Welcome to Bulgaria. Where you have an endless amount of places to see on a small surface. Where the climate is fantastic and allows for year-round tourism. You can make trips through the whole country and be surprised by something unexpected and pretty every moment of your stay.
It might seem like you have to make a long round trip to make the best of your visit to Bulgaria. And making such a trip with your rental car is certainly worth it! However, it’s not necessary to go from hotel to hotel. There’s enough to see around Sofia to entertain you. For a trip as long as you wish. There’s so much to see around the capital, that you can stay there and make day trips. It’s just as fulfilling and will leave you with good memories. It is recommended that you use a rental car service, however. Public transport is relatively reliable but with a rental car you are considerably more flexible to do as you please.
We will have your rental car, including insurance, ready in Sofia. You can choose one of the many hotels in our capital. In the wide array of accommodation, there will definitely be something that suits your needs. Most hotels have a place to park your car, so you can make your day trips and return in the evenings. Then, you can enjoy the many good restaurants of Sofia and the nightlife of this cool city! You might feel more comfortable and relaxed if you keep one and the same hotel during your stay and make day trips from where you are. No need to carry around your luggage, you take a daypack knowing you’ll be back at night. So, pick up your rental car from our office, and you’re ready for your first day trip!
As you most likely already saw from the airplane, Sofia has a huge mountain right next to the city. In fact, there’s houses built against the slopes. This mountain is called Vitosha, with 2.290 metres quite a tall mountain to be right next to a metropolis. It’s a popular destination for local people as well as tourists. To get a breath of fresh air, to go hike or to practice winter sports. The mountain offers all kinds of ways to relax or get active during your trip. You could take the cable car up or drive towards the mountain hut ‘Aleko’, from where you can make excellent hikes. On the way, you will pass the Kopitoto tower. This TV tower itself is not accessible for the public but you can stay outside and enjoy the wide view over Sofia. During the day, it’s an excellent place for a picnic. At night, you will surely have the best view over the many lights of the busy Bulgarian capital. It’s a good place to celebrate New Year’s as well, if this is the time you visit. Just imagine looking at the fireworks you get to see! The place is best reached by car. There is a cable car but it’s not working since a long time – hiking there is too far from the city.
If you come during the winter season, we will make sure your car is equipped with winter tyres so you can drive to the resorts safely and enjoy your winter activities! Apart from the slopes on Vitosha mountain, Bulgaria has several more and even better slopes for some action in the snow. Drive to Borovets, just under 70 kilometres from the capital. You could make a day trip – just as many locals do. Alternatively, you could surely spend the night there. Then there’s Bansko, however it might be a bit too far for just a day if you plan to spend many hours outside practicing sports. Visiting Vitosha mountain or Borovets is a wiser decision if you’d just like to spend a day.
If you come through any other season than winter, it will be interesting for you to see the Iskar gorge north of Sofia. The river, that was once far wider and mightier than it is now, carved many interesting shapes into the rocks. After many thousands of years of erosion, you can now admire the rock formations and tall cliffs that reach north of Sofia for over a hundred kilometres. A unique and scenic drive. Each village on the way will have something interesting to offer you, such as the Batulia monastery off the main road in Rebrovo, the little town Svoge with the Soleil restaurant (http://soleilbg.com/) or the wide views from the village Zhelen. Then, there’s two waterfalls in the villages Bov and Gara Bov. The ‘Vazova ekopateka’, in Gara Bov, will surely be a good option if you enjoy a hike uphill. Not too difficult and totally worth the climb. You’ll be rewarded with a wide view on the Skaklya waterfall. Keep in mind that it tends to dry up in high season, best is to come in early spring. Continue to Lakatnik and see the arguably most beautiful cliffs in the country. Visit one of the mountain huts that are up in the hills, to enjoy a strong cup of herbal tea. These mountain huts, called ‘hizha’ or plural ‘hizhi’, are spread all over the country. The ones you can visit on this day trip are Hizha Trestenaya or Hizha Gubislav.
