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A two-day itinerary: Krushuna waterfalls, Devetaki cave, Lovech

Duration: 2 days

Approximate distance (Sofia is starting point): 460km round-trip

Accessibility: car recommended

Day one: Krushuna waterfalls and the cave of Devetaki

The Krushuna waterfalls – Крушунски водопади, have become quite the celebrity among Bulgarian sights in recent years. They truly are a fantastic place to visit, have a sort of a jungle-y feeling surrounding them and are very easily accessible. The hike around them is not long or difficult, albeit not wheel-chair accessible as far as I know.

To reach the waterfalls, you’ll have to enter Krushuna into your GPS systems. Once you get to the unspectacular village, just follow the line of tourists.

The walk around the waterfalls lasts about an hour at a slow pace. Imagine a small hill, along the sides of which the carst waterfalls have formed. The place has a magical atmosphere surrounding it, its emerald waters creating a white noise putting you at peace.. That is, of course, provided there’s not the usual hordes of tourists walking around or the occasional crowd of local gypsy children bathing (!!!) in the waterfalls. All part of the charm of the place, I guess 🙂

After having seen the waterfalls and their amazing micro ecosystem, I suggest heading to the Devetaki cave – Деветашка пещера, which is not far. Now, I was last there in 2013 and the place was difficult to find due to poor road signing. I hope this has now changed. If it hasn’t , trust your GPS with the task 🙂

The Devetaki cave is one of the largest in Bulgaria and is shrouded in mystery due to its secretive past. During communist times it used to be a classified military object, according to my Dad they stocked all kinds of warheads in there. In the 90-es oil and/or gas used to be stored there, the faint scent of petrol can still be sensed.

But the cave was put to use a long long time prior to the Communist regime in Bulgaria, this source claims it was firstly inhabited 70 000 years BC!

The cave was some years ago one of the sets for filming Hollywood ‘blockbuster’ starring Stallone, Schwarzenegger and so on “The Expandables 2”. The loud and bright movie set woke up the hibernating protected bat population and many of the bats perished due to lack of food in the cold winter months. Not sure the movie was worth that..

After having seen the cave, I suggest heading back to the town of Lovech, where you can get some well deserved rest and a nice meal.

Day two: Lovech

Lovech is a town in North-central Bulgaria, famous for a bridge built by one of Bulgaria’s top-notch architectural talent – Kolyu Ficheto during the National Revival times in the beginning of the 19th century. The town is not quite what it used to be during its glorious days in the communist era, but it still is nice to take a walk around its streets and enjoy the atmosphere.

The Osam river dividing the town creates an unforgettable flair. Also, make sure to walk around the Varosha architectural and historical reserve – an ethnographical reserve with old houses, an amazing place.

You can easily spend a whole day in Lovech, but if you like to incorporate another town and maybe even a night in your short trip, I suggest adding this trip to you itinerary, which includes seeing the superb town of Pleven and another stunning cave – Prohodna, which is a matching competition for the Devetaki cave.

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God’s eyes in the Prohodna cave
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A weekend in Southern Bulgaria – Chirpan and the oldest monastery in Europe

 

Duration: one weekend

Distance: 410km

Accessibility: car recommended

This is a trip that will take you to the Southern part of Bulgaria, it can be done within a short weekend, but if you like to spend some more time on the road, you can easily combine it with a short detour to Plovdiv and/or the ancient Thracian city of Perperikon.

Day one: Chirpan. Distance from Sofia ca. 190km

Chirpan is a small town in the southern part of Bulgaria famous for the knives produced there (according to a saying, there is no Chirpan man walking around without a knife) and as the birth place of Bulgaria’s most brilliant poet Peyo Yavorov. A must see in Chirpan is his family’s house where he was born, a very neat small museum with a guide who will blow your mind with his interesting lecture on Yavorov’s life.

We were mesmerized by his stories and did not get bored even for a second by the talk, even though it lasted almost an hour. You could tell that the guide is a passionate Yavorov fan.

Right behind the museum there is another sight to visit – the town art gallery Nikola Manev. The gallery has an interesting story – it was bought in 2010 by another famous Chirpan citizen – the artist Nikola Manev who is a successful painter in Paris, France. He purchased the house which was built more than 150 years ago, restored it, displayed some  of his own artworks in it and donated it to the town of Chirpan – a patriotic act of a kind that happens all too rarely nowadays in Bulgaria.

