If you are visiting the resort of Pamporovo (Southern Bulgaria) on your holiday, take a day to visit Momchil’s fortress, some 25 kms from the resort. Built in the 6th century, it has been numerously destroyed, rebuilt and inhabited throughout the history if Bulgaria. It was last used by the Bulgarian ruler Momchil in the 14th century, hence its name. And, history aside, this fortress offers one of the best views to Rhodopi mountains!
How to reach the fortress?
From the city of Smolyan follow the signs. The road swirls through small villages, beautiful forest and water springs here and there. You will eventually arrive at a small village Gradat (= ‘The city’, in Bulgarian, the people here have a sense of humor since the village is tiny), after which you will see the tourist center. Park there and head for the fortress which is some 20-30 minutes uphill walk. The tourist center has nice maps of the region, you may want to take a look and may also inquire about a guided tour option there.
The walk to the fortress is kind of steep, but it’s paved and there are many places for relax on the way. So, it’s OK even for elderly people or kids.
How much time do you need to visit it?
Walking around the whole fortress will take as long as you need to enjoy the amazing views that open from the fortress, but perhaps a leisure 2 hours total for reaching and walking around it would be enough. And if you visit on a Saturday (in the summer), you can combine your tour with the 35-minute audio-visual show at the fortress – a combination of audio-visual effects and a movie about the ruler Momchil. Starts at 8.30 pm on Saturday.
The story of the fortress
Built by the Roman Emperor Justinian I (6th century), the fortress was meant to protect the area from the attacks of the Barbarians on the north. Therefore, it communicated on upcoming attacks with 2 other fortresses in the area by means of smoke. These two fortresses can still be seen from the top of Momchil’ s one.
The fortress was later on destroyed by the Slavs but rebuilt in 11th century. The last usage of the fortress, by the local ruler Momchil lasted until the Turkish invasion in 1346. Most artifacts unearthed here were exactly from these times and they are now exhibited in the History Museum of Smolyan (museum with very rich exhibitions, check it out).
What else to do while in the region
- Visit Koshnica fortress. This is a recently excavated fortress on the way from Smolyan to the village of Arda, a few kilometers after the village of Smilyan (look for the signs). The fortress was used between 1st and 13th century to guard the major Trans-Rhodopi road and on one end is merged with a cave. Very picturesque area and a pleasant 30-40 minute walk uphill. Have in mind excavations are still going on in the area.
- Visit the Canyon of 46 Waterfalls (see GreetBulgaria’s article on the Canyon)
- Check out the Planet Observatory in the city of Smolyan, mind that there are fixed entry hours
- Visit Uhlovitsa cave, one of the most beautiful caves in Bulgaria. It’s 30 kms from Smolyan, have in mind the last group enters at 4 pm.
Where to stay
There are many options for accommodation in the region.
- If you prefer a quiet stay among peace and nature, in a local house, with local dishes cooked – head to Smilyan, Arda or any other small village in the region. The local people are friendly and, even if they don’t speak English, you’ll get along perfectly. The local dishes in this region are super delicious, ask for them 🙂
- If you prefer a city stay – Smolyan has all types of accommodation, from big hotels to small guest houses. Most can be booked on booking.com.
- If you are looking for spa, all inclusive, organized tours – head for the resort of Pamporovo, it offers a huge choice of hotels there, most listed on booking.com again. In the winter this is maybe the best family ski resort in Bulgaria, and in the summer you can hike the region or bike in Pamporovo bike park.
Have an amazing stay in Smolyan region! And if you have questions – let me know in the comments and I’ll respond as fast as I can.