“Bilyana bleached the cloth…” – with this phrase begins one of the most beautiful and romantic Bulgarian folklore songs. It’s dedicated to the love story of the daughter of one miller and the young Boyar Samuil, who became a legendary Bulgarian king later. The story takes place in the foothills of the mountain Belasitsa. A destination for this trip as well.
Belasitsa is located in the southwest corner of Bulgaria. The mountain is the steepest one in Europe. At its peak Tumba the three borders of Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia and Greece come together. In nowadays this beautiful and majestic mountain range is perfect destination for eco and rural tourism. At the foothills of the magnificent white peaks are lying vast chestnut forests, which are emblematic for the landscape of the area. In order to preserve the biodiversity in the largest natural array of chestnuts in Europe, the natural park “Belasitsa” has been established.
In the early autumn every year the locals organize the Festival of the chestnuts. On the square in the village Kolarovo are demonstrated many of the local folklore and culinary traditions. In 2015, the event will take place on October 10th. You should definitely try the local specialties – baked chestnuts, banitsa with bulgur and leek, tsarka turshiya (pickled vegetables in jars). In addition ask for the famous red wines typical for the valley of the river Struma. Do not miss the “Wide Melnik Vine” – an old local variety that keeps the people young forever.
Belasitsa offers a wide range of possibilities for every enthusiastic tourist. From the ridge you will discover breathtaking panoramic views. You can also ride a bike in extreme conditions on the old borderline. The team of Natural Park Belasitsa will give you the choice between eight different walking tours – called for example “Life of the chestnut”, “The woodpeckers – the guardians of the forest”, “The trail of ants”.
For more information visit the information center in Kolarovo – working hours: 08:30am - 05:00pm, Monday till Friday.
Another recommended stop for your trip is Melnik – the smallest Bulgarian town, where the ancient traditions of winemaking have been preserved over the centuries. If you want to buy wine with excellent quality, search for the wine cellars of the locals producers. You should visit also the magnificent architectural masterpiece from the Bulgarian Renascence – Kordopulovata kashta (“Kodopulova house”). There are many family wineries in the region, some of them are organizing tasting and walking tours called “The wine road along the valley of Struma”.
In the northern foothills of Belasitsa are located many full of life villages, where you can find accommodation for the night – Yavornitsa, Samuilovo, Kolarovo, Skrat, Klyuch, Kamena. In the mountain there are also three full-time working huts. Together with the villages Belasitsa and Gabrene this part is known as Podgorie, also famous for the extremely rich number of waterfalls among the chestnuts and beech forests.
You can visit also the memorial complex “Samuil Fortress”. Founded on the occasion of 1300 anniversary of the establishment of the Bulgarian state, it’s located next to the river Strumeshnitsa among array of age-old plane trees. Rupite is an interesting location to visit too. The Bulgarian prophetess Vanga lived in this place with high energy and mystery signs, where many warm mineral springs were formed by volcanic activity million years ago.
The center of the region in the foothills of Belasitsa is the town Petrich, located 180 km from Sofia on the highway Sofia-Thessaloniki. Many of the touristic routs in the mountain start from here. 30 minutes away from there by car is the town Sandanski, a well-known balneo and spa center. Because of the higher temperatures in comparison to the other Bulgarian cities here you can try some exotic flavors for the Bulgarian agriculture – for example lemons, olives and kiwis.
HOW TO GET THERE? – There are regular buses from Sofia (Central Bus Station) to Petrich. The trip takes usually about three and a half hours. You can also catch a train from Central Railway Station, Sofia to Petrich and it will take you approximately four hours to get there but there are only two options available during the day. From the Bus Station in Petrich there are regular buses departing every hour in direction of Kolarovo and the other villages (take the bus route Petrich-Gabrene). Do not hesitate to ask the driver for more information about when to get off the bus or about the transport options on the way back.
Author: Gavrail Gavrailov