|Iskar gorge||Vazova Ekopateka||Lakatnik|
Drive northwest towards the small town of Godech, where you can have a coffee and visit the small river front with the many plants and flowers in springtime. Then, continue towards the waterfall Kotlite, which is at its best in spring. Late in summer, unfortunately, the waterfall is dry. Make sure to stop by at the Bukorovski monastery. You could walk downhill and visit Razboishte monastery, where you find a chapel inside the rocks and an interesting monastery complex of hundreds of years old. It’s situated along the Nishava river. Then, walk on towards Sveta Petka monastery. This place was abandoned but is now inhabited by a couple from Sofia, that is truly happy at this serene place.
Now let’s get back to your rental car. There’s even more to see on the road! Head north towards Berkovitsa. You’ll drive the Petrohan mountain pass, through the dense forests of Western Bulgaria. You’ll approach Berkovitsa and can turn right on the way to Varshets. Then, after just a few kilometres, turn right again towards the Klisurski monastery. At that junction, you find Complex Stalin, where you could have a delicious meal. At the monastery, they sell many products such as homemade wine, honey and jam. Berkovitsa itself is a nice town to visit – with a wide view over the mountains. If you have time left, drive up until Hizha Kom. Have some tea at the mountain hut and enjoy a walk through the beautiful landscape.
Time to explore the region east of Sofia. There’s plenty to see! Drive towards Mirkovo, a little, peaceful town at the foot of the Stara Planina mountain range. The town has the second-largest golden dome of Bulgaria on a church, right on the main square. The first-largest dome can be found on the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. You could have a meal or some drinks at the hotel/restaurant complex St. Ivan Rilski and perhaps enjoy a walk around the town. Then get back to your rental car and drive on towards Chavdar. Many say it’s the prettiest village in Bulgaria. This might count for the village square, which is renovated and indeed looks fine with many rose gardens and ponds, including fountains. As you drive east, you’ll come across many more towns and villages that will be interesting for you to see. If you’d like to return to Sofia, it might be nice to take the road south through Smolsko and Baylovo. You’ll most likely have the road to yourself, just be prepared to make sudden stops in case of animals on the road! You’ll end up at Gorna Malina, where, on a hot summer day, you could swim at the complex Vyatarnite Melnitsi. It means ‘Windmills’. Even though the entrance fee is not to be called cheap – the experience is certainly worth it! You could make a day trip out of just visiting the complex and once you had enough, then visit some villages. Design the trip as you want!
|Klisurski monastery||Kom Monuntain||Complex Windmills|
Now let’s go south, the only direction you haven’t gone yet. On the road to Samokov, you’ll pas the Pancharevo lake. Another popular place for city folks to spend their free time. It’s nice to walk around a bit or to enjoy a picnic on the side of the lake. As you continue south, on your left you can’t miss the Iskar reservoir. This is an enormous lake where Sofia gets its tap water from. There’s several small paths leading up to the lakeside, where you can enjoy another stunning scenery. And you’re not even an hour outside of Sofia! Just a bit more south of the Iskar reservoir is the city of Samokov. The city is famous for its delicious potatoes – the best of the country. For that reason, and more, make sure to stop and spend some time in the center. An excellent place to have lunch is the Kokoshkova Kushta (www.clubsamel90.com/index_en.html). They cook wonderfully and have a spacious garden where you can enjoy their specialties. There are plenty of other small restaurants around town, all should serve the local potatoes! As you walk around, you’ll see plenty of architectural treasures in the form of old houses and churches. Many of these were built during the National Revival period in Bulgaria, starting around 1762 up until the liberation from the Ottomans in 1878. Samokov played an important role in the National Revival. The city used to have one of the three woodworking schools in Bulgaria and even nowadays, many examples of fantastic woodwork of masters from Samokov is found all over the Balkan peninsula. Mainly in churches. You’ll notice that there’s some tall mountains close to Samokov, this is the Rila mountain range. There, you’ll find the tallest peak of the Balkans, which is Musala mountain (2.925 metres). You could visit the mountain and ski resort Borovets or opt for a swimming or spa retreat in Separeva Banya.
