Geography and population
Smolyan Province is located in southern Bulgaria. It borders Greece to the south and is situated in the Rhodope Mountains. The municipality is 90 km away from Plovdiv. The territory of the region is with a mountain relief, with an abundance of coniferous forests and pastures. The average altitude above sea level is about 1000 m.
The climate there is mild. The summer is cool and calm and the average temperature is of 19°C. The winter is long but mild with about 120 sunny days during the skiing period. The winds in the Rhodopes are not strong. There is snow for about 120 and 170 days a year. The snow heaps up to 1-1,5 meters at the locations where the level above the sea reaches 1000 meters. The average air temperature in the winter is about -3°C.
48 218 people live in the Smolyan municipality and the larger part of them live in the municipal centre - the town of Smolyan. It acquired its name from the Slavic tribe of the Smolyani that settled in the region in the 7th century. Due to its suitable location on top of Mount Rozhen, the Bulgarian National Astronomical Observatory is located nearby, with a planetarium in operation in the town. There is one theatre, the Rhodope Drama Theatre, and regional historical museum founded in 1935. The largest church in southern Bulgaria, the Cathedral of Saint Vissarion of Smolyan, was inaugurated in the city in July 2006.
The economy of the province is based on tourism, mining, timber and machine industries and livestock rising. The main crops of the region are potatoes (about 30% of the national production), rye and barley; but sheep, pigs and cattle are of greater importance for the agriculture. In the eastern parts of the province are located more than 20 lead and zinc mines, which form one of the most extensive ore deposits in the Balkans. The dense coniferous forests are prerequisite for well developed timber industry in Dospat, Smolyan, Devin. In Smolyan there are big plants producing machine tools and other machinery, while textile industry is mainly developed to the east in Nedelino, Zlatograd, Madan and Rudozem. There is also a synthetic rubber plant in Madan.
Nowadays, tourism is the backbone of the economy, especially in winter due to the excellent ski resorts of Pamporovo and Chepelare; having been completely renovated and modernized. The only factory for skiing equipment is located in Chepelare and employes 400 people. The mineral springs in Devin and Beden are very popular among tourists. The beautiful, unspoilt nature and the spectacular gorges, rock bridges and caves attract many people from around the country as well as foreign tourists, while the numerous dams are popular with campers and fishermen.
Places of interest and tourist information
Museum of History in Smolyan. Over 150.000 exhibits belonging to various epochs have been preserved here, among them architectural, historical and ethnographic items, photographs, documents, folklore material, etc.
The Miracle Bridges, situated along the valley of Aidarsko dere are some of the most curious natural phenomena of the Rhodopes. They are natural rock arches formed probably thousands of years ago following an earthquake. It ruined an ancient cave, the water carried away the rocks which had fallen and as a result two marble bridges of rare beauty were formed side by side.
The Trigrad Gorge is a canyon of vertical marble rocks in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria's very southern parts. The gorge encloses the course of the Trigrad River that plunges into the Devil's Throat cave and 530 m further comes out as a large karst spring. It laters flows in to the Byunovska River. The gorge's west wall reaches 300 m in height, while the east one extends up to 300-350 m. In the beginning, the distance between the two walls is about 300 m, but reaches about 100 m in the north. The Trigrad Gorge is located 1.2 km from the village of Trigrad at 1450 above sea level and has a total length of 7 km, of which the real part is 2-3 km.
Cave "The Devil’s Throat" is formed as a result of the collapse of earth layers. Along an artificially dug tunnel (150 m), one can reach an impressive cave hall. A winding steep cement staircase leads from the hall to the natural entrance of the cave. While climbing, the visitor can see one of the highest underground waterfalls in Europe (42 m).
The Yagodinska Cave is the ''pearl in the crown'' of the Rhodope Mountains. It is 10 km long, and 5 stories tall, with many labyrinths and abysses inside. Visitors enter the cave through an artificially dug opening, while the natural entrance is 30 m above. A special path through the cave offers the opportunity to see the wonderful underground world formed in the course of millions of years.
Electric lights make the mysterious formations: raperies, pipe-like stalactites, cave pearls, ''leopard's skin'' and hanging stalactone visible along with many others. The upper floor was well-known to ancient Eneolithic inhabitants.
- Bus schedule Sofia-Smolyan
Tourist Information Center Smolyan: +359 301/62530
Regional Tourist Information Center: +359 301/63885
Museum of History in Smolyan: +359 301/27028