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NEWS: NEW WIZZ ROUTE TO MALAGA FROM MARCH

Wizz Air, the largest low-cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe and Bulgaria’s leading carrier, today announced a new route from Sofia to sunny Malaga. Commencing on 27 March 2018, the newest WIZZ service will be operated twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, providing customers with a convenient schedule for weekend getaways.  Malaga is a port city on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol, which is renowned for its beautiful landscapes, fabulous beaches, rich cultural heritage and excellent cuisine. Enjoying an annual average of nearly 3000 hours of sunshine, Costa del Sol is a popular holiday destination all year round. wizzair.com

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Car rental in Sofia, 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 Bulgaria

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Discover Kardzhali Region

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-bulgaria

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Great trip through the heart of Bulgaria

Let’s head to the northern part of Central Bulgaria, easily reached from Sofia by taking the Hemus highway northeast out of town. We’ll have your rental car, including insurance, ready in Sofia! You just need to pack your bags and perhaps, at least in high season and during holidays, book some hotel rooms. We at Savoy Rent a Car will help you organize your trip – it’s our pleasure to design an itinerary together, which matches your interests. Here’s a proposal which can be easily modified to meet your personal needs.   As you drive out of Sofia, you’ll directly notice that there’s little traffic on the road. Even though Sofia is a busy city, Bulgaria is a large country and the roads are pretty quiet. It’s easy to drive off into the country if there’s little traffic on the road. You’ll directly pass some petrol stations so fuel up and perhaps have a good coffee and a harty snack, such as a ‘banitsa’. Admittedly, you can find better banitsa in places other than the petrol station, yet it’s pretty good and so are the other snacks and sandwiches – in addition to good coffee. The petrol stations in Bulgaria are especially well-equipped, all with WiFi of course, so you can check the progress of your trip or share some snaps.   Teteven   Let’s continue – hop in your rental car and head northeast again. You’ll pass Pravets, with the luxurious RIU resort in the valley. You’ll see it from the highway. Then, take the exit at Yablanitsa and follow the direction Teteven/Ribaritsa. Then, before Glozhene village, turn right to Malak Izvor. Best is to use a form of navigation at this point, such as an offline Google Maps download or the Navmii Bulgaria app (free). Then it’s just a few kilometres to Glozhenski monastery. It’s a windy, steep road, best is not to do this in winter. Avoid any danger – don’t go up in case of ice or snow. The road is just too narrow.   Parking costs two leva per car. It’s then just a few minutes of walking to the monastery gates. It’s situated right on top of a mountain. Tall rock formations surround the complex. You have a wide view on the Teteven valley. The complex was built in a typical Bulgarian style, white walls with woodwork for support. The church, in the middle of the courtyard rises above the surrounding buildings. History tells us that Georgi Glozh (from the Eastern Slavic Kievan Rus) was permitted to stay in this area. He then built another monastery, not too far away. These two monasteries were then connected by a tunnel. The tunnel, as well as the initial monastery, were destroyed because of earthquakes. Only Glozhenski monastery, which we see now, has remained. On 6 May, St. George Day, celebrations take place at the monastery.   Back down from the monastery, in Malak Izvor, there are two guesthouses. You can stay at the Little Spring guesthouse or at guesthouse Izvorche. This is the light blue house on the left side, heading out of the village coming from the monastery. It's hard to miss. Their phone number: 00359888550720. Now it’s just a few kilometres to Glozhene village. Just past the village, on your left, you find restaurant Mehana Vidrite. Right behind it, a waterfall drops from the cliffs. Nearby is a complex of vacation homes, also named Vidrite (http://vidrite.com).   Buzludzha Shipka Bozhentsi   Now let’s get back into the rental car and continue east, towards Troyan. You’ll pass Teteven and Ribaritsa, at the foot of the northern slopes of Stara Planina mountain range. Visit Teteven monastery or one of the several museums; the Historical museum, Bobevska house museum, Hadzhiivanova house museum or the Yorgova house museum. Ivan Vazov, Bulgaria’s most legendary writer, proclaimed Teteven to be a paradise: "Had I not come to Teteven, I would have remained a foreigner to mother Bulgaria ... I have been wandering, I have been rambling, but I have not seen a more wondrous paradise." And it’s not hard to see where he got this impression from. Even though Teteven was nearly completely destroyed in the country’s long history, there’s some impressive architecture left. Combine this with a fresh breeze from Vit river and the views of surrounding mountains, you get the picture.   