The town of Smolyan (34 641 inhabitants, 850 to 1050 m above sea level) is scattered in the narrow gorge of Cherna River, in the most beautiful part of the Rhodopes. It is about 260 km away from Sofia, 103 km from Plovdiv, 46 km from Devin and 16 km south of the resort Pamporovo. Smolyan is a tourist centre in the western Rhodopes lying near the famous Bulgarian winter resort of Pamporovo.
In 1960 the three neighbouring villages of Smolyan, Raykovo and Ustovo merged into a town, which was named Smolyan. The town boasts a fascinating combination of old and new architecture. The experts say that the best of the typical folk houses, from the time of the Bulgarian National Revival in the 19th century, are to be found in the Rhodopes. An excellent example is Pangalova's House (built in 1860). Other notable buildings include the palace of Ali Bey in Raykovo quarter, whose oldest part was constructed in 1780, and the old houses in the neighborhood of Cheshitev.
The construction of the new town centre was completed in 1983. Buildings, like the Planetarium, Post Office, Municipality, and Rhodopean Dramatic Theatre make up the core of the town.
The famous Smolyan Lakes, "the emerald eyes of the Rhodopes", line up in the close proximity of Smolyan. Once there were about twenty but only seven of them still remain now. The highest lake, called Muddy Lake, is the deepest and the most beautiful. On a small plateau, near the two lakes, there is the chapel of the Holy Spirit which is still in use. Camping "Panorama" is located close to the lakes.
On September 6th 1975, the biggest Planetarium with a public observatory in Bulgaria opened its doors in Smolyan. The Planetarium is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the town. In the "starry-sky hall" you will feel part of the Universe, and you will have an opportunity to "step" on the Moon, due to the powerful telescope, or to stare in amazement at the demonstrations of artificial starry skies accompanied by cosmic music. The Planetarium is the town’s most frequently visited place of interest. In the past 25 years it has been visited by 1,600,000 people. The planetarium and observatory complex works with no day off.
Over 57 churches, monasteries and chapels were built at different periods of time in Smolyan region. The most significant ones are: the churches of St. Nedelya and St. Todor Stratilat in Raykovo quarter, the churches of St. Nikola and Assumption in Ustovo quarter, the churches of St. George and Holy Spirit in Smolyan quarter, etc.
In 1960 the three neighbouring villages of Smolyan, Raykovo and Ustovo merged in a town, which was named Smolyan. Smolyan residential area (the highest) is the successor of the vanished village of Ezerovo, which was situated 3 km above the town, amidst the Smolyan Lakes. During the period of the attempts to convert the native population to Islam (17th century), some of the inhabitants were killed, others ran to the mountains and those who adopted the Muslim religion populated the areas along Cherna River, where the modern residential area lies. The Turks named this new settlement Pashmakli. The name of Smolyan was given to this neighbourhood after the Liberation and it came out of the name of the Slavonic tribe of Smoleni. Raykovo residential area developed as a craftsmanship village. Ustovo residential area became an important market centre.
Within Smolyan Residential Area:
The Revival age houses of Meramovi, Sarievi and a couple of others;
The overarched bridge across Cherna River built in the beginning of 18th century;
Planetarium - the biggest in Bulgaria;
The Museum of the History of Mid-Rhodope Mountain - possesses more than 150 000 exhibits;
The city Art Gallery - accommodates thousands of masterpieces of artists and sculptors.
Raykovo Residential Area:
Pangalova House - valuable architectural monument of culture dating back to 1860;
Alibeev Konak - an old residential and economic activity complex;
Memorial-Bone vault was inaugurated in honour of the inhabitants of Raykovo, who died for the Liberation;
St. Nedelya Church (1836) - has a richly ornamented iconostasis and the Mazolevs Fountain.
Ustovo Residential Area:
Mednikarska Charshiya – the old coppersmith marketplace;
Hadzhiivanovs House, which provided shelter to the headquarters of the Russian troops in the region during the Liberation War (1877-1878);
Sheremetevs, Тankovs, Hadzhichonovs Houses are also within this area; St.Nikola Church is remarkable with its plentiful, rich wall painting and original architecture.
Rhodope Drama Theatre is successfully functioning.
There are regular bus lines to Sofia, Plovdiv (each hour), Kardzhali, Devin, Assenovgrad, Chepelare, and Pamporovo (each hour).
Public bus stations: Bus station Smolyan, Bus Station East, Bus Station South.
16 km to the north, up above the town is one of the biggest Bulgarian winter resorts – Pamporovo. 10 km west of the centre of the town is the region of Smolyan lakes, known as the "emerald eyes of the Rhodope Mountain". They totalled 20 in number, but presently there are only 7 lakes. The largest one of them – the so-called "clear lake"- is also the deepest and the most beautiful. Chaired rope lift to Snezhanka Peak, passing close to some picturesque vertical rocks. Bus № 4 travels to this region. Smolyan Waterfall is 20 meters high and is in the immediate surroundings southwest of the town. 27 km south of Smolyan, in the valley of Arda River, is the village of Mogilitsa. It has beautiful renaissance style houses, but the most interesting building is that of the Agushev's Konak, built in 1843. It has 221 windows, 86 doors and 24 chimneys. This is a splendid piece of art of an unknown Rhodope master, whose right hand was cut by Agush, the owner of the Konak, according to the legend, to be sure that the master will not build another similar masterpiece unique well-preserved mediaeval feudal castle on the Balkan Peninsula.
24 km from Smolyan one can find the ethnographic and architectural reserve - Shiroka Laka. There are some 20 caves in the vicinity of the village, the most interesting of them being Uhlovitsa Cave characterized by its miraculous cascade lakes at a distance of 3 km east of the village. The cave is easily accessible. There is regular daily bus from the town of Smolyan to the village.
10 km north of the town is located the village of Momchilovtsi. Its authentic Rhodope architecture, the local historic and ethnographic museum, the interesting customs and traditions, its mild and pleasant climate in all the seasons, the delicious local culinary gourmets, its fantastic nature, the availability of a number of family hotels turn the village into a special site of domestic and international tourism. There is a regular bus line to Smolyan and Chepelare.
The Monastery St. Atanas and the legendary peak of Kralyov Kamuk are located to the south in the Rhodope Ridge Kaynadina.