If you have your own transport, there are some great places to visit further afield for a day or two out. Bulgaria has a great deal to offer tourists, not only in the Rhodope's but further afield also such as Bansko, Greece to the South only 80 Kilometers away, where a main road is under construction for easy access to the Agean coast. Batak lake, Dospat reservoir, The River Danube on the border with Romania, The Black Sea Coast & the resorts of Pomorie, Burgas, Sunny Beach, Nesebar, Shkorpilovtsi, & Varna with some great coastline.
Bachkovo Monastery: This is the closest monastry to Pine Lodge of many in Bulgaria and well worth a visit. The second largest Bulgarian monastery, the Bachkovo Cloister, lies in the valley of the Chepelare river (also known by the locals as Chaya), about 10km to the south of the town of Assenovgrad. On all sides, the monastery is surrounded by the hills of the Rhodopi mountain, which together with its size and ancient spirit make is one of the most visited monasteries in Bulgaria. It was built in 1083 by Grigor Bakuriani a military in the Byzantine Empire, a Georgian by origin. From that time is the ossify with its exquisite architecture and wall-paintings. The winter Church of the Archangels dates in all likelihood to the l2th century. After 1344 tsar (king) Ivan Alexander (1331-1371) raised several new buildings. In the early l6th century the monastery was destroyed by the Turkish conquerors to be restored in the late l6th century. Of great interest are the monastery refectory (1601 ), the big domed kitchen the church of the Assumption (1604) with murals dating from 1643, the domed church of St Nicholas (1837) decorated in 1840 by the Revival Period painter Zahari Zograph. The monastry and its neighbourhood have grown into a developed tourist sight where dozens of small shops, stalls, and restaurants stand on both sides of the walkway to the gates and appeal with their variety to visitors. One can find here everything that grows or is being manufactured in the Rhodopi mountain – rare herbs, home-made jams of wild fruit, yogurt and white cheese made of sheep or buffalo’s milk, woolen carpets, etc.
The town of Bansko (pop. 9,740) is the administrative, economic and cultural center of the municipality. It is located in the south-western part of the Razlog Plain, at the foot of Northern Pirin. It is an extremely popular tourist center, visited all year round by lovers of nature and winter sports as well as a great number of visitors who flock to admire the traditional Bulgarian architecture, culture and mode of life. Bansko dates back to ancient times. As a clear evidence one can see the ruins of several fortresses from Antiquity, of Thracian burial mounds, medieval settlements and churches excavated in the vicinity. The spirit of Bansko's past comes down to us through the centuries. A number of fine Bulgarian orthodox shrines and the houses built in the traditional Bulgarian National Revival style create the unique atmosphere of Bansko. Outstanding among these are the two churches, the Metoh (Convent) affiliated to the Rilski Manastir (Rila Monastery), and the complexes of traditional old Bansko-style houses along the streets of Yane Sandanski & Velyan Ognev. The Bansko-style house is built almost entirely of stone, with yards surrounded by high walls, with deep wine cellars and secret trap doors, small barred windows and solid front gates; each house has the appearance of an impregnable fortress standing along the narrow winding cobbled streets. South-west of Bansko is the Belizmata Reservoir -(50,000 m3, a small dam stocked with fish) & well worth a visit along with the famous & beautiful cascade of waterfalls of the Valyavitsa River, bearing also the name of Sveti Nikola, and the archaeological remains of a Thracian fortress. There is much to see & explore here as well as great places to wine & dine.
Greece & The Agean Coast:
Greece to the South is only 80 Kilometers away, where a main road is under construction for easy access to the Agean coast. Dropping down from Pine Lodge into Smolyan right through to the east end of the town reveals an easy route out to the town of Rudozem where the new road has already been constructed as far as the Bulgarian - Greek border on it's way to Chepinci-Ksanti in Greece on the Ageaqn sea. When complete, it will be possible to drive down to the Greek coast from Pine Lodge in 1.5 hours. This gives easy access to Kavala International Airport, or Alexander The Great International Airport located in northern Greece, the nearby islands of Thassopula, Thasos and the city of Xanthi along with all the Greek coast can offer including Eleftere Bay, Iraklitsa Bay, Kavala Beach, Kalamitza Beach, Ormos Tsari, Ormos Valtou, Kalamuti Bay, Bourou & The Bay of Lagos on the Thrace Coast. When this main route fully opens it should be possible to fly into Alexander The Great International Airport, hire a car and drive up through the mountains through Greece & into Bulgaria to Pine Lodge, a spectacular route.
Batak is located in the West part of Rhodopi Mountain. The nearest big towns are Pazardjik (35 km away) and Plovdiv (72 km away). Batak is a municipal center. The town is situated on 1036 m above sea-level in a valley along the banks of Stara Reka River. It is surrounded from all sides by hills (100 – 200 m above the town level) and above them rise the heights of the Batashka Mountain which borders the Chepinska Reka River to the west, the Dospatska Reka River to the south, the Vatcha River to the east and the Thracia1 Lowland to the north. : The natural datum (undestroyed natural environment, varied landscape, the presence of reserves, natural landmarks, water resources, the rich flora and fauna) and the attractive location itself of Batak are ideal conditions for the development of hunting, fishing, rural, alpine and hobby tourism as well as of winter and water sports. Recently also photo-hunting is being practiced. There are many opportunities for short-term picnics in the surroundings of Batak during the warm days of the year – the dam lakes of Goliam Beglik and Beglika and the countryside of Shiroka Laka. Nearby are Djenevra, Beglika, Petrovo Bardo, the Snezhanka cavery and the Foten Waterfall.