You will be nothing but impressed by the opportunity to see a lot in just a day – even when spending the night in Sofia! Would you like to get some more information on destinations nearby? Do not hesitate to contact us. We will prepare your rental car so you can enjoy a carefree trip through the surroundings of Sofia. Enjoy!
Read more fantastic stories about Bulgaria: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/travel-bulgaria
Savoy Rent a Car is one of the leading car rental companies in Bulgaria established in 2003. Our goal is to provide our customers with high quality services at the most competitive rates. Savoy offers a wide range of vehicles. Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure, we have a vehicle to suit your needs. Our fleet contains economy, compact, mid-size, SUV, minivans and full size cars. We guarantee: - Unlimited mileage - Full insurance coverage - 24/7 customer support - Free delivery - Delivery & transfers to every point in Bulgariaread more
If you book a rental car with us, we’ll make sure it’s ready for you to go. Including insurance and, in winter season, the suitable tyres. You’ll find that Bulgaria is easy to explore by car, in the last couple of years the roads have really improved and you should have no issues navigating the roads. The signs are in Cyrillic as well as Latin script, which makes it much easier for you. Besides, if you have a rental car, you’ll manage to see far more because public transport to remote corners is available, however it’s infrequent. With your rental car, you have all the freedom you desire. With pleasure we’ll help you prepare an itinerary so you can hit the road prepared! It’s not such a long drive to Plovdiv and then Asenovgrad. It should take you about 2,5 hours from Sofia. Make sure to visit the Old Town of Plovdiv, where you find several ancient sites as well as good restaurants and cafes. In Asenovgrad, visit Asen’s Fortress and continue southeast towards Kardzhali. You’re in the northern part of the Rhodope mountains now. There are many villages but the forests are mostly uninhabited. It’s one of Europe’s last natural frontiers, an area mostly untouched by mankind. As you drive to Kardzhali, you can leave the main road to drive into some small villages and see how life is in these places. You’ll find traditionally built houses, mostly built of stone from the nearby area. The people still make a living in the same way they did hundreds of years ago. They sell their homemade honey or yoghurt and keep livestock. Nowadays plenty of people run a guesthouse to make it through winter. Asen’s Fortress / Perperikon / Swallow Falls Pool After leaving Asenovgrad, near the first villages off the main road, visit the Swallow Falls Pool (Водопад Лястовичи Вир). Find it in Google Maps. Then continue to the villages Oreshets, Vrata or Mostovo, high up into the mountains. There are plenty of guesthouses you can spend the night. The next morning, enjoy a hearty, homemade breakfast and why not take a walk over the hillsides? You can walk along the road and even get all the way in the direction of the village Tri Mogili. Or, find Skalnia kompleks Karadjov kamak in Google Maps and walk there. You’ll have a good view over the area. It’s time to get back down to the main road and head east to Kardzhali. Feel free to stop along the road or to visit any village. Then drive a bit farther east. You’re in the Eastern Rhodope mountains now. You shouldn’t skip Perperikon, one of Bulgaria’s most impressive ancient sites. At 15 kilometres north of Kardzhali and 470 metres altitude, the rocky hill is believed to have been a sacred place for the Thracians. At this place, traces of human activity dating back to 5.000 years B.C. were found. Then you could stop by in Kardzhali, which is at 260 kilometres from Sofia. It has a unique position on the Kardzhali Reservoir and the Studen Kladenets Reservoir. Kardzhali has a typical center with streets lined with cafes and a city park. Then there’s the Kardzhali Museum of History. If you don’t feel like going inside, you can just visit the garden, which has 30 plant species that only grow in Bulgaria. The building was originally intended to function as an Islamic school but was never actually used with this purpose. It became a military facility and later on a campus linked to Plovdiv University. It was transformed into a museum between 1980 and 1983. The museum now has one of the richest collections in Southern Bulgaria, that includes many cultural and natural artefacts specific to this region. Monastery Yoan Predtecha is on the southern bank of Arda river, which divides the city into two parts. The place was destroyed at some point in history and