As we were leaving Varna, we stopped by to visit the Monument of Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship which was built on Crane Hill in the northernmost part of Varna. At a height of 23 meters and a width of more than double that, it dominated the skyline. From Varna, we drove to the Wonderful Rocks (Chudnite Skali), a series of 10 limestone rock needles protruding from the Tsonevo Reservoir, before visiting the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak and the open air ethnographic village of Etar. The Buzludzha Monument at the top of Buzludzha Mountain had beckoned us because we had seen photos of the massive Communist UFO structure but sadly, it was closed to all visitors for interior renovations. We later learned that dozens of tourists attempt to break into the complex at odd hours, forcing the locals to install a guard shack and security cameras on the property as well as welding the doors shut. From here, we drove to Dryanovo Monastery, the Roman ruins of Nicopolis ad Istrum, the village of Arbanasi, and the hilly town of Veliko Tarnovo. Veliko Tarnovo’s picturesque cobbled streets, traditional houses and rich history were well worth a visit and this ended up being one of our favorite stops in Bulgaria. The Tsarevets Fortress, a medieval stronghold on a hill with the same name dominates the entire city of Veliko Tarnovo and the views from it are unmissable. After leaving Veliko Tarnovo, we drove to the gorgeous turquoise hued Krushuna Waterfalls and the jaw dropping Devetashka Cave, which is home to over 30,000 bats. Then we had a brief stop in Karlovo before making our way to the charming traditional village of Koprivshtitsa. Often considered Bulgaria’s prettiest town, Koprivshtitsa lived up to the hype with its magnificent traditional architecture. We took advantage of a 6 house combo ticket and spent half a day admiring the best house museums in the village. Then it was a long drive to reach Belogradchik, which is reputed to be one of Bulgaria’s top natural wonders. Indeed, the rock formations took our breath away as we neared this remote village. Very few tourists make the journey to Belogradchik and that is a shame because the rock bound fortress is not to be missed and definitely one of the country’s highlights. After leaving Belogradchik, we attempted to hike the Seven Rila Lakes but the weather didn’t cooperate and it rained heavily on both days we had set aside to hike with limited views on the top of Rila Mountain so we reluctantly gave it a miss. Instead, we finished our time in Bulgaria in the capital city of Sofia. Despite dodging rain for a few days, we really enjoyed our time here overindulging on good food, watching the latest movies, and visiting the city’s highlights. Bulgaria certainly impressed and we wouldn’t hesitate to return for another future visit.
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