Plovdiv - the city which Philip rebuilt

(one-and-a-half-hour drive)

The location of the city of Plovdiv has been a seat of human activity for more than 8000 years, since the Neolithic period, with rapid development during the Thracian kingdoms, and after the conquest in 4th c BC by Philip of Macedonia and later on its inclusion in the Roman empire, and subsequently in the Byzantium and the Bulgarian kingdoms.
The city became a centre of the Bulgarian Revival in the late 19th c. Many monuments certify the rich history of the city, many of them located in a small hill often referred to as the Old Town, among them the antique theatre from the time of Emperor Trajan and still in operation, a Roman stadium, the two hundred or so meticulously renovated colourful buildings – private merchant houses, orthodox churches and chapels dating back to the 18th and 19th c.
The City of Plovdiv is European Capital of Culture in 2019 and is on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites tentative list.

Bachkovo monastery

(one-hour drive)

The monastery was founded in 1083 by two Georgian brothers Bakuriani, it is one of the oldest monasteries on the Balkan Peninsula and is linked to three distinct yet contemporaneous cultures: Byzantine, old Georgian and old Bulgarian. It has preserved unique and highly valuable monuments of architecture and painting, representagive of the Eastern Orthodoxy.
Over the centuries it developed into the second most important Orthodox religious centre in Bulgaria, after Rila Monastery – an UNESCO World Heritage List, which can also be visited on on a day trip.  Bachkovo Monastery prominently features in the relations between the Bulgarian, Russian and Greek orthodox churches during medieval times.
Among the places and artefacts of interest, it is worth noting the miraculous icon of the Holy Virgin, the frescos in the main church and its iconostas, the monastery museum, the refectory and the ossuary. The monastery ossuary (11-12th century) is a two-storied chapel with murals in both stories and is unique in the entire Eastern Orthodox world. The refectory (17th century) contains a picturesque ensemble wholly and splendidly preserved which could be compared to only one or two similar monuments in the territories of the Eastern Orthodox regions.

Bachkovo Monastery is on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites tentative list.

The Thracian tomb at Aleksandrovo

(two-hour drive)

The tomb dates back to the 4th c BC and consists of an impressive entrance, a long corridor and a rectangular chamber with a circular dome.

The dome features unique frescos representing a wild boar hunt – while not as sophisticated as the frescos of the Thracian Tomb at Kazanlak, on the UNESCO World Heritage List,  it nonetheless impresses with its realism and raw power.

Among the artefacts found in the womb are gold objects dating back to the 4th Millennium BC.

The Thracian tomb at Aleksandrovo is on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites tentative list.


Kukeri in Shiroka Laka

(15 min drive)

The village of Shiroka Laka dates back to the 17th c. AD and was founded by Bulgarian Christians fleeing the Ottoman army.  Today it is an architectural and folklore reserve.

Shiroka Laka is famous for its authentic Rhodopean houses set in tiers on both banks of the local river. The old houses were designed in the characteristic architectural style of the Rhodopes by the noted local building masters, and feature two storeys, built-in cupboards and a small cellar with a hiding place. The thick white walls surround a small slab-covered yard with a traditional stone drinking fountain in the middle.

The legend has it that the local Church of the Holy Mother of God was constructed in 1834 for 38 days after a permit (a ferman by the Sultan) to build it was brought in from Istanbul hidden in the shoe of a horse.  It boasts an authentic iconostasis possible painted in the mid 1830-ies by the famous Zograph borders or their closest pupils.
The annual Kukeri rites are held every year on the first weekend of March.  They are thought to be related to the Thracian Dionysos cult and connected with fertility. The Kukeri, elaborately costumed men and women wearing wooden masks of animals and large bells on their belts, perform traditional rituals intended to scare away evil spirits of the winter and bring the fertility of the spring.  They are also meant to secure a good harvest, health, and happiness to the village during the year.



(two-hour drive)

The ancient Thracian city of Perperikon – the largest megalith ensemble on the Balkans, lies in the Eastern Rhodopes, on a 470 m high rocky hill, which is thought to have been a sacred place: the famous Temple of Dionysius may well have been located there.

The first traces of civilization on site date back to 5,000 B.C.  and can be traced through the Bronze and Iron Ages.  An impressive round alter, almost 2 m in diameter, hewn out of the rocks was discovered on top of the hill. The pulpit was probably built at the end of the 4th century AD or the early 5th century during the reign of Byzantium’s Arcadius and coincided with the period of the christening of the Thracians in the Rhodope region.

