Imagine waking up to the calming sounds of bird songs. The mountain peaks rise in the distance, the branches of the trees bend over your window, and the sunbeams fall gently on your face. Not to mention the alluring smells of freshly roasted coffee and home-made mekitsi (deeply fried dough, usually eaten with cheese and jam), summoning you from the small kitchen downstairs.
That`s how the mornings feel like in typical Bulgarian villages.
Let`s go off the beaten track and explore the traditional Bulgarian spirit that`s most visible outside of the busy streets of the country`s big cities. Here`s our top three of secret villages in the magical Rhodope mountain:
Although the village is less than 20 miles away from Plovdiv, prepare for a bumpy ride through an unpaved dusty road. Hidden in the warm embrace of the Rhodope mountain, Sitovo may be hard to reach by both foreign and local tourists who remain unaware of its charms.
But making the extra effort is worth it: from the mysterious and ancient Sitovo inscription (the left turn after Lilkovo) to its picturesque houses with stone-made roofs. Stroll around the village`s steep streets, enter the traditional church or lose yourself in the pleasant shadows of the surrounding forest.
The nights are also casting a spell of their own. Have a hearty dinner with the grannies and choose a green meadow to settle. If the skies are clear, you can spend the night stargazing, while sipping some fine Bulgarian wine.
Located at 1340 meters above sea level, the area is famous for its breathtaking sights. From the village of Ravnogor, you can climb to the scenic Bekovi rocks. Sit on a bench and enjoy the panoramic view over the waters of the dazzling Vacha Dam and the endless green slopes of the Rhodope mountain.
When back in the village, relax with a glass of ice-cold rakia (the local brandy) and the popular regional specialty patatnik (potatoes with eggs, cheese, and spices cooked on a slow fire). The cheese fans can also visit the Ravnogor dairy farm that sells traditional white cheese, butter, and cottage cheese.
Did you know that Orcevo is the highest village in Bulgaria? Located at an altitude of almost 1500 meters, the village has a permanent population of around 190 people.
Climbing enthusiasts can head to peak Veliica (1715 m) or Kavun Tepe (1710m). Both hikers and archeology lovers can consider a visit to the ancient Thracian sanctuary in the area Babyashka chuka. Alternatively, soak up the peaceful village atmosphere by breathing some fresh air, while drinking a cup of mountain tea at the village`s central square.
We challenge you…
Talk with locals, sleep at family-run guest houses (some of which use direct booking systems), and enjoy the regional delicacies. In this way, you can get a feel of the countryside`s authentic spirit.