Gorelska Mahala

Gorelska mahala is a small hamlet located in the Western Rhodopes in the area between the towns of Velingrad and Dospat. One of the things about this place that attracts attention and makes it a destination worth visiting are the beautiful panoramic views. From the meadows above Gorelska mahala one could see most of the northern summits of the Pirin mountain and part of the Rila mountain as well. The whole area is mostly unspoiled, with vast coniferous forests, meadows and numerous dirt paths that connects the hamlets around. This makes it a suitable place for backcountry biking trips. Additionally the narrow-gauge railway passes through this region. You can take it to get you up in the mountain and plan a biking trip without being dependent on a car to transport you to the starting point.
The European long distance path E-8 passes nearby Gorelska mahala. Learn more about it from the travelogue of my journey along the E-8 in the spring of 2015.

To get to Gorelska mahala by car follow the main path which connects the town of Velingrad with the towns of Sarnitsa and Dospat to the south. 13 km before Sarnitsa there is a turning and a smaller path goes towards the villages of Pobit kamak and Medeni polyani. It passes through a picturesque area along the valley of Dospat river with many beautiful meadows surrounded by forests. The asphalt road in the area around the village of Pobit kamak is in a poor state but it gets better after you pass the village. The very last stretch before Gorelska mahala is a rather rough dirt road (for about a kilometre or so)

A much more interesting way to get to the hamlet of Gorelska mahala is by bike starting from Avramovo - the highest train station on the entire Balkan Peninsula, located at the altitude of 1267 metres above the sea level. A narrow-gauge railway connects it with the towns of Bansko and Razlog to the south and Velingrad and Septemvri to the north. The distance between Avramovo and Gorelska mahala is 30 km and can be done for about 3-4 hours. The route follows the European long distance path E-8 and is marked with white-red-white signs (not clearly visible all the time, better check the .gpx track of the route).

Вертикален профил на маршрута гара Аврамово - Горелска махала

Avramovo-Gorelska-mahala.gpx

Once you get to the meadows above the hamlet of Gorelska mahala you have several options. One is to take the path that crosses the hamlet and goes down through the forest beneath it. It will get you to the village of Medeni polyani and to the asphalt roads that goes to Pobit kamak. From there you can continue towards the town of Dospat and the lake next to it. This way starts with a nice descend followed by a long stretch of easy ridding. 3 km before the town of Sarnitsa you can turn to the right (see the place here) and continue along the road which follows the western bank of the lake.

Another option is to head north. You will have to retrace a couple of hundreds metres of the way you came until you get to the first turning. To the left is the way back to Avramovo. Take the right road which will get you to the riverbed of Alandere. Here turn right again. Follow the riverbed for the next 10 km. Once you get to the main asphalt road turn left and continue your descend towards the town of Velingrad. This way will get you straight to the train station in the southern part of the town. You can check the train's schedule here.

The final option is to continue following the E-8 path until you get to Golyam Beglik dam lake (about 30 km more, however a lot of uphill). What a better end of a long ride but to get to the one of the most beautiful mountain dam lakes in Bulgaria and to stay overnight in Chatama Forest Centre, located on its shores. The centre is maintained by the people of Bikearea organization and probably there is hardly anyone who knows better about the biking in the Western Rhodopes than the people from this organisation. You can pitch your tent next to the centre or sleep in one of the renovated buildings. There is running water, composting toilets, solar heated showers, electricity and facilities for keeping and making food (contact: (+359) 886 689 984, Stanislav Nikolov).