The Rhodope Mountains extend into the southern part of Bulgaria. They are located between the Gornotrakiiska valley to the north and the Aegean Lowlands to the south and between the Rila and Pirin Mountains to the west and the Maritsa River to the east. The Rhodopes are the widest mountain range in Bulgaria. They cover an area of about 14,737 square kilometers, of which approximately 12,233 are in Bulgaria. The rest much smaller section, or approximately 2,504 square kilometers, falls into the northern periphery of Greece.
The highest peak is called Big Perelik, and it rises to about 2191 meters above sea level in the central part of the massif.
The Rhodopes are known as the most beautiful Bulgarian mountain. In comparison with other local mountains such as Rila, Pirin and Stara Planina, the Rhodopes are relatively low and attract tourists with their mild, rounded shapes and flat top mountain peaks.
The Rhodopes lure visitors with their clean nature, fragrant coniferous and deciduous forests, deep river valleys and cool emerald green alpine meadows. Extremely rich in water, the mountain is known for its rivers, dams and hot mineral springs.
Here you will find a large number of beautiful caves such as Uhlovitsa, Devil’s Throat Cave, Lepenitsa, Yagodinska and Snezhanka (Snow White Cave).
The Rhodopes can be divided into two main sections that differ significantly from one another. The western section of the mountain is much higher, with thick forests, cool and humid climate and abundant rainfall. It is considered much more beautiful and attractive to tourists.
To the east the landscape is quite different, mostly dry and with some typical Mediterranean features. The forests are not so dense, and quite often you can see large areas of deforestation. Some of the rivers here dry up completely during the summer months.
Besides known for their rare seen beauty, the Rhodopes are considered to be the heart of the Bulgarian spirit and culture.
This is the birthplace of ancient traditions, which have been preserved over the centuries, and the cradle of one of the oldest countries in Europe.
The history of the Rhodopes is very exciting, and the colorful folklore attracts people from all over the world. Traditional local dances and songs spread the glory of this old country from Japan to the United States, far beyond the borders of Bulgaria.
Which places to visit while in the Rhodopes? The Rhodopes are one of the most attractive places to visit in Bulgaria (the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast is the other). Some towns and villages in the area have acquired considerable popularity with their vast wealth of mineral springs.
Do not miss to visit settlements such as Narechenski bani, Devin, Beden, Velingrad and Banite. Another interesting place is Smolyan.
With a population of 30,642 people, it is the largest town in the Rhodope Mountains and is the major economic, cultural and educational center in the region.
Varbovo, Peshtera, Zlatograd and especially Shiroka Laka are places that should not be missed because of their authentic old Bulgarian architecture. Bachkovo and Laki are known by Bachkovo Monastery and Krastova Gora (Cross Forest).
Among the top destinations in the Rhodopes are the famous ski resorts of Pamporovo, Chepelare and Tsigov Chark. Interesting place for fishing is Dospat, picturesquely situated on the coast of the eponymous lake.
Climat. The Rhodopes fall in the southern parts of Bulgaria. Most low lying areas, especially in the eastern half of the mountain, have a subtropical climate with hot and dry summers and wet, mild winters. The mountain range experiences the warming influence of the Mediterranean Sea.
At high altitudes, however, the mountain is cold and snowy in winter and cool, fresh in summer, especially when it comes to the Western Rhodopes. The mountain is one of the most pleasant places to escape the unbearable summer heat in July and August in Bulgaria.
The average daytime temperature is lovely, and it usually varies around 22 – 23°C. Winters bring a thick and durable snow cover and low temperatures of between (-15) and 2°C.
The economy of the Rhodopes is largely predetermined by the vast water resources in the region. The sources of many large and deep Bulgarian rivers, which flow into the Aegean Sea, can be traced back to the Rhodopes. During the 20th century a number of large dams have been built on their streams.
Their waters have been and are still used for the production of clean hydro power. The production of tobacco and high-quality aromatic wines is a very important part of the economy. The tourism industry is a major source of foreign currency in the region too, and winter is considered to be an active tourist season.
This is the period when the excellent ski slopes attract numerous visitors, and the small and quiet mountain villages in the Rhodopes turn into lively international resorts.