapter III.  Crossing Bulgaria from north (Romanian border) to south (Greece&Turkey borders):

Point 11.3,  Segment III. 11 - C:  Dobriniste (Eleshnitsa) - Border checkpoint Ilinden.


Route 2

 

 

      Velingrad – Dospat

 

 

      Velingrad – Dospat is one of the best destinations in Rodopi Mountains. The climbing begins just after Velingrad and to the highest point there are almost 30 km, the last 4-5 km. to the Pass are steeper.

 

      The map shows difference of the altitudes of Velingrad and the highest point in the mountain - almost 800 meters. The road is in very nice conditions, there is not any traffic. On the highest point of the Pass there is a restaurant, but it is not so nice. Depending on the season, along the road you will see wood strawberry and raspberry (in fact everywhere in Rodopi Mountains there are such wood fruits). Springs of water are available everywhere.

 

      Again, 10 km south from Sarnitsa there are 5 km climbing (to the road N37coming from Batak). Be careful, there are sheep/cattle-pen here and dogs.

 

      Many times I have explored this area, down are several photos of it.

      There are a lot of small hotels in Dospat - the overnight accommodation is not a problem in it (as well as in Sarnitsa).

 

   

      Some information for Velingrad:

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/30

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velingrad

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/82

       Sector VII. 2. 1

 

      There is an off-road along the other side of Dospat Dam (the right dam side going toward Dospat - next photod). It is a little hard to find it in Sarnitsa. Never mind there is not hills from this dam side, the road is not nice – there are a lot of pools as well as muddy segments, but I like it and many times pedaled and camped here. There are nice spots for wild camping, nice water springs, July and August the dam water is more than 20 deg C, it is best to refresh in it.

 

      On the dam wall there is a road – use it to enter in Dospat (the last 3 photos below).

 

     

 

      Overnight accommodation is not a problem in Sarnitsa and Dospat.

      Information for Dospat and Dospat Dam:

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/dospat/dospat.html

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dospat_Reservoir

Dospat Dam wall

Route 3

 

 

      Pazardzhik – Dospat

 

      Pazardzgik – Pestera – Batak – Batak dam - Dospat.

 

      Pazardjik – Dospat is one of the best route (almost 90 km long) in Rodopi mountains. Beginning from Pazardzhik having altitude 210 m. the climbing is considerable. The highest point in the mountain is 1650 m., it is almost in the middle of the road. There is a little restaurant and food shop in this point. The road is very nice, it was reconstructed 2012.

      You will not regret if decide to explore this area.

      For more detail description I will part this route in two sectors.

 

 

      Sector VII. 3. 1

      As it can be seen on the map , there are 2 possible routes  to reach Batak Dam from Pazardjik:

 

      Route a:

 

      Pazardjik – Glavinitsa - Pestera – Batak – Batak Dam.

 

      The traffic here is more intensive, especially Pazardjik - Pestera, but climbing is less than the next variant.

       

 

      Route b:

 

      Pazardjik – Glavinitsa - Debrastica – St. Konstantin Resort – Batak dam.

 

      Comparing with the route a the distance here is longer, the climbing is more as well, but no any traffic and the scenery us beautiful. I do recommend this variant.

 

      Two kilometersm above Debrastica there is a nice relax place - hotel, restaurant, drinkable water are available there. 4 km up the mountain there is one more such a spot.

      Overnight accommodation is possible in St. Constantin resort as well.

 

      In the little Resort Tsigov Chark  (at Batak Dam) there is a restaurant, hotel, little shops, it is a place to relax. (Notice on the map above, it is not just on the road towards Dospat.

      Route a:

      Pazardjik – Glavinitsa - Pestera – Batak – Batak Dam.

      The traffic here is more intensive, especially Pazardjik - Pestera, I would say it is not dangerous road; but climbing is less than the next variant.

      Twenty kilometers after Pazardzhik it Pestera. The only photo I have from this area is where I am climbing toward Radilovo. Overnight accommodation in it is possible, next to the town are remains of mediaeval fortress, a little museum is available there - you can try some mediaeval weapons in it.  Information for Pestera:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peshtera

      Further up in the mountain is Batak. the traffic here is much less, the road is going up in the mountain via scenic gorge. Information for Batak:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batak,_Bulgaria

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/batak/batak.html

 

      The history of this little town was quite unhappy in connection with uprising April 1876. Information for it can be seen here, my suggestion to more sensitive persons is to miss this information.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Uprising

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batak_massacre

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/336

      Seven kilometers up in the mountain is Batak Dam, Tsigov Chark resort is placed near the reservoir.  In the little Resort Tsigov Chark  (at Batak Dam) there is a restaurant, hotel, little shops, it is a place to relax. (Notice on the map above, it is not just on the road towards Dospat. Information for the little resort and several photos:   

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/358

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/tsigov_chark/tsigov_chark.html

      Route b:

      Pazardjik – Glavinitsa - Debrastica – St. Konstantin Resort – Batak dam.

