Duration: One day
Distance: Ca. 350km
Car accessibility: very good
Leaving from Sofia: Relatively early. We left at about 9.30 and were able to get back at about 19.30 without having to hurry.
1. Stop: Asen’s fortess (arrival at about 11.30)
November – March: Wednesday to Sunday 10 til 17
April – October: Wednesday to Sunday 10 til 18
This is the best preserved fortress in Bulgaria, named after tsar (king) Asen, easily accessible by car and well worth visiting. It’s at the top of a cliff, from which a wonderful view is visible to vast forests on the one side and the town of Asenovgrad on the other. There is a good parking opportunity, costs 1.50lv to leave your car there.
2. Stop: Bachkovo Monastery (arrival at ca. 13.00)
Distance from Asen’s fortress: ca 12km
The monastery is really pretty and well-kept. There’s a lot of home-made things to buy on the short track from the parking lot to the monastery itself – both food and drink and hand-made souvenirs. You could stop for a quick lunch as well.
3. Stop: Plovdiv (arrival at about 15.00)
Distance from the Bachkovo monastery: ca 28km
After the Bachkovo monastery you’ll be heading back to Sofia, on the way is Plovdiv. Plovdiv is one of the most ancient cities in the world – some scientists estimate it to be approx. 8000 years old! – and one of the prettiest in Bulgaria.
You can see an ancient amphitheatre from Roman times, as well as other remains from Roman times (under the central street used to be a stadium, you can descend to the below level of the city and take a walk around).
There is also the Old town full of Bulgarian Renaissance houses.
All in all, in one short day you will be able to see three highlights not too far away from Sofia. You will be tired once you’re back in Sofia, but it will have been worth it 🙂
Bonus tips: If you like, you could spend the night in Plovdiv and make it a two-day trip. On the second day you will be able to visit Krastova Gora (The forest of crosses) and Chudnite mostove (The Wonderful bridges). A friend visiting me from Germany said the Bridges were the absolute highlight of the trip. However, a bit more on them and Krastova gora, here and here 🙂