The thing I am most proud of being a Bulgarian is the tourism opportunities my country offers. Bulgaria is a relatively small country on the Balkan Peninsula, north of Greece. The country combines in its territory mountains, seashore and excellent beaches on the east side. Overall, plenty of options for having a nice time and enjoy those spectacular views.
My favorite occupation in my spare time is ecotourism and I go “wandering in the woods” every weekend. The number of ecotrails in Bulgaria is more than 140, and I walked through around 9 of them. So, what is an ecotrail?
It surprised me that this word is missing from many dictionaries. Neither the English word nor the Bulgarian equivalent (“ekopateka” pronounced /'ekopə'teka/). When we refer to ecotrails in my country, we mean a path or trail in the wild nature, most of the times alongside a river. At its length, wooden hanging bridges make your way accessible above rivers; wooden steps or stairs help you climb the steep parts. The variations are different; other places have steps carved out of the mountain rocks. An ecotrail is a great place for having a picnic as plenty of wooden benches and bowers are available for you to comfort yourself. You can even have a rest on the meadows if you wish. The whole path is full of splendid views that can make your heart stop. As you go up the mountain you can look below at the canyon to the point where you began your trip. It looks as if you made a great achievement climbing the entire hill and making it to the top.
The first time I heard of those tourist attractions, I could not believe it was true. They sounded as a fairytale. Since many ecotrails are next to a river, dozens of waterfalls provoke your admiration along the way. Most of them are tiny but at the end, you receive a prize – the biggest waterfall pouring its water from a great height. The air is so fresh in such locations, and it can make you dizzy and full of happiness. For me, visiting the countryside is a getaway from the busy city and dynamic lifestyle. A recharging, inexpensive and a healthy way to spend my time.
I will mention two of the ecotrails I visited:
Its name comes from a famous Bulgarian poet, who had lived there. Built in 1972, this place is attracting many tourists during the holidays because of its location and popularity. This ecotrail is steep and goes across Skaklya river. In the middle of the trail, a 120-meter high waterfall makes its route over the mountain rocks. The waterfall is named after the river: “Skaklya” (which means “jumping” in Bulgarian). It is interesting how the entire shape of the rocks makes the water spread over more than two levels. The path has two starting points – you can either move downwards or climb up the hill. If you begin from the top of the mountain you will pass above the waterfall and get a rewarding prospect of the entire canyon. A lot of small mountain paths branch out from the main one, offer chances to explore the wild flora and fauna and maybe enjoy a quieter trip. Walking through the forest, you are accompanied by the songs of birds and the sounds of various insects. When I was leaving this place, I saw a few houses at the entry of the trail, part of the village Zasele. Their residents could see the waterfall and the canyon from their backyards! I was so envious and inspired, and I thought, “I should live in such a house in the future!”
The Emenska ecotrail is located at the riverbed of Negovanka river and goes above the canyon formed by it. When you arrive at the site, a nice cave welcomes you and wait to be explored. The cave is one of the biggest in Bulgaria. They used it as a military base in the past, so one can still see old abandoned sheds inside, inhabited by bats now. Anyone willing to go deeper should be equipped with a flashlight, warm clothes and comfortable shoes as it becomes cold and wet going further into the cave.
After moving downwards the path, you reach a small natural pool, formed by the river. The pure water of a resonant waterfall is mixing with the pool water with a pleasant melody. A quiet site to take a rest and enjoy the sounds of the wildlife. This ecotrail ends at a large dam lake, for the fish lovers. Nevertheless, the lake is private and fishing can be practiced only after paying a fee.
The best time for ecotourism is early spring. At this time of the year, the melting snow makes the waterfalls and the rivers abounding in water. An excellent choice is a sunny day. I have made trips every season of the year, including in winter but that is not always a proper decision. Mountain can be dangerous in a frosty winter because snow might fall from the trees or the higher rocks.
So, what are ecotrails after all – a healthy and rewarding experience which is worth trying.
I hope you have found this blog helpful, and in case questions come to your mind, you know what to do.
Finally, I'd like to give my sincere “Thank you!” to @Anjaniangel who inspired me to write this post.