Our suggestions include two ancient Thracian and one Muslim shrines in the vicinity


Some time ago, we revealed to you a several-day itinerary for a visit near Kardzhali with popular locations, and today we continue the theme with a few more hidden and sheltered places, which are also not to be missed.

Gluhite Kamani (The Deaf Stones)

Gluhite Kamani is among the largest rock cult complexes in the Eastern Rhodopes. The name probably comes from the lack of echoes in the area.

By Izvora - Собствена творба, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

It is a complex of over 200 trapezoidal niches carved on a monolithic rock block, two tombs cut in the rock and a staircase leading to a reservoir and a Thracian settlement that existed south of the rock. As an example of the population's respect for this place and continuity between religions, a 5th-6th century church, part of a monastery, was built here, but was probably destroyed and looted. The place was declared a natural landmark at the end of 1972.

There is also a designated place in the rocks for a chapel, which is well maintained and those who wish can light a candle. Those who aren’t afraid of heights can also climb the stairs carved into the rock, from where they can enjoy the great view of the wonderful Rhodopes and the Ivaylovgrad dam.

You can stop at a parking lot by the road and then there is a hike that isn’t difficult and is doable even with children. There are benches, gazebos and signs everywhere. We recommend that you bring water and, if necessary, something to eat.

Harman Kaya

Harman Kaya is one of the largest rock-hewn prehistoric cult complexes on the territory of the Eastern Rhodopes, located near the neighborhoods of Abitsa and Gasak in the territory of the village of Bivolyane. The site is also known by the Bulgarian name Raven Kamak.

It is located in the Nanovishka volcanic caldera and includes both natural rock formations and artificial rock-cut structures - two womb-type caves, rectangular and circular pools, trapezoidal niches, observation decks and a petroglyph called the Pilentseto (The Chicken), which was destroyed by a treasure hunting invasion in 2017. The southwestern, southern and eastern slopes of the massif are sheer cliffs, and its ridge is a leveled plateau.

Harman kaya BG.jpg
By Filipov Ivo - Собствена творба, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The prehistoric complex has been partially studied and most authors in the past defined it as ancient Thracian. The site was registered by Prof. Vasil Mikov as early as 1941. According to him, at the foot of Harman Kaya are the remains of the "largest Thracian city", in which, in addition to the outlines of the premises, the streets and squares are clearly visible.

The sanctuary is relatively easy to reach and the trek isn’t difficult. There is a convenient parking place, and the way up is about 800 meters on a wide road with no climbs.

It is freely accessible and very mystical, and the fact that it isn’t so popular with tourists makes it even more attractive to visit.

Elmal Baba

The tekke of Elmal Baba is located next to the village of Bivolyane in Momchilgrad, in the Eastern Rhodopes, Kardzhali region. The tekke of Elmal Baba is one of the most famous of the Bulgarian Alevis in the country. It is an active religious complex, consisting of a turbe, a mosque, a ritual house and adjacent buildings.

There are not one, but seven graves in Elmal Baba Tekke. The tekke is divided into two - male and female. The male one is named after Saint Elmal Baba himself and there are 6 nameless graves in it. The female is of Fatima - the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad and the wife of Hazrat Ali - the greatest saint of the Alevis.

Elmal Baba Tekke has existed for centuries. Researcher Ekaterina Venedikova found an inscription from the 17th century here. She supposes that it belongs to the son of Elmal Baba. According to the discovered tomb inscriptions, there was a Bektashi monastery here. Many dervishes lived there. A madrasah (school) was built next to the tekke and existed until 1935.

The approximate dimensions of the men's tekke are 10.90 m long and 5.50 m wide. There are two niches inside. One is for storing candles and the other for collecting money. In the middle of the ceiling is an eight-element wooden dome painted with yellow paint. The six graves are arranged parallel, with the headstones at their heads to the southwest. Mounds made of boards and covered with green cloth are erected on them. The graves are about three meters long. The deck is covered with hand-woven rugs. The walls are decorated with tapestries. There are also portraits of Hazrat Ali, Haji Veli Bektash and the Twelve Shia Imams.

Fatima’s tomb is a simple wooden coffin covered with a green cloth. There is a print of her "hand" with an eye in the middle of the palm. It is believed that the right hand and eye of Hazrat Ali's wife are buried here. Fatima’s turbe is mostly visited by women. On the holiday, it is customary for the sick and the childless to sleep at night near the tomb in the hope of help from the saint.

Thousands of followers of Alevism, a religious current in unorthodox Islam, traditionally gather at their holy places in the Eastern Rhodopes every autumn.