From Plovdiv we head towards the Rhodope Mountains passing through the pretty town of Asenovgrad. Nearby we see the remarkable remains of King Ivan Asen’s Fortress - a wise ruler of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. There we find an ancient church dating from the 13-th century painted with some authentic pieces of iconography. At the top of the fortress we enjoy an awesome 360 degrees panorama all over the Rhodope Mountains, Asenovgrad town, The Thracian Valley and the imposing Balkan Range with its highest Botev Peak in the far distance.
Next we go deeper in the Rhodope Mountains towards the picturesque Bachkovo Monastery. The cloister is the second largest in Bulgaria, founded in 1083 and one of the most sacred places in the Bulgarian history. Inside the monastery we visit the main church of Virgin Mary built in 1604 where a valuable icon of Saint Mary from 11-12th century AD is being kept. According to the legend and the big number of healed people this remarkable icon is believed to be miracle working. Attached to the Virgin Mary church we see the Archangels' Church dating to the 12-th century. The monastery refectory is another jewel in the complex which has preserved colorful murals from 1643. Together with the Doomsday fresco, we witness the images of some prophets, saint-monks, ancient philosophers and writers as Socrates, Aristotle, Plato and many more. The panoramic mural painting on the outside wall of the refectory represents a bird’s eye view of the monastery with all the surrounding buildings from 1807. This is the biggest scenic mural on the Balkan Peninsula! In the second monastery yard we finally visit the Saint Nikola church. In the second monastery yard we finally visit the Saint Nikola church built between 1834 and 1837.
Next we continue the tour towards The Wonderful Bridges situated at 1450 m. a. s. l. in the heart of the lovely Rhodope Mountains. This unique nature phenomenon consists of two rocky bridges (height of 45 m) over a small river. The marble bridges were formed by an earthquake and the erosive activity of the once high-water river. Together with the Bachkovo Monastery and the Assen’s Fortress these outstanding nature bridges are also on the list of the 100 national tourist sites of Bulgaria.
In summer on the weekends the longest zip line on the Balkan Peninsula (240 m) stretching between the 2 bridges is available for the more adventurous travelers.
Period: Year round
Trip duration: 6,5-7 hours
Included: English speaking tour guide, transfers from/to your hotel in Plovdiv, parking fee
Not included: Assen's Fortress entrance fee (1,50 EUR), Bachkovo Monastery entrance fee (0,50 EUR), Bachkovo Monastery refectory entrance fee (3 EUR) - optional, food and tips
Note: Temperatures at the Wonderful Bridges are about 10 degrees cooler compared to Plovdiv so please bring some warmer clothing with you in case you need it. Flip flops are not advised as there is some walking on uneven path and very short but steep and slippery terrains. Trainers are OK.