- A ridge on the edge of flatlands
- Out-and-returns of 100km are common
- Throughout the summer, with April and May very strong
- A chairlift takes you up to a grassy launch
Varied mountain and flatland flying, little air traffic, easy XC
WHERE IS IT?
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
The small town of Sopot nestles at the foot of the southern slopes of Stara Planina, the longest mountain range in the Balkans. The range runs for 560km, crossing Bulgaria from its western border all the way to the Black Sea. Sopot is in the middle.
Apart from the main ridge the surroundings are flatlands, and there’s little air traffic to contend with. On good days, 100km out-and-returns and triangles are regularly flown.
Sopot is 140km east of Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, and 60km north of Plovdiv, the second city and its cultural heart. Both cities have international airports and Sopot can be reached by bus or train from either. Take off is a south-facing grassy slope with a chairlift from the landing area and car park, which are about two kilometres outside Sopot.
Conditions are very strong in April and May, with more than 5-6m/s thermals. Overdevelopment and thunderstorms are common in May. Conditions are milder and smoother but still very good from June to August, and with south winds the entire ridge works very well.
Late autumn and winter can be stable with inversions common, but on the right days the combination of sunshine and cold air unleashes the area’s potential for some great winter cross country flying.
WHEN TO GO
April to October are the most reliable months, but don’t rule out the winter.
HANG GLIDER ACCESS
It’s easily accessible for hang gliders, which can use the chairlift to launch.
MUST BE FLOWN
The main routes go either east or west along the Stara Planina, but you can also head off into the flatlands and explore. Head east along the ridge towards the town of Kazanlak for a good aerial sightseeing tour, which passes over many interesting sites.
DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES
Avoid flying in north winds, and watch out for strong winds in the valleys along the chain. Stay high over the mountains.
There’s a military airbase 40km from Sopot, and sometimes in the spring and autumn the airspace is closed for periods of up to a week. It’s forbidden to land in some areas, so check with local pilots before you fly.
There are plenty of hotels, guesthouses and rooms in private houses in the Sopot and Karlovo areas, which will cost from €10 to €30 per person for a night. You can also camp for free in the landing field. Skynomad Guest House and Hotel Shterev – ww.shterevhotels.com – are popular with pilots. Rose Valley Lodge is run by a British pilot. Also skyviewsopot.com.
TAKE THE FAMILY
Visit the hot mineral springs in the nearby towns of Bania, Hissarya and Plovdiv (25km, 40km and 60km from Sopot). Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe with plenty of historic sites and buildings to see in the daytime, as well as good nightlife. For something more active, biking, hiking and horse riding are all available in the area.
The Shambhala extreme sports and meditation centre at the bottom lift station offers diverse activities ranging from Zorbing to yoga, and has an adventure park with a high rope course.
The summer is hot, dry and sunny with a July and August average of 31C. Early autumn can be warm and pleasant, but the winters are cold and snow is common. May and June are the wettest months, and August the driest.
For weather, check skynomad.com/links_weather.htm.
Both Sofia and Plovdiv have international airports serviced by European airlines, and there are buses and trains to Karlovo (5km from Sopot) and Sopot itself from both, although the most convenient way is to go by car.
LOCAL SCHOOLS AND GUIDES
Skynomad training and guiding
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