The megalithic complex has been laid in ruins and re-erected many times throughout history. Among the remnants which can be seen today are a giant multi-story palace and an imposing fortress built around the hill, with walls as thick as 2.8 m, dating back to the Roman Empire.  Temples and residential quarters were also constructed in the fortress.

Guest Testimonials

We appreciate that we were able to eat and drink right here instead of going to restaurants. We love all the shades of green in the forest and the fields. We loved the ‘small surprises’ and the ‘big surprises’. Thank you for the anniversary flowers and the cake, for the loving attention to all our needs. Thank you!Carol and Bill, USA
You are the best family in the Balkans! Never will I forget Orfeo’s birthplace, the six hour hike, the peppers picnic, being wet as mice and arguing about the useless young generation!Dame Emma Thompson, DBE, Actress, Screenwriter, Author, Activist, UK
I have never spent such a memorable day in the mountains. I am charmed by the summer beauty of the Rhodope Mountains, her bounty of flowers and herbs, and most of all, by your deep knowledge and special relationship with the plants that surround you. Our few days at Villa Gella have given me the eternal respect for the power of nature for our wellbeing and health. And you have such rich heritage fight on your doorsteps.Sophie Benge, Author, Healing Sources: Spas and Wellbeing from the Baltics to the Black Sea, Prestel
We have had a wonderful stay in the middle of the mountains. The villa is so relaxing and comfortable - every detail has been thought about. ... Words cannot describe such heavenly cooking... The walking has been special - meadows with wild flowers, pine forests and mixed forests, still some snow high up, deserted ancient ruins and empty tracks (except for deer and possibly a few bears which are ‘not too dangerous’)... We really appreciate the wine tasting and the joy of Bulgarian wine made with such care and pride.Sue and Philip, Canada
It was a wonderful place to stay, with outstanding food and outstanding people! I had such a fun/ great time here and I hope I can come visit again! Thank you!!!Helen, Norway
Топлина. Уют. Гостоприемство. Зимна приказка в сърцето на Родопа планина... Вилла Гелла е уникално съчетание на всичко това! Благодарим на домакините, колите ни подариха тези емоции!Матео, Дара, Ния, Ирена, Дечо
Villa Gella was a very special place for us to spend a very special time of our lives! Thank you for providing us with the perfect base for exploring and wаndering after the biggest day of our lives!Tom and Anna, honeymooners
The food was delicious, the setting was gorgeous, and the design and decor exquiste. Most of all, everyone was kind, lovely and hostiable. What a delightful place.Penny and Bill, USA
Villa Gella is an inspiring, inspired experience. The attention to crafts and tastes is apparent in the smallest details ... to the grandest gesture. ... Villa Gella is something unique to Bulgaria. Share it only with those who will appreciate this special place.Aza and Wendellen
Thank you for a wonderful week at Villa Gella! Your warmth and kindness made it feel like a home away from home! ... Our children have especially had a wonderful week! From planting beans in the garden, finding snails, playing badminton, all the delicious sweet ‘surprises’ from Dimka’s kitchen ... and best of all the traditional Bulgarian bagpipe music - all make wonderful memories on our first trip to Bulgaria (and definitely not our last!)Stuart, Jean, Oscar, Ivy
Hard to describe what we experienced here ... amazing nature, culture, history and your hospitality!! Bravo Villa Gella!!!Hiro Kusuda, Winemaker, New Zealand
Thank you for your amazing service! I really loved your amazing, luxurious atmosphere, your food and staff. I honestly am amazed of how much you could put up with my brother, you’re a hero. This villa definitely deserves those awards! Thank you for having me! I will definitely be begging to come back in the summer. See you in the summer! XOXIsabel, 7-year old, UK
... It is hard to decide if we should tell everyone about this place or if we should keep it a secret...Robert Young, PhD, Professor Coastal Geology, North Carolina, USA
The best trip of my life... Everything was perfect!! Great facilities, great view, great food and more than anything else great people! It was the most pleasant, unforgettable moment. I’d love to come again.Sue, Seoul, South Korea
What a wonderful & friendly place with such warm and intelligent people. It was a highlight of our trip. To spend time in your home with you was a great pleasure. Thank you so very much.TC Schwartz, Singapore
Villa Gella is a place we do not want to leave. We want to live here. It offers everything one needs for happiness. Thank you for being such wonderful people.Micheline, France
I had a great time at Villa Gella, it’s location is so beautiful, peaceful and make you happy. Dimka and Ivan are great hosts, the food is amazing, very healthy, the way they make the place for us with lots of hard work and love. The villa is a good place for meditation, yoga and skiing.Dr Isaac Mathai, Founder, Soukya International Wholistic Health Centre, India