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  • Writer's pictureStefan Ivanov

Gela - the smile of the Rhodopes

Whoever has not seen the Rhodope Mountains in his life, he has not seen Bulgaria!

Ivan Vazov


A wonderful place has existed in the Rhodopes since time immemorial!


View of Mount Golyam Perelik from the meadows above the village of Gela
View of Mount Golyam Perelik - the peak of the Rhodopes

A wonderful place, the beauty of which has no equal in the world!


Panorama towards Mount Turlata from the village of Gela
Panorama towards Turlata peak, 1825 meters high

A land that combined fantastic views, vast and incredible beauty, true freedom, wonderful air, sapphire blue sky, dense green forests, lovely peaks, freshness, silence, birdsong, wild flowers, mysterious paths, wonderful legends, the sound of a bagpipe and a sunny smile!



This is the birthplace of Orpheus and his beloved Eurydice.


This is Gela - the smile of the Rhodopes!

The tower "Snezhanka" on Mount Snezhanka, seen from the village of Gela
The white and slender silhouette of "Snow White" Tower

Until 1900, the hamlets of today's Gela were part of the village of Shiroka Laka.


Gela village, Smolyan district
Gela village

Today, Gela (pronounced with an accent on the last syllable and, as you probably guessed, means a smile) is made up of seven neighborhoods, part of which are Kavroshilova neighborhood, Gruevska neighborhood, Zaevite and others.


Panorama from the village of Gela
Panorama from the village of Gela

Gela smiles at us from the very heart of the Rhodopes - from the wonderfully beautiful Pereliksko-Prespa section of the mountain, which is the highest, the most powerful and the second longest mountain section in the entire Rhodopes.


View of the Golyam Perelik and Orfey peaks from the village of Gela
View of the Golyam Perelik peaks - the leader of the Rhodopes and Orpheus

The village is surrounded by Mount Golyam Perelik (with a height of 2191 meters), Mount Malak Perelik (with a height of 2147 meters), Mount Shilesata Chuka (with a height of 2180 meters), Mount Orfey (with a height of 2188 meters) and Mount Chaeva Chuka (with a height of 1922 ). To the west of Gela is the Lednitsa cave.


Mount Turlata, seen from the village of Gela
Turlata peak, 1825 meters high

Winter here is mild and summer is sunny but cool due to the local mountain breeze coming down from the peaks. Gela is one of the sunniest places in Europe with over 280 sunny days a year.


Panorama from the village of Gela
Panorama from the village of Gela

If you are looking for more information about the history of Gela, you will find that the founding of the village is lost somewhere in deep antiquity, but it is known to have been founded by the Thracians. In fact, the area is considered to be one of the cradles of European civilization. Nearby today you can see the ruins of the Thracian fortress "Gradishte". In many places near Gela, remains of Roman roads can be seen, which once connected the Aegean cities with the Upper Thracian lowland.


Panorama from the village of Gela
Panorama from the village of Gela

There are two main legends associated with the history of Gela and the area around the village.


Panorama from the village of Gela
Panorama from the village of Gela

One legend says that this is the birthplace of Orpheus. It is also believed that he went down to look for his beloved Eurydice in Devil's Throat Cave.



The second legend is related to the fall of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom under Ottoman slavery.


Panorama from the village of Gela
Panorama from the village of Gela

Legend has it that after his exile in the Bachkovo Monastery, Patriarch Evtimij Tarnovski was buried in a hidden place in an ancient monastery somewhere in the area.


View from the village of Gela
View from the village of Gela

Currently, there are two Orthodox churches in the village of Gela.


The name of the newer one is "St. Virgin" and it is located high on a hill by the road itself. You will notice it as soon as you enter Gela. A narrow and slightly steep path leads to the church, and from there the view in all directions is intoxicating to the senses.


Orthodox Church "St. Virgin" in the village of Gela
Orthodox Church "Holy Mother of God"

The older temple was built on the site of a monastery complex that once existed and is called "Holy Trinity".


Orthodox Church "Holy Trinity" in the village of Gela
Orthodox Church "Holy Trinity"

Very close to "Holy Trinity" you can explore the interesting ruins of an early Byzantine basilica - the highest located in southeastern Europe (1480 meters above sea level).


The foundations of an early Byzantine basilica in the village of Gela
The foundations of an early Byzantine basilica

How to get to the village of Gela?

The starting point is the beautiful and musical village of Shiroka Laka. From its center, head in the direction of the National School of Folk Arts "Broad Bow".

You pass the school and leave the village. About 300 meters after Shiroka Laka, the signs for a turnoff to the right.



The road to the village of Gela is good. The village is located about 8 kilometers from Shiroka Laka.


I wish you beauty, a fabulous summer and magical emotions!


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