A journey to Beglika in Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria- adventures in the southernmost taiga forest in Europe

A journey to Beglika in Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria- adventures in the southernmost taiga forest in Europe

From the Alps to the highest mountains on the Earth in Asia- there is a long chain of mountain rangesOne of them, a small range compared to the Alps is the Rhodope Mountains. It is situated in the Eastern part of the Balkans, mainly in Bulgaria and part of Greece. Aside of its geographic, historic and cultural features, there you can find some of the most beautiful fir forests in Europe. And the forests are stunningly beautiful in one of the Rhodope’s area, called Beglika (Беглика). 

Golyam Beglik dam lake, Rhodope mountains
Golyam Beglik

Where is Beglika

Beglika is an area in the western part of Rhodope mountains. It is located in Batak mountain ridge, on altitudes mainly between 1500 and 1700 m. There are two main peaks nearby- Golyama Syutkya (Голяма Сюткя) (2186 m) and Batashki Snezhnik (Баташки Снежник) (2082 m). The terrain is quite plain, so these peaks are not clearly exposed. The area is rich of many streams and small rivers, branched in a labyrinth of valleys, finally gathered in Devin River to the southeast and Sarnena river to the south. There are several dam lakes in the area- Golyam Beglik (Голям Беглик), Beglika (Беглика), Toshkov chark (Тошков чарк), Shiroka polyana (Широка поляна) and several others small lakes.

The whole area is covered by almost 100% taiga- coniferous forests, with many glades and meadows on the valleys and near the lakes. You can meet bears, wild pigs, sometimes wolves, deers and other typical European forest animals. 

There are not constant cities and villages in the area, but only some seasonal settlements as well as small resorts. The nearest towns are Batak (Батак) and Dospat (Доспат), as well as few villages- Sarnitsa (Сърница), Zmeitsa (Змеица) and Rakitovo (Ракитово). Thus the area is one of the less populated, not only in Rhodope mountains, but in the Balkans. Some parts of Beglika are turned into reservations.

All of this makes Beglika an off the beaten, less popular, but incredibly beautiful place in Bulgaria, providing opportunities for trekking, mountain biking, various kinds of adventures and relax, in a place looking like Siberia or like “the end of the world”.  

Cherno dere meadows, Rhodope mountains
Cherno dere meadows

Our adventures in Beglika

All this has attracted me since many years ago. Yes, the lakes are artificial, built some 60 years ago. There has been swamps and more meadows before the establishing the lakes, so now they are human-made places. But again, if they were made thousands of years ago, they would be an amazing mysterious attraction. Anyway, even now they provide a strong feeling of remoteness, northern taiga lands and incredible beauty.

I remember how we spent nights camping on the lakes’ coast, staring at the bright stars in the space above. Remember the cold fresh morning fragrance of the grass and the wild forest, veiled in a fairy mist. Then, the sunny meadows with flowers and the deep shadows of the firs and spruces around. Sometimes dark clouds with thunders brang a rainstorm, which later ended with a rainbow. And finally- the evening falling on the forest, making in dark, scary, silent and mysterious place, with crickets singing around us.

But all of this was in summer. We came there and made long treks, sometimes lasting two-three days, through the labyrinth of the taiga forest and meadows. The whole area is great for biking, so we didn’t miss the opportunity to roam around with our bikes, again for days. Anyway, let’s go there together.

How to reach Beglika

As I mentioned above, Beglika is a remote place and a bit difficult to access if you trust only the public transport. If you are not adventurous kind of person, then the only option for you is to go there by car (if you have friends or your own car). But if you don’t have a car,then you have to be opened for hiking (or biking) adventures.

There is a paved road in good condition, which crosses Beglika from north to south, between the towns of Batak and Dospat. You can reach Batak or Dospat by bus from Plovdiv or Pazardzhik cities. Then there is a bus 2 or 3 times a week crossing on this road, so the better option is hiking, cycling or hitchhiking from these two towns. Beglika area is in the middle, about 25 km from each of them.

