This long weekend itinerary includes some of the most exciting places in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains (Southeast Bulgaria). The first stop would be in the village of Mezek, where you can taste local wine from the famous winery “Mezek”. Don’t miss the very well preserved fortress “Mezek” before continuing to the town of Ivaylovgrad. You can visit the famous tahini workshop in the city, which manufactures sesame tahini using old traditional technology. In the surroundings of Ivaylovgrad, you can visit “Villa Armira” and the fortresses Lyutitsa and Rodostitsa. Continue to the “Byala Reka” valley, alongside the Byala River (Byala Reka) and the unique old sericulture houses in the villages Mandrtitsa, Odrintsi, Dolno Lukovo and Gorno Lukovo. Then continue to the village of Plevun, where you can visit the local dairy, testing the local products and learning about the production. The area is famous for the sesame, so you would be able to find out more about the sesame cultivation. It could be arranged a visit to see a herd of Karakachan horses near the village and another small tahini workshop in Kondovo (if open). Last on this itinerary is Perperikon and the stone mushrooms north of Beli Plast.
Type: four days exploring the Eastern Rhodopes in Bulgaria by car;
Duration: 4 nights/5 days;
Places to be visited: The winery of Mezek, the Mezek village and Fortress, the town of Ivaylovgrad, “Villa Armira”, the fortresses Lyutitsa and Rodostitsa, the valley of “Byala Reka” and the unique old sericulture houses in the villages of Odrintsi, Mandritsa, Dolno Lukovo, Gorno Lukovo, the village of Plevun, Perperikon and the stone mushrooms north of the village of Beli Plast
Period of travel: year-round;
Tour mileage: approximately 1200 km;
Price: please, take a look at the three option we offer below;
A DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE ITINERARY
If you start your trip from Sofia, you would need to depart early in the morning to be around noon in the village of Mezek (near Ivaylovgrad).
Stop first at the “Mezek” winery, where you can degust the local wine and get familiar with the production process. Next, pay a visit to the “Mezek” fortress, a medieval Byzantine fortification built between the 11th and 12th centuries.
Continue to the town of Ivaylovgrad and Eastern Rhodopes region. Pay a visit to the tahini workshop in the city. The owners, Karakehayovy family, use old technologies to produce sesame tahini, which you will have the chance to see and taste. Overnight stop in the town.
For visiting the fortresses Lyutitsa and Rodostitsa, you’d need SUV. If you don’t have one, local tour companies can help. Ask at the reception of your hotel, and they will arrange a car and a guide.
Lyutitsa is one of the most preserved Bulgarian medieval fortresses, active between the 9th and 18th centuries. The fort is situated on a height called “Gradishteto”, and the view from there is breathtaking. The remains visible nowadays are from the period between the 12th and 13th centuries.
The fortress Rodostitsa is located in the area named “Balak dere”, near the village of Hula, not far from Ivaylovgrad. During the 9th and 10th centuries, it was the Bulgarian State’s southern stronghold, about 30 km from Odrin (Edirne). It was the second most important fortress of the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople.
Next stop would be Villa Armira, a 1st-century suburban Roman villa located in the vicinity of Ivaylovgrad. Discovered in 1964 during construction work in the area, it is a primary historical attraction in the region. Because of its historical value, it is classified as a monument of culture of national importance.
Continue to the villages Odrintsi, Mandirtsa, Gorno Lukovo and Dolno Lukovo. The whole region of the “Byala Reka” valley was famous in the past for the sericulture. The favourable combination of Mediterranean climate and fertile soils foreordain the excellent conditions for the thriving of mulberry trees used for feeding silkworms. Sericulture remained here until the late eighties of the 20th century. Today, the big sericulture houses remain desolate witnesses of the local communities’ well-being at the beginning of the 20th century.
In the village of Odrintsi, there is a small German community who is recovering some of the old houses.
