Duration: three days
Distance: 610 km
Car accessibility: recommended
Leaving from Sofia: no later than 8am 🙂
Day 1: Sofia – Devin – Ecopath Struilitsa (overnight stay)
1.Stop: Devin. Distance from Sofia ca 220 km.
Leaving relatively early from Sofia, you should be able to reach Devin at about lunch time. The road is full of places you will want to stop and photograph, as after it leaves the highway, it passes several very beautiful dams, the views are fantastic. In Devin you will probably be in time for lunch, the local food is delicious. I very much recommend salads in the summer, as everything is home-grown, as well as freshly caught trout from the local Devinska river and Rhodope patatnik.
Spend the night in Devin and take a walk around the eco-path Struilitsa – Струилица and you’ll get to see an awesome waterfall and enjoy the idyllic sceneries of the path. We only got to the waterfall, but according to the article in the link above there is much more to see.
Day 2: Devil’s throat cave – Yagodina cave – Orlovo oko – Shiroka Laka.Leave very early! You have a lot of narrow roads ahead of you and many exciting things to see.
1.Stop: Devil’s throat – Дяволското гърло (Dyavolskoto garlo). Distance from Devin 25 km
The way to the cave through the Trigrad canyon and the cave itself are absolutely astonishing. The walk inside the cave is not long, but you will be thrilled to climb out of the grotto up the steep stairs, holding to the rails for dear life! No, kidding, it’s safe enough, but breath-taking nevertheless. The tour begins every hour. An absolute must see. The nature surrounding the Devil’s throat is also out of a fairy tale, with gargantuan cliffs hanging above your head.
Behind one of these cliffs is the Haramiyska cave – Харамийска пещера – Haramiyska peshtera, which you can book a trip into, it’s right across the street from the Devil’s throat. Just ask at the ticket selling kiosk at the Devil’s throat entrance. We did it, it was very cool, but requires at least half a day to do it – there’s some traversing on the rock face, a scary rappel in complete darkness and crawling. Fun!
2.Stop – Yagodina cave. Distance from Devil’s throat ca 17 km
After having seen the awesome Trigrad gorge, head to the Buinovsko gorge, which is equally beautiful and you can see the famous Yagodina cave. It really is much different from the Devil’s throat, as it is full of natural formations, is much bigger, and, should you feel so inclined, you can even get married in there! You’ll hear all during the tour, which begins every hour except between 12 and 1pm when they are having lunch break. The walk in Yagodina cave is long, as the path is 1.2 km, but it’s worth it.
After it, head for the Eagle’s eye – Орлово око – Orlovo oko, a panoramic platform, which will stun you with its views. There are two options to get to it – either drive your car to the nearby village (just enter Orlovo oko in your GPS) and from there it’s about 50 minutes walk to the platform. Be warned – there is almost no shade and probably snakes. We walked the way, was fine, but we were parched by the time we got back to our car. The other option is to get together with other people and rent one of the jeeps waiting outside the Yagodina cave, which will take you up and down for about 30 euros. From up there you see the entire Rhodopes, an ocean of mountain and forest.
3.Stop – Shiroka laka – Широка лъка. Distance from Yagodina cave ca 32 km. Overnight stay
I imagine you will want some well-deserved rest after all these amazing places. Head to Shiroka laka, where you can get some of those mouth-watering Rhodope dishes – patatnik, klin and all sorts of delicious meats. The village is one of the ethnographic reservations of Bulgaria, meaning that all houses there are built and kept in the manner of the Bulgarian Renaissance building, which is quite picturesque and has a pastoral atmosphere to it.
Day 3 (option one): Another tip I could recommend is, after spending the night in Shiroka laka, head to Gela village, which is only 8 km up the road leading into the mountain and it’s said to be the birth place of the legendary musician and singer Orpheus, which kind of makes sense, as he is said to have gone in the underworld to look for his dead wife right in the… you guessed it, Devil’s throat cave! The population of the village is 98 people, so it’s reeeeally secluded and will give you a genuine feeling of what the Rhodope life is like. You can get something to eat, as there are several guest houses there. There’s also an ancient Thracian fortress – Gradishte, which is kind of accessible by car (we broke ours trying to get there) and an ancient Roman temple. Here a picture of the guest house we slept in:
After a walk around in Shiroka laka and a visit to Gela, you can head back to Sofia via the Smolyan road, so as to avoid going back the same way. You should be in Sofia in about three hours.
Day 3 (option 2): However, if you like, you can leave very early from Shiroka laka and do this trip visiting the Bachkovo monastery, Asen’s fortress and Plovdiv, which I posted earlier, adding the The Wonderful Bridges in the Rhodopes as they are on your way anyway, even before the Bachkovo monastery.
This is a long trip with many sights incorporated in it. I recommend leaving early in all days so that you are able to see everything you would like to. I love this trip, I’ve done it three times already and I suspect I will do it again. The Rhodopes are magical. And as I am afraid I can’t really tell you all about the place, here a useful link.