Horses near Devin

5 things to do on a getaway in Devin

History Fangirl

Stephanie Craig is a amateur historian and travel blogger. She writes at historyfangirl.com

I first came to Bulgaria in the fall of last year, and I was immediately wowed by this wonderful country. Sofia charmed me right away, and I fell in love with the capital for its vibrancy, gorgeous architecture, and urban core. After bouncing from country to country for eight months, I came back in February to settle down in what I consider to be my new Balkan home.

But occasionally, even a city girl needs to escape, which is a great excuse to get out and explore the country’s quieter towns and villages. Desperate to get out of Sofia for the long Easter weekend, I decided to take Todor up on some of his advice from his post “7 magnificent spa resorts in Bulgaria” and booked a quick getaway to the spa town of Devin. I’m so glad I did! The weekend was peaceful, beautiful, and relaxing – everything I needed it to be.

Since Todor has explained why Devin is a great option for a weekend (or more), I thought I’d report back and share with the kashkaval tourist community some of the highlights I enjoyed on my trip so you can prepare your own weekend away.

Devin sits high in the Rhodope Mountains, near Bulgaria’s southern border with Greece. The small town of about 7,000 looks like many other towns from afar: lots of traditional rust-red roofs, taverns, and the local Orthodox church. It is famous for its mineral hot springs. The largest bottled water company in Bulgaria is also called Devin, named for and bottled in the town.

1. Go for a stroll

Go for a stroll: Walking through Devin in the afternoon

Go for a stroll: Walking through Devin in the afternoon

The town is small, charming, and easily walkable. Centered around the Devinska River (as well as a few other streams and waterways), there are multiple picturesque bridges and parks nearby. Cottages and houses climb halfway up the mountain peaks.

2. Hit the spa

Hit the spa: Spa Hotel Persenk

Hit the spa: Spa Hotel Persenk

Why go to a spa town and not enjoy the spa? I swam in the mineral pool at my hotel, enjoyed the sauna and steam room, got a full body massage, and capped off the day with a Bulgarian rose oil infused body scrub. I was so relaxed that by the end that I couldn’t feel my face.

Continue reading

8 magical cultural attractions in the Rhodopes

8 magical cultural attractions in the Rhodopes

The Rhodopes (Родопи, Rodopi), a forested mountain chain in Bulgaria’s southern reaches, are a land that has preserved its age-old traditions to this day. A serene place of legendary natural beauty, the Rhodope Mountains were reportedly the home of Orpheus in Ancient Greek myth. Today, these verdant and extensive mountains remain a magnetic destination where visitors find peace and tranquility.

Thracian sanctuaries, scenic villages, medieval castles and enigmatic bridges: read on to find out more about 8 magical cultural attractions in the Rhodopes. And the Rhodopes’ natural attractions – its stunning gorges, caves and rock arches – undoubtedly deserve a whole future article of their own!

1. Arched wonder of architecture: Devil’s Bridge

Spanning the Arda River not far from Ardino and linking the Aegean coast of Greece with the Upper Thracian Lowland of Bulgaria, the Devil’s Bridge (Дяволски мост, Dyavolski most) has fascinated tourists and researchers for many years. This picturesque arched stone bridge was constructed in the early 16th century by the Ottomans and numerous legends attempt to explain its curious name.

According to one of the most popular tales, the violent currents of the river long prevented the locals from building a bridge at the place. Only when a young master builder made a deal with the devil (involving cryptically depicting the face of Satan on the bridge) under the danger of losing his and his wife’s lives was the bridge able to survive at the cursed location. And so it has continued to stand, for 500 years.

  • How to get there: There are daily buses from Sofia’s Central station to Kardzhali, where you can catch a local bus to Ardino. A couple of the afternoon buses from Sofia go directly to Ardino too.

2. 8000 year-old sanctuary: Perperikon

Archaeologists were looking for the lost Thracian sanctuary of Perperikon for decades until they discovered it in 2000. Nested on a rocky ridge above the village of Gorna Krepost in the Eastern Rhodopes, this ancient compound is regarded as the largest megalith complex in Southeastern Europe.

Reportedly, Perperikon was the site of a famous Temple of Dionysus, the god of wine, whose oracle rivaled the one at Delphi. Modified and expanded in Roman times with fortress walls and an imposing palace, Perperikon survived until the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, when it was destroyed… and forgotten.

  • How to get there: Perperikon is not far from Kardzhali, which is connected to Sofia and Plovdiv by bus. It may be possible to arrange a taxi from Kardzhali to Gorna Krepost, the site of Perperikon.

Continue reading