There is also an impressive crystal collection in the gallery, donated by a friend of Manev’s – Iliya Delev, who made his fortune from crystal mines in Brazil.

After we walked around the yard of both Yavorov’s house and the art gallery full of wonderful flowers and friendly cats, we went on to explore a bit more of the town. We ended up in the yard of a pretty old church. Opening the door rang a bell prompting the pastor to come out, sell us some candles and let us in the church.

The downtown is not very impressive, but still neat. There is a couple of nice restaurants which offer a good and cheap meal. Later we heard from some locals, though, that we missed the opportunity to take a stroll around the town park which is supposed to be really nice.

Day two: St. Atanasiy monastery. Distance from Chirpan ca. 12km

Many legends surround the St. Atanasiy monastery which is situated in the village of Zlatna livada in Chirpan’s proximity. It truly is a magical place being the oldest monastery in Europe – founded in 344 AD. Apparently St. Atanasiy felt the special energy of the place when passing through it, and spent some time living in the rocks surrounding the place in a state of Christian meditation.

The water springing from a well in the monastery yard is said to have healing powers, many believers from all over Bulgaria come here to cure all kinds of ailments. Another legend about monastery has to do with the communist regime. They turned the holy house into a cowshed, but then St. Atanasiy appeared in a dream of the local party head and told him to restore the monastery. He must have been pretty convincing because the cows were removed the very next day 🙂

Right behind the monastery runs an ancient Roman road.. well, you’d have to believe it’s that, because it looks like a pretty regular path to me 🙂 see pic above. Also, you could go and visit the little cave where the saint used to live. There is a saying that if you can get through the whole in the cave, you have no sins.

After the visit there I suggest driving back to Sofia, because the villages around the monastery don’t offer any restaurants unfortunately. You could stop by Chirpan or detour to Plovdiv on the way to Sofia for lunch.

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A short hike in Rila: Govedartsi and Mechit

Duration: three days

Car accessibility: recommended

Leaving from Sofia: as you please 🙂

This trip is a bit unconventional, as Govedartsi is situated at a strategic point in Rila and could be the start of a hike to more popular spots such as Musala or Malyovitsa peak or Borovets for some skiing. However, I think you’ll find that Mechit is every bit as challenging and rewarding a trekking destination as any other Rila summit.

Day 1: arriving in Govedartsi

This is a trip which you can do in any three days, so leaving from Sofia after work on Friday is also an option.

Govedartsi is a small village located in Southwestern Bulgaria, it is a ski resort and is a mere 80 km away from Sofia. It is accessible by car both i summer and in winter, which makes it the perfect spot to start your hiking trip. I have hiked from it to both the famous 7 Rila lakes and to the peak Mechit and as far as I know there’s many other trekking paths which start from here.

In the summer of 2007 we stayed in a guest house called Green mountain chalet, which was then owned by a Dutch couple who had decided to move to Bulgaria. The house was really cool, as its interior was different from the typical Bulgarian Renaissance furniture that guest house owners usually choose.

I can definitely recommend staying there, but if not, Govedartsi has plenty of other guest houses and hotels you’ll find accommodating. There’s a couple of nice restaurants that will offer good food.

Day 2: hiking to Mechit chalet

On the next day I suggest to sleep in, as you only have the hike to the Mechit hut, which will probably not take longer than 2 hours. So, get a good night sleep, get some hearty breakfast and  head for the hut. You can either walk on the paved road to the beginning of the forest, where the path actually starts, or you can drive your car there. Be careful in winter conditions, might be a bit difficult.

The hike is not long or exhausting, you are walking mostly in a forest, which is very good, as we did the hike in February, and the trees offered some protection from the cold.

If all goes well, you will be in the hut in about two hours, just follow the path and should a black dog catch up with you somewhere on the road, do not be afraid, he just loves to hike with tourists. He followed us almost all the way to the summit on the next day 🙂

The Mechit hut is, hats off, one of the cleanest and most well-kept huts I have seen in the Bulgarian mountains. The food was expensive, but good and you’ll able to get a decent night’s sleep before the summit on the next day.

Day 3: to Small and Big Mechit. Drive back to Sofia

The hike to the peak itself is not too difficult. It does offer some breath-taking views. You will exit the forest pretty quickly and will be able to enjoy said views as quickly as half an hour after leaving the hut.

