Posts Tagged ‘alternative tourism’

Sredni Kolibi Village – Elenski Balkan

October 22, 2009

This is a journey to the Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina) – to the most beautiful part of it – the region of Elena town.

Geographical area: Sredni Kolibi village in the Central Balkan Range – the region of Elena town. Here are the directions and a map from Sofia to Sredni Kolibi village.  The drive from Sofia takes about 3:30 hrs. There are signs to the hotel so it is not hard to find.

The village of Sredni Kolibi is tiny, very quiet and awfully charming. It is very sad how few people live there now. One thing you should know about this part of  the mountain  is that it is incredibly beautiful! We call it “Elenski balkan” and we are loving it:)

Where to stay

Elenski Riton Hotel: There is a main building and there are 2 smaller separate buildings. We stayed at one of the smaller buildings. Everything is nice, clean and new since the hotel welcomed its first guests only in 2008. The architecture deserves compliments – it has a character, authenticity and it fits perfectly with the surroundings. There are bikes for rent – the region is perfect for biking tours. I almost forgot to mention the outdoor pool – pardon me, I’m not a pool lover.

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Elenski Riton – the 2 smaller separate buildings

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Elenski Riton – main building

The rooms are also very clean; almost everything is made of wood and that gives them a pleasant hm… woody smell. However, they are a bit small and dark for my taste.

The bathroom is large and clean. It was quite cool in there when we visited since they did not have the heating on. We had a boiler in our bathroom and it was quite noisy during the night. We had to turn it off  in the end but we were wandering for quite a while where did that strange squeaking noise come from.

The restaurant is not to my taste – dark, smoky and noisy. We had lunch and breakfast outside and if it were not cold, we would’ve had our dinner outside as well.

Outside the hotel

Outside the hotel

The food: The menu is not impressive as a whole but they had some home-cooked meals which were excellent.

The service: As I have mentioned many times before, Bulgaria is not famous for its good service.  Well, here is one exception to the rule – the staff at this hotel was friendly and helpful. The lady manager is very kind, she knows quite a lot about the area and she will gladly provide you with any info you need.

Pros: great location, very quiet – no roads or noise of any kind; new, clean and tidy hotel, good service.

Cons: the rooms are a bit small and dark for my taste; the restaurant is not a cozy place; the menu is composed mainly of fast-cooked stuff – there are only a few real cooked meals.

Contacts: If you have questions about the area or about  Elenski Riton hotel use the contact form or simply write an e-mail to: truebulgaria@gmail.com

Things to do / see:

Yovkovtsi Dam is the first thing that you should go and see – approximately 10 minutes walk from the hotel. If you enjoy fishing you can spend the rest of your vacation there:)

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A view from Sredni Kolibi village to Yovkovtsi dam

Biking tour – a great idea! We rented bikes from the hotel and we had a really cool (and quite tiring:) biking tour. We got to a deserted village ab. 8 km from the hotel. (Head in the direction of the dam and just follow the main road. You will pass one village before that – try to go upwards all the time (that will be on your left). At some point we left our bikes by a tree and continued by foot.  It was much easier going down with the bikes:)

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Biking tour towards the deserted village

Kapinovski Monastery – most monasteries have unique air  to them, which is impossible to describe. Once you enter their yard, you enter a different world – slow, green, quiet, humble and beautiful. Just stay there a moment – feels good. This monastery is actually a working male monastery.

In the yard of the Monastery

In the yard of the Monastery

The town of Elena – a unique mountain town with a lot of museums, galleries & churches. The whole town is a historical site. Just go up and down the steep streets made of stones and you will feel the atmosphere.

Hristovski waterfall on Miikovska river.

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Hristovski waterfall

Animal life: It was really cool to see  so many animals in their natural environment – storks, foxes, rabbits, deers. It does not sound so exciting written down here, but if you see them there, while you are walking – it really is cool:)

Panichishte Resort in Rila Mountain

October 13, 2009

Geographical area: Panichishte is a beautiful resort in Rila Mountain – the highest mountain in Bulgaria. The drive from Sofia to Panichishte takes about 1,30 hrs. Being so close to Sofia, Panichishte is the perfect place to go for the weekend.

How to get there: I recommend the following route because it is pretty and not too crowded: from Sofia take Bistrishko Shosse [Бистришко шосе] (the road to Bistritsa [БИСТРИЦА]). From there on, keep on the main road. You will pass Bistritsa [БИСТРИЦА], Zheleznitsa [ЖЕЛЕЗНИЦА], Yarema [Ярема] area (no sign for this one), Kovachevtsi village [КОВАЧЕВЦИ], Popovyane village [ПОПОВЯНЕ]. When you pass Popovyane [ПОПОВЯНЕ] you will come to a big T-shaped crossroads – go right. Then you will pass Klissura village [КЛИСУРА]. You will see Sapareva Banya [САПАРЕВА БАНЯ] village and town remaining on your left side. Turn left from the main road after you pass the sign pointing to Panichishte [ПАНИЧИЩЕ]. From there on, follow the signs to Panichishte [ПАНИЧИЩЕ]. There are signs for hotel Temenuga [ТЕМЕНУГА] once you reach Panichishte [ПАНИЧИЩЕ]. Here is a google map with directions but it is not very precise.

Place to stay: Hotel Temenuga, definitely.

The hotel: We were surprised to find such a cozy, small hotel high in the mountain. Temenuga hotel is really pleasant, clean and comfortable.  In the middle of a small, trim meadow it has a beautiful view towards the scenic rocky tops and slopes of Rila Mountain.   There are 19 double rooms and 3 appartments. There is a restaurant on the first floor and a lounge on the second floor, suitable for private parties. We celebrated a birthday party there.

