NATIONAL ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY (NAO) ROZHEN
NAO was established in 1981 with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The observatory has some of the largest telescopes in the world for observing celestial bodies.
There is the largest telescope on the Balkans – a two-meter reflector with an optical system Richie-Chrétien-Kude, manufactured by Karl-Zeiss, Jena. The observatory also has a 60 cm photometric telescope Cassegrain and a 50/70 cm Schmidt telescope. In 2005, the Institute of Astronomy developed and built a 15 cm solar coronograph, which is now installed in the solar tower of the NAO Rozhen.
The altitude is 1759 m. Although the observatory does not offer special attractions for ordinary tourists, it is visited annually by approximately 10,000 people. In addition to the incredible panoramic view from the Observatory, tourists can observe the sky and celestial bodies through the 80-ton telescope, one of the few such telescopes in the world of very high class and accessible to ordinary citizens.
NAO is well equipped to conduct scientific meetings, internships and schools with a small (up to 30-40 participants) format. A Visitor Cen\tre with an 18-cm demonstration telescope, a lecture hall and a museum collection has also been built. Under the dome of the 2-metre telescope, discussions and demonstrations are held for individual and organised tourists.
The largest planetarium in Bulgaria exists since 1975.
The planetarium presents more than 50 programs (sessions), including fairy tale programs for children, educational, overview and thematic sessions for the general audience.
A daily solar patrol has been carried out here for more than 20 years. Sketches and photographs of sunspots are taken – the only visible manifestation of the activity of the Sun. The planetarium documents all lunar and solar eclipses and other astronomical phenomena visible from the territory of our country. The astronomical ideas of the adult population in our region are being studied.
Foreign guests of the Planetarium are offered programs in foreign languages: Russian, French, German, English, Greek, Turkish. A series of special programs – musical and poetic – complement the variety of stellar performances.
The Waterfalls Canyon Nature Trail is the end of a 6-kilometre route, which hiking enthusiasts can walk in 4 hours. The nature trail is unique because it passes through the Soskovcheto Reserve, revealing the natural phenomena and the biological diversity of the protected area. Along the Gerzovska River, on the border of the reserve and the buffer zone, 46 waterfalls have been counted. The largest waterfall is named after the mythical singer Orpheus. Water jets descending from a height of 68 meters resemble the strings of a harp. Imaginatively crafted wooden bridges, delicately integrated in nature, bring the feeling of a forest tale where time has stopped.
The nature trail has all the markings and signs required and it is impossible to get lost. At first you walk along the dried-up riverbed, the road is rocky, then the trail winds through the forest and you climb higher and higher… and then you are expecting to look up and see the waterfall in front of you. But nature zealously guards its creations…
In fact, 46 waterfalls have been counted along the Gerzovska River. Tourists can encounter the beauty of 10 of them after completing the walking route, named after a series of small but attractive waterfalls – Ropkata, Kazanite, Sartseto, Cascadite.
The surroundings of Smolyan abound in natural beauty and historical sites. To the north of the town, in a small tectonic depression surrounded by bizarre rocks and coniferous forests on all sides are located the picturesque Smoyan lakes. Here is the most beautiful place of Smolyan natural treasures.
The Smolyan lakes are located between the Orpheus Rocks on the left slope of the Cherna river valley and the town of Smolyan itself. In the past there were over 20, but now there are only 7 left, and the others have turned into swamps or have dried up. In the spring, some of them are refilled with water. The first lakes are located along the road from Smolyan in the direction of Perelik peak. They alternate with the mountain bends in sequence – Keryanoviya Gyol, Milushevita Gyol and Salasha, Osmanoviya Gyol.
Next to the lowest lakes there is a campsite, and a little higher, near the Salasha Lake, is the original hotel-restaurant. 200m higher is the Ezerata Hut, which is used by groups for excursions. The Ezerovo District, the ancestor of Smolyan, is located above them. And on the top terrace between the lakes is perched the Smolyan Lakes Hut. Many new and modern hotels have been built and are operating in the area of the lakes.