Тhere are actually two peaks you will climb onto – Small and Big Mechit. They are pretty close to each other, as the hike to Small Mechit takes about 2 and a half hours and 3 hours to Big Mechit.

The hike wasn’t long or exhausting, but it was a bit scary at one point as we were walking right underneath a small summit, which seemed like the perfect place to form an avalanche. The sun was strong and was kind of melting the snow aaand we saw a small monument commemorating the death of hikers under an avalance, so we hurried to get away from that part of the trek as quickly as possible 🙂

After reaching the peak at about noon, we had a quick sip of tea and some nuts and headed down to the hut. From there we walked straight to Govedartsi, got on the cars and drove off to Sofia, so this is also doable in one day, should you be so inclined.

 

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A Balkan weekend – Troyan and surroundings

Duration: 2 days

Car accessibility: recommended, but also doable by public transport

Leaving from Sofia: as early as possible

Day 1: Sofia – Troyan (overnight stay)

Troyan is a small town in Central Bulgaria surrounded by the beautiful Troyan Balkan. It is famous for its delicious plum rakija – Troyanska slivova – троянска сливова and the monastery situated nearby – Троянски манастир. The trip from Sofia shouldn’t take long as most of the way is on the highway. The remains of an ancient Roman fortress called Sostra lie on the way, about 10-20km before entering the town. If you like, take a quick stop, it’s free from entrance and interesting to behold.

There’s many guest houses to stay the night in, both in Troyan, and the nearby villages. As the area also has some hot mineral water sources, the pool and spa tourism is developed to a good extent 🙂 Which is why I would suggest booking a night in one of the swimming pool resorts around. One of them is in the village Chiflika – Чифлика, lying about 16km away from Troyan.

The swimming pool is very big and full of mineral water, the food is not bad and if it’s a hot summer day, I suggest spending it there.

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The pool and the hotel are tucked in among the mountains and since the water in the pool is naturally hot, you can also visit the place in winter, basking in the steaming water enjoying the snowy views around you.

If you prefer to go for a walk around Troyan, that’s also a good way to spend the day. The river Beli Osam – Бели Осъм,  runs through the town making it a very picturesque place. There’s many old houses, a couple of nice museums and good food to enjoy. The nature around is also stunning, giving great opportunities for hiking or driving to Belkemeto – Беклемето, for example. Beklemeto is one of the road passes cutting through the Balkan mountain and connecting Southern and Northern Bulgaria. At the top of the road there is a monument dedicated to the liberation struggle of the Bulgarians on the peak of Goraltepe, its tremendous size and interesting location make it a place worth the visit.

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We used to go there with my grandparents in the summer to pick blueberries. If you’re in the area in August, do look for the berries, super delicious and healthy, yum!

Day 2: Oreshaka, Cherni Osam

After a good breakfast, I suggest going to visit the third largest monastery in Bulgaria (after the Rila monastery and the Bachkovo monastery). It’s in the village of Oreshaka – Орешака, 8km away from Troyan. The monastery houses a famous icon – the three-handed Mother of Christ, which is said to have magical powers. People from all over the country visit the Troyan monastery to see and kiss it. If you’re not that much of a believer, I think you’re still going to like the monastery with its well-kept inner yard and nice garden.

After a visit to the monastery, you could drive to the next village – Cherni Osam – Черни Осъм, called after the river running next to it. The national school for mountain guides is there, it’s interesting to see the school yard, with a climbing wall incorporated into one of the school buildings. Makes you wonder about the cool curriculum of the students there 🙂

A small museum of the area wild-life is also situated in Cherni Osam, and while it might not be the best or most modern facility you’ll ever witness, it’s still worth the visit, displaying some of the largest exemplars hunted down in the area. Beware, this is bear country, although not as densely populated as the Rhodopes f.ex.

A couple of nice restaurants will offer you a good meal, both in Oreshaka and Cherni Osam. After that you can head back to Sofia. There’s a couple of more sights to visit in the proximity, such as the Devetaki cave – Деветашка пещера, the Krushuna waterfalls – Крушунски водопади and the town of Lovech – Ловеч, on which I have written a separate post. Combining the both itineraries will result in a very nice 4 or 5 day trip.

You can also combine with this nice hike right here 🙂