Friday, 28 July 2017

Three Weekend Getaway Destinations in Bulgaria

Never spend a free day in a place you've already been is a rule many of us abide by – forcing us to take risky roads and end up in places we never knew existed, to get involved in conversations with strangers we never thought we'll be having one day.

In the case of Bulgaria the good thing is that the country is relatively small and most of its hidden treasures are located within a half-a-day’s drive.

Nikolay Vasilev of the new media project
Idealist* writes about three spots around the country that fulfil all the criteria for the perfect weekend getaway destination: they are easily accessible by no more than six hours of driving from the capital Sofia; they contain enough landmarks and interesting attractions to keep visitors occupied for two to three days; two of them - the villages of Emen and Brashlyan, are off-the-beaten-track spots, while the third one - the town of Chiprovtsi, is a well-known place, though it too has its hidden charms; and they all offer decent accommodation possibilities, reducing the need for organisation ahead of time.

Text by Nikolay Vasilev


The town of Chiprovtsi in north-western Bulgaria is famous for its kilims, or carpets. But they are definitely not the only reason to go there.

Once you get there, stop by the Museum. There, you’ll see the best creations of Chiprovtsi’s goldsmiths, old icons and, of course, some of the most beautiful kilims. There is also an exhibition on the Chiprovtsi Uprising, organised in 1688 by the local Catholic community which sought to liberate Bulgarian lands from Ottoman rule. The remains of the Catholic church Saint Maria, which was set on fire during the uprising, can still be seen in the town.

Located six kilometres from Chiprovtsi is the Saint Yoan Rilski Monastery, which is worth seeing because of its wood-carved iconostasis. In the monastery there is also a bone-vault of those who died in the struggles for liberation.

The Chiprovtsi waterfall can be reached through an eco-path. The walk from the town takes about 1.5 hours.

Practical Information:
Regular buses connect Chiprovtsi to Montana, the biggest town in the area. Chiprovtsi is located about 135 km north of Sofia and the drive there lasts about 2.5 hours.

There are plenty of small hotels and guest houses in the town. Prices for a double room range between 10 and 30 leva (5 and 15 euro) per night.


The Emen Canyon of the Negovanka River is one of the places in Bulgaria about which the description “very beautiful” is definitely not enough.

According to the official website of the village of Emen, the gorge was declared a natural attraction in 1980, while the eco-path built into it was either Bulgaria’s first or one of the firsts, depending on what sources one believes. The path starts out at the Emen Cave and goes along the two sides of the canyon, at about 50 metres from its bottom. The canyon’s walls are about 80 to 90 metres in height. Along the eco-path’s length you’ll see the incredible shapes carved out by the river, as well as the remains of Roman defences. The Emen Cave itself is over three kilometres long and it is part of a cave system with wet and dry galleries.

At the end of the route, you come upon the Momin Skok waterfall. Its size does not make it comparable to Bulgaria’s big waterfalls but it has its own charm. Underneath the waterfall, there is a small lake, or rather a pond, which makes a nice place for a break and, in the summer, a pleasant beach spot.

Practical Information: Emen is located about 25 km from Bulgaria’s erstwhile capital Veliko Tarnovo. The village is about 215 km from Sofia, and the drive there takes just under 3 hours.

The small town of Dryanovo and the Dryanovo Monastery are about 30 km away from Emen and the drive there takes less than an hour, which makes it an easy place to visit for half a day.

There are two hotels in Emen, which offer double rooms, priced at 40 and 60 leva (around 20 and 30 euro) respectively.


There are people who would go to Brashlyan as soon as they find out it is located in the mystical Strandzha Mountain (for more about it on read here and here). This text is not for them.

The village is an architectural and historical reserve. Its houses were built in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the traditional Strandzha style. The new ones are also in the same style and only a few managed to sneak in the socialist stylistic before the village was declared a reserve in 1982.

In one of the authentic houses, the inhabitants of the village have created an ethnographic museum. If you’re in a group and you make prior arrangements, the local people will meet and greet you with songs. A mandatory part of their repertoire is the song, known here as Strandzha’s Marseillaise, whose title roughly translates to “A Clear Moon Already Rises.” The song was supposedly inspired by events in the village which yielded the first victims of the Preobrazhenie Uprising of 1903.

Credit should also be given to the village’s residents for the open-air Museum for Traditional Agriculture. The church Saint Dimitar has been well-preserved too. Its bell-tower from the end of the seventeenth century and the monastery school in its courtyard have been restored. There, you can hear legends about these parts of the country.

The three chapels around the village give a good reason for a pleasant walk. There are several walking routes that start out from Brashlyan, and it is best to ask about them once there. You could also get a tour guide. The area boasts remains of Thracian dolmens and tumuli.

Practical Information: The village of Brashlyan is located 460 km east of Sofia and the drive there takes about 5.5 hours.

You can stay in one of the guest houses in the village or in the local hotel. A double room in a guest house costs between 30 and 40 leva (around 15 to 20 euro) per night and it traditionally includes a lavish, home-made breakfast.

*This text is courtesy of
Idealist – a media project in Bulgarian, initially launched as a blog, which will begin coming out as a weekly magazine in January of 2009.

Read more about Bulgaria on
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