Travel Guide to Kardzhali, Bulgaria
Known as the capital of the Eastern Rhodopes, Kardzhali is located in the lower eastern section of the Rhodope Mountain range. The Arda River crosses through the middle of town. Thanks to its prime location, Kardzhali is at a great advantage of being the crossroads between the Aegean Sea and Greece.
- Province: Kardzhali
- Population: 50,851 (Year 2005)
- Altitude: 196 Metres
- Postcode: 6600
- Area Code: 0361
- Geographic Coordinates: 41° 39′ North, 25° 22′ E
Archaeological excavations have led to the discovery of many artifacts that date to the Neolithic age. A wide variety of ceramics and primitive tools are now displayed at the local museum of history. Eventually, Thracians settled in the area and built monuments and sanctuaries to the Gods. During the Byzantine period, Kardzhali (then Ahridos) was a religious center. John the Precursor’s monastery was built from the 6th to 8th centuries.
The next inhabitants were the Ottomans. The town continued to develop as a trade center, but the industry was still not thriving. In 1912, the town was liberated from Ottoman rule. That day was declared a municipal holiday and residents celebrate the liberation by holding concerts and other festivities.
Regarding the town’s final name, there is one belief that may or may not be true. Kirdzhal Ali, an Ottoman army commander, was killed during a Turkish attack in the Rhodope Mountains. The name Kardzhali was supposedly given to the area in which Kirdzhal Ali met his death.
Five kilometers from the town center, The Stone Wedding is a natural phenomenon that impresses many tourists. This stone formation bears a resemblance to a gathering of people and wildlife. There is also a legend revolving this striking rock formation. A young man fell for a young woman from a neighboring village, however, he had never seen more than her eyes because of the headdress she always donned. The man loved her so much that he became physically ill. In desperation, the manâ€™s father took his son to the young woman’s family and begged for her hand in marriage. The woman’s family accepted and wedding plans ensued. When the time came for the newlyweds to return to the young man’s village, they set off on their journey with the bride’s new father-in-law and some of the wedding guests joining them. A wind blew the woman’s headdress off and the father-in-law became struck by her beauty, so much so that impure thoughts entered his mind. The wind became furious and turned the bride, the father-in-law, the wedding guests, and their horses/donkeys to stone. The groom was horrified and begged to be changed as well. The puddles at the base of the rock formation are said to be his tears.
The Kardzhali Museum of History is one of Bulgaria’s finest museums. Open since 1987, the three-story museum impresses many locals and tourists. A huge collection of ancient tools, pottery, coins, and other artifacts are on display. There are also a number of historic sites linked to the museum that visitors can tour. John the Precursor’s 6th-century monastery and the bell tower are one of the buildings that offer tours thanks to the museum.
Dimitar Dimov and Kadrie Lyatifova are both located in Kardzhali. These drama theatres offer regular theatrical productions. The Kardzhali Puppet Theatre is another excellent choice for those looking for a unique experience.
Just outside of Kardzhali is the Thracian town of Perperikon. This historic town is amazing as it is cut into rocks high on the mountainside.
If you enjoy fishing, head to Kardzhali Dam. Filled with perch, carp, and sheatfish, the reservoir before the dam is an excellent spot for anglers to spend a day.
There is a small selection of hotels within Kardzhali. The Ardastroi Hotel is located a few kilometers from the town center. Six double rooms and one suite make up the list of available accommodations. Located a short distance from Kardzhali Lake, this hotel is popular with tourists.
The Arpezos Hotel is located in the town center. Inside the hotel are two restaurants, a bank, a shopping center, and two bars. There are two in-ground swimming pools for guests to use.
Hotel Akatsia is located on the hillside above the city. A total of 13 rooms are available, each with a private bath, minibar, and television.
Hotel Bulgaria offers 38 beds in a mix of double rooms and suites. This small hotel is inexpensive and offers comfortable accommodation.
With 96 beds, Hotel Rastra is the second largest hotel in the area.
Finally, Hotel Rezidentsia has 44 beds. This hotel is located in the town center.
Kardzhali does not have a strong industrial base. Most of the area’s revenue comes from retail trade and services.
For the industries that do exist, metallurgy, textiles/knitting, woodworking, and tobacco create the industrial base. The area is rich with perlite, bentonite, and zeolite that are used in construction and cement.
Because Kardzhali is in the south, closer to Greece, the cuisine here leans more towards Mediterranean delicacies. Grape leaves stuffed with ground lamb, rice, and mint are an area specialty. Meats are marinated in wine or lemon juice and garlic and then grilled or roasted over a spit.
Besides a few bars scattered throughout the area, Kardzhali does not offer much in the way of nightlife. You are better off heading for larger cities if you are looking for upbeat dance clubs and discos.
Kardzhali is probably not going to offer tourists enough to satisfy them for more than a few days. However, the low hotel rates and prime location does make it an excellent spot for branching out to neighboring towns. With a rental car and a good map, you can stay in Kardzhali and then tour some of Bulgaria’s greatest sites.