Just 12 kilometres east of Teteven is Ribaritsa, which is a long-stretched village. A popular mountain resort, the road is lined with guesthouses and hotels, as well as some good local restaurants. Now east of Ribaritsa, you drive through some pretty scenery and past traditional villages. Then, you’ll arrive in the city of Troyan. First of all, the town itself, that is cut in half by the Beli Osam river. A small town center with several craft work stores, their local pottery is famous all over Bulgaria, if not the whole Balkans. The local clay soil lends itself for this craft. Across of the municipality, there’s the town museum where you find some fine examples. You shouldn’t miss Troyan monastery; yes, indeed, Bulgaria is packed with monasteries! This is the third largest in Bulgaria. Just like at Glozhenski monastery, Troyanski monastery has a celebration on St. George Day, May 6th.   Now let’s travel east, on the way to Gabrovo. You’ll pass villages and cities such as Oreshak and Apriltsi, all popular getaways for the Bulgarians. Then Gabrovo is another pretty city, situated on Yantra river. It’s surrounded by hills and very close to the Stara Planina mountain range. Because it’s in the Yantra River Valley, it is stretched and narrow at some points. It’s the longest city in Bulgaria, over 25 kilometres and at some parts just one kilometre in width. It’s the Capital of Humour of Bulgaria – its people like to crack jokes. You can learn more about the local humour in the Racho Stoyanov Drama Theatre and the puppet theatre, as well as the House of Humour and Satire. This place also functions as a museum. Gabrovo has some fine examples of Bulgarian National Revival (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgarian_National_Revival) architecture. The geographical center of Bulgaria, Uzana, is just 22 kilometres from the city. There, you find year-round opportunities for tourism. Gabrovo is also the basis for trips to the architectural villages Etara and Bozhentsi, Sokolski monastery, Dryanovo monastery, Tryavna city, Veliko Tarnovo, the Shipka Pass and the Buzludzha monument. You could have a good trip even if just staying in Gabrovo and making excursions from there.   Tryavna Troyan Monastery Ribaritsa   To highlight one more place to visit in Bulgaria, you could go to Veliko Tarnovo. Do not miss Dryanovo monastery on the way, which was founded in the 12th Century during the era of the Second Bulgarian Empire. It was burnt down twice during the Ottoman reign and was rebuilt at its original place in 1845. Tarnovo was the capital of this Second Bulgarian Empire from 1185 –1393. The empire itself lasted from 1185 to 1396. Then to honour the city’s historical status, Veliko was added to its name, meaning “Great”. The city is beautifully situated on the Yantra river and on three hills, Tsarevets, Trapezitsa, and Sveta Gora.   Veliko Tarnovo has a history far longer than most European cities, it’s one of Bulgaria’s oldest – dating back to 3.000 years B.C. During the Medieval Era, Veliko Tarnovo was an influential city. As the Byzantine Empire weakened in the 14th Century, the people of Tarnovo even proclaimed it to be the “Third Rome”. There were sizable populations of minorities such as Armenians, Jews and many foreign tradesmen. The whole Bulgarian Empire then was made part of the Ottoman Empire, from the 14th until the 19th Century. Make sure to visit the Tsarevets fortress, which was the most important stronghold of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The hilly old town is fantastic to just walk around and explore, the small streets with good restaurants and small hotels, as well as little shops and good views over the river, will make sure you want to revisit!   On your way back to Sofia, you could drive for three hours on the main road that becomes a highway at Yablanitsa. Or, drive back to Gabrovo, the ethnographic town Etar, Sokolski monastery and take the Shipka Pass with the similarly named monument. This was the site of horrific battles between the Russians and Bulgarians against the Ottomans, in 1877 - ‘78. The Russian Orthodox church of Shipka and the Buzludzha monument are close, so is the Thracian tomb in the town of Kazanlak (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/44). Then, on the way back west, you could visit historical Kalofer, Karlovo or Sopot and take the lift up into the mountains (http://lift-sopot.com/).   by Leon de Leeuw Website: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/ Youtube: Visit Read more fantastic stories about Bulgaria: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/travel-bulgaria

