Have you ever dreamt of a place where you can completely forget the vanity of the big city? Do you often find yourself longing for the tranquility, peace, and total bliss that only a small village in the heart of the mountain can offer?
Then, the beautiful village of Leshten is here to welcome you with its cobblestone streets, authentic appearance, and unforgettable views. So, we are taking you on a brief ride through Bulgaria’s most outstanding mountainous village.
Why Choose the Village of Leshten for Your Vacation?
Leshten village is not for everyone. You won’t find raging nightlife, neon lights, noisy crowds, and fast food here. In fact, you will probably feel like you are in a time-travel machine that takes you straight to the Bulgarian revival period.
The entire village is an architectural reserve that preserves plenty of old houses, solid stone buildings, and remarkable examples of the traditional architectural style of 19th century Bulgaria.
All in all, the village attracts tourists who want to enjoy beautiful nature, tranquility, and homemade rural cuisine with organic products. Lesthen is for those who are fans of Bulgarian history and traditions and want to go back in time, at least for a while. Because Leshten is a fairytale, full of inspiration and magic!
What is the Location of the Village of Leshten?
The ancient village is located in the Rhodope Region of Southwestern Bulgaria. The area is known for its spectacular nature, numerous mineral pools, beautiful villages, and signature local cuisine.
Leshten itself is situated on the southern slopes of Western Rhodope Mountain at an altitude of 900 meters. It is about 8 kilometers away from the Garmen village, about 57 kilometers away from the town of Bansko, and 110 kilometers away from Blagoevgrad.
Its proximity to the Rila and Pirin mountains allows for exploring multiple day trips that offer anything from complete relaxation to adventurous mountain hiking.
What is so Special About Leshten?
Imagine the following…
Driving along the narrow mountain road to the village, immersed in the bright colors of the blue sky. No noise pollution, no air pollution. Just the virgin greenery of the Western Rhodopes.
As you go deeper into the mountains, the greenery surrounds you completely. Along the way, as far as your eyes can see, there are centuries-old beech and pine forests. The turns follow the curves of the Kanina River, and the sun shines joyfully through the leaves of the trees.
You drive slowly because there is no need to rush. You just enjoy the beautiful scenery as much as you can. It is so stunningly peaceful. You feel how anxiety and tension leave your body, and you do not even realize that you are starting to smile for no reason.
Finally, there is the last turn, and you can see the signboard of the village of Leshten and its houses perched on the cliff ridges.
You slowly enter the village, leave the car on the square, under the big walnut tree, and go on foot.
Wherever you turn, you see two-story stone houses built by the Leshten masters 200 years ago. Each house has a huge veranda lit by the sun, and a spacious yard with a green grass plot and alleys, where purple violets, marguerites, and aromatic primroses grow.
The authentic look of the pastoral picture is enriched by the trellis vines full of grapes and by the quiet mowing of cows in the distance. The houses are on both sides of the narrow, cobblestone streets, and some are so close to each other as if they are leaning forward to whisper quietly in the afternoon haze.
You walk on the cobblestone main street, and you have the feeling as if with every step, you go back in time.
This is so special about the village of Leshten! Here one can feel the strongest connection to his roots, get one-of-a-kind energy, and spend an unforgettable day in the magic of the Western Rhodope mountain.
How Was the Village Formed?
According to several archeological findings, the area of Leshten has been inhabited since ancient times. However, there is no clear evidence concerning the time when the village was formed, but its name was mentioned for the first time in 1671. Then, in 1671, the village’s name was mentioned in an Ottoman document about purchasing goods.
Historians consider that the first settlers of Leshten were families who settled in the area because of the auriferous sands of Kanina River. Whether or not the first settlers came here to look for gold, we cannot say for sure.
However, we can say that they were skillful people who were hard-working and just for 50 years they turned the village into a very rich and good place for living.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Leshten was in its heyday and became an important trade center. At the same time, the church and cell school were built, and Leshten became a strong attraction center for many families who lived in the surrounding areas, so they settled in the village.
At that time, the houses, except for the cell school and the church, numbered 56.
In 1907, the population of the village already numbered about 500 people, and agriculture and crafts were highly developed. Until the 1930s, Leshten retained its position as an important commercial and municipal center, but then it gradually began to depopulate. People began to leave the village, and nowadays, its permanent residents are only 10.
Although its inhabitants can be counted on the fingers of both hands, active rural tourism is developing in the village. Leshten offers a truly unique experience and is one of Bulgaria’s most desired and popular destinations during all seasons.
What to See in the Village of Leshten?
You can start exploring Leshten with a walk around the village. Start from the square and continue on the narrow, cobblestone streets. Climb up and look around.
