This area is also more than suitable for Spring, Summer & Autumn leisure with it's proximity to the Aegean sea, a warm climate persists and is absolutely stunning here in the Spring, Summer & Autumn for interesting General Tourism attractions including numerous churches, museums, an observatory, fortresses, caves, The famous Smolyan Lakes and rock formations. The Bulgarian Wine making industry is a fascinating subject along with the Bulgarian Rose Oil. In addition Mountain trekking/walking, Climbing, Mountain biking, Horse riding, Birding Tours, Fishing, Hunting, Caving, Kayaking trips, White water rafting, and Paragliding to name but a few. Visit the Stoykite village and the picturesque Rocks of Orpheus. Go to the ancient town of Chepelare (20k) and visit the only Speleological Museum in Bulgaria www.balkan-speleo.org. The nearest city of Plovdiv (85 k) offers Roman ruins of old cobbled streets leading to an amphitheatre. The famous 900 year old Bachkovo Monastery is only 30k away. The town of Smolyan is only 7 k away. Smolyan is a wonderful town with loads to do, great restaurants & bars, shopping - all at really sensible pricing, friendly local people willing to help. A shopping centre is in the next resort of Perelik. Next to Pine lodge (50m) there is a wonderful family run restaurant and bar serving hot & cold food and drinks all day and evening. Try their local dishes, in particular, their home made Patatnik & their fresh grilled trout served with cheese & chips. The Snejanka Tower is a must for some great views of the snow free ski runs & a 360 degree view of the whole area and as far as the Aegean Sea, Greece & Turkey on a clear day, of which you are certain to have during your visit. Below, we can only hope to cover a small amount of what is out there to be enjoyed. For some excellent photography of Bulgaria why not log on to www.bluebulgaria.com/pictures/rhodopes/flickr.php
Walking from Pine Lodge:
Smolyan Lake: From Pine Lodge, a short walk uphill past our local restaurant finds you in open meadowland & a small church of St Spirit (ask at the restaurant for opening times) on the right near one of the Smolyan Lakes. By the lake are picnic areas directly beneath the famous Orpheas Rocks with stunning scenery all around. It's great to relax here in the clean healthy air. Partake in natural Sring Water from the numerous springs along the way.
Snejanka: From the lake, across the other side is a footpath around and over the Snejanka mountain which brings you to Stoudenets via another Smolyan Lake called The Dam, a fantastic walk in incredible countryside. If you don't fancy a walk, then from the lake, step onto the road and further up the road is the No4 Chair Lift, open all year, that will take you to the Snejanka Summit. Stunning views are gained from here, both on the ground and from the Tower viewing gallery it's self. All sorts of walking in amongst the Pines can be explored from here. Follow a ski track down to Stoudenets & beyond right down to the Pamporovo Ski School & back, or get the chair lift back. Just a good walk around the summit walking to the tops of the Ski runs reveals beautiful views, scenery, wild flowers & wild life. To get back to Pine Lodge, after an exhilirating day on top couldn't be easier, either get the Chair Lift back down or walk the ski run back down right to the entrance of Pine Lodge.
Lower Smolyan Lake: From Pine Lodge, a short walk downhill, past some very pleasantly developed hotels with refreshment facilities for your pleasure, will reveal a track on the right leading up to a hill which ultimately reveals another beautiful Smolyan Lake in a fantastic setting. Come here & relax in the peace & tranquility of it all. Bring a picnic & a bottle of wine. Or maybe bring your Fishing Gear and have a relaxing day by the lake.