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Best places to visit near Sofia

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!   Vitosha Mountain   Day 1 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.   Day 2 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   Day 3 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.   Day 4 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"   Day 5 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!   by Leon de Leeuw Website: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/ Youtube: Visit Read more fantastic stories about Bulgaria: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/travel-bulgaria

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The beauty of Northeastern Bulgaria

A bit farther from Sofia but certainly worth the trip – Northeastern Bulgaria. You wouldn’t normally visit all the way from Sofia but actually, the few hundred kilometres are easy to do in chunks. There’s so much to see on the way there that the distance should be no problem at all. The region is unique, just as all others in Bulgaria – yet it feels different. The Northeast has mountains, wide fields and obviously the seaside and Danube river. You have many options – no matter if you like ancient monuments, or you want to see the former Bulgarian capitals, or to go bird watching near the Danube. The choice is yours, let’s begin to outline a few places you can visit on your way to the Northeast.   You’ll start from Sofia, where we’ll have your rental car ready to go. The main roads in Bulgaria are of a good quality and you’ll have no problems driving if you keep the rules that apply in all European countries in mind. Sofia is an excellent place to rent a car – we at Savoy will arrange your insurance and provide you a rental car with unlimited mileage. In addition, we can even help you prepare an itinerary!   Zheravna Veliki Preslav Pliska   Take the Trakiya highway out of Sofia, the direction of Plovdiv. You’ll have an hour or two before you get to Stara Zagora, where you can make a quick stop. Actually, it’s a pretty nice place to spend the night as well. The center is modern and with wide streets and pavements, it’s the perfect place to walk around on a sunny day. Do check out the Defenders of Stara Zagora Memorial Complex, just east of the city center. The complex remembers us of the 14.000 people that lost their lives during the Russian-Turkish Liberation War. Certainly an impressive place to be. If you climb up the stairs, you get a wide view over the city. In the northwest of the city you see some forests, where you’ll also find the Bedechka Park. A good place to spend the night is the Park Hotel Stara Zagora (http://hotelstarazagora.eu/en/hotel/).   Apart from Stara Zagora, you could surely spend the night in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe. The originally Thracian settlement was inhabited by Persians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, Goths, Huns, Bulgarians, Slav-Vikings, Crusaders and Turks. Nowadays, it’s an important economic and cultural center for the country with a fantastic old town to walk around.   No matter where you spent the night – hop in your rental car and continue your trip to the Northeast. Interesting for you to visit might be the city of Sliven, with a pleasant, pedestrianized center. There’s some good local restaurants and plenty of places to have a coffee. Then, you can visit the Sinite Kamani, the Blue Stones. These are just north of Sliven – you’ll spot them from far away. The place is once more linked to a long history and the occupation by the Ottomans. Many freedom fighters – so called ‘haidouks’ - hid in this area because of the many caves. There’s a chairlift you can use – likewise there are trails leading up into the mountains.   Then after Sliven, continue your trip to the village Zheravna. It’s famous all over Bulgaria for the over 200 examples of wooden architecture. These were built during the National Revival Period. Even though it might look like you’re far into a remote area if you look at pictures, the village is actually very easily accessible. Several of the houses have been turned into hotels and outside the high season, you should have no problems finding a place to stay. It does get very cold in winter – the best time to visit is spring to autumn. The place is excellent to have a walk through the surrounding hills and then get back to your guesthouse for a home-made meal with some locally brewed ‘rakia’, fruit brandy.   Get back on the road and continue northeast, it’s not far to your next destination. It’s Veliki Preslav, the second capital of the First Bulgarian Empire. You see the remains of what was once a three square kilometre large city. Veliki Preslav was the Bulgarian capital from 893 to 972. Not too far away, only 45 kilometres, is the first Bulgarian capital. It’s Pliska, which was the capital from between 681 and 893. Again a fantastic place where you can imagine what a lively place it once was.   