Belmeken Dam is a wonderful place located 140 km southeast of Sofia. It is at modest altitude of 1923 m in Rila, making it one of the highest dams in Bulgaria and the Balkans.
I visited the dam for the first time in July 2019 and immediately felled in love with the beauty and tranquility that enveloped this place. And for that reason, I decided that this place deserves not just a simple post describing it, but something special. Today, I am including a beautiful place in my “One Place – Two Seasons” project. Because I can say that Belmeken is probably one of the places that undergo a wonderful change during the summer and winter months, but I will leave the photos to prove it.
Let’s start with the useful and interesting information about the place. Belmeken Dam was built in 1974 for the purpose of electricity production. It is part of the Belmeken-Sestrimo-Chaira cascade. Belmeken Dam is the highest dam with a bulk wall on the Balkan Peninsula. This wall will amaze you with its size when you see it in person.
The name of the dam means “Famous place”, having a mixed Bulgarian-Turkish origin, as it is a compound name of the words white + mecken. The first word is of Bulgarian-Thracian origin meaning white or famous, and the second part is made up of the Turkish word “mekyan” which means home or place.
It is the highest mountain reservoir in East Rila which was built on the river Kriva reka. The most important parameters of Belmeken Dam are: Length 3.98 km, width 1.2 km, size 4.531 km2, water volume 144 040 000 m3.
What is the difference you can feel when visiting the dam in summer and winter? It provides a wonderful opportunity for a one-day escape from the big city. The dam in the summer is easily accessible and is a popular fishing spot. I witnessed this myself in July. Also, there is one of the most visited sport bases, VSK “BELMEKEN“, which is not only visited by Bulgarian athletes, but also many foreigners take advantage of this paradise.
And I dare to describe the dam as a paradise place, because just think about what kind of atmosphere you will immerse yourself in if you visit it in the summer when it is very hot and you are at over 1900 altitude surrounded by the forest smell mixed with the mountain scent fresh air and all that under the rays of the summer sun. During the summer months, you can afford to take a long and extensive walk or a tour of the dam itself. From every angle, the views are memorable and you will not be disappointed.
And what can we expect in the winter months? A lot of snow, but really a lot of snow! It was a challenge for me to get organized and go to Belmeken Dam in winter. I visited the dam in February, 2020 and the good news is that the road is maintained because of the station at the dam itself, but still one has to keep in mind that it is a mountain stretch. By slow and careful driving, we were able to reach the place. The only difference is that in summer, there is convenient parking on the right side of the dam and in winter, you have to leave the car on the left side where the station is located.
It is a challenge to walk here in winter, because as I mentioned, the snow is a lot, and I state that because in some places its depth almost reached my pelvis, and I am 1.90 meters tall, you can imagine. But I have to admit, the pleasure of stepping first into the nice snow that made a crackling sound under my footsteps was an indispensable experience.
We walked as hard as we could and managed to take photos similar to those of the summer to see the comparison. Then we went back to the car. The truth is that it was an unusual experience to walk in such a place in winter, because somehow it was so empty, but at the same time extremely beautiful. Belmeken Dam was half frozen, all the surroundings were covered in snow and a clear and sunny sky stretched over us. All this, accompanied by the winter whiff that held the place.
I hope I made you curios of the dam because it needs more attention. Belmeken Dam will give you a unique recharge for you and your soul, which will last for a long time.
The distance from Sofia to it is about 140 km, which takes about 2 and a half hours;
Regardless of the season you visit the dam, I recommend that you do not travel with a low hanging car;
The road is tight at times, so you have to drive carefully and slowly;
If you visit the place in summer, I advise you to take a light overcoat because we are still talking about over 1900 meters above sea level;
If you visit the place in winter, equip yourself very well, because the road from the base of the dam to the surroundings is not clear and the snow is deep;
Keep clean after you! Because in winter, I came across metal cans and other junk that I had to collect and throw away. Protecting nature is our responsibility;