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The beauty of Northeastern Bulgaria

24.09.2017

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.

 

 

  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

 

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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