Right inbetween Veliki Preslav and Pliska you find the city of Shumen – again an excellent place to spend the night. There are plenty of hotels and guesthouses. The city’s history started at the Shumen Plateau, a natural park right north of the city. At that point there was a large fortress, of which you can still see the remains today. The fortress was destroyed by the Ottomans and the local people rebuilt a city in the fields, this is where we find the modern-day city. Shumen grew to become an important commercial center because of its convenient location in the Northeast. The city’s icon is the Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria. Again a communist monument, and a very impressive one. It’s well maintained, as opposed to many other similar monuments in the country. You could take the many stairs leading up from downtown, but best is to come by car. The mosaics leading high up into the concrete make this a very intriguing monument to watch. The view over the wide area is stunning. Interesting to know – this is the heaviest communist monument in the world! Shumen Madara Ovech Fortress   You wouldn’t expect it but the Shumen Plateau, on which both the fortress and the communist monument are located, is quite wild. There even are some inaccessible areas – yet most of the plateau can be reached on foot or by bike. The highest point is 502 metres above sea level. 90% of the are is dense forest. Not surprisingly for Bulgaria, the area is home to many caves. Only a few of the ones on the plateau can be visited. At the place you park your car, right next to the communist monument, is a tourist information center. The employees will happily let you know where you can best walk to see some more of the unique area.   There’s far more to see in the Northeast, so get back to your rental car and leave Shumen from the eastern part. Most interestingly, there’s the Madara Horeman carved into the rocks about 25 kilometres east of Shumen. The Horseman is an incredible sight. Cut into the rocks, way too high to reach. It makes you wonder how it was even possible to make. The era people live in says nothing about the people’s abilities. Humankind truly made some astonishing things and this sight is one of them. If you look closely, you’ll see a lion near the horse. The landmark is on the UNESCO List of World Heritage since 1979. Continue your walk to see some more. Get down one flight of stairs and go to your left. There’s some truly spectacular cliffs and caves to be seen around, before you get back on the road.   After that, You can visit Ovech fortress, which is towered high above the town of Provadia. Again a special place to be – the rolling hills around you and the town far down make you feel like you were somewhere in central France. This area is quite unknown by tourists and you’ll feel as an explorer. The history and beauty of the place, however, makes you think why it isn’t visited more often by tourists.   Aladzha monastery Sea Garden, Varna Targovishte   Should you want to see more on this trip – why not include the seaside in your itinerary! Hit the road east and get to Varna, about 57 kilometres driving. Varna is Bulgaria’s third city, with about 360.000 inhabitants. Like most Bulgarian cities, it has a history that dates way back. Odessos, Varna’s old name, is one of the country's oldest settlements - established around 550 BC. Right at the city entrance, you find the Pobiti Kamani. The name means 'The rocks which got hit'. They are ancient rocks randomly standing in awide field – it is a very interesting sight to see. Like you’re on another planet! Now that you’re in Varna, make sure to check out the center and especially the Sea Garden. There’s types of plants and trees from all over the world and the park is always full with people relaxing and enjoying themselves. In fact, you haven’t seen Varna if you leave out the Sea Garden from your program.   Then, 15 kilometres northeast of Varna, is Aladzha monastery. Do stop by – this cave monastery is one of the most popular places to see on the Black Sea coast. The Christian name of the Monastery is unknown. The name “aladzha” (alaca) has a Persian – Arabian origin meaning “bright”. Again, the history of the place will overwhelm all history enthusiasts. The Black Sea coast itself is a good place to explore – you have the Botanical Gardens near Balchik as well as the Balchik Palace complex. A completely different scenery compared to the rest of the country – you’ll feel as in a part of paradise.   You may visit a seaside resort such as Albena, which is excellent for families, or Krapets which is more focused on individual travelers. Either way, hotels and guesthouses are lined all over the coast and outside the high season, you just need to show up and you’ll have yourself a room. On your way back to Sofia, there’s many possible itineraries you could make. Go south and visit Burgas, Bulgaria’s fourth city, or go northwest to Dobrich and Silistra. Then, watch the many migratory birds in the Srebarna national reserve, visit Targovishte and possibly even Troyan with its famous monastery. Literally, the possibilities are endless. Bulgaria awaits you to come explore!   by Leon de Leeuw Website: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/ Youtube: Visit Read more fantastic stories about Bulgaria: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/travel-bulgaria  

