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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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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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Exploring the Rhodope Mountains

One of Bulgaria’s many attractive landscapes – the Rhodope mountains – are in Southern Bulgaria. At just about two hours from Sofia and forty minutes from Plovdiv, you drive right into them. You’ll pass steep cliffs and deep valleys. You’ll have wide views over mountain lakes and rivers. Enjoy a coffee in a small village surrounded by green, wild mountains. Or, what about sleeping in a traditional, Rhodope-style guest house? Your hosts will make sure you feel very welcome, by pouring you some homemade rakia or even preparing you a meal with produce from their own garden! It has never been so easy to explore Bulgaria. The Rhodope mountains, some of the last remaining wilderness of Europe, is more accessible than ever. Good roads connect the towns and you can get high up to explore any village. Follow your senses – you never know what you’ll find. Waterfalls, green meadows with flocks of sheep or one of the many regional museums. The Rhodope mountains are packed with treasures that are yours to explore!   As you drive east from Sofia, make sure to leave the highway early and check out the remains of the ancient fortress ‘Tryanova vrata’. Meaning ‘The Gate of Trajan’, the fortress reminds us of the ancient border between the regions Thrace and Macedonia. Bulgarian historians know this place, on top of a hill, for the major Battle of the Gates of Trajan. It was fought in 986, between Byzantine and Bulgarian forces. Bulgaria had a great victory over the Byzantines – this was the largest defeat of the Byzantines whom fought under emperor Basil II. After checking out the remains and imagining the enormous battle in what is nowadays a quiet forest, let’s continue towards the Rhodope mountains.   Dospat Reservoir Беловска базилика Velingrad   Take the old road to Burgas instead of the highway, passing through Momin Prohod and Kostenets. Don’t forget to check out the Chavcha waterfall just a few kilometres out of Kostenets, easily accessible by car. Then, if the weather’s on your side, have a swim in the public pool just east of Belovo. You’ll notice paper is sold on the streets of Belovo, the town has a large paper mill. Seemingly an uninteresting town, its history dates back to the New Stone Age. Evidence of inhabitation dates back as far as the Third until Sixth Millenium B.C. Belovo is a rather important town in Bulgarian history. Remains of a large basilica (6th Century) can still be admired at about 10 kilometres south of Belovo, 1,5 kilometres from the neighbouring town Golyamo Belovo. The last part of the trail, leading towards the basilica, is inaccessible by car. Therefore, check Google Maps for ‘Беловска базилика’. You´ll be close to the fortress, yet it can be hard to find because of the lack of signs. Batak Trigrad Golyam Beglik   You are now in the Rhodope mountains. Should you drive south, you´ll be right between the Rila mountains (Western Bulgaria) and the Rhodope mountains (South/Southeastern Bulgaria). You may choose to drive south and visit Velingrad for a luxurious spa retreat. There are many stunning hotels – yet there are plenty of regular guesthouses as well. You may design your trip as you like, Velingrad has something to offer for each individual. Yet, everyone enjoys the same in the end, the quiet and relaxed atmosphere, the pure and fresh air coming from the mountains and the dark skies packed with stars at night. No matter the direction you choose, it would be a pity to skip a visit to Batak. This serene mountain town has houses in a typical Northern Rhodope style. This means most houses are built of bricks and concrete, whereas houses in the Southern Rhodopes are mostly built of wood and finished with a white layer of plaster. Batak is again a historical town. As in several places in Bulgaria, remains of several Thracian, Byzantine and Slavic fortresses were registered in the area. During the Ottoman era, Batak played an important role. Especially in the April Uprising in 1876. The Batak Massacre was one of the most horrific acts to the Bulgarian people. Eventually, it was reported worldwide and this caused an outcry in many nations. This created a favourable position for the Russians to eventually enter and take a stand against the Ottomans. The Old Church, right next to the New Church in the center, is a historical monument to be visited when you’re in Batak.   