Beglika serenity
Beglika serenity

Reaching Beglika by public transport

So here is the best option. If you are coming from Sofia, you can take a bus traveling every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 16:30pm, which can stop at the dam wall of Golyam Beglik around 19:30pm. Another option is to take the train to Pazardzhik (Пазарджик). Then go to the Central bus station (which is in the north part of the city. From there you can take a bus to Batak- for about 2 hours. If you are coming from Plovdiv you can take a bus to Batak, from South bus station (currently there are 2 buses- in 9:45am and 17:30pm).

If you have a bike, you can load the bike in the train or in the bus, but only if there is enough place and the driver agrees (usually you need to pay additional tax for your bike).

The area is excellent for camping, so if you bring your tent, you can leave Batak at any time as you arrive. Otherwise, it is better to sleep one night in Batak, then leave on the next day earlier.

Hiking from Batak

If you prefer a more adventurous way to reach Beglika from Batak, first you can walk on the mountain dirt road to Batashki Snezhnik peak- about 4 hours ascending to the summit. As Batak is about 1100 m altitude, Batashki Snezhnik is 2082 m, you have to ascend almost 1000 m (or you just cross the summit west of the peak). 

From Batashki Snezhnik you can descend to Tomofilevo dere (Томофилево дере), then proceed to Chukura (Чукура)- there is a paved road leading to this forestry. From Chukura you take the small dirt road on the right through the meadows and woods until finally you arrive to the main road Batak-Dospat. And there is the small Beglika dam.

Then, from here you can walk another 1 km to villa Beglika, or in you prefer camping, a better option is walk another 3 km to Golyam Beglik dam. Here is the track from Batashki Snezhnik to Golyam Beglik- totally about 3 hours. Thus the whole route for this day is around 7 hours walk, or about 2-3 hours biking on the main road Batak-Dospat. 

Through the forest of Beglika
Through the forest of Beglika

Exploring Beglika

Now, once we arrive in Beglika, let’s look at the map. You can see the largest dam lake in the area, called Golyam Beglik (Big Beglik), and the two smaller dam lakes nearby- Beglika and Toshkov Chark. You can also see the main road from Batak to Dospat, crossing the area between these dam lakes. Let’s look into detail.

Small Beglik

The main road, coming from north through the wild forest and meadows, suddenly reaches the first dam lake- Small Beglik (or just Beglika). There is a crossroad and a small bridge behind it. If you turn right, only 2 km westward you can reach a small temporary “village” of the forest management, called “Beglika”, established on wide meadows area. The small road on the left leads to Toshkov Chark dam lake.

But if you proceed on the main road, less than a kilometer further you can reach another villa zone, again called Beglika- a fairysettlement, surrounded by the small lake on the east, wild and deep forest on the south and a mix of more forests, meadows and curving streams on the west and north.

Golyam Beglik- the Northern coast

Around a mile further on the main road, you can see the big dam wall of Golyam Beglik. From here turn right, and follow the paved road. A bit further this small road’s pavement becomes in worse and worse condition, until finally it disappears, and the the pavement turnes to dirt. Here you can see several guesthouses and bungalows, some of them abandoned, slolwly turning into ruins.

The last one of them is the once beautiful hotel Rai (“Paradise”), now turned into silent remains. And if you proceed a little more on this road, you will see a new church in a meadow called “Samodivska polyana”- another place with Orthodox religious mystery. Then, the same road proceeds circling around the whole Golyam Beglik. 

Golyam Beglik- the rest

The dirt road, long more than 20 km circumnavigates around Golyam Beglik, and there is almost nothing on its coast except forests, forests and again forests. You look at the opposite coast, and it looks very near, but in fact you have to go around the long bays of the lake until reach it.

There are some interesting places around the coast, called Batliboaz, Chatama, and Dikili Tash Island (reachable only by boat). All of them are protected areas. Of them, Chatama is a very special spot, so we will back to it a little later. 

Chukura

Now, let’s back to north. Around 10 km north of Small Beglik you can see a smaller road on the right, turning to east, then to southeast and south. This is the road to Chukura- a large meadow space with a small lake on it. The meadows are surrounded by a labyrinth of forests mixed with more meadows on the east, and deep wild taiga on the west. It is a fairy place with a taste of Tibet or Siberia- remote, silent and wild.

Chukura lake, Rhodope mountains
Chukura Lake

From there, the road proceeds to the next dam lake- Toshkov chark. And more roads lead eastward further through the wild taiga, deep into the Rhodope Mountains.

