This is one of my favourite destinations from our time in Bulgaria. It was one of those times during our visit that we felt like we were running out of places to see. This is obviously not true but Bulgaria is currently not overly explored by tourists, there are numerous hidden gems that only the locals know about, so we could only go by trusty google search and tripadvisor and these sites had minimal ideas. We eventually discovered two caves to possibly explore, one was “The eyes of God” cave and the other was the “Devatashka” cave. My mum has been to the “eyes of God” and loved it and it is popular with tourists because the cave has two holes in the ceiling that look like eyes. Upon researching this cave we decided that, other than the eyes, the cave and location itself wasn’t very interesting. The Devetashka cave looked unreal, there was something larger than life and magical about it and definitely something worthy of Jon’s travel photography, on the way to the Devetashka cave we took a pit-stop in the town of Lovech too.
Lovech doesn’t have a lot going for it overall, it isn’t as interesting as Veliko Tarnovo or Plovdiv but there is a very small old town to walk around and grab some yummy traditional Bulgarian food for lunch. The rest of Lovech is very modern, urban and normal, it isn’t really geared up for holiday makers and feels like a normal European place. And I do believe everywhere in the world needs places like this for locals to live comfortably and go to work without silly tourists and the tourist industry ruining everything. Sometimes, locals just need some peace.
That being said, Lovech does have a small old town and a few quirky attractions, which is great for a pit stop on the way to the caves so I’m glad we didn’t skip this place. It was also one of the best places we’ve found really tasty, authentic Bulgarian food from. Jon even found a traditional spicy dish! This is pretty much unheard of, either because most tourists who visit the usual destinations can’t tolerate spicy food so its taken off the menu, or Bulgarians on occasion do enjoy spicy food but usually the diet is a cross between a Mediterranean and Baltic diet. so stumbling upon a spicy feast was pretty exciting because we love spicy food!
As you enter Lovech, there are two sites waiting to be seen, you can’t miss them. The first is the “covered Bridge”. The bridge crosses the Osam River, connecting the old (Varоsha) and new town parts of Lovech, being possibly the most recognizable symbol of the town. The bridge is one of the few remaining in Europe that have shops in them. Its old, its quaint, its beautiful and you can still venture inside to wander through the small boutiques ran by artisans.
Next to the covered bridge are some brightly coloured, very old, traditional buildings appearing as though they are almost leaning over the side of the embankment of the river. The area around here is very quiet even though near a main road and we were surrounded by beautiful damselflies dancing in the air. A further walk through the old town the path starts to become steeper.
Climbing to the top there is an old fortress to navigate around,The monument of Vasil Levski and a gorgeous view of Lovech below. The Hisriya Fortress (not pictured but worth the visit) is located close to central Lovech, on a hill on the Eastern side of the river Osam. Because of its elevation, this has been a strategically attractive location and therefore, has seen many layers of buildings over the past 3-4 millennia. It is likely that the original construction was a Roman fortress, and was improved and expanded by the Byzantines and later, by the Bulgarians themselves. The Lovech Peach Treaty ended the war of independence of Bulgaria against the Byzantine Empire, and was, therefore, the beginning of the Second Empire. The reasonably well-preserved (or restored) fortress has been the site of ongoing archaeological excavations and coins, utensils, tools, pottery, jewels and other accessories to daily living have been recovered. These objects are largely housed in the Lovech Historical Museum, which is also well worth a visit. The ruins of several churches were found inside or around the fortress. their identity and age are still being debated. While the fortress is of interest, the view from the site, because of its elevation, is beautiful and certainly justifies climbing up the hill.
The small part of Lovech we did see is very pretty and well worth a quick visit. We did also venture slightly into the main town, saw a few interesting churches and other buildings but after a couple of hours leisurely strolling through the old town we had a spot of lunch and headed off to the caves.