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A short trip to Greece by car

Even though there’s plenty to see in Bulgaria itself, the central location of this Balkan country allows you to easily divert to another place. Rent a car from Sofia and you’re able to explore Serbia, Romania or even Greece. Distances are relatively short. Rent your car with Savoy Rent a Car and request a border crossing for 39EUR. We will make sure your insurance is in check and you can hit the road, on your way to the border.   It’s most certainly possible for you to visit some places in Bulgaria with your rental car and then cross the border – meaning you will see some of Bulgaria as well. In fact, there’s plenty to see on the way. In this post, we will expand on the option of traveling to Greece. A stunning country that shares its northern border partly with Bulgaria. Greece is, for obvious reasons, a popular travel destination for Bulgarians. It’s relatively close – in 182 kilometres from the Savoy Rent a Car office, you’re at the Greek border. Even though there’s still passport control, the check is fast and with the documents we’ll have arranged for you, crossing to this mediterranean country is a breeze. You now have access to explore the whole area of Northern Greece. Or, if time allows you to go farther, why not explore Central Greece or even Western Greece? There’s literally tons of places for you to see. If you come outside high season, you won’t even need hotel reservations. Follow your senses, drive on and find a place to sleep wherever suits you. Near the beach or in a small mountain village, near the Meteora monastery or the Olympia mountain? It’s all possible. Greece is very accessible from Bulgaria, especially by rental car and traveling from Sofia. The road to the border is of a good quality with almost a third being highway. Then, the Greek roads are in an excellent state as well. There are toll roads but these are quite affordable. Besides, the roads are quiet outside the high season, when there’s not a lot of holiday traffic.   Kyustendil Blagoevgrad Dupnitsa Rila Park   You’ll most likely have to think hard when designing your itinerary – that’s why we’re able to help you! We’ll advise you on where to go and have your rental car ready in Sofia. You can cross the border to Greece by rental car and have a care-free vacation. First, let’s expand on what’s to see in Bulgaria on the way to the border. It would be a pity to drive past the many sights on the way abroad, after all. First, take the highway southwest from Sofia. The direction is Kulata. Get off at Pernik and drive past the Pchelina lake. Then, visit the little town Zemen and its Zemen monastery. An authentic, quiet place that only few foreign travelers visit. Make sure to hike through the Zemenski Prolom eco trail as well. It’s a trail through a steep canyon, along the Strimon river. A stunning, rocky scenery. You can walk quite far and even have a picknick at one of the tables put in place for visitors. Do make sure to wear long-sleeved pants because ticks could be present in the tall grass. This is a risk for the spring and summer months.   After visiting quaint Zemen, continue south towards Kyustendil. It has a nice center with a large square and the excellent Strimon Spa Hotel. You can also visit just to use the spa center. Then, hop back in your rental car and head east. Stop by in Nevestino village, where you find the impressive Kadin Bridge, built in 1470. Read here (http://kustendil.com/en/landmarks/view/3/45/Kadin-Bridge-%E2%80%93-village-of-Nevestino) about the legend of the bridge. Then, you could visit Dupnitsa, another pleasant town where you can have a stroll through the Rila Park. Not the national park, the city park that’s also called Rila. Modern and with some good playgrounds for kids. Just beautiful. Now we’re there, the Rila Mountains are quite close. You could drive in for a bit or visit the Rila monastery, one of Bulgaria’s most iconic sights. Blagoevgrad is another cool city to visit. A lively student town where you find some good restaurants, shops and nightlife. Blagoevgrad is continuously ranked as one of Bulgaria’s most liveable cities, it’s a young place that attracts many families as a good place to live. You can see these families strolling through the city park, along the Bistritsa river. Essentially, the park continues right into the Rila Mountains.   Zemen Monastery Panagia Monastery Kerkini Lake   Right south of Blagoevgrad is the Kresna gorge. The gorge was formed by the Struma river over many thousands of years. In 1913, this was the place where the gruesome Battle of the Kresna gorge (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kresna_Gorge) took place. It was fought between the Greeks and Bulgarians, during the Second Balkan War.  