Belmeken dam is an amazing place you must take your time and visit when in the area of Bansko. This is especially true during the summer season when the amazing view is underlined by the crystal air and the comfortable temperatures in the Rila National Park.
What exactly is the Belmeken dam, what is there to know about it, and how to best experience the surrounding area? We’re about to help you find out in the paragraphs below!
Belmeken Dam: The Basics
Belmeken is a dam located 1923 meters above sea level along the Sestrimska River in Rila Mountain. It is named after Mount Belmeken and fascinates its visitors with spectacular nature both in summer and in winter season.
The Belmeken reservoir is the highest sea level dam with a bulk dam wall in the country and on the Balkan Peninsula. The dam is a part of the „Belmeken-Sestrimo-Chaira“ cascade, and it’s a popular destination for hiking, mountain biking, and sports training all year round.
Interesting Facts About the Belmeken Dam
The name of the dam means „A known place.“ It is a mountainous artificial lake with the highest altitude in Eastern Rila Mountain. It is built on the Kriva River. The Sestrimo village is a starting point both for the dam and the Yundola area.
The road leading to it is maintained in good condition, and you can easily reach it by car without having to deal with any intensive traffic. Of course, you can get to the dam just for a walk, but the site is also suitable for fishing, as long as you’re properly equipped.
If you are planning a trip to the dam, don’t forget to bring warm clothes. Unfortunately, the average temperatures in the Rila mountain are not very high, even during the summer season, which is typical for all mountains in the Balkan peninsula.
The facilities of the „Belmeken-Sestrimo“ cascade are situated on the northeastern slopes of Rila Mountain. They collect the waters of the river valleys of the Maritsa, Mesta, and Struma Rivers, making them a real spectacle of nature.
The cascade of the dam includes two zones of collecting derivations: one at elevation 1900 meters and the other at elevation 1200 meters. The waters from the upper zone flow into the „Belmeken“ dam, and those from the lower one flow into the „Stankovi baraki“ equalizer.
The cascade is built on three energy steps. The first step of the dam of the cascade includes the collecting derivations of elevation 1900, as follows:
• „Blagoevgradska Bistritsa“
• „Manastirska“ – „Beli Iskar“
• „Dzhaferitsa“, „Maritsa1900“
The „Granchar“ water collecting channel includes the waters of the Blagoevgradska Bistritsa River and Rilska River with its tributary Iliyna.
The Blagoevgradska Bistritsa River springs from the slope between Big and Small Mechi peak in Rila Mountain at 2600 meters above sea level.
North of the valley of Blagoevgradska Bistritsa River, you can see the valley of the Rilska River and its tributary Iliyna.
How to Get to Belmeken?
The route to the dam is alpine, as it is relatively challenging, so you’ll have to do a bit of preparation in advance.
You can start from the Sestrimo village, situated in an area with incredible beauty inherent to the Rila Mountain scenery. The road leading to the dam passes by the village. So from there, you can start to climb.
Soon, the road becomes narrower. In the beginning, two cars can pass by each other, but with each kilometer, the road becomes more and more narrow.
On the road, you can often meet travelers with motorcycles. Although there is no intensive traffic on the road, it may be difficult to go on if you meet another car.
There are some curves on the road, but its visibility is impaired by the pines that are about 20-30 meters high, and the driving there is a bit challenging.
Then the road divides into two, and the tourist guides recommend the drivers to take the left road because it is in better condition. The right road, in turn, offers picturesque views and leads to the dam’s wall, but it is very difficult to pass as it has many holes.
If you plan to go there, keep in mind that there are no cafes or freshly prepared food near the dam. So if you want to stay for a little bit longer, you can buy water and food from Yundola.
You can also get water from the fountain located at the beginning of the downhill to Yundola. If you follow the short asphalt road from there, you will reach the „Belmeken“ sports base and athletics complex, located at 1924 meters above sea level.
You can’t see fortresses, monasteries, and ancient villages in the immediate vicinity. Anyway, there is one thing you must see if you have enough time, and this is Mount Belmeken. So you can leave your bicycle or motorcycle at the dam’s guard and head up to the peak, which rises at 2626 meters.
The route itself (in fact, three roads lead to there) is not that popular, although it welcomes many cyclists and motorcyclists.
However, with a little effort from local and central authorities, this route may become a popular sight not only in Bulgaria but also on the Balkan Peninsula and around the world. It only requires putting some effort into the improvement and maintenance of the asphalt road and cleaning the ditches.
About Belmeken Peak
The Belmeken peak is relatively easy to climb. However, in the winter, there is a danger in some sections of the route due to possible avalanches. To ensure you’re climbing in a safe environment, always follow the recommendations of the local authorities and mountain guides that will give you all updated details on avalanche risks.
The distance from Sofia to there is about 140 kilometers, which takes about 2 hours and a half. With its impressive 1923 meters above sea level, the Belmeken peak reveals wonderful mountainous views before our eyes.
About Belmeken Hut
The Belmeken hut is located at the cirque’s entrance, a short distance from the shore of the Ravnishko Lake. From there, you must travel for about two hours and a half to Belmeken.
It is a massive building with three floors, a capacity of 40 beds, and common internal bathrooms and toilets. The hut has a water supply and electricity from aggregate, as its rooms are heated with solid fuel stoves.
The hut also has a buffet and a canteen. The roads leading there have signs. The entrance point Let.G.Dimitrov that about 4.30 hours away on a well-marked route.
Some of the neighboring tourist sites near the Belmeken hut are:
- Belmeken dam – 2.00 hours
- Hristo Smirnenski hut – 3.30 hours
- Belmeken peak /2626 meters/ – 1.30 hours
- Gerginitsahut – 5.30 hours
- Venetitsa hut – 4.00 hours
- Zavrachitsa hut – 6.30 hours
You will often see national athletes roaming around the area as a part of their general physical training during Belmeken training camps.
The Belmeken Sports Base
Rila Mountain gives room for a physical challenge, so the local sports base unveils that potential.
The Belmeken high-mountain sports complex is world-renowned for its location, facilities, and multipurpose design. Except for a professional training camp hotel, it is also widely popular as a recreation site for families with children, students, and group mountain tourism.
The sports facilities of the base include:
- A sports game hall for indoor football, indoor tennis, basketball, volleyball, or badminton;
- A wrestling hall with two new mats for karate, judo, sambo, and other martial arts;
- A weightlifting hall with seven podiums, four press racks, and seven weightlifting sets;
- An indoor swimming pool for water polo, synchronized swimming, and swimming – with local heating for the dressing rooms and auxiliary premises;
- A football pitch with dimensions of 100 m. / 60 m.;
- A covered rowing simulator with a total area of 420 sq. m.;
- A boxing hall with two rings and wall pillows;
- A gym for general physical training;
- A fully-equipped physiotherapy room with all necessary devices;
- A medical center, massage rooms, etc.
Except for the multiple sports halls and the large swimming pool, national and club teams can also enjoy a total of 256 beds distributed in 82 rooms in the hotel part. The base is widely preferred by football teams, sports clubs, and Olympic athletes from Bulgaria and the Balkans.
The Belmeken sports complex has only one analogue in Europe, and this is the Sierra Nevada Ski and Sports Resort in Spain.