The Rhodope Mountains – Orpheus’s mountain

When asked about the Rhodopes people often say that this is the vastest mountain in Bulgaria, occupying one seventh of the country’s territory and forming the most part of its southern border. And they are right. But one can add that it is also a living organism that combines physical beauty with pure spirit and soul. 

Its exquisite appearance is manifested by a heavenly patchwork of breath-taking geological phenomena and natural sights while inside, under this divine skin, it keeps centuries of traditions, culture and history.The rock formations and natural landmarks shape the mountain’s body and organs. The Devil’s Throat Cave is the mountain’s throat while Trigrad Gorge plays the role of the mouth. Snezhanka and Yagodinska Caves are its eyes. The Marvellous Bridges in the western part of the mountain are its nostrils.

Batak Reservoir, the third largest in the country and Kardzhali Reservoir are the lungs. Velingrad, about 130 km south of Sofia and Devin, 75 km away from Plovdiv, are the two spa resorts where the mountain weeps from. Its tears come in the form of cleansing mineral water whose healing qualities attract many tourists every year.

In its heart the mountain has preserved many dear memories of the different peoples who used to inhabit its realm. The city of Perperikon and the tomb near the village of Tatul, both located in the eastern part of the Rhodopes, tell visitors about the customs and the lives of ancient Thracians. Villa Armira, 180 km southeast of Plovdiv, with its exquisite mosaic decorations and architecture reveals the splendour of the Roman Empire. Asen’s Fortress, situated just 15 km away from Plovdiv, provides detailed account of the heyday of the Second Bulgarian State. With its 19th-century houses and buildings, its bagpipes, folklore music and celebrations the village of Shiroka Laka in the southern Rhodopes is the keeper of national traditions and customs and is one of the must-visit places in Bulgaria.

And how about the mountain’s general disposition? Well, judging from Pamporovo, its most popular ski resort which lies about 80 km south of Plovdiv, it is quite friendly and welcoming. Its sunny weather and snowy ski trails attract thousands of tourists every season.

Photo by D.Alexov