Bus transport is the most popular for Smolyan. There are regular bus lines to Sofia, Plovdiv (every hour), Kurdzhali, Devin, Assenovgrad, Chepelare, Pamporovo (every hour) and to other smaller villages within the region. There are several Public bus stations located in Smolyan Quarter, at the western end of Bulgaria Blvd.,Bus Station Iztok in Ustovo Quarter Bus Station Yug (South). Private buses servicing long-distance lines start from the Planetarium. 6 public bus lines are regularly functioning within the boundaries of the town. Radio-cab, painted yellow for easy id are also readily available If you want to hire a car you can do so in Smolyan www.motoroads.com/smolyan-car-hire-bulgaria-car-rental.aspx
Why not log on to www.bgtravel.design.bg/etis/opencat/catID/294 for further info. Tourist information centres are most helpful in the area, a few are listed here: Tourist Information Centre, e-mail: Rhra@mbox.digsys.bg Regional Tourist Information Centre , tel 0301 25040); Council on Tourism & Tourist Information Centre email: firstname.lastname@example.org). . Other Tourist Information centres such as the one in Shiroka Luka are more limited but extremely helpful & proud of wha t they can offer
Bulgarian Quisine & Eating Out:
There are some splendid places to eat in the close proximity and further afield. The Bulgarian Quisine is something special with many traditional dishes on offer in most restaurants (called Mexaha's or Pectopaht's) along with a choice of our favourite dishes. There is nowhere better to try the traditional local dishes than our local restaurant, ‘ORFEEBH CKLNH’, within walking distance of Pine Lodge. Here you can sample traditional Shopska salad, Lamb drob sarma, fresh trout & patatnik amongst many other dishes. Down towards Smolyan right on the side of a lake is the restaurant 'XOTEn PECTOPAHT PNbKATA' a superb restaurant, with seating inside and outside, on a veranda overlooking the lake with a superb view. Very good food & wine at sensible prices here with friendly staff. Try the home cooked trout, the steak with onions & some of the rhodopian dishes. In particular, try the Kavarma & some local wine with it, in particular one of the Targovishta range & maybe the Cabernet Sauvignion. About 100 yds away just away from the lake & hidden away is MEXAHA CTAPA a great restaurant with a view of the mountain from the dining table. Sample a local Zagorca beer then why not try their Kebapcheta (Oblong rissoles) or the Pork spindle fillet & finish off with Baked apples with vanilla syrup.
Places of Interest:
Smolyan: Is just down the road from Pine Lodge 850 to 1050 m above sea level & picturesquely scattered in the narrow gorge of Cherna River (Black River), in the most beautiful part of the Rhodope Mountains. This is one of the most beautiful Bulgarian towns. A regional administrative centre.
In 1960 the three neighbouring villages of Smolyan, Raikovo and Ustovo merged in a town, which was named Smolyan, and presently each one of the villages is its quarter. Smolyan Quarter is the highest & amidst the Smolyan Lakes. Raikovo Quarter in the middle. Ustovo Quarter the lowest, an old settlement situated on the crossing point of the old roads from Plovdiv to Xanti and Gyumyurdzhina and from Drama through Nevrokop to Kurdzhali and Odrin. There is much to see in Smolyan. The overarched bridge (Beiska Kupriya) across Cherna River, built in the beginning of 18th century, Chinar Nature Reserve a 250 years old sycamore tree. The Planetarium is the biggest in Bulgaria, The Museum of the History of Mid-Rhodope Mountains houses more than 150 000 exhibits. The Town Art Gallery accommodates thousands of masterpieces of artists and sculptors. Whilst in Smolyan there are some great restaurants to enjoy. Why not try PECTOPAHT PUbEH AAP (Riban Dar), a superb fish restaurant, nicely appointed in a fishing theme with very good food & wine at sensible prices, great ambience & some great fresh trout & all the trimmings. Or why not try the NAMNOPOBATA KbWA (White House), a wonderful restaurant offering traditional Rhodope dishes & more.
