Before our trip, a holiday to Bulgaria would’ve filled my other half with more trepidation than excitement. On the other side of our week’s personal tour of the western Rhodope region, we both can’t recommend this place (or our guide) enough.
From the moment a lesser spotted eagle soared overhead as our car fled the city we knew we were in for a good week. Admittedly, the Ale House with beer literally on tap at our table the day before provided a good foundation for this feeling too!
What struck us first were the vast landscapes containing everything nature can offer – from meadows, mountains, and endless forests to lakes, wetlands and bubbling streams. The abundance of wildlife was clear to see from the get go.
The extensive variety of hiking trails and quiet roads made it easy for us to enjoy the rich and varied landscapes, flora and fauna of the Western Rhodope mountain region. This magical place put us in close contact with some amazing bird and wildlife sights.
I’m by no means a bird photographer, these photos are mainly a record of seeing the bird and helping me remember the experience.
Full bird species list –
Common rose finch
Grey headed woodpecker
Lesser Grey Shrike
Lesser spotted eagle
Red backed shrike
Red footed falcon (pair)
Red rumped swallow
Yellow wagtail (European)
Our Bird highlights
- Red footed falcon – see my blog post
- Wall creeper
- Crested tit
- Common rose finch
- Sombre tit
- Alpine swift
The only thing more abundant than the Black redstarts and fields of violas was the food. Just like the mountains shaping the horizon of our 360 degree views, so too did the jars of flavoured honey, interesting beans, herbal teas and jams lining the roadsides as we travelled through the mountain villages.
We could sense the Mediterranean influence in some of the southern areas, not least in the buildings and cuisine but also in the people we met.
At our stay at the Yagodina hotel and Moravsko Selo organic farm in particular, we found the villagers to be welcoming and kind in all respects; very much like the area – unspoiled and unaffected by city life. The food on their menus was impressive traditional cuisine sourced authentically from the land – something that we saw time and again as we travelled. The latter farm taking painstaking care to do so organically.
The food served was some of the most flavoursome and interesting we’ve eaten. And the wine was such a revelation we had to buy some to bring back.
Just as the western Rhodope Mountains impressed us with the huge forests and towering gorges, so too did this basic way of life living off the land. The endless network of rivers is an obvious source of the fertile lands, but nothing can account for the time and attention the people clearly dedicate to farming by hand and horse drawn plough and the pride they take in gathering from the wild.
Our adventure in Bulgaria gave us quite a show; so much so that we will be visiting again to travel to the east and the coast for our next trip. It was inexpensive, provided enchanting landscapes, plentiful wildlife, amazing historic and natural sites and encounters with lovely people.
Nature has undoubtedly unleashed a creative power in this area with everything about the western Rhodope region providing a taste of the real and wild – from the food and the abundant nature to the simple way of life.
Blog and Photos by Matt Debouge & Kirsty Forshaw