Getting to these caves is pretty easy, we had internet connection whilst driving so google maps helped us get there. There is a huge parking lot before you walk over a bridge to get to the entrance. For us, entrance and parking was free for reasons we don’t know, perhaps it was the off season (although we were there in June) or perhaps it was the end of the day? (Jon likes to be in places of striking beauty as the sun rises or sets, as a photographer this is the best light for him to work with. We just strolled in and there weren’t many people there at all and anyone who does visit, its for about 20 minutes before the cave was all ours again. This is probably one of the most beautiful caves I have ever seen, and the biggest! The site is 35 m (115 ft) wide and 30 m (98 ft) high at the entrance. The cave widens after around 40 m (130 ft), forming a spacious hall with an area of 2,400 m2 (26,000 sq ft), a height of 60 m (200 ft) that can reach up to 100 m (330 ft). Several large openings in the ceiling allow daylight to lighten the vast interior, due to commercial use of the site during the 1950s.
We were so impressed by this big natural beauty we stayed until the sun went down (9pm). We both love nature, whilst most people might appreciate natural beauty for 5 minutes before their attention span moves onto their phone or wondering what’s for dinner; we just love sitting in a place like this and taking in everything, taking in the quiet, the colours, finding bizarre bugs, birds and plantlife. Its just wonderful being in the moment in a place like this.
What’s mind blowing about this particular cave is the site has been continuously occupied by Paleo humans for tens of thousands of years, signs of human presence in the cave date back to 70 000 BC! It is now home to nearly 30,000 bats! In the beginning of the 1950s, serious explorations of the cave were held, concerning its transformation into a warehouse. The studies showed that the Devetashka cave used to be inhabited (with some interruptions) during almost every historical era. The Devetashka cave is among the cave deposits with the richest cultural artifacts from the Neolithic (6th millennium – 4t h millennium BC).
Just knowing this fact makes you stop and think about how early humans lived and thrived in the cave (and in the area)? What must it have been like to live at that time? And to know I’m walking such an ancient site is a humbling experience.
This epic cave is thriving today with numerous birds, bats, faunel species and an array of plant life. If the world was ending I’d want to live here and I’d feel like I’m going home, going back to where it all started, back to a place many peoples ancient ancestors survived and thrived. The pictures do not do it justice though, it looks like a film set and in fact it was, the cave made a prominent appearance on the Hollywood action move Expendables 2. Unfortunately, fame came along with environmental issues and the bat population of the cave plummeted. Thankfully the bat population has increased since then and are now monitored. You can venture further into the darker parts of the cave and you can see bats flying above you which is a wonderful experience, just make sure you’re quiet so not to disturb them. The cave has now been declared a natural landmark since 7th June 1996 and it is now a protected site.
Jon and I both love caves and waterfalls, there is just something about these two natural entities that fill my heart with joy. As a practicing Pagan I gave a silent prayer and thank you to the cave deities, spirits and ancestors for allowing me to be in its beauty and its rich history, Jon took a photo of me trying to mimic its circular formations with chakrasana (wheel pose) barefoot and happy to be in the presence of such great energies. This is a magical cave and I would say “don’t hesitate to visit” but then I do not want it to be ruined by mass tourism, it would sadden me deeply to see herds of tourists flocking through this magnificent place. I will say if you are a quiet traveler/couple/small group who love sitting in silence at breath taking natural beauty, if you care about eco-systems and our planet then do go, you’ll love it.
Missed previous posts about Bulgaria? Click on the links below:
Two days in Plovdiv
Day trip to Arbanasi
Day trip to Hotnitsa Falls
Day trip to the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration of God
Two days in Sofia
Day trip to Krushuna Falls
Living in & Visiting Veliko Tarnovo
Day trip to Emen Gorge
Day trip to: Etar Living Museum
Want to read other travel blog posts? Click on the links below:
3 weeks backpacking around Nepal
10 days traveling up the Dalmatian coast of Croatia & Montenegro
16 days touring around Morocco
4 day mini break in the Algarve, Portugal
5 days in Budapest and Vienna
Day trips and mini breaks around the UK