      Comparing with the route a the distance here is longer, the climbing is more as well, but no any traffic and the scenery us beautiful. I do recommend this variant.

 

      Two kilometers above Debrastica there is a nice relax place - hotel, restaurant, drinkable water are available there. Fore km up the mountain there is one more such a spot - all that I have pointed on the map Sector VII. 3. 1 above. The climbing here is not so easy, but it will be in a wood and shade area - the next 3 several photos.

      St. Konstantin Resort is located at the highest point of this route. Overnight accommodation is possible in it, restaurant is available as well.  resort as well. Because of there only one hotel is available, in the weekends problems with the accommodation are possible (Friday and Saturday evenings).  If you need overnight accommodation, you can go further toward Tsigov Ihark Resort.

      Especially pleasant area is down toward Batak Dam.

      Sector VII. 3. 2

 

      Batak Dam - Dospat

      If you have a possibility, explore this area. Never mind that the climbing after Batak dam is considerable, you will not regret. (see altitudes on the map. It is extremely scenery mountain area.

      On the highest point there is a little restaurant or food shop - I do not remember well (the photo down I am sitting near the table).

      The same is next to Shiroka Polyana Dam, I am sure there is a restaurant there.

      Several words for the off road segment VII. 3. 2, a are after the next photos. The last photos below are the point B on the map.

   

      Well ... I can not avoid posting of more photos of this scenic area.

 Next 3 photos are taken at the point B on the map above 9a view toward Dospad Dam.

 Sector VII. 3. 2, a

      A nice opportunity to enter deeper in Rodopi mountain is the following: Instead to bicycle to Dospat along road N37, approx. 6,5 km. after the restaurant at Shiroka Polyana Dam there is an off-road – a short cut to the road N 197 Dospat – Devin - the route between points B and C on the left map.

       Unfortunately there is not any sign pointing this road. The crossroad is just at the place where a small river is crossing  the asphalt road. On different maps the name of the small river is pointed as "Sarnena River", or "Karadjadere River".  Another: to the point B bicycling is downhill, after the river – up the hill. The place can be recognized by:

      - the water spring just on the crossroad (the first photo below);

      - the sign "Dospat Municipality" - written in Cyrillic as "ฮแ๙่ํเ ฤ๎๑๏เ๒" - the second photo below;

      - the very little dam in the beginning of the off-road (the third photo below). Once finding out the off road, further you will be not wrong, simply follow the river.

      Next are the road profile charts of both routes. HAVE IN MIND THE SECOND ONE IS ONLY OFF ROAD !

      As it can be seen from photos, it is worth to explore this areas. I am afraid, there are bears in the region, although the natives say they are not dangerous in the summer time. Who does it knows ... maybe it is not so wise, but I would explore this area over and over again ... I love this place ...

      Photos for the route:

     Pazardzhik - Debrastitsa - Shiroka Polyana Dam - Borino - Devin - Shiroka Laka - Stoykite - Smolayn - Smillyan - Rudozem -  Srednogortsy  - Ardino - Kardzhali - Beli Plast - Haskovo - Dimitrovgrad.

can be seen here:

         https://picasaweb.google.com/112194859705983643715/023Our6thBicycleTourAugust13InRodopyMountains


Route 4

 

      Pazardjik – Devin

 

      Another nice route in Rodopi Mountains without any traffic is:

      Pazardjik – Ognyanovo  – Isperihovo - Kozarsko - Krichim – Mihalkovo  – Lyaskovo – Devin.

 

      The route is along the valley of Vacha river. There are 3 dams in this valley: Krichim dam, Vacha dam and Tsankov Kamak Dam. I have shown altitudes of dam walls. The highest point here is Lyaskovo having altitude of 1100 m. The tunnel near it is not dangerous to be passed. 

      There is a little restaurant just near the road in Mihalkovo, as well as the place I have pointed as a Hotel Chilingira at Vacha Dam where overnight accommodation is available as well.

     

 

      Photos and information for Devin will be shown in the Route 6 of this chapter.