its ruins were only found in 1930. Then it was reconstructed in 2000. Artefacts found during the excavations at this place are on display in the Kardzhali Museum of History, mentioned in the previous paragraph. There’s another monastery in the south of Kardzhali that you could visit - The Assumption of the Virgin Monastery. The garden is beautiful in spring, with many flowers and blossoming trees. For this monastery, a color pattern of blue and yellow is used, typical for Middle Eastern Christianity. As most cities in Bulgaria, Kardzhali is a very historical as well. It’s been inhabited from the Neolithic era. This era began around 15.200 B.C. and lasted until between 4.500 B.C. and 2.000 Kardzhali B.C. However, the area around Kardzhali is more mountainous than, for example Stara Zagora, which is an ancient city as well. For that reason, this area was used for building fortresses high upon the mountain tops, so the enemy could be seen from afar. Just 10 kilometres east of Kardzhali is the Monyak Fortress. Again, best is to find it in Google Maps. There is no actual fortress left on top of this hill, just the remains. Drive up with your rental car until you can go no further, park and hike the steep path up. It should take half an hour or so to reach the top. You have, arguably, one of the most stunning views in Bulgaria, all around you. You’ll see villages with several mosques dotting the countryside. This place is not that far from Turkey, it’s about a 130 kilometres from Kardzhali to the Turkish border by car. During the Ottoman era, Bulgaria changed radically and in over 500 years, many Turks lived all over the country. Especially so in the Southeast. Many left for Turkey after Bulgaria became an independent state. Still, Turkish is quite widely understood in Southeastern Bulgaria, depending on where you go though. In villages with mosques, you’ll likely come across some ‘Pomak’ people. These are the Bulgarian muslims, Pomaks make up about 220.000 of the complete Bulgarian population. The Balkans is a region of diversity and Bulgaria is no different. It makes the region fascinating to visit because each and every village has a culture of its own. Monyak Fortress Devil’s Bridge Arda River Another one of Bulgaria’s highlights is the Devil’s Bridge (Дяволският мост). It was built in 1518. It’s about half an hour walking from the village of Dyadovtsi. The village Dyadovtsi is just a 38-kilometre drive from Kardzhali. In the village, you’ll see the very unfortunate effect of what depopulation does to the countryside. Many people left for the big cities or abroad for future perspectives, meaning that many houses are left without inhabitants. On the positive side, people are starting to see the immense potential Southeastern Bulgaria has for tourism. Guesthouses are opening, village squares are slowly being renovated and with the influx of more visitors, the future should be good. The nature is stunning and wild. You’re in a remote corner of the European Union. A unique place that will certainly last in your memory. As you approach the Devil’s Bridge, you’ll find that it’s well maintained and, depending on the season, that it has a unique atmosphere. It’s a place where you find peace, you’re truly surrounded by nature here. If the wind doesn’t blow and the water is still, you can capture perfect pictures with the reflection of the bridge in the water. Autumn is probably the best time to visit, with a slight chance of rain however. The colours of the trees, the clear water of the Arda river and the sight of the arched bridge probably make this one of Europe’s most scenic places. Historically, the Devil’s Bridge is part of the ancient road connecting the Thrace region with the Aegean coast of Greece. It crosses the Arda river. By the way, you can even visit the source of the Arda river, in the village of Arda. It’s on the Greek border. If you have the time to drive there all the way from Kardzhali, you’ll get a good impression of the Southern Rhodope mountains. From this point on, you can either head back north or west to reach Sofia. You can easily see more of the Rhodope mountains on your way back, there are several roads you can take. For example past Chepelare and Asenovgrad or Pamporovo and Devin, or even Dospat and Batak. These places are all described in this separate post about the Western Rhodope mountains (http://savoyrent.com/en/exploring-the-rhodope-mountains-blog2176.html). by Leon de Leeuw Website: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/ Youtube: Visit Read more fantastic stories about Bulgaria: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/travel-bulgariaread more
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