My Top Five of Bulgaria
Want to go somewhere different? With some incredible scenery, friendly people, and wooden monasteries perched on mountains? Look no further than Bulgaria! I loved our time in Bulgaria, and I would say that it has some of the most beautiful natural landscapes that we have seen in Europe so far. Top that off with cheap beer and great vegetable markets, how could you go wrong?
Hiking in the Mountains
The Balkan mountain range is incredibly beautiful. Seriously, it took my breath away (in more ways than one, ugh, so steep). When the sun is shining you can see peak after peak stretching off into the distance, each fading to a lighter shade of blue the further they go on. Hiking along the roughly marked (or more often, unmarked) trails we came across goat herders, meandering herds of horses, and gravity-defying farm fields. We came across this hay field on our way back from a big hike and we couldn’t believe that someone could actually farm the slope. It may not look it in this picture, but I swear the incline was something like 45°! And check out that haystack, it’s so tall!
Sitting atop of the craggy peak beneath which the modern town of Belogradchik nestles sits Kaleto, or Belogradchik Fortress. The oldest part of the fortress is wedged between natural rock formations back during Roman rule, and was originally more of a lookout post than anything else. The fortress was extended and modified by Bulgarian Tsars, and eventually it became one of their most important strongholds. The fortress was captured during the Ottoman conquest, and over the centuries they too made their mark on one of the best preserved strongholds in Bulgaria. The upper part is especially fun to visit, as the views off the cliffs are amazing.
The trails leading around the Belogradchik rocks are marked with the best of intentions, but not the clearest. We eventually figured them out, but that was after wandering off trail for a good half hour and ending up on the road. In all fairness, we were still on a marked trail, it just wasn’t the one we intended. All that aside, hiking through the rock formations was beautiful and looked a little bit like a lost settlement with all the flat-topped rocks jutting up at random through the trees. We also made it to a really cool double-mouthed cave called Lepenitsa, definitely worth a visit!
A few hours hike from our Bulgarian home we found a beautiful, old monastery, perched on a hillside overlooking the valley overlooking the town that lends the monastery its name. Nathanael spoke about the history of Glozhene Monastery in “Balkan Trek: First steps through Bulgaria“, so I’ll just add that the monastery itself is an enchanting step back in time. You can stay there for the night as well, but we had a tent so we opted to enjoy the open meadows.
What a massive cave! Max took us out to Saeva Dupka for a tour! In Bulgarian of course, so we couldn’t understand a word. But as cave tours are pretty standard for the most part (“You’ll see to your left, the bat rock. And on your right, a rock shaped suspiciously like… a carrot…”) we probably didn’t miss much. The cave was massive, and huge stalactites descended from the ceilings and turned into pillars that looked like they were made of thousands of melted candles. As a finale to the tour the guide played us a short, xylophone tune on the stalactites, which we didn’t need to speak Bulgarian to appreciate!