At the beginning of the gorge, there’s a place where you can do rafting (http://www.adventurenetbg.com/sports.php?lang=en&sid=3&tab=pro&pid=11). If you pay close attention, after passing through the Kresna gorge, you’ll see another mountain chain arise on your left. These are the Pirin Mountains, definitely some of the most stunning places in Bulgaria. The mountains are quite steep but you could make some excellent hikes. One of the bases is Sandanski – there are plenty of good spa hotels and guesthouses. Right south of Sandanski, you’ll be on the Greek border.   After a good stretch of highway through Greece, you’ll pass Thessaloniki. This is the country’s second largest city, after Athens. Thessaloniki is a surprisingly large yet relatively unknown city. It has a vibrant nightlife and is packed with culture – as well as with ancient sites. Thessaloniki has been inhabited for 3.000 years, continuously. You’ll find relics of Byzantine, Roman, Ottoman, Jewish and obviously Greek heritage. The Byzantine walls surrounding the center are still standing and so is the White Tower, the city’s landmark. It functions as a museum as well (http://www.inthessaloniki.com/en/white-tower-museum). By visiting, you’ll get a good impression on the geography and the historical and present life in the city of Thessaloniki. Take a walk along Nikis Avenue on the waterfront and enjoy a strong Greek coffee. It’s time to take your rental car again – why not visit one of the many beaches Greece counts?   Greece   If you take a look at the map, you’ll see the region of Halkidiki southeast of Thessaloniki. The region consists of three peninsulas. Actually, the region is one peninsula but you’ll see three strips of land reaching far into the Aegean Sea. These three strips, from west to east, are called Kassandra, Sithonia, and Agion Oros. The strips are quite mountainous, yet the roads are good and along the coast mostly straight. Each of the three strips are very popular for tourism, ever since the 1950’s when the people of Thessaloniki visited the quiet villages. Then Germans, Austrians and now people from many Balkan nations like to spend their money in the beach resorts. And rightly so, the beaches are perfectly clean, the restaurants are good and there’s a wide choice in accommodation. Choose one that suits your needs, with your rented car you can drive around as you please. Likewise, in low season, you will have no problem finding a good place to sleep.   In the morning, leave your rental car for a bit and walk along the beach. Even though Greece is close and easy to reach by car, it’s good to take a walk, look at the waves crashing on the beach and have a good Greek coffee at a cafe that is just opening up. In many places, you buy a drink and get a sunbed to enjoy it on. Greece is tourist-friendly, its people are, the infrastructure is – you just feel welcome as a guest. Why not enjoy an excellent breakfast, such as tiganites (Greek pancakes, possibly with huney and walnuts)? Have some fresh orange juice with it, or why not another coffee, and you’re good to go. There’s so many beaches in the Halkidiki region that you can just drive around and stumble upon them. In fact, there’s no need to do any research at all, you drive and will pass some quiet places. Make sure to bring water shoes, as most beaches are sandy, there are stones in the sea. These are difficult and painful to walk on with bare feet.   Greek Coast   If you’ve eventually had enough of the Greek coast, which is hard to imagine, you can make your trip back. Inland, there’s plenty to see as well. On your way back to Bulgaria, you’ll again have to pass Thessaloniki. You might pass by the Monastery Panagia Theoskepastos Sohos – a seemingly newly built monastery with some hospitable nuns and monks. Then right near the border with Macedonia and Bulgaria is Lake Kerkini, which is a popular destination for fishermen and birdwatchers. This is an important migratory route for birds on their way to the Aegean Sea. The lake is quite large – in fact it’s an artificial reservoir that was created in 1932. There’s some good local restaurants around the lake, where you can have a Greek salad and why not a glass of wine. After that, it’s time to go back to Bulgaria, or to enjoy far more of what Greece has to offer. The options are endless. So, let us know your interest, we will prepare your rental car in Sofia and you’re free to go where you wish! Safe travels. Read more fantastic stories about Bulgaria: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/travel-bulgaria by Leon de Leeuw Website: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/ Youtube: Visit  

