Kondolovo lays into Strandzha Nature Park, and it is a small village, mostly known for its significant habitat of a rare plant from prehistoric times – the wild Rhododendron ponticum. In its surroundings, there is a centuries-old deciduous forest, which is a real treasure because of other exotic and rare plants into it. Apart from its natural features, Kondolovo is also interesting for tourists because of the preserved old Strandzha houses from the middle of the 19th century. The village is almost deserted, the population is only 16 people. It is 24 km west of Tsarevo and 33 km east of Malko Tarnovo, and it lays on the main road connecting both cities, which are also municipal centres.
Here we will introduce you to the eco path leading to “The wild rhododendron kingdom”, which is relatively new, opened in 2015.
How to get to ““The wild rhododendron kingdom” near Kondolovo – map, route and GPX
Download GPX file
USEFUL: For more information on how to open GPX files with a smartphone, see this link
The hike we made was 1.9 km in one direction with a displacement of 80 m. The beginning is at the northern end of Kondolovo village, and further, there is a descent to the area “Marzevski dol” (“Merzevski” valley in translation). We returned to Kondolovo in the same way.
NOTE: There may be some inaccuracies and deviations in the attached GPX file, because of the terrain relief (the deep shady “Merzevski” valley with many overhanging tree branches). For this reason, the connection to the satellites was lost in places. Indeed, there is no risk of getting lost – it is enough to follow the signs and the white-blue markings on the trees.
Transport to Kondolovo village
Kondolovo can also be reached by bus from Tsarevo. As the bus usually goes only to the settlements of Balgari and Kosti, a request for Kondolovo must be made the day before the trip at the bus station in Tsarevo. For more information and phone for contact – http://avtogaratsarevo.eu/
All the accompanying elements of the eco-path are in excellent condition – new ones built under a Euro project: signboards, recreation areas, bridges and observation platform. At the time of our visit (spring 2018), we didn’t have to walk in high grass, but there were some muddy places.
It is a good idea when you are making this hike, to equip yourself with hiking shoes or sneakers, because of the rugged relief. In case you visit this place in the summer or the spring, there is a danger of ticks, so take the necessary precautions and wear long trousers. Also, only in the summer – it’s possible to meet whole swarms of annoying flies typical for Strandzha mountain. So it is advisable to wear a hat and dark glasses that could somewhat protect you. The trail is suitable for walking in all seasons, but the fittest is the early May, when is the flowering of the wild Rhododendron Ponticum.
Extending the route
From what we have read in other guides – a full circle can be made. From the “Merzevski” valley can go to the asphalt road, east of Kondolovo. After 1 km walk along the asphalt road, you reach the starting point of the eco-trail in the village. The length of this route is 4.5 km in total. We haven’t tried the whole, only a part of it according to the attached GPX file.
What can see along the hiking trail “The wild rhododendron kingdom“
During the first 500 m, the path is quite full, and on the steep slopes to the right, wild rhododendron is abundant.
After a while, there is a crossing of a small river by a newly constructed wooden bridge (in appearance resembling the decks used in ancient times).
Into the “Marzevski” valley
From here, the route runs parallel to the small river, and this is the lowest part of the path. In addition to the wild rhododendron, we also saw the rare mouse thorn (Ruscus hypoglossum). For the convenience of photographers – there is a wooden viewing platform because most of the shrubs wild rhododendron are high about 2 metres.
“In Search of the Golden Fleece”
This eco-trail is popular also with this name inspired by the ancient Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. According to the legend, when they arrived with their ship Argo in the lands of ancient Colchis (eastern Black Sea coast, present-day Georgia), they moored at the mouth of the Phasis River (today’s Rioni River), where there was an ancient city. At this place, in the present time lays the big port town Poti. In search of the golden fleece, Jason entered into the dense shady forest, on the outskirts of the city, where a dragon guarded the fleece.
