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Post code: 4871
Intl dial code: +359 3021

Outlaws' Meadows

About 40 km south of Bachkovo Monastery, 1500 m above sea level, is the highest village in Bulgaria and (they say) the Balkan peninsula. With its steeply terraced houses, potato and tobacco plots, stacks of firewood and scampering goats, Monastery makes a good base for hiking and gives a feel for rural life in the Rhodopes. The easiest way to get there is on the daily bus (at 5.30 pm) from Laki, 20 km north.

One of the best hikes from Monastery is to Progled, a trip which can be done in 5–6 hours, but is far nicer stretched out with an overnight stay at a hiking chalet. You'll need map #4 in the BTS Rhodopi series. The trail begins behind Monastery, blue and white markers starting at a fountain five minutes' walk uphill, whence it's fifteen minutes to a flat, stony track where you bear right into the woods after 500 m to find an old Roman road. Another twenty minutes brings you to a junction of trails, a blue one to the Svoboda and a red one to the Prepsa chalets. The latter passes a beautiful clearing of fallen pines and purple thistles and is easy going all the way, so that you arrive at Prepsa two and a half hours after setting out, in the mood to press on to Svoboda (2-hr) or westwards to Haidushki Polyani (35 min) and the Momchil Yunak chalet (1-hr more).

Haidushki Polyani (Outlaws' Meadows) is a trade union resort where you can sink a beer before examining an obelisk in the woods, on the spot where leaders of the Macedonian revolutionary movement decided to launch the 1903 Ilinden uprising. The partisan figures on the obverse side typify the Communist Party's efforts to identify itself with past liberation movements. Sporadic red and white markers indicate the trail from here to Momchil Yunak, a primitive chalet near an ex-Party villa that's now an exclusive hotel. From here its twenty minutes' walk to the main roadр if you're heading to Progled, simply stay on the main road, and follow it downhill for 11 km.

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