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The amazing Central part of Bulgaria

The Northern Central part of Bulgaria is a region rarely visited by tourists. Yet, it’s a region with some surprising places to discover. Apart from Veliko Tarnovo, which is east of the itinerary that will be described here. Rent a car in Sofia and start your tour. Car hire in Bulgaria is easy and affordable – with flexible and easy service, we help you on your way. Landscapes are quite varied, from sunflower fields to the steep mountains of the Stara Planina (Balkan) range. Then, in the northernmost part, there’s the Danube river, forming the natural border with Romania. Vast plains, called the Danube Plains, lead towards the river. The region is sunny yet there are plenty of micro climates. In several places it tends to rain more because of the locations surrounded by hills. Teteven and Ribaritsa are two such towns. The area is lovely and green. Actually, the road through Teteven and Ribaritsa is some of the more scenic drives of Bulgaria. Excellent for a roadtrip, and easy to combine with many other destinations. The benefit of car rental in Bulgaria is that you don’t rely on local transportation and you manage to see far more in your trip. Besides, public transport, while relatively reliable, is not always easy to figure out for foreigners. Either way, no matter the place you choose, you’ll have a great time visiting some of the underrated places of Bulgaria. Let’s describe how you can set out on your adventure, starting from Sofia. Take the road north through Svoge, through a hilly landscape. Right after Svoge is the village Bov, a proud, historical village that has two waterfalls. The first one is Pod Kamiko, east of the village. Then there’s the more famous one, Skaklya. It’s on the eco trail ‘Vazova ekopateka’, named after the country’s famous writer Ivan Vazov, who lived in the area. Then, continue past the steep cliffs of Lakatnik. Make a hike all the way up, it looks farther than it actually is. Or, how about rafting down the Iskar river? Just a hundred metes farther ahead from the Lakatnik Cliffs is a rafting base. Two persons is the minimum to take part in this adventure. Then continue northeast. Check out the Diado Yotso statue, the road on your left hand three kilometres after the village Opletnya. Once you get up, have lunch at the excellent local restaurant and admire the statue. It is said that Diado Yotso, meaning grandfather Yotso, used to sit on the hill when the railway line in the valley was constructed. As grandfather Yotso couldn’t see, he loved to listen to the trains pass by. He could often be seen on this hill and the monument was built to remember him. The wide view is just stunning.   Diado Yotso statue Cherepishki monastery Eko-park Zlatna Panega   Continue to the village Zverino, where you find the Oasis complex. Have a swim, enjoy a drink at the bar or try some more Bulgarian dishes. The next stop is Cherepishki monastery, on your left side after a sudden curve. Best is to have navigation so you don’t miss it.   Instead of heading north past Svoge and the Diado Yotso statue, you could take the Hemus highway northeast of Sofia and visit Glozhenski monastery. Steep uphill and with a fantastic view. On 6 May, St. George Day, celebrations take place at the monastery. Then you could continue north to Lukovit. It’s possible to end up here after visiting Svoge and Diado Yotso as well! Right before entering Lukovit, on your left, is the Geopark Zlatna Panega. This place has an eco trail, which you can follow along the Zlatna Panega river. Then, after enjoying the scenery, have a meal or some coffee at restaurant Rodina, right at the entrance of Lukovit - on your right hand. Have a quick walk on the main square of Lukovit, drive around it and turn right towards the Prohodna cave - also called the Eyes of God. As you approach the cave through the hilly landscape, you'd have no idea what’s hidden below you. Park the car and head into the cave – admission is free. Stand in front of the entrance, in awe of the shape of this immense cave. Look if you can see some people inside, so you get some perspective on how big it actually is.   The two holes in the ceiling of the cave do look like eyes, they are equally large and right next to each other. It's great to visit when the sun sets and the beams peek through the eyes - the whole cave lights up as in a golden flood. The eyes are not actually man made, they eroded in these shapes over hundreds of thousands of years. Evidence of human presence was found, people used the cave starting anywhere from 3500 B.C. to 1700 B.C., during the New Stone Age and Bronze Age. The cave has two entrances, most likely you’ll come through the main entrance, where the cars are parked. This is the ‘small entrance’, 35 metres tall. The ‘large entrance’, as you cross through the 262 metre long tunnel, is 45 metres tall. This is Bulgaria’s largest cave arch. Contact us for tips on where to plan an overnight stay – until now the program has become quite intensive. Please note the itinerary can easily be divided into several days – in fact as many as you want. With your rental car, you have the flexibility to design your itinerary just using inspiration and then setting out and following your senses.   