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Places of interest

This section describes the natural and historical/cultural treasures of the Eastern Rhodopes.

Concerning the nature and wilderness part, most of the Eastern Rhodopes is technically Natura 2000 area. However, less than 20% of Natura 2000 area in Bulgaria is actually protected under national legislation (European Environmental Agency (EEA), 2010) . According to the booklet ‘Protected areas in the Eastern Rhodopes and Sakar Mountains’ by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife Bulgaria), the percentage of area protected in the Eastern Rhodopes is only 1,41% and thus even less than the country’s average (4,9%).
Besides the protected areas, the wildest regions within the Eastern Rhodopes, with the least anthropogenic influences and the greatest diversity of wildlife, birds and plants are to be found between Madzharovo and Ivaylovgrad and around the Studen Kladenets lake. Other hotspots occur along the border of the region, towards Greece or the Western Rhodopes. Naturally, these are not the only places where impressive nature can be experienced and many other interesting spots, with particular rare species, a spectacular landscape or a large biodiversity can be found scattered around the region.
Next to the living nature, many natural phenomena such as rock formations and caves are also taken up. These are described in Caves and Natural phenomena sections.

In Archaeological/History section you will find information about archaeological sites such as ancient Thracian cult complexes and medieval fortresses as well as about more contemporary sites of interest such as museums. Locations are described in detail and a summary of the site’s  meaning or history is given.
One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of the region is by foot. Step onto a trail, wander around and one will end up at the most beautiful places.
Nine trails are described in the Activities/Hiking section, some of which are already signed and made more accessible by placing information panels and others which are still in the process of being developed.
Besides the signed trails however, there are plenty of other opportunities the explore the region. We would like to mention that for the nature lover and/or more adventurous tourist there are many paths and tracks into the less inhabited and wilder areas that are very rewarding to follow. Many unsurfaced 4WD tracks for example provide excellent opportunities to go into areas otherwise not easily accessible. However, one should take care when undertaking such activities. We would recommend people who are not familiar with the area to seek the company of a trustworthy local guide. Even experienced hikers should preferably not go alone and under all circumstances one should be well prepared before going for any walk or hike; using the right gear, bringing sufficient supplies and taking into account weather conditions are a good start.

Rhodopean Shorthorn cattle

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