I have always said that the Rhodopes are one of the most beautiful places in Bulgaria, full of unique nature, history and atmosphere. Another proof of that is my two-day adventure in the Eastern Rhodopes. Invited by “Rewilding Rhodopes” I had the opportunity to spend two unforgettable days in the region of Madzharovo. The organization has an important mission: to offer a new vision for environmental protection, with more space for nature, wildlife and natural processes while people can sustain a livelihood from the wild.
But let’s go together to the beautiful landscapes of this place and find out what we can see!
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Kayaking on the river Arda
Before embarking on the landmarks, we decided that we should explore the area through one of the most iconic rivers in the Rhodopes – Arda. For this purpose we took advantage of the local kayaking services.
The adventure begins with a short briefing and equipment. The route lasts between 11 and 17 km, depending on the strength of the group (of course, we made the full experience). During the voyage we passed through: the beautiful meanders of Arda, the protected area Kovan Kaya, we observed interesting rock formations, local flora and fauna – such as black storks, herons, the extremely rare blue rock thrush, as well as the impressive vultures (which I will talk more about later). And besides all this, in several places we had the opportunity to make a stop and to find semi-precious stones such as jasper, opal, chalcedony, mountain crystals, amethysts.
The good thing about kayaking is that it is suitable for beginners, like me, and advanced people like Lyubomira from Bulgarian on the Go. This provides the opportunity for alternative tourism for all enthusiasts, and the river in the area of Madzharovo is calm and safe for this endeavour.
Suitable for children over 5 years old;
The two-seater kayak tour starts every day at 9:30 am, from the parking lot near the Eastern Rhodopes Nature Protection Center;
The total duration is about 4 hours;
The price is 40 lv per person, for a group of 5 or more people. For a group of up to 4 people the price is 200 lv respectively for the whole group. In case you are more than 11 people, it is necessary to make the request at least two days before the tour;
The Vulture Center in Madzharovo
If you are looking for more information about vultures and everything about wildlife in the Eastern Rhodopes – this is the place! It is run by Bulgarian society for protection of birds, and the foundation that works tirelessly to restore and strengthen wildlife here is Rewilding Rhodopes. Their mission is to work to preserve the mountain’s characteristic mosaic landscape and unique biodiversity by restoring key species that have become extinct or declining due to human activities. The ultimate goal is clear – the gradual return of wildlife to the territory – within the real potential for this and to keep pace with economic development.
But speaking of conservation and restoration – do you know which animal species need it? I suggested above in the article that the main focus will be on the beautiful vultures. In Bulgaria we are very lucky to be able to meet three species – the griffon vulture, the Egyptian vulture and the black vulture.
Some interesting facts about each of them:
Griffon vultures are the most social and widespread – compared to other species. They search for food in groups and breed in colonies on steep cliffs.
The Egyptian vulture is the smallest of the four species of vultures found in Europe. (The fourth is the bearded vulture, the largest and rarest species). They are also famous for their monogamy and were considered a symbol of parental care in ancient Egypt.
The black vulture seeks food in groups or individually, and sometimes joins groups of griffon vultures. The only colony of black vultures on the Balkans is located in the Dadia National Park in the Greek part of the Rhodopes, about 25 km from the border with Bulgaria.
As well as the Rewilder Rhodopes Foundation is fighting to restore these amazing birds, its efforts are also focused on other species to build a complete and stable food chain, as well as full biodiversity. And among them are: wolves, bison, red deer, fallow deer and grasshoppers. More information about all these specimens can be found at the Vulture Center or on their website.
Summer working hours 9:00 – 18:00 – No days off;
Winter working hours 9:00 – 17:00 – Visits on Saturday and Sunday are possible by prior arrangement over phone;
There is no entrance fee;
Black Rock Protected Area
“Black Rock” is the largest protected area in the municipality of Madzharovo. It covers territories from the northern bank of the Arda River in the lands of the villages of Topolov, Gorni Glavanak and Gorno Pole. It is located west of the natural landmark “Kovan Kaya“.
It is important to emphasize that in order to visit this place, you need to follow a few rules. As the area has a protected status, it is forbidden here (especially between February and August):
- to climb and walk on the top of the rocks;
- to make too much noise;
- to take pictures with a drone, not to approach the rocks on which protected species nest;
- to follow only the marked paths, where there are any;
- not to damage the natural vegetation;
The meander of the river Arda near Madzharovo
The Arda River is famous not only for its picturesqueness, but also for the beautiful meanders it has along its course, one of which is located here. Evidence shows that 35 million years ago a small and large crater of volcanoes erupted at this place (below the town of Madzharovo), which changed the landscape forever. Due to the active volcanic activity, the bowels of the earth here hide over 16 types of precious minerals, precious stones and gold. To see the natural form in all its glory, you have to go to the village of Borislavtsi. Along the way there are suitable extensions for stopping, from where you can best photograph the place.
Cromlech near the village of Dolni Glavanak
Speaking of the Rhodopes, we should always expect to find something historical every corner – and this time was no exception. Near the village of Dolni Glvanak is the best preserved cromlech in Bulgaria (for association, the cromlech is Stonehenge in England) – a megalithic facility with a cult purpose. Studies show that it was built during the second phase of the Early Iron Age (8th – 6th century BC). And the place itself is a circle with a diameter of about 10 m, composed of vertical stone blocks placed directly on a rock base.
Madzharovo and the surrounding area may be a small part of the country, but they play an extremely important role in preserving the identity, wealth and uniqueness of the Eastern Rhodopes, but mostly of Bulgaria. That is why it is essential that we learn to live in balance and understanding as soon as possible – we, humans, the environment and animals, because in the end we have only one nature, which is a shared home for all of us.
I want to thank Rewilding Rhodopes very much for the invitation and the trust! It was an unforgettable and positive adventure for me, during which I became even more convinced of the mission to preserve the Eastern Rhodopes together!
This trip is part of the communication activities of the project “Conservation of black and griffon vultures in the Rhodopes” (LIFE14 NAT / NL / 000901)