The warmer months are always another reason for out-of-town tours and weekend getaways. And since we all know how hot it can get in Plovdiv in August, we share with you three easy and picturesque eco-trails near Velingrad in the Rhodopes. This is also the perfect opportunity to combine a short vacation in the mountains with a spa experience in one of the numerous hotels or guest houses, as well as a short walk and soaking up the endless green landscapes in Bulgaria.
Vazova Polyana (Mangov Lyon)
They call it Vazov's favorite place in the Rhodopes, about which he wrote in his travelogue "In the bowels of the Rhodopes" the following stanzas: "Two eyes, one soul and one heart are not enough - to grasp the boundlessness, to drink from the invisible stream of the eternal, of this majestic world, and to contain it within yourself.''
We have dedicated a separate text to the route with details on how to reach it from the center of Velingrad. To conquer it, you only need comfortable shoes and water.
The locality got its name from Ivan Vazov's visit to these places at the end of the 19th century. From it, a wonderful view of Velingrad opens before the eyes of the tourist. It is believed that here the patriarch of Bulgarian literature wrote that if he did not see God, he then saw the most amazing panorama of the inner Rhodopes - the sentence that is present in every advertising text for the spa capital of Bulgaria.
There is also an easy route suitable for all ages. It can be started from several places: the center of Velingrad, Velova Banya and the Velingrad hotel slightly to the northeast on the road; from the Dvoretsa hotel along a steep forest path in a northwesterly direction, or from Kamenitsa district west of the school along a forest road.
The locality got its name from a small primitive workshop (chark) built in 1384 on the Elenka River, where they processed the wood harvested in the forest.
After a 15-minute walk, you will reach the Marchova Koria estate and the Saint Nikola chapel, and here you should turn right on the road to Stariyat Chark. Soon you will enter a picturesque alley, and after it you’ll reach the Elenka River. This is the area itself - small clearings, in the center of which is a tap with extremely soft and clean drinking water. The place is quiet and peaceful, immersed in young pine plantations. There is also a small shelter with a fireplace suitable for relaxing and recharging your batteries.
To climb to it, you need to follow the route to Vazova Polyana and when you reach it, you descend in a small saddle. Then begins the ascent along the southeastern slope of Malak Ostrets peak. From this point, the road goes south along an almost flat ridge and only when it reaches the foot of Golyam Ostrets does the terrain become quite steep, but the distance is short. It takes about 40 minutes to walk from Malak to Golyam Ostrets.
At the very top, a shelter has been built for tourists to rest - there are benches and tables and a large church - the St. George Basilica. Water can be found in the well in the gully located west below the peak. Conquering the Ostrets peak is an unforgettable experience for nature lovers.
It is often called Velingrad's Olympus because it offers a view of Rila, Pirin and the Rhodopes. In the Middle Ages, there was a monastery called St. George the Victorious right on the top. Local residents called its slopes Gergiovana. Legends say that in 1640 the abbot of the monastery consecrated the bath built by Ban Velyo - Velova Banya.