European long distance path E-8 - The Rhodopes

Day 1
Avramovo Railway Station – village of Ortsevo

We start our journey at Avramovo Railway Station – the highest situated railway station on the Balkan Peninsula. Mid-way there, in Septemvri, we find out our train has been cancelled. Arguments rise about how many people can fit in one bus. According to the Bulgarian State Railways staff, around 100; according to the policeman, standing nearby, “that’s not my business”; and according to us, the bus just can’t go anywhere, packed like this. 


Not more than 15 min after we’ve arrived at the station the memory of the arguments has long gone. It’s 1st May; the sun is shining and we’re heading on a wonderful journey across the beautiful and immense Rhodope.

It’s the first hill that we’ve climbed but it already gives us the first beautiful views to Rila. After the heavy March snows, there’s still a lot of snow up there so we decide not to head to Borovets, which is actually the beginning of the E-8 Route.

This day we reach the area of the village of Ortsevo. The hike is easy; along cartways and without steep ascents. We leave our stuff and head to the village where we arrive on sunset. If happiness in life only depended on the view, the people of Ortsevo would’ve been the happiest in the world.

The first day along the E-8 Route ends late in the night.

Day 2

Ortsevo – Gorelska mahala

The second day starts with pleasant walking along slanting dirt roads. We pass the village of Bozevo.

Then we reach the village of Zlataritsa. After an hour there we add 3 litres of fresh milk, 3 litres of ayran and 3 more litres of delicious cowberry juice to our stuff. A gift. That’s what Rhodope people are like.

From the village of Zlataritsa our path goes on to the southeast and before the day ends we reach the meadows above Gorelska mahala.

Our second camp is set up on a place I already know from previous travels in the region. During the night the clouds break and I hope the morning will be clear and good for taking pictures.

Day 3
Gorelska mahala – the locality of Krastovete

What a reward for dragging myself out of the sleeping bag so early! The view to Pirin, the fresh air and the contrasting colours exceed all my hopes.

You can also see Rila to the West.

The heavy backpacks keep the group’s evident enthusiasm at the necessary level.

The good news is that today we’ll only be going down. But that special kind of ‘down’ which actually means going up almost all the time.

Our third camp is next to a meadow covered with more crocuses than I’ve ever seen before in one place. The full moon rises to majestically illuminate the beautiful views.

The night descends, peaceful and warm.

Day 4
Locality of Krastovete – Shiroka Polyana Dam

A picture of the crocuses marks the beginning of a long day full of different impressions and experiences.


To start with, we see an animal in the distance that looks like a wolf. We wade into deep snowbanks, we pass by Golyam Beglik Dam without even stopping, we hitch-hike to Shiroka Polyana State Forestry. It is only here that things begin to settle down; we sit and eat as much as we can. Meatballs, chips and beer. 

In the evening two more people join the group and the day ends with songs at our camp by the shore of Shiroka Polyana Dam.

Day 5
Shiroka Polyana Dam lake

At about 5am the moon goes down and the waters of the dam are like a magic mirror that makes the beauty of the views double.

The trash scattered around the shore, on the other hand, reflect people’s foolishness and lack of culture. 

Today we’re not walking. We take a day-off by the shore of the dam and devote our time to cooking delicious things and walking.

After four days of walking with a heavy backpack, the rest comes at the perfect moment. 

Day 6
Shiroka Polyana Dam – Orfey Hut

 The sixth day starts with a beautiful sunrise.

We go on as a smaller group. And since we’re in the Rhodope, a mountain softer and kinder to those who wander in it, soon we find some time to stop and shake off the heat, bathing in the cool waters of the river along the road. 

Our first night indoors is in Orfey (Orpheus) Hut.

Day 7
Orfey Hut – Chairski ezera Hut

E-8 Route – in one picture. :)

Hitch-hiking again, in an Opel Corsa minivan with two doors only.

We arrive at Chairski ezera in a downpour combined with thunderstorm, worried that the hut will be closed. Fortunately, not only is it open, but also has hot water. In the morning I go out to take this shot. While framing, I stumble and fall down from a metre and a half into a dog-rose bush. Unforgettable experience.

Day 8
Chairski ezera Hut – village of Mugla

The last day ends in a small roadman’s hut which we take as a princess coach, what with the cold weather and the coming rain.

To be continued...