This is the last place we visited in Bulgaria and actually for the foreseeable future, it may be the last time we visit Bulgaria as a whole since my mum sadly had to give up her home in Veliko Tarnovo for personal and health reasons; she has been back in the UK now for nearly a year. Its a very sad time indeed since she’s owned that house since I was about 18 and for ages treated it like a holiday home and then three years ago plucked up the courage to live out there completely. I may venture back one day as I’d love to visit Varna however without a home base out there I don’t feel the need to continue to go right now at this point in my life. With the big wide world out there and plenty of other countries I want to adventure in, I feel, for now Bulgaria is in the past.
I will say Bulgaria is very up and coming and is a great place to explore, if you’ve had enough of the overly touristy areas of Europe; Bulgaria (and Romania) are perfect for you.
That being said, lets talk about my last ever day trip in Bulgaria. Because the journey was very long, down a winding road to see the main attraction, we managed to take two pit stops on the way to see other sites- might as well make a day of it right? And it breaks up the car journey too! Continue reading
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.
Be prepared to be swamped by loads of photos because Plovdiv is astoundingly beautiful, it was our favourite place when venturing around Bulgaria and this gorgeous city is so underrated! Many tourists opt to visit the beach resorts of Varna (Sunny Beach) or the mountain resorts of Borovets and Bansko near Sofia, so Plovdiv is a hidden gem in Bulgaria. Honestly guys, this place is mesmerizing and the people are the loveliest we’ve met! Plovdiv is multi-cultural, artistic, quirky and has an air of elegance. This is the place many affluent Bulgarians send their children to study classical music, dance and the arts. Walking the clean cobbled stoned streets there is music pouring from open windows, we watched a young boy perform piano pieces to an audience outside a museum, bronze statues of famous Bulgarian Musicians peacefully sat in the sun all around the old town, very well done street art can be found all over and there are plentiful book shops, antique markets, art galleries and craft fairs galore! The people here are a mixture of bohemian and class, many that we met were artists in residence, dancers preparing for their European tour or contemporary craftsmen and women working their craft in open air studio spaces.
We saw ourselves living in this place, we even ventured around estate agents to see what properties were for sale.
This is a safe and peaceful city to bring children up in and with its mixture of different ethnicities everyone speaks fluent English, you can also here a wonderful variety of other languages too and everybody appears to be very placid and happy to help. We sadly only had two days here yet we explored a lot so I’ll take you on a picture tour of Plovdiv to show you exactly why we fell in love with this city. Continue reading
Arbanasi is a village in the province of Veliko Tarnovo (central northern Bulgaria) set on a high plateau near to the town of Veliko Tarnovo (four kilometres away). It’s a very pretty and quiet place to visit however the views of the picturesque traditional buildings are ruined by cars parked outside along the main road which saddened me. Tourists come here mainly to see the Church of the Nativity but this place has a lot more to offer and I do recommend taking a leisurely walk around, even visit the local museum and merchant’s house, we learned quite a bit more about Bulgarian traditions and we bumped into a few friendly locals, including this accordion player who welcomed me to dance as he played his music.
Hotnitsa falls (also known as “Kaya Bunar”) and eco-trail is a splendid day trip from Veliko Tarnovo. It is best to hire a car as I’m unsure of the bus time schedules, however there is an information office in the centre of Veliko Tarnovo where you can inquire about buses and taxis to your destination. The waterfalls are situated near the village Hotnitsa and is only 15KM from Veliko Tarnovo. If you are holidaying in Veliko Tarnovo province and have seen the main sites and fancy a wonder, Hotnitsa falls is a brilliant day trip for nature lovers.
If you are staying in Veliko Tarnovo for a few days or for the majority of your holiday. Then I do recommend a day trip to the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration of God. The monastery is a good option if you want to visit a new place close to the city and learn more about Bulgarian history and religion. The monastery is Eastern Orthodox and is located in the Dervent gorge of the Yantra River. It lies near the village of Samovodene, seven kilometres north of Veliko Tarnovo, in central northern Bulgaria. It is one of the five stauropegic monasteries of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. We traveled there by car, and I am unsure if you can book day excursions from Veliko Tarnovo, if this isn’t possible, the Bulgarians should make it a possibility because this is definitely a great tourist hot spot, I am aware you can take a taxi and there are buses nearby too.
During our first visit to Bulgaria, we spent ten days roaming around Veliko Tarnovo and the surrounding areas. Towards the tail end of our trip and before we flew back to the UK from Sofia airport we opted to spend a night and two days exploring Sofia.
Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria is a destination many holiday makers avoid, its unkempt, grimy and urban. Tourists want the sunny beaches of Varna or the epic scenery of forests and mountains in Veliko Tarnovo or the elegance of Plovdiv so sadly Sofia often gets overlooked.
However there is quite a bit of charm underneath the grime and Sofia is showing signs of revival, particularly in the arts scene and I do whole-heartedly believe you should visit this place as part of your Bulgarian holiday. Whether that’s an overnight stay and a day of exploring after your flight and before your coach journey to your main destination, a cheap city break or as part of your Euro trip.
A day or two is enough to explore this city. There is a wonderful and easy, little walking tour recommended by Lonely Planet that allows you to visit a few beautiful Orthodox churches, art galleries, The Ivan Vazov National Theatre, museums and the excavated site of the Rotunda of Saint George. A day trip from Sofia can take you to visit the famous Rila monastery and Boyana waterfall, and Borovets ski resort is only one hour away! We sadly didn’t have enough time to go see these places for ourselves .
If residing in Veliko Tarnovo for a few days and you want to go on a day trip, I highly recommend visiting Krushuna falls. On the way we pit stopped at the Sopot Reservoir to stretch our legs because our friend/driver Paul got a tad lost. The reservoir was quite peaceful and picturesque, a nice warm breeze blew as local families camped nearby and a small group of men enjoyed a spot of fishing. After about 45 minutes resting here we hopped back in the car and eventually found road signs directing us to Krushuna falls.
Nested in a scenic forested landscape with abundant caves and other karst formations, the Krushuna Falls impress with their turquoise waters and peaceful natural setting. The Krushuna waterfalls are reputed to be the highest in Bulgaria and are also known as the Maarta waterfalls which is the name of the river which flows through this area. Some of the falls are as high as 20m along the gorge and there are many eco paths you can choose to walk.
Walk up the eco- trail to see the waterfalls from the top of the gorge and have an enjoyable lunch on the meadow by the caves. Or even spend the night camping under the stars at this heavenly location!
How to get there: The Krushuna Falls are adjacent to the village of Krushuna, not far from Lovech in north central Bulgaria. There are regular daily buses from Sofia or Veliko Tarnovo to Lovech as well as local buses from Lovech to Krushuna and back, so even though our journey was a bit muddled it is actually rather easy to get to these waterfalls.
Interesting fact: Krushuna is a bird of prey that is still found in the area.
Emen Gorge is super close to the Balvan village, which is about 20 minutes away from Veliko Tarnovo city centre. We had no idea at the time that Emen is walking distance to my mum’s home in Balvan and its pretty awesome this place is literally in her back garden. It is a little local secret, tourists are unaware of Emen Gorge and it is difficult to get to if you don’t have a car- but not impossible. There are local buses from Veliko Tarnovo to Balvan and Emen or you can get a taxi straight to Emen village & the Gorge- however taxis and buses only run until around 5pm in regards to going somewhere out of the city centre, so if you did opt for local transport, timing is crucial in order to catch the last bus back from or tell your taxi driver to collect you at a designated time. There is also no phone signal out there so other than the local kiosk in Emen village that has a landline phone, you have no way of contacting a taxi company AFTER your walk around the Gorge- so pre-book your taxi journey back to Veliko before you visit Emen and please make sure it’s before 5pm, the drivers will get grumpy with you and charge you even more or in our case, just decide its not worth their time!
That being said, we didn’t know all this information when we went there, ha! We booked a taxi to take us there which took 10 minutes from Balvan to Emen and when we were done exploring, Jon realized there was no signal so he couldn’t ring up to get a taxi back to my mum’s home and we had missed the last local bus (You might need to check for local buses to and from Emen, we mainly used buses to and from Balvan for day trips because that was our main base).
Thankfully the lady who runs the Emen kiosk took pity on us, gave us water and rang up a taxi company from the shop’s phone line, however as stated above, the company wouldn’t come out to get us as it was after 5pm. One of the locals over heard our issue and said he was going to Veliko Tarnovo after he’d finished his beer and do we want a lift? We said yes as it was our only option being stranded in this place, he dropped us off in Balvan and we gave him some money for a couple of beers as a thank you and then we found out that Emen is walking distance from Balvan- so we could have walked home. Walking from Emen to Balvan is about an hour and 30 minute walk, which would have been nice to take in the scenery on the way back to my mum’s house because we are a couple that loves walking plus saving money in the process- ah well!