Yagodinska cave Chepelare Rhodopes   Nowadays, Batak is a popular destination from tourists from all over Bulgaria and abroad. The forests around are very dense and just stunning. Plenty of attractions can be seen nearby, such as the Batak Dam at 8 kilometres from town. There’s plenty of hiking opportunities nearby, such as to the peak Golyama Syutkya (2.186m.). Or, how about exploring the underground world? Bulgaria is famous for its many caves and Snejanka, at 15 kilometres north of Batak, happens to be one of the most beautiful. Snejana means ‘snow white’ in Bulgarian, in case of the cave this derives from the nature-made crystal-white figure in the main hall of the cave. This hall is called the Magic Hall.   You could continue south, past the two main attractions in the Batak region – the Golyam Beglik and Shiroka Polyana reservoirs. It’s lovely to have a picknick by the side of the water, or to visit one of the many restaurants that serve local, Rhodope specialties. Again, the nature is quite wild and bears, foxes and deer are just a few of the many inhabitants of the deep forests. Farther south is the second largest reservoir in Bulgaria, the Dospat Reservoir. Named after the town Dospat, on the Southeastern end of the reservoir, this place is again rich of many flora and fauna. Even though accessing the lake other than from the Southeastern part is quite hard, this doesn’t stop many fishermen and tourists from the excellent opportunities for recreation in this area. The views of the lake and the forests around it are just breathtaking.   Bachkovo Waterfall Bachkovo Monastery Zlatograd   The people in Dospat mostly rely on logging, woodworking and the textile industry. Hunting is also thriving and so is the picking of forest fruits through summer. Tourism is developing and several families are now more than willing to accommodate you in their hotels. Through summer, water sports and activities on and around the water are plentiful. The area is beautiful to visit for at least a day.   Now that you’re in the Southern Rhodopes, almost on the Bulgarian-Greek border, let’s move east. The Yagodinska cave is the longest in the Rhodopes and the third longest in Bulgaria, with its impressive 10.500 metres of length. Home to 11 species of bats, this cave is very important for Bulgaria’s biodiversity. Only a small part of the cave can be seen by tourists. Interestingly, the upper part of the cave was found to be the place of an ancient dwelling, having stood here in 4.000 B.C. Excavations led archaeologists to believe that this, at one point, was an important center for production of pottery and ceramics. The site was abandoned after an earthquake and the cave was discovered in 1963 by the Speleological Club of Chepelare, a town not too far away. Make sure to bring something warm to wear, as the part accessible for visitors is at a constant temperature of only 6 degrees Celcius.   From beneath the ground, it’s now time to go all the way up.. At only 2,4 kilometres from the Yagodinska cave is the Eagle’s Eye, a steep climb, however. A steel construction with a view platform raises 670 metres above the ground, at some 1563 metres above sea level! Here, you have a wide view over the Southern Rhodopes and it shouldn’t surprise you that this is one of the most popular sights in the whole of Southern Bulgaria. You should be able to see the peaks in Greece from a distance. Make sure to bring sun block, as the summers in Bulgaria are warm and you’re out in the open on this platform.   Should you be in the mood for seeing another cave, drive on through the Trigrad Gorge, a dramatic landscape of steep cliffs. After a while, you’ll arrive in Trigrad. There, you find one of Bulgaria’s most spectacular caves. It’s called the Devil’s Throat. It is said that the entrance of this cave resembles the devil’s head and through the cave rushes a gigantic waterfall. This is the so-called ‘throat’. The highest underground waterfall on the Balkan peninsula. Many attempted to track where this river goes after it falls down for 42 metres, yet pieces of wood never came out on the other side, outside the cave. It’s obligatory to be accompanied by a guide inside. The steps up and down are secured by a railing you can hold. In the evening, retreat to one of the many guesthouses around or enjoy a spa treatment in the town of Devin.   You have the possibility to continue farther east into the Rhodope mountains, all the way to the border with Turkey. South of Trigrad is Greece, so you’ll have to go north or east to continue your tour of the Bulgarian side. Either continue east towards Smolyan, Zlatograd and the Devil’s Bridge. These are all wonderful places in the Rhodope mountains that totally reward the patient traveler, driving through the mountains curve after curve. Continue north to Kardzhali, with the huge Kardzhali and Kladenets reservoirs. Enjoy some freshly caught fish in one of the lakeside restaurants just outside the city. Then, continue north to Perperikon, an ancient arcthitectural complex that dates back as far as 5.000 B.C.   