Road Trip From Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo

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Here are all the sights that most miss on your road trip from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo.

For my final episode of Season 4, I felt the need for nature, history, and the open road. As part of my journey to get acquainted with my new home, Bulgaria, I planned a road trip from the capital, Sofia, to Veliko Tarnovo – located in central Bulgaria and one of the most famous historic cities in the country. Of course, no road trip is a road trip without awesome pitstops along the way.

I began my journey taking the Hemus Highway from Sofia and making my way towards Veliko Tarnovo, on the north of the Balkan Mountains which cut through the country, from west to east. My first pitstop was at Krushuna Falls, a series of waterfalls and clear blue pools. Krushuna Falls is located just under an hour, northeast, after taking the Lovech offramp. The road is decent and easily accessible by any vehicle. There is large secure parking on-site and a small entrance fee is applicable at the main entrance to the park. Two to three hours are enough to enjoy the scenic tourist path that circles the park and boasts tranquillity and mesmerising landscape views.

After the hike, I enjoyed a much-deserved meal at the restaurant, which offers a variety of grilled meat and other traditional dishes. Upon leaving Krushuna Falls, I decided to peek inside the souvenir shop. While browsing at the fridge magnets, I noticed an interesting-looking cave displayed on a lot of the magnets. I asked the lady who worked at the shop, and she told me that this was Devetashka Cave – a massive cave located about 30min away from Krushuna Falls, heading back to Lovech and another popular landmark in the region. This was feasible, as I could simply just get back onto the highway at Lovech and continue my journey to Veliko Tarnovo.

A fun fact is that Devetashka Cave was shown in the movie, The Expendables 2, filmed in 2011…

by Mario Iliev

The cave truly was remarkable due to its size and being home to nearly 30 000 bats. A fun fact is that Devetashka Cave was shown in the movie, The Expendables 2, filmed in 2011 and starring popular Hollywood actors such as Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, among many others.

After spending a splendid day in nature, I was ready to travel back in time, so I headed on to Veliko Tarnovo, also known as the ‘City of The Tsars’ and famously known as the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire

The city is popular among tourists for its unique architecture and old part which is positioned on three hills – Tsarevets, Trapezitsa and Sveta Gora.

There are many viewpoints where one can catch a glimpse of the stunning views of the Yantra river and the historic hills that peak above it.

Tsarevets is a medieval fortress, housing the royal and patriarchal palaces, as well as the Patriarchal Cathedral.

…Close to Veliko Tarnovo is the small village, Arbanasi, known for its architecture and rich history. Being an adventurer, I thought that it would be a great idea to make the 7km journey on foot so that I could enjoy every bit to the fullest.

That was a terrible idea! Just after leaving Veliko Tarnovo, the road narrows into a single-lane road, without a sidewalk on either side. So, to paint a clearer picture, you are basically walking on a thread between the speeding cars on one side, and high cliffs on the other side.

I should also mention the blistering summer heat, steep inclines and that there was really nothing exciting to see on this road. Eventually, I made it to Arbanasi; tired, sweaty, sun burnt and thirsty. The little village stood by its reputation, and I thoroughly enjoyed winging it through its charming and quiet streets.

Krushuna Falls is a series of waterfalls and clear blue pools.

by Mario Iliev

The sun began to set, and I started to make my dreaded walk back to Veliko Tarnovo. In the far distance ahead of me was a young couple, also walking. Being tall and a renowned fast walker, it wasn’t long until I closed the distance on them. When I was a few meters behind them, they greeted me and asked me if I knew where the ‘Love Swing’ was. I had heard about it but had no idea where it is. I looked it up on my navigation and to my surprise, it showed me that we are 60m away. That was strange, as we were on a road without any sign of ‘love’ or a ‘swing’. I decided that since we are so close, I will add this to my itinerary anyway. 

We walked the 60m to the suggested location and all that was in sight was the road and high cliffs. At a nearby bus stop, we asked an elderly man if he knew where this love swing is. He pointed to a narrow path between some bushes behind us and told us to follow the path to the top of the cliff. The journey up to the hill was short but extremely steep. We made it up in about 30 minutes and just in time for sunset. The views of Veliko Tarnovo were absolutely incredible and well worth the effort of getting there. 

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