Mandritsa is the sole Albanian village in Bulgaria, where part of the population still speaks Albanian. You will see here the big, three-storied adobe and Greek-style houses, some of which are still inhabitable. They have unique for the area carved ceilings, wrought-iron balconies, and colonnades. In the village is located the oldest church in the Eastern Rhodopes (1708) – “Sveta Nedelya”.
Overnight stop at the hotel, in the village Mandritsa.
After breakfast, set out to Dolno Lukovo, where you can visit the 200-year-old church “St.St. Constantine and Helena”, built-in 1806 by the Christians in the village. There are neither frescoes nor altar in the women’s section, while the men’s area is nicely decorated with carvings and frescoes.
If you have time, pay a visit to the abandoned village of Gorno Lukovo, close to the Bulgaria-Greece border.
Next, head to the village of Plevun. Here you can stay for the night in the local guesthouse. The owners have their own dairy farm, where, depending on the season, you will learn about the various stages of milk processing, cheese and butter production and can participate in some of the processes.
The cultivation and treatment of sesame are traditional for the region. You can observe some of the phases and processes depending on the season. Sowing is manual – elderly people say that from a handful of sesame seeds must be made at least 36 throws in the field. Sowing has to be made at sunset in the late spring. Harvest is collected in autumn. Plants are dried, and the seeds are separated manually using an old weirdly looking machine from the beginning of the last century. Treated seeds are purchased mainly by the tahini workshop in Ivaylovgrad, which you also can visit, while in the region.
There is another tahini workshop in the nearby village Kondovo and a herd of Karakachan horses in Kostilkovo. Visiting both places needs to be arranged in advance.
Get up early this morning, have a beautiful breakfast in the guesthouse and then continue your trip alongside the Studen Kladenets Reservoir towards the ancient Thracian city of Perperikon. This is the largest megalith ensemble in the Balkans, located about 15 km northeast of Kardzhali, on a 470 m high rocky hill, which is thought to have been a sacred place.
The stone mushrooms of Beli Plast are extraordinary, formed thousands of years ago. Most likely, the huge rocks have been eroded by the waters of ancient rivers or lakes, which do not exist now. The biggest one is over three metres in height. The whole area around is so weird and otherworldly.
If you finish with sightseeing in the early afternoon, you will have time enough to drive back to Sofia or Varna.
HOW TO USE THIS PROGRAM/ITINERARY
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; accommodation; pick up and drop off from your hotel/accommodation; transportation by A/C vehicle, fuel and parking expenses; transfers from/to airport and all other additional services you might need.
You will get 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 do the needed bookings 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.
Transportation and logistics: We coordinate, book and manage all the transportation elements of your trip – planes, trains, rent-a-cars, busses… everything to and from your destination, and between various places during your trip.
Accommodations: We coordinate, book and manage all of your selected accommodations. We recommend the best options at every destination on your trip, including hotels, airbnbs, bed and breakfasts, that fit your tastes, budget and have availability during your travel dates. You will find the names of the properties in Final Trip Plan, with links to the websites or booking forms. Sometimes the chosen by us accommodation is not on booking.com or any other platform, especially those in the remote areas. In this case we provide the name of the owner and a telephone number.
24/7 emergency support with a dedicated travel consultant: 4/7 Support throughout your journey (SMS, Email, Skype).
Secure Payments upon delivery of services: We offer two options: 1) PayPal – You will receive a PayPal invoice with the total amount to be paid. You can pay using your credit card or PayPal account; 2) A Revolut Business Account (in Euro) (UK) for a bank transfer.
Money Back Guarantee: In the unlikely event that you are not fully satisfied with our services, we offer a 100% money back return policy.
Discounts: We offer 20% discount voucher for next service;
TRAVEL SERVICES IN EASTERN RHODOPES
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Hotels in Ivaylovgrad, the heart of the eastern Rodhopes.
Hotels in Kardzhali, a convenient place to start your trip in the eastern Rhodope Mountains.
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