Amongst places to visit are: Pangalov’s House - valuable architectural monument of culture, Alibeev Konak - an old residential and agricultural complex in the upper part of the quarter. The Cheshitev’s House in the Cheshitska area - housing interesting typical Rhodope houses from the Revival Period. Memorial and Channel-House in honour of the inhabitants of Raikovo. St. Nedelya Church has a rich collections of icons. Mazolev’s Drinking-Fountain bears the inscription, evidencing the first mention of the village. The old coppersmith marketplace, Hadzhiivanov’s House, which provided shelter to the headquarters of the Russian troops in the region during the War of Liberation. The Sheremetev’s, Takov’s, Hadzhichonov’s Houses are also within this area. St. Nikola Church is remarkable with its plentiful, rich wall paintings and original architecture.
The new, modern centre of the town is a skilful combination of local traditions and existing environment. Its construction was completed in 1983.
The Rhodope Theatre of Drama is successfully functioning in this nice town. The town is also a university centre - it houses the Pedagogical Faculty of Plovdiv University “Paisii Hilendarski'".
Pamporovo: There is much content herein about Pamporovo mainly due to it's top skiing facilities but during the other seasons it has great beauty and lots to offer. The town of Pamporovo has very much been developed around the skiing providing loads of accomodation, restaurants & bars of wich many are open during the other months of the year especially during the summer. Wandering up through Pamporovo from Ski Lift 1, a few good restaurants can be explored along with a beautiful church, well worth a look. Most ski lifts are open and can be taken up & down, to and from Stoudenets and the Snejanka Peak at much reduced rates compared with the Ski season.
Shiroka Luka: The arched bridges above Shiroka Luka River and some of its tributaries add romanticism to the village. The songs of the village are unique, melodious and very typical. They are sung with the accompaniment of kaba - bagpipe, flute and rebeck. One of the two secondary music schools in Bulgaria is located here. Tourists would find especially fascinating the Pas Ponedelnik Koukerski Festival which takes place every first Sunday of March. A very pleasant restaurant is situated right by the river & one of the bridges with an upstairs dining balcony - very pleasant with a traditional Rhodopian Pork Spindle Fillet & a nice glass of wine.
Devin: Within easy reach of Pine Lodge a renowned spa and holiday resort situated amid scenic hills in the heart of the Rhodopes at an altitude of 710 - 780 m. In the ancient times the place was inhabited by the Thracian tribe of the Bessi, and later by the Romans. Devin has several mineral water springs with a temperature between 37 and 44C. The water is clear, colourless, palatable, odourless, hyper- and homeo-thermal, mildly mineralized, and contains hydrocarbonates of sodium and small quantities of fluorine. It has a strong alkaline reaction. The curative properties of Devin's mineral waters are due to their considerable mineralization, the relatively high content of metasilicic acid and fluorine, mild acidity and high temperature. Devin is suitable for the spa and climatic treatment of a wide range of diseases: of the locomotor system, cardiovascular diseases and nervous disorders.
Other Activities in the Rhodopies:
Hiking: For more information www.bgtravel.design.bg/etis/opencat/catID/294 will help. Bulgaria's potential for hiking activities is literally infinite. You will come across some of Europe's finest highland scenery in the Rhodope mountains that harbour spectacular peaks and glacial lakes, forested valleys and stream-side meadows, marvelous gorges and caves, century-old pine, oak, and beech woodlands. They offer a wealth of exploration for hiking and trekking with hundreds of trails and variety of routes. Bulgaria's mountains are also home to incredibly rich wildlife, flora and fauna protected in some 15 national and nature parks, and numerous reserves. Hiking in the Rhodope mountains offers excellent choices for short weekend trekking or more prolonged hiking. The Rhodope mountains, the most lyrical Bulgarian mountains, are located in the most southern part of the country. Although their average altitude does not exceed 1000m, the Rhodope mountains offer some of the finest hiking in Bulgaria amongst picturesque untouched villages.
