Arda River and its meanders in Eastern Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria

Arda is the largest river in the Rhodope Mountains and the second largest tributary of the Maritsa River, after the Tundzha River. The Arda River flows almost entirely in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains.

People bathing and enjoying the Arda River flowing through Eastern Rhodope Mountains near the town of Madzharovo, Bulgaria

The Arda River springs from the Ardin Peak in the Rhodope Mountains. The most remarkable are the meanders that the river forms by making its way through the mountains. Its length is 250 km, and on its way, it supplies three of the largest dams in Bulgaria. The Arda River leaves Bulgaria shortly after the border with Greece, where it flows into the Maritsa River.

The so-called “Abrasive wells” in the “Sheitan” gorge near “Studen Kladenec” Reservoir on Arda River in Eastern Rhodopes are unique rock formations. The rocks are coulee from active volcanic activity millions of years ago. The big holes are visible in the rocks, which geologists call abrasive wells, formed by the scraping activity of harder rocks. They are of various sizes – from a very small to huge ones – with a diameter of 7-8 m and a depth of 10-15 m. These holes are located in the riverbed and are convenient shelters for the fish wintering in the gorge.

View of the Abrasive wells in the Sheitan gorge - nature phenomena in Eastern Rhodope Mountains near Studen Kladenec Reservoir, Bulgaria

There are several places where you can best enjoy the fantastic views and panoramas of the Arda river and its meanders.

The first one is nearby the former mining town of Madzharovo, where the Arda River makes a big turn, forming a beautiful valley. On one side of the road is the river, and on the other – colossal cliffs (more than 300 meters high). It would not be unusual to see vultures circling above your head.

Geologists believe an ancient volcano existed in the area, and the river carved its meanders through the crater of this volcano. One of the most picturesque roads in the Rhodopes and Bulgaria is from Madzharovo to the village of Borislavtsi on the shores of the “Ivaylovgrad” Reservoir. There are several viewpoints from which you can enjoy the most magnificent panoramas to the river’s curves.

High angle view of Arda River in Eastern Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria

High angle view of Arda River in Eastern Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria

Another popular place to enjoy and photograph the bends of the river is around the “Kardzhali” Reservoir. The most famous of these is the so-called “The Turn” (Zavoyat), located on the dam’s southern shore between the villages of Ribartsi and Star Chitak. There the rivers Borovitsa and Arda merge, and the place is magical. 

Access to these meanders is a little more complicated – from Kardzhali drive in the direction of the town of Ardino. At the village of Kobilyane, turn right and drive until you reach Borovitsa, the main settlement in the area. Then you will reach a crossroads. To the right, the road leads to the villages of Star Chitak, Ribartsi, and Suhovo, where you will find the famous “The Turn” of the “Kardzhali” Reservoir. Near Suhovo, you will see the rope bridge, one of the landmarks of this area. 

The road on the left leads directly to the shore of the “Kardzhali” Reservoir. You will pass two hotels with restaurants, where you can stop for lunch and enjoy the magnificent view of the “Kardzhali” Dam. Continue along the river into the mountains to the villages of Dolna and Gorna Spoluka, Rusalsko, and Lyubino. You can enjoy the meanders of the Arda River from different viewpoints on this narrow and in some areas quite broken road. 

Stay in the hotels mentioned above, at a hotel in the village of Borovitsa, or you can return to Kardzhali, where the choice of accommodation is much more diverse. You can explore this area for about a day, but stay longer if you have time since it is well worth it.



The preparation of a guided tour program/offer is free of charge. You’ll get a package price from us up front, which will include the services of a professionally qualified tour guide; pick up and drop off from your hotel/accommodation; transportation by A/C vehicle, fuel and parking expenses; accommodation, transfers from/to airport and all other additional services you might need.


You will obtain from us a Final Trip Plan of this tour in both web and pdf formats. Please have a look at sample web version with photos, maps and video here. Please download a sample version of a Final Trip Plan in pdf format here.   

You can use the Final Trip Plan to make the needed reservations and reservations by yourself.

The Final Trip Plan of the trip will contain: a web version of the tour; a pdf version of the tour (see the sample above), а short description (Resume); Basic information about the trip (duration, places to be visited, tour mileage, the period of travel;  а trip budget with detailed expenses table (downloadable pdf file); а Google map with the itinerary and bookmarks for places, hotels and restaurants; а link to a Google Earth interactive map with features like “Street view”, 3D etc; A link to a Google KML file, which can be uploaded to a cell phone and used during the trip; а detailed program day by day with activities and places to be visited, recommendations for accommodation and nice restaurants with links for bookings and reservations.


Additionally to the Final Trip Plan we make all the bookings and reservations on your behalf. We do this through our licensed travel agency “Thousand Voyages” Ltd.

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Accommodation in Madzharovo, the closest town to the river:  Hotels / Airbnb properties;

Accommodation in other cities close to the river:

Hotels in Haskovo

Hotels in Ivaylovgrad

View of Arda River in Eastern Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria


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