Connoisseurs of oldies have the opportunity to observe the remains of Thracian, Roman, Byzantine and Slav fortresses, tombs, bridges and other interesting archaeological spots in the region. There are 9 operative chapels in the realm of Batak.
Dospat, The Dam, Reservoir & Sarnitsa:
Dospat is a town in the very south of Bulgaria, part of Smolyan Province and situated in the Rhodope Mountains. It is on the Eastern end of the Dospat Reservoir close to Dospat Dam and is mainly populated by Muslim Bulgarians. The town was probably founded by Despot Alexius Slav in the 12th-13th century, from whose title (despot) its name is very likely derived. Dospat Dam is the highest dam in Bulgaria by altitude and, with its 22 km² of water area, the second largest in capacity. It is fed by the Sarnitsa River. The town and its vicinity are largely inhabited by Pomaks (Muslim Bulgarians). Sarnitsa (Bulgarian: !J@=8F0) is a small town in the Pazardzhik Province, Southern Bulgaria. As of 2006 it has 3 607 inhabitants. It gained its town status in 2005 and is part of the Velingrad municipality, located deep in the Rhodope mountains among remote virgin forests. The town lies at the western end of the Dospat Reservoir & has preserved its authentic atmosphere and old architecture and is a growing tourist centre, serving visitors of the Dospat Dam and surrounding forests.
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The Danube River:
The Danube River is a spectacular sight to the North dividing Romania from Bulgaria. Besides it's natural beauty through it's gorges, ravines & open plains there are many features of interest along it's route. The Giurgiu-Rousse Friendship Bridge is a steel truss bridge over the Danube River connecting the Bulgarian south bank to the Romanian north bank and the cities of Rousse (Ruse) and Giurgiu respectively. Opened on 20 June 1954 and designed by Georgi Ovrachov (according to other sources: V. Andreev), the bridge is 2.80 km long and is the only bridge over the Danube in the section shared by Bulgaria and Romania as of 2008, with the other traffic being served by ferries. It has two decks, one for road (two lanes) and one for railway traffic, as well as sidewalks for pedestrians, and was constructed in two and a half years with the aid of the Soviet Union. The Giurgiu-Rousse Friendship Bridge also has border control stations due to it serving as a border crossing between the two countries. Since 1 January 2007 there is no more customs control and the passport/identity card control is done "on one desk" by Bulgarian or Romanian border police, because it is an internal border for the European Union. Border control will be completely removed when Bulgaria and Romania implement the Schengen Agreement which is expected to happen in 2009. There are a pair of rectangular towers supported by pillars on both ends of the bridge.
Pomorie formerly known as Αγχ¯αλος Anchialos in Greek, (Turkish: Ahyolu) is a town and seaside resort in southeastern Bulgaria, located on a narrow rocky peninsula in Burgas Bay on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. It is located in Burgas Province 20 km from Burgas and 18 km from Sunny Beach. The ultrasaline lagoon Lake Pomorie, the northernmost of the Burgas Lakes, lies in the immediate proximity. Pomorie is an ancient city and today an important tourist destination. As of September 2005 it has a population of 14,600
Burgas (sometimes transliterated as Bourgas) is the second-largest city and seaside resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast with population 210,260. It is also the fourth-largest by population in the country, after Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. It is the capital of Burgas Province and an industrial and tourist centre. Surrounded by the coastal Burgas Lakes and located at the westernmost point of the Black Sea, the large Burgas Bay, Burgas has the largest and most important Bulgarian port. Today, it is a key economic, cultural and tourist centre of southeastern Bulgaria, with the Burgas Airport serving the resorts of the southern Bulgarian coast.
Sunny Beach (Bulgarian: !;J=G52 1@O3) is a major seaside resort on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, located approximately 35 km north of Burgas in Nesebar municipality, Burgas Province. It is the biggest and most popular holiday resort of the country, and is home to over 500 hotels with more than 110 000 beds. There are also 130 restaurants and numerous live music bars, pubs, nightclubs, discos, cafes.
Nesebar (Bulgarian: 5A51J@) is an ancient city and a major seaside resort on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, located in Nesebar municipality, Burgas Province. Often referred to as the "Pearl of the Black Sea" and "Bulgaria's Dubrovnik", Nesebar is a rich city-museum defined by more than three millennia of ever-changing history. It is a one of the most prominent tourist destinations and seaports on the Black Sea, in what has become a popular area with several large resorts—the largest, Sunny Beach, is situated immediately to the north of Nesebar.
Shkorpilovtsi is a small sea resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, located only 100 m away from one of the most beautiful beaches on the Moesian Black Sea Coast. Its proximity to the sea capital of Bulgaria, Varna, makes it a preferred holiday destination for many Bulgarian and foreign tourists.
Varna is the largest city and seaside resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, second-largest in Bulgaria after Sofia, and 80th-largest in the European Union, with a population of 357,835. The actual daily population, including commuters, is widely believed to have made it the country's second-largest city. Commonly referred to as the marine (or summer) capital of Bulgaria, Varna is a major tourist destination, university centre, seaport, and headquarters of the Bulgarian Navy and merchant marine, as well as the centre of Varna Province and Bulgaria's North-Eastern planning region (NUTS II), comprising the provinces of Dobrich, Shumen, Targovishte, and Varna. In April 2008, Varna was designated seat of the Black Sea Euro-Region (a new regional organization, not identical to the Black Sea Euroregion), by the Council of Europe.