Should you want to return towards Sofia earlier instead of taking this detour, drive east from Devin and take the road north near Smolyan. You’ll have a wonderful trip through the Central Rhodopes, past towns such as Chepelare and sights such as the Wondrous Bridges. You’ll pass Bachkovo Monastery and eventually Asen’s Fortress, just south of Asenovgrad. Then, you’ll be close to Plovdiv and with a good impression of Bulgaria’s unique Rhodopes, you can head west to Sofia by taking the highway again. 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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Why visiting Bulgaria is a perfect choice

Welcome to Bulgaria. Easily accessible from all corners of the world. Especially from within Europe, Bulgaria is just a few hours away at most! There’s the low-cost airlines now, that connect the capital Sofia with many other West-European cities. WizzAir now even has an inland flight to Varna, on the coast. Then there’s Ryanair connecting Sofia and Plovdiv, the second largest city, to other countries. These flights are affordable, for sure outside the high season. Train connections between the Balkan countries are available, just not between Bulgaria and Macedonia directly. There’s good bus transport between all countries and cities so you shouldn’t experience any trouble getting into Bulgaria.   Bulgaria is quite easy to navigate as well. Especially so when you hire a rental car. Even though traffic in the Bulgarian capital might seem daunting at first, once you get behind the wheel you will certainly be fine! Once you’re out of the city, you will find that most roads are quiet and you can drive at a leisurely pace. The roads are pretty much open to go wherever you wish. And, there are endless itineraries! The signs are both in Cyrillic as well as in Latin script. You can easily download an offline area map on your phone. Or take GPS. Still, should you find yourself lost, you can always ask the people! They will go out of their way to help you find your destination. That’s surely a good reason to visit Bulgaria, its people!   Asen's Fortress Ovech Fortress Koprivshtitsa   They then, after many generations, came to inhabit the Thracian and Slavic areas of what is now Bulgaria. It is surprising to many but the Cyrillic script is actually from Bulgaria. In the First Bulgarian Empire (681–1018), the ancient Bulgarian capital Pliska had the Preslav Literary School. It was founded in 885. There, the script was developed and named after the brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius. They created the Glagolitic alphabet earlier on, which then formed the basis of the Cyrillic alphabet, together with the Greek Uncial script. Uncial script is written entirely in capital letters and it was used to write in both Greek and Latin. The Cyrillic script spread in the form of literature and became known as Old Church Slavonic, which is now extinct. Regional varieties, especially spoken, resulted in the differences we have in Slavic languages today. Still, many countries in Eastern Europe, as far as into Asia, use the Cyrillic alphabet.   The Wonderful Bridges Stara Planina Mountain Zheravna   Needless to say, a good reason to visit Bulgaria is the country’s tremendous history. Bulgaria holds an important position in Europe. Bulgaria is truly on the crossroads between West and East, on the border of the European Union. Surrounded by countries with completely different people, cultures and languages. The country was home to so many tribes over the past thousands of years - and was under Ottoman rule for over five hundred years as well. Many left their footsteps on the Bulgarian soil, yet the national identity always remained. It is fascinating to just imagine the fact that Bulgarian culture, folklore and literature survived strong suppression for hundreds of years. The Bulgarian soul has known hardship and yet it still thrives. People realize the historical wealth they have – the golden treasures found in for example Varna and Panagyurishte, as well as many other Thracian remains found all over the country. Most major cities in the country have a historical museum where you can see many findings. In Sofia, the Archaeological Museum in the center as well as on the southern ring road have the most varied displays.   