The nature in Bulgaria is almost as diverse and rich as the country`s culture. The scientific and technological advances in nature exploration are also of great importance for Bulgaria because they help us to preserve and study what we already have as a legacy. In order to prove my point, I will take you on a trip that combines nature, science, and a little bit of magic – let's explore the Smolyan Lakes and the Rozhen Observatory!
The trip starts in the town of Smolyan. It would be most comfortable for you to go by car, as there is no public transport that can take you to the lakes. In order to have enough time for exploring both the lakes and the observatory, I suggest staying in Smolyan, in the nearest resort Pamporovo or a hotel or a mountain hut near one of them. First, I recommend visiting the Smolyan Lakes because you will need more time for exploring them.
If you are coming from the town of Smolyan, it will take you about 15-20 minutes to reach the lakes. From Pamporovo, it would take you more or less the same amount of time. Not all the lakes are listed online, so be cautious if you rely on the online maps to get here. Most of the time, the lakes are listed as a single area, called the Smolyan Lakes.
In the past, there were 20 of them, but 12 have slowly dried up or turned into marshlands. The trek around the Smolyan Lakes starts with Keranoviya Gyol Lake, and then you continue to Saladzha Lake. The next one is Osmanoviya Gyol Lake, which is surrounded by smaller ponds that dry up in the summer. Then you reach Iztochnoto Lake, which also completely disappears in July and August.
Lagera Lake is the fifth one, which is located at 1481m of altitude, and the area around it is perfect for camping – “lagera” means “ camp” in Bulgarian.
An eco-path follows this "camping" lake. The path is called “The Three Smolyan Lakes”, and the lakes along it are arguably the most beautiful ones among all Smolyan Lakes. The first one is called Trevistoto Lake and is located at an altitude of 1540m. Near it, there is a small temple called “The Holy Spirit”. The next one is Bistroto Lake. Its name means “crystal clear” - its waters are so clear that you can use them as a mirror.
Last but not least is Matnoto Lake. Its name means “the muddy lake”, and it is the deepest one of the Smolyan Lakes. In order to reach this lake, you need to climb a short but steep road. The lake is called “muddy” because very little light reaches it. Its waters are muddy and dark, but the atmosphere around it is worth experiencing.
After your walk around the beautiful Smolyan Lakes, I suggest you turn your head upwards, towards the stars. I mean this literally because the next stop for today is the observatory in Rozhen.
The observatory in Rozhen is located about 30km from the Smolyan Lakes area, and a car trip between the two would take around 40-50 minutes. Still, no matter when you reach the observatory, there will be a lot to see.
You can visit the observatory dome every day of the week except Tuesday. Its working hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can only go inside in a group of minimum 6 people.
Here, you can see the exhibitions of stars and planetary objects, observed in the sky throughout the years. For an optimal experience, you should climb up to the last floor. There, you will find a terrace and a 360-degree view of the surroundings, including the Snezhanka Peak (1926m).
The most exciting thing about the observatory is the fact that you can also visit it at night and take a closer look at the starry sky. For such an experience, you need to sign up at least a day before and be in a group of at least 4 people.
The stars in the sky do not officially count as a part of nature in Bulgaria. But, seeing them so close, while being in the heart of nature, feels genuinely magical. The Bulgarian nature has all the means to attract you and make you fall in love with it. The beautiful Smolyan Lakes and the Rozhen observatory both work in favor of this statement. And, it is just up to you to discover the magic.
Photo © credits to iStockphoto.com/Cylonphoto
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