Yagodinska Cave is located in the Rhodope Mountains. Its length is 10 km, but only 1100 m are accessible to tourists. It consists of 3 storeys, as only the lowest level is electrified and open to tourists. Even on the hottest days in summer the temperature there is constant – 6 degrees. The artefacts found there show that the cave has had inhabitants since the 4th millennium BC. The cave is open for visits all year round, as the working hours are from 9 am to 5 pm. Entry to the cave is organised hourly by groups, as the last group for the day enters at 04:15 pm.
THE TRIGRAD GORGE
The Trigrad Gorge is impressive in its size and shape. For most visitors, the gorge looks scary but at the same time amazes them with its majesty. The road from Devin to the village of Trigrad passes through the picturesque gorge above the river. In some places the river is lost from sight between the mountain slopes and then reappears. Remains and paintings of prehistoric people have been found in the surrounding caves.
The formation of the Gorge has taken place during the Neogene and Quaternary. During this period, the bed of the Trigradska River has embedded itself deep between the mountain slopes composed mainly of Proterozoic marble and metamorphic rocks. This was the precondition for the formation of various karst forms and huge caves in the deeper layers. Here is the Devil’s Throat Cave, and to the west on the Trigrad Plateau is the Yagodinska Cave. There are also many unknown and unexplored smaller caves in the area. Here you can see furrows, whirlpools, potholes, hollow formations, sinkholes and rock bridges.
Of great interest to scientists is the flora and fauna of the gorge. There are plants and animals that are very rare – the plants Rhodope Silivryak (Haberlea rhodopensis), Rhodope rye and others; as for the animal world, here are the only poisonous spiders in Bulgaria living deep in the caves.
DEVIL’S THROAT CAVE
A rare phenomenon for our lands can be observed in the Devil’s Throat Cave near the village of Trigrad – an underground waterfall. Here the Trigradska River falls with a deafening roar into the dark abyss. Perhaps this is why this “hole” is associated with the notions of the underworld and the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, according to which he descends into the underworld to beg Hades to bring his beloved back to life.
One of the versions about the origin of the name of the cave is related to the observations that from everything that the river has dragged into the cave through its entrance (wooden trunks, etc.), nothing has ever come out at the end of the cave. People have experimented by dropping objects through the entrance and then waiting at the exit for a long time to see when their items would appear – but, alas, nothing have come out. People called this miracle “devil’s work.”
Coloured water released at the entrance comes out at the exit after more than an hour and a half, said the speleologists. This leads researchers to believe that the water passes through an extremely long labyrinth within the rock.
UHLOVITSA CAVE IN THE RHODOPES
Uhlovitsa Cave is located 37 km from Pamporovo, near the village of Mogilitsa. It was discovered in 1967 by Dimitar and Georgi Raychevi. The name of the cave comes from the word “ululitsa” (tawny owl). The cave is about 460 m long, of which 330 are landscaped. It is among the Hundred National Tourist Sites.
For centuries, nature has created a real spectacle of corals and helictites. The cave ends with seven incredibly beautiful lakes, which fill with water in early spring. At the end of the cave is the icy White Waterfall. Uhlovitsa Cave is located at an altitude of 1040 meters. The average temperature is 10 – 11 degrees.
It is open for visits from Wednesday to Sunday from 10: 00 am – 04: 00 pm. Mondays and Tuesdays are days off.
The Wonderful Bridges are one of the most interesting natural phenomena in the Rhodopes. They are located 5 km northwest of the village of Zabardo. They are also called Erkyupria – from Turkish “er” – land, and “kupriya” – bridge.
