Image credit: m1r0r1m
The majority of travelers don’t look beyond Sofia when it comes to exploring Bulgaria but it’s vast landscape and beautiful tranquil lakes are not to to be missed. Here’s five locations to begin your Balkan journey…
If you’re of the opinion that idyllic escapes within spitting distance of cities simply don’t exist, you’ll certainly have a surprise in store if you ever visit Pancharevo. This picturesque lakeside district is not only a hotspot for Sofia’s hard-workers to retreat to of a weekend; it’s also a hotbed of historical and contemporary treats that will please young, old, and everyone in between.
Though the area is full of both literal and metaphorical high points (the Lozen mountains, Urvich Fortress and reams of Roman remnants, for example), the water is undoubtedly the star of the show. Whether you want to luxuriate in the mineral springs, charter a boat trip or catch a fish or two, you can assure any aquatic whim will be catered for in Pancharevo.
Skiing havens don’t come much more heavenly than this resort on the slopes of the resplendent Rila Mountains and it’s clear to see why those with a penchant for powder continue to visit these peaks year after year.
Initially intended to serve as a base for royalty who’s hunts in the hills stretched on for days, the resort has a long track record for being the upmarket place of entertainment to be in Bulgaria. Accordingly, you won’t find yourself wanting, even if snow isn’t your thing. With transport choices ranging from horseback to golf cart to parachute, you’d be hard pressed to have a dull moment in the presence of the mighty Musala.
1 hour 20 minutes
Breaking forth from the foundations of a seven thousand year old Neolithic settlement, this south-western lying town has a formidable history behind it. Boasting both Byzantine and Roman heritage, this is one place that most certainly has a few skeletons in the closet.
Like Pancharevo, the water features are most certainly a pull here; but where the more touristic town relies on its artificial attractions, Sapareva Banya is all about the au naturel. The thermal geyser at its heart – the only spout of its kind across the Balkans – makes for an exciting watch when it does blow its top and the warm springs are said to hold regenerative powers that imbue bathers with a renewed sense of vigour. All in all, a fantastic choice for a refreshing stop off before venturing further into the ranges.
Seven Rila Lakes
There’s never any doubt that these spectacular glacier-fed lakes are the jewel in the crown of the Balkan Peninsula and there’s certainly no chance of feeling short-changed on a visit here; least of all when you’re offered a total of seven beautiful sites for the price of one.
Each of these inter-connected lakes is accompanied by a name chosen to highlight its most distinguishing feature or shape – from the intense azure waters of Okoto (The Eye) to the deep, clear depths of The Tear – so you’ll easily be able to pick a favourite from the bunch, provided you’re not too overwhelmed by the rest of the Dangskiya region to do so.
1 hour 35 minutes
It’s not too often the home of a hermit becomes a region’s must-see spot, but this UNESCO highlight continues to crop up on culture-vulture’s lists time and time again. Nestled neatly within the hills, the enclave is continually held up as a prime example of the Balkan people’s flair for the creative, due to the incredibly distinctive architecture on show.
Not only a hugely significant spiritual centre, the monastery also houses a 16,000 volume strong library with magnificent manuscripts dating back to medieval times, as well as mounted frescoes and intriguing artefacts which provide clues about the many and varying nations that have greatly influenced the region over the millennia. The cherry on top of a perfect Bulgarian road trip.
1 hour 50 minutes