Eastern Rhodope - the lost mountains

List of sights for Day 1

- the legendary Paroriiski Monastery - a unique place which probably existed as a temple of Goddess Artemis or God Mithra since the ancient times. Then in the V century it was converted to a church in a shape of a cross and the underground levels were used a a crypt?
Later in the middle ages a monastery was build there and the church was massively enlarged, so it had 6 naves ....

- a Dolmen near Hliabovo village - typical megalith structure probably used as a tomb. Dates back to about 1000 years B.C. and it is the best preserved in South-Eastern Europe. In some places they call the dolmens "Dragon Houses" and this is related to the myth for Orpheus.

- "Cold War" bunkers near the border with Turkey. A labyrinth of narrow corridors and dark rooms still preserving some of the soldiers equipment like rusty beds, benches, tables

List of sights for Day 2

- the "Deaf Stones" - one of the largest concentrations of Thracian niches in the Eastern Rhodope mountains, probably dating back to about 1200 years B.C. Later the place became a hermit monks cloister likely destroyed by the Crusaders of the IV Crusade, as part of the Fraim fortress

- the "Valley of Vultures" and the Nature Protection center in Madzharovo - this is where the meanders of Arda river make this beautiful curves among the sharp black rocks pointing at the skies and covered with tress and bushes. The only spot in Bulgaria, where you can watch the Egyptian vulture, the Griffon vulture and the Black vulture, as well as a long list of other rare species

- the Cromlech near Dolni Glavanak village - a rare megalithic sanctuary possibly serving for religious rituals. It is the only entirely preserved in Bulgaria and it probably dates back to VIII century B.C. Looks like a circle of roughly shaped stones with diameter of about 10 meters.

List of sights for Day 3

- Pop Martinova hole - there is a legend that the hole was a hiding place for the legendary Pop Martin, who was a leader of a gang of Bulgarian rebels during the Ottoman domination. Another theory says the place is a Thracian tomb, but in reality this is probably the smallest early Christian rock church in Bulgaria. The inside shows a clear apse pointing East and 2 icon stands carved in the rock. Some old writings on the walls could still be recognized, but unfortunately badly damaged by treasure hunters

- The "Gouk In" cave - well hidden up the stream of one of Arda river feeders, it is the only one in Bulgaria with Thracian niches carved on the ceiling

- The "Kara In" hole - this place is often mistaken for a tomb, but it probably is a monastic cell of a hermit. Located in the white rocks on the Northern side of Arda, it reveals great views to the river and the fields

List of sights for Day 4

- "Shan Kaia" and "Kazan Kaia" - an off-road jeep ride will take you to both places, which are close to each other. While "Kazan Kaia" is without a doubt a Thracian "sharapana" and by the way quite deep, so "Shan Kaia" is known to be a Thracian sanctuary, but you can not get a proof of it, as it is very, very difficult to hike to. From the distance "Shan Kaia" looks like a huge rock with a hole going through it. The local people say it was once believed that if a woman that can not get pregnant goes through the hole, so she will have a baby soon. Only 3 women managed ...

- The Kovil plateau - possibly the only mountain Asclepeion (temple dedicated to the God of Medicine - Asclepius) on the territory of Bulgaria. Nowadays is possible to trace the ancient dromos (corridor) to the temple, as well as the holy wells. Few pools with healing water and few "sharapana's" could be seen.

- The Thracian sanctuary at Tatul - dates back to 2000 years B.C. even there are traces of prehistory 3000 years earlier. Unique megalithic monument with 2 graves carved in a stone topless pyramid, one on top and one on the side.

- "Harman Kaia" - ceramics from 5000 years B.C were found there, which means the place served as sacred since then. There are huge semi-circles carved in the rocks and they seem like sundial at first glance, but actually this could be a well designed draining system to collect the "Water of God". There are few "sharapana's" and stairs cut in the rock and leading to the ruins of a room that was maybe serving as a temple. There is also a "vagina" cave which is formed in such a way, so the sun rays "penetrate" it to the bottom during the Spring Equinox and so the Sun "impregnates" the Mother Earth.

List of sights for Day 5

- The sacred city of Perperikon - presumably the lost oracle of Dionysus. According to the legends, two important prophecies were made from the altar of this temple. The first one predicted how Alexander the Great will conquer the world and the second was about the raise of the first Roman Emperor - Augustus Caesar

- Devil's bridge - a XVI century stone bridge located in the picturesque valley of Arda river. Build during the times of Sultan Selim I, upon the remains of an ancient Roman bridge on the road, linking the Aegean coast with the Thracian lowlands through the Makaza pass.

- The "Eagle Rocks" by Ardino - X century B.C. Thracian niches carved in a lonely rock in the middle of a forest.

- the abandoned village of Diadovci - located along the road to the Devil's bridge, this village is completely abandoned and now you can freely wonder among the old stone houses and enjoy the great mountain views

Day 6

Return to civilization visiting the house-museums and the Roman sights in Old Plovdiv


The hermit cell at Kara In

The XVI century Devil's bridge

The Thracian niches at Eagle Rocks

The Thracian sanctuary at Tatul

The entrance to the Pop Martinova hole

Well carved sharapana's at Harman Kaia

The meanders of Arda river in the Valley of Vultures

Holy well at the Kovil plateau

The entrance to the underworld of the legendary Paroriiski monastery

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Eastern Rhodope - the lost mountains
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