The Rhodope Mountains are believed to be the place where Orpheus was writing poems, playing his magical music and trying to retrieve from the underworld his wife Eurydice. It is not hard to believe in that myth because there is something magical in that mountain. And I am not only saying that because I was lucky to grow up there, but also because everyone who has been to the Rhodopes feels the same way. If you are visiting Bulgaria go and see it by yourself. I promise you won’t be disappointed. People are super kind and you should expect to be treated delicious fruit or sweets by nice old ladies around, especially if you are visiting some of the villages :).
Smolyan is the biggest town in the Rhodopes. From its main street, you can see the highest peak of the mountain called Golyam Perelik. Its only 2200m high and unfortunately some genius decided to build a military building on the top of it, so access to the exact peak is not possible unless you would like to be a volunteer in the Bulgarian military services. As there aren’t high elevations, trees are everywhere. It is difficult to get to a place with a view, but anyway, you don’t need it, just enjoy the old magical pine and fir forest.
There are a lot of things you can see in the area, but our trip will last only for a weekend. We will go to the Canyon of the waterfalls, and check what else we can do in Smolyan for the rest of that day. The next day we will go to Devil’s path and Eagle Eye viewpoint (Orlovo oko).
How to get there: You can take a bus from Sofia to Smolyan. The latest one on Friday night is at 6. You can also try hitchhiking if you are not limited in time, although it is a rather long way (~4 hours) to get to it. Whenever I want to go and visit my sister, who lives there, I am using Facebook groups to find drivers with empty seats traveling the same way. The group that you can check for Smolyan is this one. The messages are in Bulgarian, but you can leave a message in English that you need transportation from Sofia to Smolyan and the time you will be ready to go. People will get in touch with you to make the rest of the arrangements.
When: If you visit in spring you are guaranteed you will have a lot of water and as a general rule waterfalls are always the best in spring. I find it quite beautiful in autumn as well.
The Canyon of the waterfalls is located in the outskirts of Smolyan in the direction of Mugla. It is a walkable distance from the city center but still, it will take more than half an hour to reach the starting point. You can take a taxi which will cost about 3 lv or 1 euro and a half. If you are walking to it you will see the road going to the right just at the end of the town. There is a small shop with a place to have some drinks right before the trail starts.
The trail takes around 4 hours walking in normal speed and taking pictures. You will pass through several small waterfalls before reaching the biggest one in the end called Orpheus. It is almost 70 meters high. The trail goes on both sides of the river through wooden bridges. It has few viewpoints from where you can see the town of Smolyan.
The first one is the highest point you will reach. You will have a choice there to go back the same road, or continue to the other viewpoints and descend from there. The trail is making a circle, so you will go back to the same starting point anyway. There are clear trail marks and the chances to get lost are zero. There is also a trail going to hut Perelik, it should take you to the hut for nearly one hour and a half. I haven’t done it so far but it doesn’t seem to be used very often, hence be careful and follow the trail marks if you choose to go.
You have a lot of options what else to do in Smolyan and surroundings. Literally, every direction will lead you to a trail and if you look around you will see plenty of places (rocks, viewpoints) you might like. The other famous place is the trek to the Smolyan’s lakes. The trail will take you to 3 of them. You can take a bus going in direction of Pamporovo from the bus station in Smolyan. It can drop you on the way the lakes and then you can walk to them. Going back hitchhiking will be very effective. Worst case scenario you will be walking to the town. It’s not that far anyway. On the way to Pamporovo, there is another Eco-Trail Nevyastata starting from St. Pantaleimon Monastery. It has a beautiful view over the town and if you are feeling adventurous you can enjoy via ferrata in the end.
Eco-path “Devil’s Path” is a rather new trail and now it’s the time to go there – before all other people hear about it :). The starting point is 5km away from the village of Borino. You can get to the village with a bus from Smolyan and then hitchhike to the starting point. There weren’t so many cars but whenever the first one comes it will stop for you.
The main attraction of the trail is the Devil’s bridge – a huge rock arch. Expect to be walking on bridges attached to vertical cliffs. The path is well maintained, although it is free to enter, so no worries – you will be safe :).
At the end of the trek, you will reach a paved road. There are cars that can take you to the viewpoint “Eagle Eye”. The price is about 70lv (~35euros) and you can fit 10 people inside. So, less than 5 euros for an off-road experience :). You can as well walk to the viewpoint. Hitchhike when you get on the road to the village of Yagoda. There is a trail going up for about one hour and a half.
If you choose to go with the car they will offer to drive you back to your car for additional 20lv (10euros) or you can just go back the same way. If you want to walk the whole time you need to plan about 8 hours. We went to the viewpoint with the car and then hitchhiked back to our car in the beginning of the Devil’s path. We went back to Smolyan and then I returned to Sofia with a car from the group I shared above. If you are planning to use bus check your options at the bus station before you start trekking. There are plenty other attractions around, so you can consider staying one more night in the area. Yagodina has nice accommodation and it is close to all other caves and gorges you might want to see. Wish you magical travels.