      Thracian field. from Pazardzhik toward Ognyanovo and Krichim. Very little information for krichim is here:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krichim

The wall of Krichim Dam.

      The wall of Vacha Dam (the 3rd photo below) is the highest dam wall in the Balkan Peninsula area - 120 meters. Information for Vacha Dam:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacha_Reservoir

      Another site with useful information and many photos of the same Dam:

      http://www.andrey-andreev.com/en/vacha-dam/

      Overnight accommodation is possible in Hotel Chilingira. Weekends in the summer time the place is overcrowded by hotel guests, especially in the hot summer weekends. Unfortunately this marvelous spot has not a site in English. 

      The bus shelter can be used as a hotel (in Mihalkovo) in the time of powering rain .

      Towards the highest place of this route - Lyaskovo - it is just behind the tunnel. I think there are places for overnight accommodation in it. The tunnel is not dangerous. No any traffic here.

      Be careful in the back direction just after the tunnel. The road is in very nice condition, the slope is big, so I have noticed that bicyclists love to ride madly down the mountain, often velocity is more than 40 miles/h. It is dangerous, because of the many turns. It may happen to see suddenly in front of you 2 heavy trucks over passing each other up the road . . . I remember such a case summer 2012, fortunately there was not a serious accident with the bicyclist, she succeeded to stop in the last moment.

      There is one more reservoir above Vacha Dam: Tsankov Kamak Dam.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsankov_Kamak_Hydro_Power_Plant

 

      It can not be seen from the road, because the new road is going up the mountain toward Lyaskovo. Next photos were taken May '10 just in front and behind Tsankov Kamak Dam wall, before to close the road along Vacha river and filled in the Dam.

http://www.minstroy.com/index651a.html?id=147

     This three dams as well as Dospat Dam (the previous item) are working together in an interesting hydro system "Dospat - Vacha" cascade driving 5 power plants. More for this system can be seen in the link below the chart.

 


      In Devin town there are a lot of small private hotels, it is easy to fund a place for the night. The most noticeable in the center of Devin is the nice swimming pool, although the water here is not so hot, it is 24 deg C – perfect for the hot summer days. Information for Devin:

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/devin/devin.html

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/80

      Walking 5 kilometers west from Devin, there is one more swimming pool and a restaurant near it, which thermal water is more than 30 deg C. Further there is a nice track to walk half an hour in the mountain along nice river gorge near waterfalls.


     Route 5.

      Plovdiv - Asenovgrad - Smolyan

 

 

 

 

 

      Route a: (road N 86)

 

      Plovdiv - Asenovgrad - Bachkovo - Narechen resort - Hvoyna - Chepelare - Pamporovo - Smolyan.

 

      Plovdiv – Smolyan is a route I would not recommend for touring especially in north - south direction (up the mountain).

 

      Never mind the scenery here is very nice, this road connects Smolyan, Asenovgrad and Plovdiv, so the traffic here is quite intensive. I pedaled this route only two times in the direction Smolyan - Plovdiv, my opinion is that bicycling here is dangerous. Over more, between Asenovgrad and Narechenski Bani Rezort there are two or three not long tunnels.

 

      So, I recommend the next route.

     

 

     

      Route b: (sector VII. 5. 2 - road N 861)

      This route makes it possible to avoid the traffic along road N 86:

 

     Plovdiv - Asenovgrad - Yugovo - Laki - Dzhurkovo - Zdravets - Smolyan.

 

      Here there is not any traffic, but the road is much more steeper, as it can be seen from the next road profile charts. In the direction Plovdiv - Smolyan I recommend this route only to the stronger bicyclists.

 

      Route a:

 

     Several words and photos for for Plovdiv can be seen in the Chapter II.  Crossing Bulgaria from west (Serbian border) to east (Turkey border - Edirne) and south (Greece border)  Sector II.B, 6. Sofia – Edirne (in Turkey), 6.3. Pazardzhik - Plovdiv – Popovitsa (please look there).

      The next sites provide a lot of information for Plovdiv:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plovdiv

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/306

      http://bulgariatravel.org/en/search_result?search=1&sText=Plovdiv

 

      Ther traffic from Plovdiv to Asenovgrad is terrible, although the road is wide. Overnight accommodation in Asenovgrad is available. Information for Asenovgrad:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asenovgrad

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/assenovgrad/assenovgrad.html

 

      Above the town are remains of a mediaeval fortress:

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/19

 

     The church you see on the second photo is used as a label of exceptionally aromatic local type red wine named "Mเโ๐๓ไ" (Mavrud). Try it, you will not regret, you can find it almost everywhere for 3-4 EURO/bottle.