The former cave, formed in the marble stock by the waters of the Dalbok Dol River, has probably collapsed during an earthquake. The waters have carried away the fallen materials resulting in the formation of two rare in their beauty marble rock bridges next to each other. With its impressiveness, the upper bridge amazes tourists. The thickness of the arch is about 20 meters, and the abyss below it is 45 meters deep. The bridge is 45 meters wide. An old path from the village of Orehovo to the village of Zabardo passes along it. The second bridge, which is 200 meters from the first, is more like a 60 meters long tunnel. It starts with a relatively wide opening that gradually narrows and eventually turns into a crack. Near the second bridge is the entrance to the Ledenata Cave, where ice is preserved until late summer. Behind the bridge, the water sinks into a funnel-shaped karst abyss and disappears into the earth’s womb. Here a wild impassable gorge is formed, where high on the left bank of the river is the huge entrance of the Golyamata Cave. The rocky precipices of the bridges are overgrown with geranium and resurrection plant (Haberlea rodopenzis).
There is a dirt road from the village of Zabardo to the Wonderful Bridges. There are two huts near this natural phenomenon – Wonderful Bridges and Rock Bridges.
The beautiful Rhodopean village of Shiroka Laka is located 16 km from Pamporovo. It has been declared an architectural and folklore reserve. Authentic Rhodope houses are perched on both banks of the river in Shiroka Laka. If you go there, you will find yourself in the era of the Bulgarian National Revival. The cobbled streets, the arched bridges, the characteristic speech, the sad melody of the kaba bagpipes, the songs and customs of the locals will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the past.
In the first days of March, in the village is held one of the biggest mummers’ holidays in Bulgaria, called “Pesponedelnik”.
The Bachkovo Monastery is an orthodox stauropegial male monastery. It is located in the Rhodopes, on the right bank of the Chaya River, 189 km from Sofia and 10 km from Asenovgrad. It is famous for its unique combination of traditions of Byzantine, Georgian and Bulgarian cultures.
The monastery was founded in 1083 by the Byzantine general of Georgian origin Gregory Pakourianos and his brother Abas. Unfortunately, only the two-storey ossuary, located about 300 meters from the current monastery complex, has survived from its establishment to date. The ossuary is a unique historical site that is worth visiting because of its ancient frescoes, which are among the most valuable works of orthodox art from the 11th-12th centuries. The monastery was patronised by Tsar Ivan Alexander during the Second Bulgarian State. Like many other monasteries in the Bulgarian lands, the Bachkovo Monastery also houses a cell school (from the 11th century). After the fall of Bulgaria under Ottoman rule at the end of the 14th century, Patriarch Evtimiy was sent into exile in the Bachkovo Monastery. His exile here, however, did not discourage him, and the Patriarch, together with his students, developed an active religious and literary activity behind the walls of the Monastery.
ZLATOGRAD ETHNOGRAPHIC COMPLEX
Located in the southernmost part of the Rhodopes, Zlatograd has a perfect sense of beauty and harmony. On your arrival here you will be impressed by the majestic monument of the Zlatograd resident Delyo Haydutin whose exploits are sung in the best Bulgarian song, which flies in space as a message for extraterrestrial civilisations. To make a real journey into the past however, you should immerse yourself in the ethnographic complex of the city. Here you will be enchanted by the real masterpieces of the Zlatograd craftsmen. Be sure to visit the oldest church in the Middle Rhodopes and hear the incredible story of how an Ottoman sultan allowed the construction of a Christian temple.
If you need a break, you can enjoy a cup of the famous Zlatograd coffee prepared on sand. If after all these emotions you can take more, then continue to the beautiful street in the complex of architectural monuments. There you will be greeted by the pure sounds of a Rhodope bagpipe and the cosmic voice of a Zlatograd singer. Sitting on the porch of the tavern in front of the beautiful panoramic view, you can try the most delicious Zlatograd dishes. In the pretty shops, you will be enchanted by the masterpieces of Zlatograd master craftsmen.
EXCURSION TO GREECE
Greece is a country with a centuries-old history and interesting culture, which combined with the unusually beautiful nature and Balkan charm, make our southern neighbour a magnet for tourists from around the world.
Your vacation can be combined with a trip to our southern neighbour. The beautiful Aegean beaches are only a 4-hour drive from Pamporovo. The preserved pristine nature and tranquillity will enchant anyone who decides to visit Greece. Over 400 beaches will satisfy even the most demanding tourist.