Literary geniuses such as Ivan Vazov and national heroes like Vasil Levski and Hristo Botev are still honoured until today, many historical figures even have national holidays devoted to them. Century-old monasteries are dotted all over the country, as well as remains of ancient fortresses that can be visited. For example, the fortress above Lovech city or Ovech fortress in Provadia town. Most importantly, in terms of history, the stories of the people, that tell of battles that have taken place which are largely unheard of in history classes in other countries. Battles that have been responsible for the shaping of Europe as we see today. If you are interested in history, you should not have a dull moment in Bulgaria. And if history is not what you’re exactly interested in, it will still overwhelm you. Bulgaria’s history will drag you along, you feel it in every city and village and in every street.   Lovech Karlovo Chavcha Waterfall   You see history in the layers of architecture in central Sofia, where ancient churches are facing socialist structures and modern, glass-faced buildings. The Boyana church on the outskirts of Sofia, or the Rila monastery at just 170 kilometres from the capital. The Roman theatre of Plovdiv, which is one of the best preserved theatres worldwide! It’s from the First Century so two thousands years old, and still leaves spectators in awe. If you’re in Bulgaria in summer, you might just be in luck and attend an open-air show, which will make you feel like you’re part of the setting, in this city that had its first inhabitants in the 6th millennium BC! You’ll find a completely different atmosphere wandering through Zheravna, where the streets are lined with over two hundred wooden houses from the Bulgarian National Revival period (18th and 19th century). All just fascinating!   Bulgaria boasts several types of landscapes on a small territory. Steep mountains, green hills, deep canyons and endless sunflower fields. The beaches and pine forests, the cliffs and many rock formations. Bulgaria truly has a lot to offer. Nature is safe and yet it is wild – you can truly get lost in the endless forests. If you'd cross Bulgaria, the main thing you notice is how much nature the country has. It's everywhere – almost each town is surrounded by forests that you can just walk into. Also, much of the nature remains freely accessible so you won't come across any fences holding you back. The number of marked trails you can follow is increasing quickly. You can truly feel like a free man in Bulgaria – endless possibilities for exploration such as hiking, riding bikes and for thrill-seekers, how about paragliding?   The Roman theatre of Plovdiv Rila Monastery Boyana Church   There's large mountain huts, where hikers can spend the night and gaze at the stars. Or, enjoy the hot mineral water sources at for example Banya and Hisarya near Karlovo, in central Bulgaria. Get a luxurious spa treatment – feel completely regenerated after a mud bath or wine-thermal therapy. Or, how does a wellness body therapy with natural rose oil sound? Options are endless and in few places around the world is wellness as accessible as in Bulgaria. Combine your wellness retreat with some nature and history – the Sredna Gora mountains are just southwest of the Karlovo region. Koprivshtitsa town is one of the country’s main sights. It played a major role in the country’s National Uprising against the Ottoman occupation. Still, typical Bulgarian architecture can be admired and some truly good Bulgarian dishes should be tasted! Koprivshtitsa regularly hosts famous folklore festivals, when the town is dressed up in traditional clothing and people dance through the streets.   Then there’s Karlovo itself, the birthplace of national hero Vasil Levski as well as an access point to the Stara Planina mountains and the Rose Valley. The area, cultivated fore many centuries, produces world-famous Bulgarian rose oil and perfumes. Did you know 85% from the world’s rose oil production has roses from this valley? Make sure to visit the Suchurum waterfall right next to Karlovo, or how about tasting a good Bulgarian wine in the old town, which managed to keep the spirit of the Bulgarian National Revival? From Karlovo, you could head south to Plovdiv – one of Europe’s oldest cities – or Asenovgrad with Asen’s fortress and the Chudnite Mostove natural bridges a bit farther into the Rhodope mountains. Then, visit towns at the foot of these mountains, such as Krichim. Or, head for the Rila Mountains - Kostenets with its Chavcha waterfall or the ski resort Borovets are on your way back to Sofia – so make sure to do some hiking as well. Borovets, in the middle of green forests, is popular for hiking but you could always come back to ski as well – you will then again get a completely different view of Bulgaria. In short, Bulgaria has it all. We haven’t even discussed the seaside yet! Either way, we will develop an itinerary with you. Go wherever the road and your senses might take you! 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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