VIII.  EV 13 The Iron Curtain Trail



From Border Checkpoint Zlatarevo / Novo Selo to Edirne, Turkey (Rezovo, BG)

      One of the routes popular among bicyclists is the one following the Iron Curtain - a term reminded from the years of the cool war. This route is for bicyclists loving to pedal in mountains, here there will be steep and long hills. The Bulgarian parts of the route is:  

      From Border Checkpoint Zlatarevo / Novo Selo to   

 

Petrich to Gotse Delchev to Dospat to Smolyan to Zlatograd to Krumovgrad to Svilengrad to Elhovo to Rezovo.

      Bicyclists can leave Bulgaria via  Border Checkpoint Ivailovgrad heading toward Edirne and Istanbul in Turkey, or heading toward Burgas and using its airport.


Sector VIII. A

 From Border Checkpoint Zlatarevo / Novo Selo to

Petrich to Gotse Delchev

Here I will suggest 2 routes:   

Route b

      From Border Checkpoint Zlatarevo - Novo Selo to Parvomay to Petrich to Vranya to Katuntsi to Gorno Spanchevo to Gotse Delchev.

      Maybe the hardest for climbing Pass (from west to east) in Bulgaria is Popova Laka Pass (you will see another names of the Pass: Popovi Livadi Pass, Papaz Chair Pass). The hard climbing starts from Gorno Spanchevo. The climbing to the top of the pass it is permanent

 

and constant.  

      Overnight accommodation is available in Petrich town. Some information for it and several photos.

http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/SW/blagoevgrad/petrich/petrich

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

      I have travelled this pass only by car, so I am not sure if there are springs of drinkable water up the mountain. But I know, on the Pass there is a hotel, restaurant and water.

 

Unfortunately I can not find available information for it.

      The road is in very nice conditions.    Several photos from Popovi Livadi.

From Popova Laka Pass toward Gotse Delchev follows a very nice descending. A beautiful view toward Rodopi Mountain will be revealed in front of you.

Overnight accommodation is possible in Gotse Delchev too. Information about Gotse Delchev:

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



 ٭Opportunities in this area:         - Melnik and Rozhenski Monastery (Sector VIII. A - 1);

                                                                - Rupite (Sector VIII. A - 1);

                                                                - Gotse Delchev and Ognyanovo (Sector VIII. A - 2)


 

 

Melnik and Rozhenski Monastery

 

Sector VIII. A - 1

 

Route a

 

      Now I will increase a little the scale of the map shown in the previous point. Melnik is one of the places in Bulgaria, which is worth to be seen, you definitely will not regret if you visit and spent a night in it, it is incredibly scenic place!

 

 

 

      Depending on where are coming from, there are two routes to pedal toward Melnik:

 

      - if you pedal from west to east:

 

      From Petrich to Ribnik to Karnalovo to Spatovo to Hotovo to Melnik

Just on the crossroad of roads at Ribnik there is a little nice restaurant (the first photo below). Be careful two kilometers further, traffic here is relatively intensive.

The climbing from Hotovo to Lozenitsa is relatively hard. The view form the highest point to Lozenitsa, Melnik and Pirin Mountains is extremely exciting - the last photo below, although it can not impress the real view.

- if you pedal from east to west:

From Vranya to Harsovo to Vinogradi to Melnik

      The climbing here is a little more comparing with route a, the area again is extremely scenic. On the map above I point Vinary Chateay, If my memory serves   overnight accommodation in it is not possible, I am not sure 100%. But I am sure there you can try some local types of wine typical only for this region.
      There are a lot of small private homes offering rooms and nice local type restaurants. The local type of red and white wines have to be mentioned as well. As Melnik is a tourists destination, in Internet is available a lot of information for it:  

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

http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/38

http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/SW/blagoevgrad/sandanski/melnik

http://visit.guide-bulgaria.com/SW/Blagoevgrad/Sandanski/Melnik

And several photos from Melnik.


Rozhenski Monastery

      My suggestion is to stay for an afternoon in Melnik. Overnight accommodation here is not a problem, there are a lot of local type restaurants offering perfect meals & local type wines.