Shiroka Polyana

Let’s back on the main road from Batak to Dospat. The road curves along the east coast of Golyam Beglik, crosses a small summit and arrives on the western side of another large dam lake (former swamp), called Shiroka polyana (Wide Meadow). This place is out of Beglika area, but the nature is the same- wild, remote and silent. The same endless taiga forest with meadows surrounds the dam lake. And the mountain is even more flat, almost like a low hilly taiga in Finland. 

Beyond Shiroka polyana, the mountains and the forests proceed further south, to the border of Greece, and to other parts of the Rhodope. Again, Rhodope Mountains are small compared with large mountain ranges like the Himalayas, Alps, or the Rocky Mountains, but their labyrinth of forests, valleys and summits make the Rhodope to look like a vast and wild area. However, let’s back to Beglika now, and particularly to the western coast of Golyam Beglik- to Chatama. As I mentioned above- it is a special place, so let’s visit it again.

Chatama- the center of the adventures 

While you are walking, biking or driving on the dirt road along the western coast of Golyam Beglik, you can’t miss the fairy Chatama (Чатъма)- a small settlement, consisting of several houses on the lake coast. At first sight, these houses look like the other bungalows around Small Beglik or Shiroka polyana. But when you see the canoes, the oars and the mountain bikes, you can guess that this is a different place- a place promising adventures. 

And you will be right. Chatama is managed by an organization called Bikearea. They have turned the former forest center into an adventurous center. And they have a lot of activities that you can join, to try the most challenging and enjoy in full not only the nature of Beglika, but many other places around Bulgaria and other countries. 

Chatama
Chatama

What can you do in Chatama and with Bikearea

With Bikearea, you can much more opportunities to dive into adventures. But let’s see more about them.

Trekking

You can explore the area of Beglika and around by yourself. But with Bikearea you have some advantages. First- they know where to guide you. Second, their treks go much beyond Beglika- not only in the other parts of the Rhodope Mountains and other mountains in Bulgaria, but also in some adventurous places abroad, like Morocco, Oman, Tunisia, Cabo Verde, Turkey, Caucasus, Pamir and the Canary Islands.

Another kind of trekking is the winter treks, by snowshoes. In winter, the whole area around Beglika, as well as most of the Rhodope Mountains and the other mountains nearby are covered by thick snow, sometimes reaching more than 2 m. It is quite dense, but it is still difficult to walk on it without snowshoes- a route that normaly takes 2 hours, in such snowy condition can become more than 10 hours. The mountain paths and roads are hidden in the snow, and in general, trekking in such conditions can be a dangerous adventure. But it can be very exciting, and the guides from Bikearea are professionals in such activities.

Biking

The name „Bikearea” itself says enough. Again, they arrange adventurous biking tours not only in the Rhodope Mountains and the whole of Bulgaria, but also in other places around the world like Greece, Turkey, etc. Their routes don’t pass only on the main roads, but also on mountain dirt roads and paths, and it makes the whole adventure much more exciting.

Kayaking in Golyam Beglik
Kayaking in Golyam Beglik

Combined

Finally, they arrange combined tours focused on specific destination requiring various kinds of exploration- by hiking, kayaking, caving, rock climbing or other activities. Thus, you can “taste” the place in all possible ways.

Other activities

Bikearea also organize scout-type camps for kids. There are camps in Chatama, where the children live in tents for one week and learn a lot of activities in the nature. For more experienced kids, there are trekking-camps too, some of which really adventurous, like the expeditions for kids. And these camps are not only for kids, but for adults or families with kids too.

The people of Bikearea are involved in many ecological activities like cleaning the area from garbage, so if you want to join, you are welcomed to contribute.

Accommodation

Finally, Chatama now is one of the few places in the whole Beglika area where you can sleep in the night (if you don’t have your own tent). They have several houses with simple design, but providing a great adventurous feeling on the coast of Golyam Beglik. In general, the longer you stay there, the lower is the price per day, but for more information, you can ask them directly: 

CONTACT CHATAMA HERE!

There is a small restaurant (cantene), however, you have to order your meal in advance. You can enjoy there all other basic facilities, as well as some entertainment things like a rope garden.

