The twon of Bansko – The Gateway to the Pirin mountain
The small town of Bansko lies at the foot of the Pirin Mountain and is the perfect starting point for both trekking and short walks in the Pirin National Park.
It is a museum town as well. National Revival Period houses with thick walls, secret basements and high stone fences are well preserved and function as comfortable family hotels and traditional taverns. Museum houses and monuments tell the stories of Paisii Hilendarski – the author of the first Bulgarian historic review; Neofit Rilski – the founder of Bulgarian secular education; Toma Vishanov -the founder of the Bansko Icon-painting School; and Nikola Vaptsarov – a famous Bulgarian poet. Examples of the Icon-painting School can be seen in the permanent icon exhibition at the Convent (Metoha), affiliated to the Rila Monastery.
The three-nave church of Sveta Troitsa (1835) dominates the town with its impressive stone belfry – Bansko’s symbol for more than a hundred years. The interior of the other church, Ouspenie Bogorodichno (second half of the 18th century), portrays the exceptional mastery of the Bansko Woodcarving School.
Trails starting from town of Bansko: Bansko – Banderitsa Hut
Banderitsa Hut – Kazanite Locality – Premkata Locality
Banderitsa Hut – Vihren Hut
Vihren Hut – Okoto Lake – Ribnoto Ezero Lake – Banderishkoto Ezero Lake
Vihren Hut – Sinanitsa Hut
Bansko – Demiantitsa Hut
The town of Melnik
South Pirin is where one can find the smallest town in Bulgaria – Melnik (pop. 267). It nestles in the exquisite draperies of the Melnik sandstone ‘pyramids’ – a natural phenomenon and protected site. Sandstone is the best environment for the production and maturing of the world-famous Melnik red wine. It is also the perfect scenery for the whitewashed museum houses, preserved from the Bulgarian National Revival Period (18 -19th century).
The ‘pyramids’ keep evidence of the rich history of the area. There are the remains of many medieval buildings and churches in the town itself, and the fortress of the local ruler Alexi Slav, dating from the early 13th century, on the Sveti Nikola Hill close by.
The village of Rozhen
A scenic footpath through the ‘pyramids’ leads to the Rozhen Monastery. It was, most probably, first built in the 10th century, and several times destroyed and reconstructed since. Its present-day exterior dates from the 18th century.
The Monastery Church of Rozhdestvo Bogorodichno is known for the immaculate composition of its carved altar, the 17th-century stained glass windows, and the miraculous icon of Virgin Mary.
The town of Razlog
The town of Mehomiya (Razlog) is an old Thracian settlement. According to a legend a Thracian leader defeated his enemy in the past at the very place. In honor of this victory he named the settlement established here “MOE MIYA” that means “my victory “in Thracian. Or translated from Greek “Mahi Miya” it means the same– “my victory “.
The town of Razlog (up to 1923 Mehomiya), an economic, cultural and administrative centre of Razlog Municipality, has preserved the spirit of the Bulgarian Revival and culture. By visiting the town you can also have the opportunity to look around the buildings in Revival architectural style ( Razlog – Chepin type of house ), which are cultural monuments. The old town houses (from the 30s) in the centre of the town, the beautiful green parks, the great quantity of fresh waters and the views of Pirin and Rila create a unique feeling in a tourist. The churches “ Sveto Blagoveshtenie “ and “ Sveti Georgi “, the museum in Parapunova house, Kipre – Maxev’s house, Patokov’s house, the fulling – mill of the river of Yiazo are only a part of the many places of interest.
The central location of the town of Razlog in the valley turns it into a starting point for tourist routes in the three mountains – Rila, Pirin and the Rhodopes. There are warm mineral springs in the village of Banya, in the place of Katarino in Razlog, in the place of Razhdavets in the village of Bachevo. The mineral spring water in the village of Eleshnitsa is also good for balneotherapy and prophylaxis and perfect for swimming.
In the place of Predel one of the biggest fairs of folk art in Bulgaria – “Pirin is singing “– is held. It is organized in every two years, in the second half of August. The fair is an original apotheosis of the richness and variety of the folklore of the Pirin region – songs, dances, customs, rituals, traditional costumes and others.
Razlog is proud of the impressive masquerade fest – the procession on 1st January each year is something that is worth seeing!
Trails starting from town of Razlog: Razlog – Betolovoto Locality – Varnitsata Locality – Yavorov Hut
Yavorov Hut – Koncheto Ridge
Betolovoto Locality – kalyata Locality
Razlog – Katarino Locality – St. Ekaterina Chapel
Yavorov Hut – Spring of the Biala Reka River
Trails starting from town of Razlog and village of Dobarsko: Razlog – Dobarsko (by bus) – Uspenie Bogorodichno Chapel
Village of Dobarsko – Dobarsko Hut
Dobarsko Hut – Germanitsa Locality
Dobarsko Hut – Titevitsa Locality
Dobarsko Hut – Makedonia Hut
Trails starting from town of Razlog and village of Bachevo: Razlog – Bachevo – Perivol Locality
Bachevo – St. George Chapel
Bachevo – Tsiganskite Kolibi Locality
The village of Dobarsko
Nestling in the southern slopes of Rila Mountains, there lies the village of Dobarsko. It is a place of many legends. According to one, the blinded soldiers from the defeated troops of the Bulgarian Tsar Samouil settled here after tne tragic Belasishka Battle in 1014. This was the beginning of the famous Debarsko Singing School which existed until early 20th century.
Dobarsko is also known as a starting point for the heart of the Rila National Park and for its two churches. The older, Sveti Sveti Teodor Tiron and Teodor Stratilat (1614), is a national treasure of exclusive artistic value. The other church – Sretenie Gospodne (1860) – is also a cultural monument, portrayingthe mastery oftheBansko School of Art.
Town of Blagoevgrad
The greatest asset of Blagoevgrad is the combination of traditional and modern architecture. The old houses in the Varosha quarter present the best traditions of National Revival architecture. This is the domain of artists and crafts-people; here children can study modern arts and traditional folklore. The church of Vavedenie Bogorodichno (Holy Annunciation, 1844) and the Historical Museum showing the history, nature and folkore of the Pirin region, are also to be found here.
The Rila Monastery
The Rila Monastery is only 41 km away from the town. The Monastery tells about the dramatic history of the area, being center of spiritual life in times of dari< oppression and preserving outstanding samples of Bulgarian art schools.
The village of Belitsa
Belitsa is one of the smallest municipalities in southwestern Bulgaria. It is located among three majestic mountain ranges: Rila, Pirin, and Rhodopes, which define its unique and diverse nature, folklore, and history. The town of Belitsa is the administrative center of the municipality, and is located in the southern foothills of the Rila Mountains. The municipality has realized one of the most attractive ecological projects in Bulgaria—the nature reserve for dancing bears. It is the first center for the rehabilitation of dancing bears in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. It is about 120 decares and supported with the financial assistance of the international foundation for the protection of animals, “Four Paws” (Vier Pfoten). At the moment it houses 13 bears, but soon it will accept all the dancing bears in Bulgaria (25 total).
Leshten and Kovachevitsa – The Romantic Side of History
Western Rhodopes, in contrastto the other mountains in the Pirin region, have always been densely populated and are still very much alive. History has blended here different religions, traditions and modes of life.
The villages of Leshten and Kovachevitsa are the perfect places to touch the magic of Rhodope Mountains. White fortress-like houses with stone basements and roofs, narrow cobbled streets and yards hanging over abysses -that is the typical view here.