The idea is for a long weekend to visit and explore the most interesting spots in the Eastern Rhodopes (Southeast Bulgaria). The first stop would be in the village of Mezek, where you can visit the famous winery producing Mezek wines. A place not to be missed is the Mezek Fortress. Continue to the town of Ivaylovgrad, where an interesting tahini workshop can be found They still produce sesame tahini using old traditional technology. In the surroundings of Ivaylovgrad you can visit “Villa Armira”, the fortresses Lyutitsa and Rodostitsa, which are accessible by an SUV. You continue to the valley of River Byala Reka and the unique old sericulture houses in the villages of Odrintsi Mandritsa and Dolno Lukovo. Then keep traveling towards the village of Plevun with the local dairy. You will learn about the cultivation of sesame, and also visit another small tahini workshop in the village of Kondovo (if open). It could be arranged a visit to a herd of Karakachan horses near the village. Last in the program is Perperikon and the stone mushrooms north of the village of Beli Plast, before heading off to Sofia or your final destination.
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 river Byala Reka and the unique old sericulture houses in the villages of Odrintsi Mandritsa and Dolno 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: take a look at the 3 option we offer below;
If you start your trip from Sofia, you would need to depart early in the morning to be at around noon in the village of Mezek (near Ivaylovgrad).
In this village, you can visit first the Mezek winery, where you will have a wine tasting and will get familiar with the production process. Of course, you can buy wine here. The next thing would be a short tour of the Mezek fortress. Mezek fortress is a medieval Byzantine fortification, built between the 11th and 12th centuries. The defenses functioned as border sentinel fortification. It safeguarded territories between Maritsa and Arda rivers.
Then you continue to the town of Ivaylovgrad and Eastern Rhodopes region. There is an interesting tahini workshop in the town. The owners, Karakehayovy family, use old technologies to produce sesame tahini, which you will have the chance to see. Overnight stop in the town.
After the coffee break in the hotel, you get on the SUV’s of the local guides, who will take you to the fortresses Lyutitsa and Rodostitsa.
Lyutitsa is a Bulgarian medieval fortress that existed between 9th and 18th centuries. It is located southwesterly, near to the town of Ivaylovgrad. The fortress is situated on the top Gradishteto, which is one of the last heights of the Eastern Rhodopes. Lyutitsa is one of the most preserved Bulgarian medieval fortresses and one of the largest in the Eastern Rhodopes. It has been destroyed many times. It has been constructed in its actual appearance between 12th and 13th centuries.
The fortress Rodostitsa is located in the area named Balak dere, near the village of Hula, in the region of Ivaylovgrad. During the 9th and 10th centuries, it was the southern stronghold of the Bulgarian State, about 30 km from Odrin (Edirne), and was the second most important fortress of the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople.
The next stop would be Villa Armira a 1st-century suburban Roman villa, located in the proximity of Ivaylovgrad. Discovered in 1964 during reservoir construction, it is a primary historical attraction to the Ivaylovgrad area. It is classified as a monument of culture of national importance.
In the afternoon you continue to the villages Odrintsi and Mandrtsa and the other villages in the region.
In these southern lands is established the first in the country sericultural micro-region. The favorable combination of Mediterranean climate and fertile soils in the valley of the River Byala foreordain the excellent conditions for the thriving of mulberry trees, used for feeding silkworms. Sericulture remained here until about 1980. Today, the big sericulture houses remain as desolate witnesses of the effervescent days of the rich families of the beginning of the XX century.
In the village of Odrintsi live 22 Germans and two Africans who are recovering some of the sericultural houses. While walking around the village, you will meet some of them, can talk with them and learn the reasons why they have chosen to live in this wonderful village.
Mandritsa is the sole Albanian village in Bulgaria. Part of the population still speaks Albanian. In the village, the big, old, three-storied adobe and brick Greek styled houses are preserved, being excellent representatives of the Thracian region’s architecture. They have unique for the region carved ceilings, wrought-iron balconies, and colonnades. In the village, you will see the oldest church in the Eastern Rhodopes (1708) – “Sveta Nedelya”.
Overnight stop at the hotel, in the village Mandritsa.
After breakfast, you continue your trip to the village of 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. In the women’s section, there are neither frescoes nor altar, while the men’s section is decorated with carvings and frescoes, made by unknown carvers and painters. Frescoes themselves are very interesting and certainly remarkable.
Next is the village of Plevun. Here you can stay for the night in the local guesthouse. The owners have their dairy farm, where, depending on the season, you will learn about the various stages of the processing of milk, and also can participate in some of the processes. Here you can buy local milk products.
Traditional for this region is the cultivation and the treatment of sesame, and depending on the season you could observe some of the phases. 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. The rest of the seeds is separated from plants through winnow using a strange machine from the beginning of the last century – the “winnower”, which we will see how it works. Treated seeds are purchased mainly by the tahini workshop in Ivaylovgrad, which is busiest in the late autumn and winter months when it is processing the collected feedstock.
You will visit the tahini workshop in the nearby village Kondovo (if open) and the herd of Karakachan horses in the village Kostilkovo. You will visit the church and the village museum in the building of the former school, where there is a permanent museum collection (costumes, artifacts, and historical data).
After Rhodope breakfast in the guesthouse, you head north, along the Studen Kladenets Reservoir and towards Perperikon. The ancient Thracian City of Perperikon is located in the Eastern Rhodopes, 15 km northeast of the present-day town of Kardzhali, Bulgaria, on a 470 m high rocky hill, which is thought to have been a sacred place. The village of Gorna Krepost (“Upper Fortress”) is located at the foot of the hill and the gold-bearing Perpereshka River flows near it. Perperikon is the largest megalith ensemble in the Balkans.
The stone mushrooms of Beli Plast are just a little larger than your average shroom. The biggest is over three meters in height and they were formed thousands of years ago. They are made from limestone which can be eroded by water. Over many centuries the water of a lake or a river can undercut limestone and sometimes it can have bizarre results, especially when the water responsible for the erosion has disappeared. Alone like mushroom-shaped islands, it is little wonder that supernatural tales spring up around them.
In the afternoon you head off back to Sofia/Your place.
HOW TO USE THIS PROGRAM/ITINERARY
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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.
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