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Temenuga Hotel

In front of the hotel

In front of the hotel

The rooms are large, clean and cozy with enough light getting in. Each room has a balcony with a wonderful mountain view. The bathroom is nice and clean with a bathtub. To my surprise there was even a hairdryer.

Double room

Double room

Bathroom

Bathroom

Prices: the double room is 58 leva (low season) and 90 leva (high season) per night.

The  restaurant has a pleasant atmosphere – it is light and clean. The food is OK. Nothing special, but not bad. The breakfast is a block table and is included in the price. I am not a big fan of block tables so all  I can say about the one they offer at Temenuga hotel is that it is as good as a block table can be. One drawback of the restaurant is bad ventilation system.

In the menu they offer mostly food which is easy to prepare like salads, appetisers and BBQ meats. There is no big variety of what I call cooked meals (I always prefer a real cooked meal, one that takes at least 1 hour to prepare:) I recommend the chicken soup.

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The breakfast table at Temenuga Hotel

The service: I have already said in previous posts that service is not Bulgaria’s strong side. The restaurant of Temenuga hotel is not an exception to the rule. When the restaurant gets busy you might have quite a long wait for your meal. And don’t expect the waitress to come and ask you if everything is OK:)

Pros & Cons

Pros: beautiful mountain area, easy to get there, close to Sofia, very comfortable and cozy hotel, large rooms, wonderful view.

Cons: the food is not my favourite, bad ventilation in the restaurant

Contacts: If you have questions about the area or Temenuga Hotel, use the contact form or just send me an e-mail at truebulgaria@gmail.com.

Things to do: lots of mountain walks through the great pine trees. You can visit various mountain chalets: Skakavitsa, Lovna, Rila Lakes Chalet, Seven Lakes Chalet. And of course you have to see the famous and beautiful Seven Rila Lakes.

There are a few small ski runs in Panichishte resort. The longest one is 950 m. and is in front of Rilski Ezera hut (in English – Rila Lakes hut, which is different from Seven Rila Lakes Hut). Panichishte is not the typical ski resort – the ski runs are short, there is no common infrastructure and the equipment is old. But this is only logical because Panichishte is a National Park Reserve, after all. It is not the place to come to if you are looking for a typical ski vacation. However, if you like free skiikng through the forest over virgin snow, you can do that starting from Rilski Ezera hut downwards.

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You can find more information about Panichishte and Rila National Park Reserve in the Panichishte Visitors’ Centre.  Also more information about Rila National Park here.

Controversial eco issues: There is a newly operating lift from Pionerska hut to Rilski Ezera. The lift is said to be in controversy with the law. The public and the eco organisations are very much against the new lift. I do support their protests because Bulgaria has suffered enough from illegal over-building of many local resorts.

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Zassele Village – Nature Paradise Close to Sofia

August 25, 2009

If you want to get away from Sofia for a day or two Zassele village is probably the  perfect destination – so close to Sofia and yet so far away.

Geographical  area: Northwestern part of Bulgaria, in the recesses of the Western Balkan Range. In this area the Iskar river shapes its gorge through the lofty rocks and the views are more than impressive.

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view from Bojilovo complex

Location: Zassele village is close to Svoge town. Here is a map with directions Sofia-Zassele.

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Bojilovo complex

Where to stay

Bojilovo complex: the house stands on a high slope in the end of Zassele village and provides a wonderful bird’s-eye view to the village and surroundings. There are no other houses close to it, no noise or traffic. The house is new, cozy and clean. It has a large trim garden. There is a small tavern with a fireplace. You can also have your meals or coffee outside and enjoy the sun and the view.

The rooms: Bojilovo complex offers 4 rooms. Two double rooms, one triple room and one double suite. Each of them has a separate bathroom. The rooms are very clean and comfortable, designed in a traditional folk style. Excellent mattress, pillows and linen – the owners did a great job.

The tavern is small and cozy with a fireplace. When the weather is nice everyone eats outside in the garden.

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dining outside in the garden

The food was simple but very delicious. They don’t offer a big menu – u basically have a few options to choose from, but they are all great – I personally think this is the right way. We had typical Bulgarian oven cooked meals and delicious BBQ. They have pretty good wine selection. For breakfast we had a very delicious banitsa (Bulgarian pastry dish with eggs and feta cheese.)

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lunch in the yard of Bojilovo complex

Pros: All the above – great location, close to Sofia, everything is nice and clean and put together with style and taste. The food is excellent – small but great choice.

Cons: in the morning we woke up because of noise in the lobby of the house.  Sometimes we had to wait longer for our meals or drinks, but I can live with that, considering the fact that everything is natural and home-made.

Price: Double room 35 euro, Triple room 40 euro, Double Suite 50 euro, breakfast included.

Contacts: If you have further questions about Bojilovo complex use the contact form or simply write an e-mail to: truebulgaria@gmail.com

Things to do / see

A scenic Еco trail along Iskar river gorge – they call it Vazov’s Eco Trail in honour of the renowned Bulgarian poet and writer Ivan Vazov, who loved to walk along these places and was inspired by the lofty creations of nature.

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view from the eco trail

Skaklia waterfall – a 130-metre high semi-active waterfall, one of the highest waterfalls on the Balkan Peninsula.

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Skaklia waterfall along the eco trail

Caves: the region is a favourite place for cave lovers. The most popular one is Temnata Dupka (The Dark Hollow). Here are some other caves in the region: Elata (a very interesting vertical cave) Dushnika, Kacite, Majanica etc.

Bula: You can see the Bula from Bojilovo complex. It is the top of the highest slope in the area. We walked there – not more than 1-hour walk through the beech forest. We sat on the very top of Bula, our feet dangling in the air – the feeling is unforgettable.

Djuglata – a rock phenomena by Tserovo village