The perfect chalet in the Rhodope Mountains
Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains have justifiably found their place on the global ski map in recent years, thanks to an unusual and appealing combination of reliably fantastic winter conditions, great value and compelling folk history and cuisine.
Though there are a rising number of charming accommodation options, very few are as sumptuous or on such a scale as the landmark Villa Gella. Sleeping up to 15 guests across six bedrooms, the dimensions of the property across four floors allow for a wide range of potential uses. Ideal for a larger family holiday or celebration, the space and the intense sense of peacefulness also means that it functions as a wonderful corporate retreat.
Pamporovo is the local ski resort and despite its appealing isolation the villa is extremely well-connected to both the resort and, by private transfer, Plovdiv Airport. Pamporovo enjoys its reputation as Bulgaria’s sunniest ski resort, and it is also a gentle environment that is excellent for beginners and novices.
Once the slopes have been enjoyed, back at Villa Gella each bedroom is carefully crafted to offer modern conveniences whilst retaining all the charms such a skilfully converted farmhouse can offer. One bedroom has two four poster beds plus two expansive sofas, creating a perfect family suite. The bedrooms benefit from walk-in closets, real wood fireplaces and stunning baths for a long soak after a day on the slopes.
As is crucial in an environment catering to larger parties, the communal spaces are also welcoming and bespoke to the needs of guests. There are two separate dining areas, one offering a larger and potentially more formal setting and the smaller one seating five, for intimate supper parties or children who like to dine and gossip in their own special unit. The living room is a serene open space flooded with natural light.
An unusual, and really marvellous, feature of Villa Gella is the wood-panelled library. With the winter sun or moon streaming through the window, what better place to decompress with a book in an armchair and ease aching muscles, or to try your hand at the resident poker table? As with the desks in the bedrooms, it also offers the opportunity to catch up on corporate obligations in a relaxed setting, particularly useful during a working holiday or executive retreat.
In addition to the daily maid service, there is an in-house organic chef. High spec facilities supporting the chef include a professionally-equipped kitchen and a fabulous fresh herb garden on one of the external terraces. It’s the perfect place for an introduction to Bulgarian cuisine, including traditional bean or cold cucumber soup, shopska salad, kebapche, roast lamb and banitsa, the delicious, anything goes stuffed breakfast pastry. There are also exceptional local wines to discover, including Terra Tangra from the owners’ own vineyards.
The grounds are spacious, well-maintained and lovely, including an extensive outdoor sports centre for everything from basketball to boules. To enhance the year-round appeal of the property there is also an indoor swimming pool, as well as a steam room, Jacuzzi and small gym. With its wildflowers and mountain meadows, the Rhodope Mountains are just as appealing in spring as they are under their winter snow blanket, and Villa Gella is the perfect spot to enjoy them in any season.
Phileas French, Travel Writer