      Next important place for our history is Bachkovski Monastery. Near it overnight accommodation is possible, but usually this place is overcrowded by tourists. I remember that prices here were a little expensive than usual. Several photos and Information for the monastery: Narechenski Bani Resort is 15 km after Bachkovski monastery.

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/347

      It is known with its cool radioactive mineral water, which makes it popular among the nervous people. I do not love it very much. Information for it:

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/408

      Next town is Chepelare, people loving skiing love it winter time, so overnight accommodation summertime in it is not a problem. Information for it:

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/213

      One of the most popular winter skiing resort is Pamporovo. Six - seven feet of snow are usual for this place. Skiing there is possible to the middle of April. Many tourists from GB and Scandinavia are coming here winter time. Information for Pamporovo:

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/309

      The biggest town in Rodopi Mountain is Smolyan, it is at least 30 kilometers long. Again, people use it as a base for Pamporovo skiing resort, so summer time it is not overcrowded by the tourists. The rocks over the town are very impressive but my photographs skills are very poor to show it. Information for in and interesting spots near it can be found in the next site:

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/smolyan/smolyan.html

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/44

       Route b:

 

 

      What about it,  I traveled it only one time by a car attending 2 couples bicyclists from Israel. Yes, no any traffic there. I find only 3 photos for the route b (I remember there were a lot of raspberry near the road).

     Overnight accommodation is possible in Laki.


      Sector VII. 5. 2

      The Marvelous Bridges

 

      A little back now. If you decide to pedal route a, you must visit this scenic place called the Marvelous Bridges.

      Turn right 37 km north from Asenovgrad (at the crossroad with the statues - the first photo below - point A on the map), and after 16 kilometers climbing you will be there.

      Some information of this spot can be seen here:

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/59

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLd7Pdovd7U

      The bridges themselves are remains of ancient caves. The place is really amazing. According to me, it is the next noticeable place in Rodopi Mountains after the region of both Yagodina and Trigrad. There is a little hut for overnight accommodation and restaurant. Conditions in the hut are not so nice. According to my sister there is a hotel at this place as well, but I have not such memories.


     Route 6

      Gotse Delchev (Ognyanovo) - Kardzhali

 

      The route Gotse Delchev (Ognyanovo) – Kardzhali (more than 200 km.) is located in the southern part of Rodopi mountain (next to BG/Greece border), I will describe the route in direction is West – East.

 

      Here can be explored one of the best areas in Rodopi Mountain: Dospat, Yagodina, Trigrad, Shiroka Laka, Smolyan, gorges of Buinovska River, Trigradska River, Arda river. All the area is a pain forests and glades covered with millions of flowers all the summer.

      According to me the direction West - East is easier for bicycling, rather than the opposite direction. But it is only my opinion.

      Or first please look again information concerning Route 1: Pazardjik (Varvara) – Velingrad - Yakoruda - Gotse Delchev (Ognyanovo). This route is along very scenery countryside, my suggestion is to use it when enter in Rodopi Mountains. I will not describe it here, because a detailed information concerning this route and alternatives along it can be found in:

 

      Chapter III. Crossing Bulgaria from north (Romanian border) to south (Greece&Turkey borders):

Point: 11. Pazardjik - Gotse Delchev - Border checkpoint Ilinden (Road N 84 and Road N19) – Drama (Road N57).

 

      Here I will mention only that it would be nice if you include Ognyanovo in your route:

      Chapter III.  Crossing Bulgaria from north (Romanian border) to south (Greece&Turkey borders):

Point 11.3,  Segment III - 11 - C:  Dobriniste (Eleshnitsa) - Border checkpoint Ilinden.

 

      Overnight accommodation is possible in Gotse Delchev. Information for it can be seen here:

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/gotse_delchev/gotse_delchev.html

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/428

      Sector VII. 6 - A . 1

 

      An alternative here is to stay for an afternoon in Ognyanovo. It is a nice spot last 2 - 3 is was developed as a nice spa resort due to the thermal water. There are 3 -4 nice places to stay for a night, I have pointed two of them on the next map:

      - Komplex Gradina (Garden), really there is very nice garden (photos 5 and 6), the restaurant is very nice as well, but the water in the pool is nit thermal;

      - Hotel Elegance - the pool behind it is perfect with its thermal water (photos 3 and 4). The restaurant also is nice.