Chatama is located in a difficult to reach place, so they can arrange a boat to take you from the dam wall of Golyam Beglik for 20 BGN. And when you arrive in Chatama, you can also enjoy kayaking and mountain biking with their canoes and mountain bikes that they offer for rent.

Dirt roads biking, Rhodope mountains
Biking on the roads in the wild forest

Hiking around Beglika

So, let’s proceed exploring this wild and amazing place. Hiking around Beglika, in the deep wild taiga forest is an amazing experience. Here are some options:

  • Beglika-Mantarica-Beglika

A nice route to northwest. Mantarica (Мантарица) is a wild reserve with virgin coniferous forests and rich wildlife.

  • Beglika-Golyama Syutkya-Malka Syutka-Beglika

By this route you can reach the highest points of the mountain.

  • Beglika-Golyam Beglik dam round trip

Golyam Beglik seems small on the map, but its endless coast curves and bays make the dirt road walking around it almost 28 km long. On this route you will pass Chatama (Чатъма).

  • Beglika-Chukura-Vlaha-Toshkov chark-Beglika

This route leads to some of the wildest forest on the east of Beglika. When you reach Chukura, just proceed further eastward, then to the south, to the Devinska River, then back to Toshkov chark and Beglika.

  • Beglika-Toshkov chark-Shiroka polyana-Komitite-Beglika

By this route you can visit the small Toshkov chark (Тошков чарк) dam- another pearl in the forest taiga.

  • Beglika-Cherno dere-Zhalto dere-Longurli-Shiroka polyana

This route is again relatively long. It passes again through endless forest and meadows, giving a real pleasure for those who love such kind of landscape.

Srebren peak hiking, Rhodope mountains
Hiking west of Golyam Beglik

Then you can move to the neighboring Shiroka polyana dam- again offering an excellent place for camping, as well as few small hotel-villas for accommodation. From Shiroka polyana you have more hiking options too:

  • Shiroka polyana-Longurli-Zhalto dere-Srebren-Longurli-Shiroka polyana

It is another version of the last of the above routes, skipping the north side of Golyam Beglik, but adding Srebren (Сребрен) peak- a quite flat point with some ancient Thracian stone remains.

  • Shiroka polyana-Longurli-Kerelova reka-Slancheva polyana-Shiroka polyana

This route is heading to the south of Shiroka polyana. Again- an endless maze of taiga forest, streams, meadows, valleys and dam lakes.

  • Shiroka polyana-Slancheva polyana-Romantik forest-Kavaltepe-Dzhenevra-Shiroka polyana

This route leads east of Shiroka polyana. Besides enjoying the same landscape, you can visit the remains of an ancient Thracian shrine in Dzhenevra (Дженевра).

All these routes are good for biking too. They are some of the best trekking routes in Rhodope mountains and the whole Balkans. Again, you can rent your bike from Chatama.

Trekking to Longurli, Rhodope mountains
More hiking through the taiga forest

LEAVING BEGLIKA

You can back to Batak on the same way. Or you can proceed to Dospat, and take a bus from there (as first you have to sleep one night in Dospat, since the buses to Sofia and Plovdiv leave very early- at 6:00 to Sofia (only Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and 6:20 to Plovdiv.

Or if you want to make Beglika only a middle destination for a longer route, there are many options too, as Beglika is situated in a good location. You can proceed exploring Rhodope mountains, or go northwest to Velingrad and Rila, southwest to Sarnica,Dabrash and Pirin. Southeast to Trigrad, Perelik and Smolyan. Or northeast to Ravnogor and Plovdiv- by both biking or on foot.

Look at this video below for more impressions:

Take a look at some travel books about Bulgaria:

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Let's make a journey to Beglika, an off the beaten place in Bulgaria, in the wild Rhodope Mountains. Enjoy the adventures in the southernmost taiga forest in Europe! Let's make a journey to Beglika, an off the beaten place in Bulgaria, in the wild Rhodope Mountains. Enjoy the adventures in the southernmost taiga forest in Europe!

 

 

 

 

 

 





 


Krasen and Ying Ying

a travel couple from Bulgaria and China. We love to explore our planet and we want to make it meaningful. Welcome to our travel blog!