Fishing: The fresh water fishing tourism in Bulgaria is extremely popular. Up here in the mountains there is great fresh water fishing available either individually or as organised fishing days. Permits can be sourced locally in Smolyan & all the Smolyan Lakes can be fished subject to local guidelines. Within walking distance of Pine Lodge 4 different Smolyan lakes can be fished. All other lakes in the area and elsewhere can be fished. The Cherna River (Black River) flowing through Smolyan offers some great river fishing both up and down stream. There is an abundance of other river gorges in the area just awaiting you and your tackle.
Hunting: Bulgaria is already a popular and exciting sporting destination, famous for the highly valued game, for its world trophies, scenery and old-fashioned hospitality. Bulgaria hunting is rich in wildlife and due to the various landscapes in the country from snow-capped mountains to lush lowlands, it offers a huge diversity of big game species. Thus, one of the best red deer populations in the world is namely in Bulgaria at over 22 500 animals and it also ranks second in the whole trophy quality. It could be curious for all fans of hunting to know that among its hunting trophies Bulgaria has as well four world records for red deer. The Rhodopies are good hunting territory. Organised hunting trips can be arranged through specialist organisations to give you the best there is. There is 7,700 ha of picturesque territory in the Rhodope mountains. Here live different animal species, such as Chamois, Wild Boar from twenty to twenty-two cm in length, Red Stag from seven to nine kilos, Roebuck, Capercailzie, Wolf & Brown Bear. In addition to this, add shooting of Woodcocks, Pheasants, Partridges, Hares, Wild Geese and many other species to that and it is all there for the taking. www.bgtravel.design.bg/etis/opencat/catID/294
Caves & Potholing: Both for the tourist and the experienced Speleologist, Caving in Bulgaria is an opportunity to experience a natural environment unlike any other in the surface world. There are about 4620 caves found in Bulgaria by now and each of them has a specific history. A visit to Chepelare (20k) and visit the only Speleological Museum in Bulgaria www.balkan-speleo.org is well worth it. Most of the caves are explored and approachable for visiting. Traces of pre-historical life has been found in many caves. Seven of the caves in Trigrad region are with pre-historical life (4300 BC). The beauty of the numerous stalagmites, stalactites, dentrites, and water pools make the Trigrad caves a favorite spot for many tourists. The Devil's Throat cave, in easy reach of Pine Lodge, is 300 000 years old. Its total length is 1km, and the length of the improved route is 350m. In this cave you can find the biggest cascade of waterfalls on the Balkan peninsula, with a total height of 60m. Devil's Throat is also famous for its animal species. A bat colony, which spends the winter in this cave, is the biggest colony of long-winged bat in Bulgaria and on that part of the Balkan Peninsula.
Bird Watching: Over the last 10 years birding has really taken off in Bulgaria & The Rhodope mountains around Pine Lodge are particularly good. Organised birding tours are available for those who like everything organised for them but if you prefer to have your own individual birding tour you will be amazed what you will see even setting off from Pine Lodge on foot. The best time to visit & enjoy birding is Spring but also Autumn and Winter. Here you can stroll & enjoy watching Raptors, Booted, short-toed, Bee Eaters, Lesser spotted Eagles and Saker, to name but a few. High up in the mountains, we can see the rare White-backed Woodpecker, and many many other species.
Horse riding: An exhilerating part of the world to go horse riding. Horseback riding in Bulgaria is a unique experience and offers great satisfaction, no matter if you are a beginner rider or an experienced rider. In The Rhodope Mountains you will ride in the heart of the gorgeous Bulgarian nature – an abundant wildlife, awesome river gorges and waterfalls, vast forests, endless lush pastures, beautiful mountain lakes, crystal-fresh air & sparkling blue skies.
Mountain Biking: An amazing place to mountain bike. Come and enjoy the amazing scenery both up on top of the peaks & hills and in the meadows along country tracks taking in places of interest along the way. On or off road, this is fun. Organised tours are available if that is your preference. If not, why not hire a mountain bike locally in Smolyan & explore daily from Pine Lodge. Within a 10 mile radius there is loads to explore.