      Leave the bicycle in Melnik and walk up to Rozhenski Monastery along the road (1h 50min - 2 hours very slowly walking):

 

      From Melnik to Karlanovo  to Pozhen to Rozhenski Monastery.

      In Rozhen is available very nice local type restaurant as well.

      Next several photos are the road toward Rozhen, Karlanovo and the sand pyramids above it, Rozhen and the  Monastery.

Some information for Rozhenski Monastery can be seen here:

http://www.bulgariamonasteries.com/en/rozhen_monastery.html

My suggestion is after visiting the monastery, to move a little up above the monastery along a narrow track (10 minutes walk) a marvellous view over all this place of sand pyramids will be revealed in front of you.

http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/23

 Go back to Melnik along the narrow track between the sand pyramids (50 - 60 minutes walk). You will be not disappointed ! No possible to pedal there.

Another place to visit is the area with remains of mediaeval monasteries just above the town in east direction. After walk of 30 minutes up the sand pyramids you will see Melnik from another point of view.


Rupite

Another opportunity in the same region is purposed for more adventurer explorers.

 

      Close to Ribnik is a place named Rupite (signed well along the road), it is formed like a park, there is a church there. A part of her life there spent one well known and popular Bulgarian clairvoyant, in fact she built the church.

      According to the geologist the place itself presents remains of ancient volcano crater. The only thing remembering this volcano is a hot 75 deg of C thermal spring. It forms a lot of pools of water & mud and people (me too) love to wallow in it for hours.

      You can choose a pool having appropriate temperature for you - as further from the spring, as cooler. Have only in mind there are leeches in cooler pools - I saw several. I can say they did not pay any attention on me maybe because of too much food for them in the pools, or

 

they are addicted to rhesus factor & blood group of natives.

      Information about Rupite:

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

http://www.bulgaria-guide.com/guide/Rupite/202816/

http://www.twoheads.info/rupite/

http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/372

      According other specialists the place is special, it is an energy place.  After wallowing in the pool I camped next to this place. Really in the morning I felt recharged, I only am not sure if it was because of the special place, or because of my little bottle of whiskey I took before sleeping.

But my idea is another. If you move a little further toward train line (just behind me next to the hill) you will see a line bridge. Cross the river below it - it is easy and go further along the off road next to the train line.

After go up to the train line, there is the second bridge over Struma River. There is a track for walkers, use it to cross the river. After 1/4 mile along the railway, you will be in General Todorov.

      Pedaling ahead, you will be on the Motor road toward Border Checkpoint Kulata very soon. Pedalling straight on, you will go to Melnik.

      From Gen. Todorov to Dolno Konomladi to Kapatovo to Kromidovo to Harsovo to Vinogradi to Melnik.


 

Sector VIII. A - 2

 

Gotse Delchev & Ognyanovo

 

 

 

      OK, we are in Gotse Delchev, it is a time to go further to east, before it I'd like to mention one more opportunity, this time in the region of Gothse Delchev.

 

      It is Ognyanovo, if you plan to spend a night in it you will not regret.

     

 

      

      Ognyanovo is a Place next to Gotse Delchev, I think it is worth to visit, of you explore this area. Because of the thermal springs in the region, it is very nice spa center perfect for relax, which is still not overcrowded by tourists.

 

      A lot of places for overnight accommodation in Ognyanovo are available:

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

      Just before entering in Garmen are remains of the ancient fortress Nikopolis ad Nestrum.

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

      As I have said above, a lot of places for overnight accommodation in Ognyanovo are available. I would recommend one very nice place to stay for a night here is hotel Elegance: the relation "price/quality" here is very nice. The hotel consists two buildings - a new and older one, both are in very good conditions (unfortunately the

 

Site is in Bulgarian):

http://www.comunicatorbg.com/elegance.html

      I will not write about it, fortunately the hotel Home page is written in English you can see information concerning prices, rooms, restaurant, swimming pool, SPA procedures and so on.

 

      It is very easy to find out this spot. Simply look for signs on the street poles:

      - coming from North, the hotel is in the opposite end of the village;

      - coming from South, the hotel is to right, immediately after the bridge entering in Ognyanovo.