 

      Information for Ognyanovo:

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/ognyanovo/ognyanovo.html

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/412

 

      If you decide to relax two days in Ognyanovo, I would suggest you to visit Kovachevitsa high in Rodopi Mountain (look again sector VII. 6 - A. 1). Of course, it is only for bicyclists liking climbing. The climbing is 16 kilometers and the difference of altitudes is almost 500 meters (3 hours pedaling for a bicyclist like me :),  including the coffee pause in Lesten, or Gorno Dryanovo).

      The route is:

      Ognyanovo - Lesten - Gorno Dryanovo- Kovachevitsa.

      It would be better to climb here in the morning. Going up and up, you will enjoy of the best scenery: to West is Pirin Mountain. Along the road there are water springs.

      In Kovachevitsa you will see stone houses covered with stone plates – a typical architecture from the beginning of XIX century. In the village there is a small restaurant.

      Information for Lesten:

      http://bulgariatravel.org/en/object/301/selo_Leshten

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/301

 

      Several photos for the road toward Lesten and Ognyanovo and information for Kovachevitsa (a restaurant and overnight accommodation is available there as well):

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/316

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/kovatchevitsa/kovatchevitsa.html


      Back again: The route Gotse Delchev (Ognuanovo) - Dospat (sector VII. 6 - A) is:

      Gotse Delchev (Ognyanovo)  - Dabnitsa - Dolno Drianovo - Satovcha - Dospat.

      Except the first several kilometers (to Dabnitsa), all this distance is up the mountain. Beginning from altitude of 500 m. at Mesta River, in the end you will be at altitude of 1380 m. Dospat dam wall is a little lower, its altitude is 1230 m.; all this place is open to South – West, so climb it in the morning.

      Coffee places, shops even small restaurants are available in Dolno Drianovo and Satovcha - there are possibilities for overnight accommodation in the last one.

      An hour climbing after Satovcha there is a nice spot for wild camping: beautiful meadow and a spring of cool fresh water (the blue triangle on the map above). Leaving Dolno Dryanovo you will see Gradiste Historic Landscape Park - megalits you see in the next photos. There is a cam place, and water there.

      https://www.mydestination-bulgaria.com/attractions/gradishte-historic-landscape-park

      In the region you will see a primitive agriculture from XIX century; along the road many people deal with producing of stone (gneiss) plates exported in all Europe. If you want, stonemasons will give you to try to do some plates.


  Sector VII. 6 - A. 2    Be careful now !!!

      Half a kilometer to Dospat Dam wall you will see the blue sign on the photo below. Leave road the number 197 and soon you will be on the dam wall. The view here is nice, but the most important is that you will avoid crossing the valley in front of the dam wall – one very unpleasant climbing in the end of this not easy road segment. Further, just after the wall turn to right, soon you will see the silver cupola of the mosque in Dospat. Near it there are several hotels, you can spend a night in.

      From the other side of the dam wall you have to go up 200 meters and you will see the mosque on the next photos. A lot of hotels are there (the red one is just next to the mosque. Dospat is a touristy place, Information for Dospat and Dospat Dam and photos of this area:

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/dospat/dospat.html

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dospat_Reservoir


      Sector VII. 6 - B     Dospat - Devin

      Dospat - Borino - Teshel - Grohotno - Nastan - Devin.

      Again I have to write here, how beautiful is this place, but I do not. Photos below will show it. According to me it is the mostcsenic area of Rodopi Mountain.

      Between Dospat and Borino there are 3 not long and steep hills, except the first steeper one just after Dospat, which fortunately is no longer than 2 kilometers.

      Ascending down after this first hill, you will reach an ancient roman bridge, a place, where tourists like to takes photos.

      In Borino there are hotels and restaurants. The place is nice for coffee/beer pause, but my suggestion is to relax here for a while and go further. Next I will mention a little more for Borino (sector VII. 6 - B. 3)

      This route is easy for bicycling in direction west - east; the biggest difference in altitudes is between Borino and Teshel - the road there is quite steep, it is not easy for climbing in the back direction.

      In Devin there are a lot of small private hotels of different class as well as many little private guest homes, it is easy to fund a place for the night. Information for Devin:

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/devin/devin.html

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/80

      The most noticeable in the center of Devin is the nice swimming pool, although the water here is not so hot, it is 24 deg C – perfect for the hot summer days.

      Sector VII. 6 - B. 1

      Walking 5 kilometers west from Devin, there is one more swimming pool and a restaurant near it, which thermal water is more than 30 deg C. Further there is a nice track to walk half an hour in the mountain along nice river gorge near waterfalls.