Until the present day, the forests near the town of Poti have been preserved with their authentic South-Euxinic vegetation including wild rhododendron. They were declared a national park in Georgia by the name “Kolkheti”. A large part of the species forming the evergreen vegetation also thrives here near Kondolovo (as well as elsewhere in Strandzha). For this reason, such a walk in the Kondolovo Forest can be likened to a “Jason’s adventure.”
The wild Rhododendron ponticum
It is a tall evergreen shrub, moisture-loving, and is generally very vulnerable to changes in environmental conditions. Carried even a kilometre, beyond the shady valleys of Strandzha mountain – it dies. It reaches up to 3 m in height and usually participates as undergrowth in forests of Oriental beech and oak. Rich in alkaloids and it is highly poisonous. It is a protected and rare species in Bulgaria, forbidden to tear. Of all Europe, it naturally inhabits only the Strandzha and the Caucasus mountains.
In Great Britain, Belgium and other countries in West Europe, since the 18th century the species has been introduced and used as an ornamental shrub in parks. The plant was not in its pure form, but it was cultivated, and the new hybrid was adaptable to changes in environmental conditions, and at present, its invasion is at an alarming rate. In fact, in Great Britain, it has begun to spread into the wild and is threatening to change the authentic appearance of some areas radically.
Guesthouses nearby in the village of Kosti
Mouse thorn (Ruscus hypoglossum)
Besides Strandzha, it inhabits other mountains of Bulgaria. Mostly, shady deciduous hilly areas. It is an evergreen herbaceous perennial plant. The leaves are interesting and unusual. The large sheet is a modified stem and is called filocladium. The small petal is a bract under which the fruit has hidden (the little red fruits appear in July). A Prohibited for tearing plant.
Pictures of the other plants we came across:
Most of them are protected species according to the Bulgarian Law for the biodiversity.
For the identification of some species described in this reportage, we send our heartfelt thanks to the biologists from the Strandzha Nature Park Directorate.
Preservation of nature
The entire area where is the eco-trail lays into the territory of Strandzha Nature Park and the European ecological network Natura 2000. Also, it has a forest status. Therefore some rules should be observed when visiting to protect natural resources.
To put it briefly – do not throw away waste, do not tear plants, do not light a fire, no camping, and let the place look like you’ve found it!
For more details, or if you intend to carry out particular activities, other than a tourist walk, the full text of the laws can read here.
- Strandzha Nature Park – current prohibitions and regimes ( the page of Bulgarian “Executive Environment Agency”)
- Bulgarian Forestry Act
Gallery with photos of old houses in Kondolovo – representatives of Strandzha architecture
What else could see nearby, in Balgari and Kosti villages, belonging to Strandzha Nature Park?
- Around Balgari village: visit “Diado Valcho” Peak and Protected area “Briar root” near the Silkosia Reserve.
- Kosti village and the 14 brothers oaks. On this link will find additional information about Kosti village, as a rural tourism destination, as well as photos of the old wooden houses and the church, which is one of the most beautiful in Strandzha mountain.
- The second option around Kosti village is the small hidden “Raikov Vir” waterfall. There you can also see wild Rhododendron ponticum
- Another opportunity for a nice walk is to go along the adventure eco-trail leading to “Bogorodishki Dol” where there is also a secret small waterfall. Besides, this walk allows seeing plantation of wild Rhododendron ponticum
Continue the trip
In case you drive in the west direction to Malko Tarnovo city you can pop in the village of Gramatikovo and the eco-trails around it, for historical landmarks shrouded in dense forests.
In case you drive in the east, towards the Black Sea, you can visit the area “Marina Reka” for one more hiking trail past lovely forest with rare plants that. After that can continue to the Black Sea resorts Tsarevo, Varvara, Ahtopol or Primorsko (north) for other landmarks, beaches and lovely seascapes.
USEFUL: To get a quick and easy idea of where these places are – see the destinations marked on our Google map. There all the landmarks we’ve written about, are marked as tags with links.