The view of the 200-year-old houses, one above the other, is a sight that you will keep forever in your memory. Look in the yards filled with greenery and flowers, enter one of these houses and explore it.
Did we mention that you can stay in one of the 15 guest houses that offer accommodation?
The renovated old houses have preserved their authentic appearance, and you can feel a powerful connection to the past in each one of them. If you do not have enough time, you can just have a walk and when you feel tired you can visit one of the local restaurants where you can try the homemade dishes offered here.
And before you express your doubt, we will tell you that the products used in local restaurants are completely ecological, as they grow in the region. You must try one of the local specialties, for example, the meatballs with hash meat, roasted hen, pancakes with homemade jam, and „Uviach” – meat with yellow cheese.
You can also visit the „Saint Paraskeva” church. This church was built in 1833 and has preserved its authentic appearance. Go inside, light a candle, and look at the frescoes that shine in bright colors.
Pay attention to the fresco „Ascension of Saint Elijah” and the icons of „Saint Paraskeva” and „Saint Nedelya.” See the 300 years old baptismal font in which generations of residents of Leshten were baptized.
If you would like to learn more about the cultural heritage of the village of Leshten, you can visit the community center. There, you will find a rich collection of photos, musical instruments, tools that have been used in the past, national costumes, home textiles, and other household items.
Finally, before you leave, you can buy something from the small art shops and then head to the biggest attraction of the village – „The Clay house.”
The clay house is not 200 years old. It is a modern house, but it is so unique that it still startles every visitor of the mountain village.
The building is made entirely of clay, wood, and straw, and it looks like the house of the popular cartoon character Fred Flinstone. If you are in Leshten just for one day, you can see it from the outside, but if you decide to spend the night there, you can rent it and spend a few days in Leshten.
The owners of the clay house offer accommodation, but make sure you book in advance because it’s sometimes reserved for months ahead.
Sights Near the Village of Leshten
Every place in the Rhodope Mountain is magical, but when it comes to the region of Leshten, your entertainment options are so many that if you are not planning to stay at least for a few days here, you will have to choose which of the most remarkable places to visit.
The centuries-old beech forests are a perfect place for mushroom gathering.
If you are fond of rural tourism and like the Leshten village’s coziness, then you will love visiting the nearby village of Kovatchevitsa. This village is located 8 kilometers away from Leshten, so you can easily combine the exploration of both villages.
Kovatchevitsa and Leshten are quite alike – from the preserved stone two-story houses with beautiful yards, the fascinating nature and cobblestone streets, to the quietness surrounding everything.
Do not miss to visit the „Saint Nicholas” church in Kovatchevitsa, and one of the stone two-story houses, try the delicious local cuisine, and light a candle in the chapel above the village.
But if you prefer walks in the mountain, you can visit different attractions in the region of Leshten.
Some of the nearby landmarks designed by nature are, for example:
- The „Tamnata Gora” reserve
- The „Chernata Skala” rock formations (“The Black Rock”)
- „Koziyat Kamuk”
- The „Siniyat Vir” waterfall
- The Kanina River canyon, etc.
You should not miss visiting the Ognyanovo balneological resort, located only a few kilometers from Leshten. Ognyanovo lies nearby and is a popular destination for recharging with its numerous mineral pools for complete relaxation.
Since you are in this part of the Rhodope Mountain and you have seen a lot already, nothing prevents you from going to another place that has become very popular in recent years – the village of Ribnovo, or you can visit the Garmen village.
The Rhodope region is amazing, and you will find it hard to find a place that does not impress you with its beautiful sights, rich history, and delicious, ecologically clean food.
However, of all the places you can visit while you are on holiday in Bansko, you will like the villages of Kovatchevitsa and Leshten the most.
Therefore, if you are looking for a place that can take you back in time or where you can forget about all your problems, you should visit the village of Leshten. Because Leshten is one of the few places in Bulgaria with this little pinch of magic to astonish you completely.
How to Get to the Village of Leshten?
If you are on holiday in Pirin Mountain or the town of Bansko, you should take the direction to Dobrinishte. There is no chance of going in the wrong direction. Just drive straight in the direction of the Ognyanovo balneological resort and Garmen.
Near Garmen, you will see the sign board with indications for Leshten. Follow the road, and you will get there without any problem.
The distance between the town of Bansko and Leshten is about 57 kilometers, and you will need 50-60 minutes to get there by car.
If you travel to Leshten from the town of Gotse Delchev, the distance between these two settlements is only 14.38 kilometers, and you will need only 10 minutes to arrive on the spot.