Duration: Two days
Distance: ca. 670 km round trip
Leaving from Sofia: Try to leave as early as possible, the way is long
Day 1: First Stop: Garmen
Garmen – Гърмен, is a village in southwestern Bulgaria with a population of about 2000 people, many of whom – Roma. Not that there’s anything unusual about that, that’s the case for many smaller Bulgarian municipalities nowadays. Not much to see in it, but it is a pretty good starting point for the journey I am proposing here. It takes about 2hrs and 40 minutes to get there. One thing worth mentioning is the place we stayed, Garmen hills. It’s a nice yard with two little houses built and furnitured in a French Provence style (at least I imagine that’s what it is) and it’s quite exotic for Bulgaria. The owner is a French guy, who left a high-end business carriere in France to come live in Garmen because he was infatuated by the amazing nature and the friendly Bulgarian people.
You can get breakfast, which gets delivered by locals, everything is home -made and extremely delicious. There is also a small pool in the yard, so it’s worth going in the summer.
Second stop: Leshten. Distance from Garmen – ca 7 km
Depending on when you arrive, you’re probably going to want to get some lunch and then head out to the local sights. First thing on your list could be the village of Leshten which is very close to Garmen.
Leshten – Лещен, is a very small village with a population of only 11 people. It has kind of become a tourist place and is usually inhabited by travellers 🙂 It is very beautiful, completely built in the style of the Bulgarian architecture, I am sure you will love it. There’s a small church which you could visit and just taking a walk around the paved streets would be interesting. There is also a small gallery of a local artist right after the pub, I’m certain he would welcome you to his house to see it, maybe even get a souvenir from the place.
There is also supposed to be an eco-path starting from the village, promising to lead you to waterfalls and other natural wonders, but we couldn’t find where it starts, so we just took a path starting somewhere from the road and went on a short walk by the river, it was quite picturesque.
In Leshten you can get some food at the local (probably the only one) pub, called “Pub”, situated right on the road and above the river. In the summer there are tables on the terrace. It’s not as cheap as you would expect, but trust me – everything is worth it! We had some home-made sausages and lyutenitsa.
Third stop: Kovachevitsa. Distance from Leshten – ca 8 km
Kovachevitsa is probably going to be the highlight of your trip. However, on the way from Leshten, you’re going to drive through an incredibly ugly village called Gorno Dryanovo, mostly inhabited by Muslims. Don’t let that scare you off! Keep going, eventually you’ll reach Kovachevitsa 🙂 The village is somewhat bigger than Leshten and inexplicably holds more of the cherished Bulgarian renaissance atmosphere. It simply is very very beautiful:
Walking around Kovachevitsa is a very nice experience, you might meet some old people, be sure to nod hello and smile at them, they will appreciate it a lot. There’s also a couple of places to get something to eat, the food is delicious and home-made everywhere.
Day two: Ognyanovo – Огняново. Distance from Garmen 3km
Ognyanovo is where you can spend the second day of your trip. It’s famous for it’s mineral spring waters. On the recommendation of the French owner of Garmen hills, we visited a place called Therma Vitae. On the outside it looks kind of communist, and I suspect it was built during those years, but don’t be fooled – the place is top-notch. We only visited the swimming pool – 50 meters long, a humongous thing full of mineral water, and the huge hot-tub outside, the water was probably 40 degrees in there, I just loved it. They also have a spa and healthcare zone and provide all kinds of services connected to well-being and beauty, you should call and inquire.
So, once you’re done soaking yourself in the fantastic water (said to have all kinds of healing abilities), head back to Sofia on the same way. This trip is not too full of places to see, it’s more of a suggestion for a weekend of relaxing mixed with some wonderful home-made meals and a stay at a good accommodation, all seasoned by some of that unique Bulgarian renaissance atmosphere.