      I will mention only that it is a clean place having a nice restaurant and a swimming pool of beautiful thermal water. Guiding bicyclists, I always recommend them to stay here for a night, and they have never been disappointed.



Sector VIII. B

  

Sector VIII. B

From  Gotse Delchev to Ivailovgrad

       The next distance: From Gotse Delchev to Dospat to Smolyan to Kardzhali to Krumovgrad to Ivailovfrad is in Rodopi Mountain entirely. I will not post information about this route here, A very detail description of it can be find in the Chapter:

 

VII.  NICE ROUTES IN MOUTAINS.

RODOPE Mountains

- Route 6: From Gotse Delchev (Ognyanovo) to Smolyan (Western Rodopi Mountain) and

- Routes 7, 8 and 9: From Smolyan to Ivailovgrad (Eastern Rodopi Mountain)

 

      The map in left is an increased view showing border checkpoints between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey.

 

     At the Border Checkpoint Ivailovgrad is possible to leave Bulgaria (entering in Greece for several kilometers) and after to head toward Edirne and Istanbul in Turkey.

 

      Ivailovgrad is a little border town, 5 hotels are available in it according to Google Map, again I can not find any English language information for it.

 

 

Some information for Ivailovgrad:

http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/SC/haskovo/ivaylovgrad/

ivaylovgrad

Go east, if you have to leave Bulgaria - the road toward Border Checkpoint Ivailovgrad is signed well.

Sector VIII. C

 

 

 

 

Sector VIII. C

From  Ivailovgrad to Elhovo

 

 

 

 

 

      Here I will show two possible routes, both routes are in very nice areas, roads are very nice to pedal, there is no any traffic.

 

      Have in mind this is a border area, you permanently will meet the border police, often they will ask your documents, you will have not any problems.

 

      For better and more detail description, I will split this sector in two sectors.

 

 

 

 

Sector VIII. C - 1

 

      The possible routes from Ivailovgrad to Svilengrad are two:

      - Route a:

      From Ivaiklovgrad (road 597) to Malko Gradiste to Siva Reka to Svilengrad;

 

      The route a is crossing the low west end of Rodopi Mountain and as it can be seen from the road profile charts below, here there is climbing. So, to bicyclists who do not love climbing, I would suggest to use the next route:

 

      - Route b:

      From Ivailovgrad (road 59) to Border Checkpoint Ivaiklovgrad to Kiprinos  to Komara to Pentalofos to Palli tp Pletea to Ormenio to Border Checkpoint Kapitan Petko Voyvoda to Svilengrad.

 

      Most of this route is in Greece, no any traffic along roads in Greece.

Route a

Route b


Route a

      It is one of no many routes I have never pedalled nor driven by a car, so it is in my plan for summer '23. I believe it is very nice countryside, and my suggestion is to have food and water with you. 

 

     Some information for Svilengrad  it is available here:

 

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

http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/SC/haskovo/svilengrad/svilengrad


Route b

      Several photos I took in Greece. In the villages you will pass by there is food and coffee. The road toward Bulgaria is signed very well. There is not any traffic here as well.

August '17 I explored just this area and I can say there was not traffic - I crossed the Border Checkpoints for minutes without any problems - photos below show it is an empty roads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sector VIII. C - 2

 

      The possible routes from Svilengrad to Elhovo are two:

      - Route a:

      From Svilengrad (road 76) to Mladinovo to Dripchevo to Balgarska Polyana to Hlyabovo to Topolovgrad to Knyazhevo Elhovo;

 

      The route a is crossing Sakar Mountain; the mountain is not high and for bicyclists who do not love climbing, I would suggest to use the next route:

 

      - Route b:

      From Svilengrad (road 5509) to Dimitrovche to Raikova Mogila to Shtit to Pashovo to Sladun to Studena to Radovets to Ustrem to Knyazhevo to Elhovo.


Route a

As I have mentioned, this route is crossing Sakar Mountain. The climbing of it is not hard, it starts immediately after Svilengrad. May and June are the best months to explore this area. In June this dry area already is getting yellow.

