Ракитово (Rakitovo), south of Velingrad.
From Velingrad follow 843 south for 2.2 km, turn left, single lane gravel road 6.5 km to the cave.
APR to JUL Sat, Sun 10-16.
AUG daily 10-16.
SEP to NOV Sat, Sun 10-16.
Adults BGN 9.
Middle Tour: Adults BGN 18.
Long Tour: Adults BGN 25.
|Light:||helmet with headlamp provided|
|Dimension:||L=1,525 m, VR=10 m, T=10 °C, A=975 m asl.|
L=200m, D=60 min, Max=10, MinAge=6.
Middle Tour: L=420m, D=90 min, Max=10, MinAge=10.
Long Tour: L=600m, D=2h, Max=10, MinAge=10.
Lepenitsa Cave, ул. Никола Вапцаров 22, 4640 Rakitovo, Tel: +359-89-224-2004.
Rakitovo Community, Tel: +359-3542-2044.
Сдружение Суткя (Association Sutkya), Tel: +359-895-755-885.
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1925||biospeleological research by the head of the Royal Museums of Natural History, Acad. Ivan Buresh (*1885-✝1980).|
|1927||biospeleological research by the head of the Royal Museums of Natural History, Acad. Ivan Buresh (*1885-✝1980).|
|27-JUL-1930||first branch of the Българското пещерно дружество (Bulgarian Cave Society) founded at Rakitovo.|
|1931||400 m from the cave were explored and mapped by the engineer Pavel Petrov.|
|193?||cave first opened as a show cave.|
|195?||show cave closed.|
|10-OCT-1962||declared a natural landmark.|
|1973||speleological exploration and survey by Prof. Peter Tranteev.|
|2010||cave re-opened to the public.|
Пещерата Лепеница (Lepenitza Cave) is a rather small cave with ramshackle development. There are trails, sometimes elevated, wooden trails with wooden railings, but no electric light. At some places there are the iron steps and railings from the first development of the cave in 1932. Visitors are equipped with a helmet with headlamp before the visit. It's also possible to get rubber boots, which is a good idea if you have no good walking shoes. The trail is sometimes slippery and there are puddles of water on the floor. If you have, bring your own rubber boots and helmet. The cave is sometimes a little low and requires stooping. Some even say it requires crawling, but this applies only for the longer tours, which are actually cave trekking tours. On the short tour you may get dirty, on the others you will.
The cave was explored since the 1920s and the inhabitants even founded the first branch of the Bulgarian Cave Society for the exploration of the numerous caves in the area. The biospeleological research was started in 1925 by the head of the Royal Museums of Natural History, Acad. Ivan Buresh (*1885-✝1980). Today 24 species of animals are known from the cave, six are categorized as troglobionts. Seven species of bats live in the cave, greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), Geoffroy's bat (Myotis emarginatus), greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis), lesser mouse-eared bat (Myotis blythii), western barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus), and grey long-eared bat (Plecotus austriacus). The cave is a significant winter refuge for at least three species of bats, Geoffroy's bat, greater and lesser mouse-eared bat.
The guide tells on the tour that this is the oldest shown cave of Bulgaria. That's true, but you may find different statements on webpages or in older guidebooks. Bacho kiro was opened to the public in 1938, Lepenitza Cave around 1932. But in the 1950s the cave was closed and so Bacho Kiro became the oldest. Now that it is reopened, it is again the oldest show cave. And as you can see the idea of show caves established in Bulgaria in the 1930s, much later than in other European countries.. Actually Bulgaria has rather young show caves, several were opened in the mid or late 20th century, more were opened in the 21st century with the accession of the country to the European Union. Lepenitza was also reopened with a little help from the EU, as the signs at the entrance state.
In 1930 the first branch of the Българското пещерно дружество (Bulgarian Cave Society) was founded at Rakitovo. This caving club explored many caves in the area. Lepenitza was entered through the resurgence of the cave river from the lower level. The entrance section was only 1 m high and had a river, a dangerous situation which made exploration difficult. So the club built an artificial entrance tunnel. It is unclear if the tunnel was built for the exploration, for the show cave, or for both. We guess it was for both.
The cave has an active lower level through which the Lepenitza River flows. The middle level has no river but two lakes, and two more which are normally dry and fill only after heavy rains. This level has the most abundant cave formations and the most spectacular find were seven cave pearls, which were found in one of the lakes. They are today exhibited in the Natural History Museum in Sofia. This is also the level which is visited during the tour. The upper level has lots of gours or rimstone pools.
The cave is known as Пещерата Лепеница or Пещера Лепеница, which is more or less the same. We are not sure what the difference between the two forms in Bulgarian actually mean. Another name is Дионисиевата пещера (Dionysian Cave). The cave is developed in marble and is part of the Rhodope Karst.
To get to the cave is demanding, from the turnoff just south of Velingrad a single lane gravel road leads up the valley and is quite bumpy. It is often dirty or worn out by heavy forestry machinery. If you fear for your car, there is the possibility to hire a taxi at Velingrad for a half day, which brings you to the cave, waits for you, and brings you back. There is no mobile phone net at the cave, so it's not possible to call a taxi for the way back. But it seems the cave has some local fame and the taxi drivers know where it is and give you an acceptable flat rate for the trip. If you are a group have a coach, you can drive from Ракитово (Rakitovo) on a paved road to Ремово (Removo), which are actually just half a dozen houses in the middle of nowhere. From here starts a scenic marked trail, 1 km long (20 minutes), to the entrance of the cave.