      Sector VII. 6 - B. 3

 

     Do not hurry to leave this region. There are several very nice opportunities.

      If you decide to stay in Borino, there is n nice walk 4-5 km toward a place named the "Devil Bridge", there is a water fall as well. The route is well signed, the spot is very scenic.

 

 


      Sector VII. 6 - B. 2

      Yagodina and Trigrad

     

      Maybe it is the best region of Rodopi Mountains – the region Yagodina, Yagodina Cave, and Trigrad and 2 amazing gorges – the Gorge of Buinovska River and Trigradska River and the cave "Devil's Throat".

      Many times I bicycled here I have met foreign bicyclists who miss this marvelous spot, bicycling madly downhill from Borino toward Teshel. So, I will give a little more detailed description of this area.

      After Borino there is very steep downhill along the road N197. On first photos below it can be seen the signed crossroad toward Yagodina and Yagodina cave. A little further you will see a sign that the right turn is forbidden, more stupid thing cannot be seen anywhere. Simply ignore the sign, turn to right and soon you will enter in this amazing gorge – you will recognize it easy in the photos below.

      Turn to the forbidden right direction, soon you will see a tunnel (it is not dangerous) and after it you will enter in the amazing gorge of Buinovska River. According to an emotional girl, pedaled here with a group from USA: "everything here is 3D". 

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/244

      Yagodina

     Going further, soon you will reach a well signed crossroad; tourists loving caves can pedal a kilometer straight on to Yagodina Cave. If there is a group of 5 – 6 tourists, a guide will show you the cave. Have in mind inside the cave is quite cool – 4 deg C, you need a jacket to walk in it. There is a restaurant near the cave.

      Turning to the left at the same crossroad, after 2 – 3 kilometers along a road cut in the rocks, you will reach Yagodina.

      Going further, soon you will reach a well signed crossroad; tourists loving caves can pedal a kilometer straight on to Yagodina Cave. If there is a group of 5 – 6 tourists, a guide will show you the cave. Have in mind inside the cave is quite cool – 4 deg C, you need a jacket to walk in it. There is a restaurant near the cave.

      Turning to the left at the same crossroad, after 2 – 3 kilometers along a road cut in the rocks, you will reach Yagodina.  The restaurant belonging to Hotel Yagodina is very nice, you may have a lunch in it.

 

      My suggestion is to stay for a night in Yagodina.

      Look for Hotel “Zdravets” (there is a sign in front of the mosque) – Sofia & Zdravko are masters of the house. (they have 2 sons speaking English). You can see down I and Sofia are talking in front of the house.

      www.vilazdravec.com     (+359 885 05 95 04)

      There is a shelter for bicycles, there are 3 double rooms, the place is exceptionally clean, it is worth to stay here for a night or more.

      Never mind the village is remote, there is a fast Wi Fi.

      You can call me if you want to stay there and there is some problems. I will drop a line to Sofia :).

      For the dinner you may ask Sofia to prepare for you trout  (Zdravko has worked it in the stream you bicycled along in the gorge) and “patatnik”- a typical local potato meal – I am sure you will like it. For the breakfast next morning, ask her to prepare “banitsa”, home prepared yogurt and a little glass wood strawberry or blueberry jam. (buy drinks for you in the little shop in the village). You will not regret, over more everything here is in a very nice price. Many times we have spent a great time in this place.

      No problem to arrange a show - a performance of the local, you can take part in it redressing like them as well.


      The reason to stay in Yagodina is the possibility to walk up the mountain to “St. Ilia” Pick and visit so called “Eagle eye” – a platform over the precipice, or a bridge to nowhere according to me. The walk up the mountain (the red line from Hotel Zdravets) is no more than 1h 20 min slowly walking. The view from the platform cannot be compared with anything. Always I have heard people reaching this place to say "Oh boy !!!" . . .

        On the right photo you can see the road you bicycled before reaching Yagodina. If I must be true, I have never stood on this platform. This photo is not mine ... But all the other ones are mine :)

      In the back direction you can use the trail: the dashed red line on the map above. You will see everything from another point of view.

      No problem to rent a Jeep and visit the pick, if you are tired to walk - there is not any problem to arrange it. But I think it is not a pleasure to drive the car along this terrible road. The walk is much more exciting. 

      The last opportunity here is to visit Yagodinska Cave - one of the best in Bulgaria. There is a convenient track in the cave. If there is a group of 5 – 6 tourists, a guide will show you the cave. Have in mind inside the cave is quite cool – 4 deg C, you need a jacket to walk in it.