The countryside is beautiful, but it is a dry area, bring water with you. I think in Mladinovo and Dripchevo there was not food shops, or shops were with restricted working time.
The next photos illustrate the same countryside from Svilengrad toward Dripchevo, I climbed this road one hot morning early August '17. July and August along the road there are a lot of wild plums and black berry.

      An interesting place just before Hlyabovo is Dolmen called "Nachovi Chairi". It is the biggest one saved in Bulgaria. If my information is true, there were more than

 

600 such objects in Bulgaria, unfortunately almost all of them were destroyed by treasure hunters. 

      https://bulgariatravel.org/en/the-dolmens/

     The road toward Topolovgrad is pleasant and easy to pedal. Very little information for Topolovgrad is available here:

http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/SC/haskovo/topolovgrad/topolovgrad

       I am not sure if overnight accommodation is possible in the little town, but there is a nice coffee place in the shade and free wi fi. Near it in Google can be seen several such places. 

     Next several photos show the countryside from Topolovgrad to Elhovo.

 

      The road is very nice, no any traffic. Food and water are available in Knyazhevo, if you enter in it.

      The next several pictures are illustrate the road N7, just after Knyazhevo toward Elhovo. The traffic here

   is intensive, although it can not be seen from the photos.

Very little information about Elhovo is available here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elhovo 

http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/SE/yambol/elhovo/elhovo


 

 

 

 

 

Sector VIII. C - 2

 

Route b:

      From Svilengrad (road 5509) to Dimitrovche to Raikova Mogila to Shtit to Pashovo to Sladun to Studena to Radovets to Ustrem to Knyazhevo to Elhovo.

 

 

      It one of the best area to be pedalled among this route. The countryside cosmists a lot of not long and steep rolling hills and very nice mot deep canyon of Tundzha river from Ustrem to Knyazhevo.

 

      The first 20 kilometres are next to Bulgaria - Turkey border, so you will see a lot of border police cars, they will ask you for documents.

 

     

 

     

 

The next sevetal photos are taken in the sunny hot May '22. Unfortunately I do not remember if food shops were available in the first several little villages.

The entire area is best for camp in the wilderness, although it is not so nice idea, because of refugee. The border police is a little nervous because of several incidents last months. 
There are several water springs along the road, my suggestion is in the hot months to byu and drink only mineral water.

      You will see remains of the "Iron Curtain" - it was two kilometres away from the real border, this area was absolutely forbidden, Many peoples trying to escape from the communistic parades were killed in this forbidden zone.

 

To be a board guard in these times really was not a big pleasure.

      The iron fence now is just on the real border. In fact the refugee don't jump over it, they used organised channels to reach West Europe.

No any traffic here. Leaving Sladun yot will head to North, the border will be away behind you.
Ustrem is a bigger village, I remember, there was a restaurant in it.
Several kilometres agter Ustrem there is a hotel (maybe restaurant as well) near road, I did not visit it, but it is working, I heard a loud music passing near it.
Soon I was surprised to enter in a not deep green gorge of Tundzha Rivev with beautiful trees.
Food shop is available in Kntazhevo. Soon you will be on the main road 7 toward Elhovo, the traffic will be relatively intensive several kilometers.

Sector VIII. D

Sector VIII. D

From Elhovo to the east end of Iron Curtain Trail

     A detail information for routes from Topolovgrad to Burgas can be found out in:

      Chapter VI. Crossing Bulgaria from west to east. Routes: C. From Plovdiv to Burgas

      Sector VI. C - 8, Sector VI. C - 9, Sector VI. C - 10

      Please, have in mind that at Rezovo there is not a  Border Checkpoint between Bulgaria and Turkey. You

 

can leave Bulgaria via Burgas Airport, or Border Checkpoint Lesovo (I do not recommend because of the traffic, and Border Checkpoint Malko Tarnovo. A very detail nformation concerning the same area can be seen in:

      Chapter III. Crossing Bulgaria from north to south (from Romania to Turkey & Greece): D. South - East Region

Point 3. From Burgas to Border Checkpoint Malko Tarnovo

But . . . it would be the best if you pedal the back direction !!!


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