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.
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).
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.
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/).
Read more fantastic stories about Bulgaria: https://www.leondeleeuw.net/travel-bulgaria
Savoy Rent a Car is one of the leading car rental companies in Bulgaria established in 2003. Our goal is to provide our customers with high quality services at the most competitive rates. Savoy offers a wide range of vehicles. Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure, we have a vehicle to suit your needs. Our fleet contains economy, compact, mid-size, SUV, minivans and full size cars. We guarantee: - Unlimited mileage - Full insurance coverage - 24/7 customer support - Free delivery - Delivery & transfers to every point in Bulgariaread more
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-bulgariaread more
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