      There is a restaurant near the cave. Information for the cave:

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/370


      These are the things Yagodina offers, now we will go further. Towards Devin you can go back along the road in Byinovska river gorge.

        Or:


       Trigrad

 

      If the weather is nice, it would be better to head towards Trigrad, heading to the small chapel next t oYagodina. It would be very nice to see the next gorge - Trigradska River Gorge (it is almost parallel to Buinovska River Gorge). There is 12 km off road between Yagodina and Trigrad (see the map above). Have in mind that in wet and raining time there are pools and mud along this road. Have in mind, that in the region there are bears as well. So far, just here still nobody was injured by a bear. I toured here many times, there are tourists, shepherds, woodcutters in this region, it seems bears prefer to be away from that entire clamor.

 

 

     The next photos are the area between Yagodina and Trigrad (the off road). When you reach the flat area above Yagodina, turn to right and enter in the wood - the road is signed.

      The overnight accommodation in Trigrad is not a problem. Information for Trigrad can be seen here:  

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/trigrad/trigrad.html

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/392

      A beautiful area for camp in the wilderness is south from Trigrad toward Zhrebevo.

      Already you are in the next impressive gorge. Going down the gorge, you can stop and walk inside "Devil's  Throat" Cave (the place is well labeled), or only to the place where Trigradska River disappears into it (the last three photos). Information for this cave can be seen here:

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/31

      You can pedal to Trigrad beginning from the crossroad at Teshel.

      Leaving Trigrad, just begin going down it you will see a label and instructions how to behave when meet a bear (just here you will never meet a bear).

       Pedaling down the gorge just after Devil's Throat Cave there is not long but dark and narrow tunnel. Usually here there is not any traffic, the cars here are driving very slowly, but if while you are in the tunnel and see cars lights inside it, do not be afraid and do not tight the brakes strongly. Very often the road is wet, and you may lose control on the bike. I remember such a case, fortunately the bicyclist succeeded to keep control on his bike and there was not an accident.


           Sector VII. 6 - C     Devin - Shiroka Lala - Smolyan          

          As it can be seen from the map there are 3 possibilities to bicycle route Devin - Smolyan:

 

      - Route a:  Devin - Shiroka Laka - Stoykite - Smolyan;

 

      - Route b: Devin - Shiroka Laka - Pamporovo - Smolyan;

 

      - Route c:  Devin - Shiroka Laka - Pamporovo - Rojen - Smolyan. (this route I traveled only by car)

      The climbing along route a) is the biggest, but the scenery here is the best. Other 2 routes b) and c) also are beautiful.

 

      I would say no matter which one you will choose, the entire area here is very scenic, you will spent a nice time there. Climbing West – East is easier than the opposite direction.

 

      Route a: Begining from Devin, the climbing toward Shiroka Laka is permanent and not hard, pedaling up the mountain is easy and pleasant. there is not any traffic here. Cool drincable water is available very often as in the entire mountain. The road is steeper after Stoykite toward Pamporovo. Next six photos show the road toward Shiroka Laka.

      Shiroka Laka is a small village saving its XIX century architecture - it is an architecture reserve. The overnight accommodation in it is not a problem. Information for Shiroka Laka:

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/shiroka_laka/shiroka_laka.html

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/34

Towards and after Stoykite
The middle photo (the little chapel and our tent) is the Pass. There is a nice spring of drinkable water just near the chapel

      The biggest town in Rodopi Mountain is Smolyan, it is at least 30 kilometers long. Again, people use it as a base for Pamporovo skiing resort, so summer time it is not overcrowded by the tourists.

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/smolyan/smolyan.html

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/44

      Further the road is going down toward Smolyan - a steep long descending. There are several small lakes just before enter in the town.


      Route b: Toward Pamporovo. this route is a little longer than the previous one and it is a little bit easier. Pamporovo is the most popular winter skiing resort in Bulgaria. Six - seven feet of snow are usual for this place. Skiing there is possible to the middle of April. Many tourists from GB and Scandinavia are coming here winter time. Information for Pamporovo:

       http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/309

      Several photos of the road toward Pamporovo and Pamporovo Skiing Resort.

       Further the road is going down toward Smolyan - again a steep long descending. The rocks over the town are very impressive but my photographs skills are very poor to show it. Information for in and interesting spots near it can be found in the next site:


      - Route c:  Devin - Shiroka Laka - Pamporovo - Rojen - Smolyan. It is the longest route, it is appropriat if you intend to miss Smolyan and go further to east. (this route I traveled only by car)


       - Route d:  There is an opportunity: from road 197 (Pazardjik - Devin - Trigrad) to head to east, toward Mugla and Smolyan.   