Krushunski waterfalls Pleven Bov Village   Time to hit the road again! Head east to Lovech, where you find the famous covered wooden bridge. One of Bulgaria’s most unique landmarks. Inside the bridge, many nice boutiques sell hand-made artefacts such as cups and dishes. Woodwork is still done in the old way and several masters offer their crafts. On the eastern side of the river, which is called Osam, you find a lively square. With many cafes and good restaurants, this is the heart of Lovech. Uphill, you’ll see a large fortress and the statue of Vasil Levski overlooking the city. He’s Bulgaria’s national hero, playing a huge role in the resistance against the Ottomans. Take a walk up through the old quarter called ‘Varosha’ and make sure to visit the Ethnographic Museum on your left hand, or the Vasil Levski museum on your right.   Once uphill, enjoy the wide view over the city and look on the other side of the ridge as well. There’s just a dense forest and you see how close nature is in this country, at all times. Around Lovech, you’ll have many more sights to see. It’s best to have a rental car around Lovech because the best places are then easy to combine in one trip. Rent your car and we’ll help you prepare your trip through Bulgaria.   At 20 kilometres northeast of Lovech you find the Devetashka cave. Another excellent example of the beautiful Bulgarian caves. At its entrance, the cave is 30 metres tall and 35 metres wide. The cave itself has been inhabited by humans for tens of thousands of years, starting from the Old Stone Age about 70.000 years ago. A well-known fact is that The Expendables 2 was partly filmed in this cave. The place is home to 15 species of bats, which make for about 30.000 bats in total! As you leave the cave, on your right hand before the bridge, check the map of the region. There are many more relatively unknown places nearby that are absolutely worth your visit.   Get back to your rental car and continue the trip northeast, it’s only 16 kilometres to the Krushunski waterfalls. This natural phenomenon consists of many pools of natural water flowing downhill. The main waterfall is 20 metres tall – several paths lead around the water pools and you can even reach down and feel the lukewarm water in the midst of summer. The crystal clear water and green vegetation around make this feel like a lush piece of paradise.   If you’d like to see more on this trip, you have a rental car after all, continue to the historical city of Pleven. You’ll have several sights to see, such as the famous Pleven Panorama. This is where the Siege of Pleven took place, during the Ottoman era. The battle of the Russo-Turkish war in 1877 was fought between joint forces Russia and Romania against the Ottomans. Horrific losses on all sides, yet the Ottomans eventually surrendered. There are over 200 monuments by the people of Pleven to honour those who lost their lives in the four battles that took place in the city. The Pleven Panorama is a museum on a hilltop where, inside, you find a panorama painting (115x15 metres) that depicts events of the Russo-Turkish War (1877-’78).   Pleven nowadays is a pleasant city with a calm, pedestrianized center. It’s great to have a walk along the town square, sit by the fountains or visit one of the large parks. The largest is the Skobelev park, where you find the Pleven Panorama. For more impressive art, make sure to visit the Svetlin Rusev Donative Exhibition, a permanent exhibition with over 400 famous works of Bulgarian and foreign artists. These include artworks of Pablo Picasso. Another plus is that admission is free of charge! When visiting Bulgaria, make sure to rent a car in Sofia. It’s affordable and lets you be the most flexible. Not only to visit all the places on this itinerary but to basically drive where you feel like. Bulgaria is a country to explore, each backroad has something to show the curious traveler. Visit Bulgaria, rent a car, and the roads are pretty much open! Read more fantastic stories about Bulgaria: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/travel-bulgaria by Leon de Leeuw Website: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/ Youtube: Visit  

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