Winter in Smolyan
In the heart of the Rhodope Mountains, the town of Smolyan stretches along the valleys of the Cherna and Byala Rivers as if contemplating the stars. It has reunited amazing nature, old and modern architecture, living traditions and crafts, traces from ancient civilizations, and hospitable people. The latter are the successors of the ancient inhabitants of this mountain linked to mythical Orpheus. Facing the sounds of the Rhodopean kaba-gayda [bagpipe], visitors from near and afar are left voiceless.
The Rozhen National Astronomic Observatory at Rozhen peak offers its visitors telescope observations and an introduction to the history of astronomy in Bulgaria. The view that opens from the terrace of the large telescope’s dome will make you hold your breath: a sea of summits is stretching over the surroundings. It’s probably such a scene that made great Bulgarian writer Ivan Vazov to exclaim: “Rhodopa – a sea of petrified peaks”. Nearby are the Rozhen Meadows where every four years folklore performers from around the country congregate to Rozhen Sings National Folklore Festival.
If you missed Rozhen, take a walk under the star-flung sky of the Smolyan Planetarium. Here you’ll learn about the formation of the universe and you’ll hear legends about the constellations. If you’ve had enough of admiring old architecture, you came into contact with folklore and the celebrations of the Smolyan region but still don’t want the tale to end, the Stoyu Shishkov Regional Museum of History would offer you an exciting trip through the past of the Rhodopes, with authentic treasures kept in the permanent exhibition, The Rhodopes – from the Antiquity until today.
Pamporovo, the second-largest Bulgarian winter resort, is located 10 km off Smolyan. A single day on the pistes would be enough to acquire an amazing sun tan, for the resort’s reputation of one of the sunniest in Bulgaria is well-deserved. Neither sudden weather changes nor avalanches are characteristic of Pamporovo – your safety is guaranteed. If you missed to learn skiing until now, Pamporovo ski schools are among the best in Europe! Skiers may benefit from 29 km of alpine skiing pistes of different difficulty levels, 30 km of cross-country skiing trails, and nine ski storerooms.
The ethnographic and cultural reserve of the Shiroka Laka village is 12 km away from Pamporovo. Houses that preserved characteristic Rhodopean architecture, stone-clad streets, arched bridges over the river, and local songs and rituals are giving you the opportunity to get in touch with Bulgarian culture and customs.
In the first days of March, one of Bulgaria’s oldest kukeri celebrations takes place in the village. The locals call it Pes-Monday. On this day huge monsters – kukeri, armed with wooden sabres, painted in red, are dancing to expel any evil from the streets, the houses, and the souls.
Lazarovden [Lazarus Day] is also a traditional spring holiday, celebrated one week before Easter.
Just 7 km from Shiroka Laka are the Beden mineral springs. The rock formations Glavata [the Head] and Momata [the Lass] are nearby, too. Located 5 km away is the picturesque Stoykite village.