      As it can be seen on the photo below (I took it just from road N197), it is not easy to guess where is the crossroad toward Mugla, because the bridge over the river was broken many years ago, in fact there are not even any bridge remains. The road is not signed as well.

      The road also is not maintained more than 40 years. Bridges are broken, there are rocks on the road. The 3 photos I have post down were taken July 2003 – I and my daughter Maya explored this area. We bicycled this road one afternoon and the next day at 11 am we were in Mugla. When we reached Mugla people in it told as, we are surely empty head bicyclists, because it is just the region where bears are living.

      Climbing here is not hard, but very often we had to push our bikes because of the broken road. The nature here is extremely beautiful (have food with you).

      The climbing ends 6 - 7 kilometers after Mugla, where the road toward Smolyan is nice.

     

      The climbing in the back direction: Smolyan - Mugla is very hard. I would not do it. My suggestion is to miss this route. In the end I want to mention that there is a road from Trigrad toward Mugla, but I did not explore it.


      Sector VII. 6 - D     Smolyan - Ardino - Kardzali

      The route from Smolyan to Kardzhali  is almost 90 km. long easy for pedaling road. I have shown here two alternatives. A longer one (for bicyclists having time and loving the wilderness) :

      Route a:

      Smolyan - Smilyan - Rudozem - Srednogortsi - Svetulka - Ardino - Kardzali.

      (the road between Smilyan and Rudozem is dirty one)

 

      and next one directly to Kardzhali:

      Route b

      Smolyan - Srednogortsi - Svetulka - Ardino - Kardzali.

 

      Sector VII. 6 - D. 1

 

      Route a:

      Smolyan - Smilyan - Rudozem - Srednogortsi

 

      Between Smolyan and Smilyan there is an additional hill (please, notice my partner on the second photo below :).

 

      Food can be find out in Smilyan.

 

      Two kilometers east from Smilyan is located  "Eco complex Smilyan"; the trout they cook in the restaurant is really the best. The area here is beautiful, you will not see any cars here.

      Further the road is dirty, maybe to Rudozem, I do not remember well. a reservoir will be built here, but nobody knows when it will happen. although overnight accommodation in Rudozem is available, the little town is not nice, miss it. Very little information for it can be seen here:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudozem

      A better place for overnight accommodation is Madan, although it is not just on the route, it is 4 - 5 km right. Very little information for it can be seen here:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madan,_Smolyan_Province

      http://www.thefullwiki.org/Madan,_Bulgaria

      Route b

      Road profile chart shows that this route is much easier comparing with the previous one.

 

      The road segment is nice for pedaling, longer hill there is after Ardino.

      Overnight accommodation in Ardino is available. Information for the town:

      http://www.bulgaria-guide.com/guide/Ardino/200763/

      Sector VII. 6 - D. 1

 

      If you decide to stay in Ardino for an afternoon, you can visit so called the "Davil's Bridge" built in the beginning of XVth century. There are signs toward it.

      In the summer '15 the road toward it was in reconstruction, I believe it is ready now. Have in mind that the last 2 kilometers are a steep off road down the bridge, it would be better to lock bikes (there is a little parking place) and walk down the bridge.

 

      Information for the Bridge:

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/310

 

      An opportunity for overnight accommodation in this region is hotel "Mountain view"next to Yabalkovets.

      Finishing the ascend after Ardino, a long downhill to Kardzhali follows. a lot of information for Kardzhali can be seen here:

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/kardjali/kardjali.html

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/361


       Route 7

      Kardzhali - Haskovo (Plovdiv)

      The information concerning his route can be found out in:

      III.  Crossing Bulgaria from north (Romanian border) to south (Greece&Turkey borders), point 12. Haskovo - Momchilgrad - Border checkpoint Makaza (road N5) – Komotini (road N23).


  Photos for  tours in Rodopi mountains I have don in the years van ve seen in my ohitialbums:

      https://picasaweb.google.com/112194859705983643715/004August2009OURBICYCLETOURINTHEMOUNTAINS

      https://picasaweb.google.com/112194859705983643715/012MayJune2010MathiasDorotheaAndIWhatAnAmazingBicycleTour

      https://picasaweb.google.com/112194859705983643715/016September08152011

      https://picasaweb.google.com/112194859705983643715/023Our6thBicycleTourAugust13InRodopyMountains

      https://picasaweb.google.com/112194859705983643715/034VelotourRodopy2015


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