The Rhodopean Odyssey – A Rail Adventure Through Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains

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The Rhodopes are the largest mountain range in Bulgaria and home to its highest peak, Golyam Perelik. This region also boasts a rich cultural heritage of ancient Thracian sites and medieval castles.

Top 5 Reasons to Take the Rhodope Narrow Gauge Train in Bulgaria

Bulgaria may be a small country, but it’s full of stunning mountain views and wonderful villages that are just waiting to be explored. One of the best ways to experience this incredible beauty is by taking a trip on the Rhodope Narrow Gauge Train. This railway line runs between the towns of Septemvri and Dobrinishte, and it’s a truly unique experience that is sure to leave you with some pleasant memories.

The railway was built in a number of stages between 1921 and 1945, and it currently has a total length of about 125 km. It’s sometimes called the Alpine railway in the Balkans, as it passes through many scenic spots and travels through 35 tunnels. The most impressive spot along the rail line is probably Avramovo station, which stands at an astounding 1267 meters above sea level and is the highest railway station in the entire country.

It’s not often that you get the chance to travel on a narrow gauge train, so take advantage of it while you can! It’s an amazing way to see the beauty of Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains and to learn more about the history and culture of the country. It’s also a great way to spend some time with your family or friends, and it’s definitely something that you won’t forget anytime soon!

When you travel on the narrow gauge train, you’ll feel like you are traveling back in time. The scenery is breathtaking, the train itself is charming, and the whole experience is just magical. There’s nothing quite like it!

Plus, it’s a really affordable option. The tickets cost about $15 per person, and you can buy them online or in advance at the station. It’s usually pretty easy to get on the train as well, and there are rarely, if ever, any lines. You can even bring your own picnic if you want to! There is a cafe carriage on the train, but you can also bring your own food and drink. Either way, it’s a wonderful way to spend a day! So go ahead and book your ticket today!

The Views

A ride on the Rhodope Narrow Gauge Train provides spectacular mountain views from its open-air carriages. The track passes through wide valleys, waterways, narrow gorges and presents breathtaking panoramas of Bulgaria’s three most picturesque mountain ranges: Rila, Rhodope, and Pirin.

In addition to the stunning scenery, the trip offers plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife and plants. The Rhodope Mountains are home to a variety of mammals, including brown bear and lynx. It’s also a good spot for birds, with eagles and woodpeckers being commonly seen. The area is a good place for flower lovers too with the likes of Viola delphinensis, Orchis tridentata and Fritillaria drenovskyi to be found.

The five-year LIFE Vultures project, which is being implemented by Rewilding Rhodopes in partnership with a number of other partners, aims to support the recovery and expansion of black and griffon vulture populations within the region. The project will be working to improve natural prey availability and reduce mortality through factors such as poaching, poisoning and collisions with power lines.

Orpheus, the legendary musician of Ancient Greece, is linked with the Rhodope Mountains. According to Aristophanes / 450- 385 BCE/ he was a singer who enchanted his listeners with songs and preached for brotherhood among humans. His influence extended to the point where he was called upon by King Jason for the march of the Argonauts in pursuit of the Golden Fleece.

It is no wonder that Orpheus was considered the father of civilisation – he was, after all, a great priest, a magician, a talented musician and a highly influential healer. In fact, Orpheus is even believed to have brought tranquillity to the Argonauts during their long journey across the sea. Today, the spirit of Orpheus lives on in the music and songs of the Rhodopes. A song by a famous Rhodopean singer Valya Balkanska, named ‘Delyu Haidutin’ (The Songs of Orpheus), has been included on the Voyager space shuttle as a heritage humanity sent to outer space in search for contact with other civilizations. The song is believed to have cosmic elements.

The Experience

In addition to its stunning natural scenery, the Rhodope narrow-gauge train provides an experience that is a source of national pride for Bulgarians. It has been listed in the top 10 best train journeys in Europe by the prestigious British newspaper The Guardian. It is also a top pick among European railway enthusiasts who want to experience Bulgaria’s picturesque mountainscapes in the most authentic way possible.

In fact, when travelers board the train they are instantly transported to a time before modernity. It is not uncommon to see women getting on the train, tired after a day in the field, with their backs bent over heavy sacks of food as they make their way home to their families. You’ll hear them chatting in their native tongue and feel their warmth and hospitality.

As you glide through the mountains, your eyes will feast on the lush natural landscape of the Rhodopes that stretches over the border into Greece. You will gaze at the gorges, forests and wide-open valleys that surround you. You will notice the granite Pirin summits in the distance and the emerald green lakes of the lower Rhodopes. The landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for the mystical origins of Orpheus the renowned Greek musician.

Legend has it that Orpheus was born in the Rhodopes and brought to the city of Athens where he enchanted the people with his songs. It is said that he even inspired Homer to write his famous Odyssey. His influence on culture and society is still felt in the music and culture of Bulgaria today.

The Rhodopes are the home of a multitude of wild animals including wolves, bears and wild cats as well as a wealth of plant species that you’ll find in old growth coniferous forests, mountain meadows and ridge walks. You’ll discover the beauty of this ancient country, a vibrant and unique culture, as well as the incomparable hospitality of the Bulgarian people.

Join us on The Rhodopean Odyssey to explore Bulgaria and its mysterious charm. It is a land that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.

The Train Ride

The Rhodope Narrow Gauge is known for more than just its beautiful mountain scenery. It is also a piece of Bulgarian history and a unique way to get around the country. It was recently included in the Top 10 Train Journeys of Europe by The Guardian and is a national pride for Bulgarians. The narrow gauge railway runs between the towns of Septemvri and Dobrinishte and takes you through three of Bulgaria’s most scenic mountain ranges.

It is a unique line that runs on the rare track gauge of 760 mm, which is half the standard gauge of mainline railways in Bulgaria. The railway is operated by the Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ) and has four trains in each direction per day from Septemvri to Dobrinishte, with stops in Razlog and Bansko.

When you take the train, it feels like you are taking a step back in time. The train is filled with old-fashioned charm, from the claustrophobic tunnels to the classic passenger cars that have been lovingly restored. It’s a trip through history that offers a glimpse of the way that people used to live in Bulgaria, from quaint villages to abandoned factories. It’s a truly authentic experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

After you leave the town of Velingrad, the train starts to climb up into the mountains again and you can see the beauty that surrounds you. The train tracks wind through forests and past many small villages where the only signs of life are a few stray dogs. The view gets even more stunning as you enter the gorges of the Rhodopes, with towering limestone cliffs and enticing caves.

The Rhodopes have been a mystical place for centuries and were considered to be the birthplace of Orpheus, who was said to be a great poet, singer, prophet, healer, and philosopher. The Greeks, Celts, and Skits all venerated Orpheus, and he was believed to have founded their civilizations in the Rhodope Mountains. The area is still regarded as sacred and is home to many Thracian, Byzantine, and Bulgarian holy sites, including the Rila Monastery, which was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983.

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