Category Archives: Bulgaria tips and tricks

Bulgaria Off the Beaten Track – Karanovo Thracian Tomb

Karanovo Thracian Tomb

Several years ago I went to this site when it was relatively new and even less known.  So this year, on our recent trip to Bulgaria, I decided to bring the family, especially given that my daughter had developed a relatively high interest in ancient Greece, and the ancient world overall…

Guess what !?!? – Bulgaria is full of antique places, ancient ruins are all over the country, and there are plenty of places to visit and experience archeological finds which are rare and to a large extent inaccessible in most parts of the world.   Here you can see excavated artifacts which are usually accessible in such form only to archeologists with a lot of experience and while on specific digs.

See the pictures below and you will know what I mean

Bulgaria Karanovo Thracian Tomb
Four-wheeled chariot of Thracian Aristocrat – 1st century AD

Two horses and a dog accompanied the disassembled chariot placed in the ancient tomb.  It was really interesting to get so close to the dig and the findings…

Here is one more photo from the tomb and the vista at the entrance of the tomb – very impressive sight overall….

Bulgaria Stara Zagora Karanovo Thracian Tomb
Thracian Tomb at Karanovo

The tomb is located about 29 kilometers from Stara Zagora in Southern Bulgaria.  Finding the place is NOT easy.  Finding Karanovo is relatively speaking OK – just use Google maps and you will find the road to the village.  Getting to the tomb is a feat on its own.  No signs point to it.  Enter the village with your car and start heading towards the Northeast part of the settlement and plan to exit the village.  Most likely you will have to ask somehow – ask for “Mogilata” phonetic pronunciation…

Unfortunately Google Maps failed us on finding the exact path to the tomb.  We asked some local guys and one of them guided us on his motorcycle with us following in a car…

I will plan to publish more photos soon. 

Bulgaria Karanovo Stara Zagora Thracian Tomb
View from the Karanovo Eastern Tomb

 

Here is a link to a brief guide and photo book I setup on Amazon.com – hopefully you will find it useful.   Thanks!

 

Picturesque Bulgarian Village – Brashlian

Bulgaria-BrashlianClick on the image to follow a link to the Brashlian Page and Gallery on this Blog.  Enjoy!

Bulgaria: Pirin Mountain Lakes – Continued

Earlier last week I posted a quick snippet of information about a beautiful corner of Bulgaria – the Pirin mountains and Pirin National Park.  As mentioned, you have good access to the mountains and park from the town of Bansko.

Today – let’s take a look specifically at the way to get to a couple of the glacier fed high mountain lakes — they are amazing in their severe beauty and well worth the good work out you will get getting there from the starting point we used.

From Bansko we drove in the direction on Banderishka poliana, (you can also get to it via the Gondola Lift from Bansko), and drove from there in the direction of Banderitsa Challet, where you could park and hike further up the mountain, or continue a while longer and park on the road and continue with a hike to the Vihren Challet – which is really the starting point for the hike to many of the lakes in the region.   The photo below is a composite MAP and photos I pulled together to give you both a map idea of the Vihren Challet and trail to a few of the lakes as well as a few photos of the lakes and scenery – i.e. to show you the hike is WELL WORTH it.

Bulgaria-Pirin-Bansko-Lakes

Some additional advice for your hike:

  1. Make sure you find a place to park close to the Vihren Challet – unless you drive up early in the morning – it is not likely that you will find parking space at the Challet, so plan to park on a safe space along the side of the road
  2. Bring water with you.  The hike is long and even though the air temperature is very comfortable – on our hike the weather was great: sunny, around 85F…but it is very dry and you can get quickly dehydrated.
  3. Comfortable, preferably hiking shoes – enough said!
  4. Map – pick up one from your hotel or Bansko, information center
  5. Some snacks / food — you will spend around 3 hours on the trail
  6. CAMERA!!! Of course – you will take tons of photos – the mountain, peaks, lakes, plants are incredibly beautiful

Enjoy your trip!

Bulgaria: More About the Pirin Mountain Lakes

If you were intrigued about the picturesque mountain lake in the previous posting, let me provide you with some more visual clues to the origin of these lakes.   The Pirin mountain in Bulgaria is one of the big mountains on the Balkans.  Its peaks are high and nature stunning — you will find out more about that in the upcoming postings I will provide.

Here is a map with the general location of the area I will continue providing more information on:

;

In the meantime, here are some more photos to feed your imagination…

Vihren-Pirin-Bulgaria

Pirin-Bulgaria-Summer-Snow      Porin-Mountain-Summer-Snow-hiking

 

These images of course are in low resolution to ensure the Web site loads up relatively fast…If you would like access to the full resolution including uncompressed (~30MB size) source images, please drop me a note via the feedback form below…

Stay tuned for more images and iBook I am planing to generate over the next 1-2 weeks as we complete the trip.

Bulgarian Beaches – Sunny Beach

Bulgaria is a country that offers great resorts and activities both in the winter and in the summer.  I will spend some time over the next few days to provide updates on the beaches my family and I have traveled to.   Several of those beaches were covered recently in an article / guide from Lonely Planet, and while that guide does usually a good job to capture the specifics of the place being reviewed I thought to add some more insight from having visited many of the beaches on multiple occasions over the last 15 years or so.

So here we go – starting with what most guide books refer to as the most popular and my family calls the least pleasant beach — SUNNY BEACH

Sunny Beach is probably one of the oldest and most traveled to resorts in Bulgaria, dating all the way back to the 1960s and 1970s.  The place was developed to the effect of 800 hotels today – a mind boggling number given the small space it occupies.  The result is that many of the hotels are really not that nice and location wise not even close to the beach.  So be very careful in your selection and travel plans.

Sunny Beach is located about 35-km north-northeast of Burgas (one of the main cities on the Bulgaria Black sea coast).  There are regular buses traversing the distance and you should be able to get to the resort very quickly upon arriving in Burgas either by plane, train or other means.

In terms of nightlife there are the usual places to go – i.e. discos and restaurants.  Sunny Beach certainly has its overabundant share of those.  Here are a few that have been recommended by various folks over several years

  • Discos:
    • Disco Orange
    • Beach Disco (near hotel Burgas)
    • ClubXL (operated and owned by hotel Kuban)
  • Restaurants
    • Khan’s Tent – located on the way to Varna, to the right of the highway
    • Morris – located opposite of hotel Neptune
    • Lapa Lapa – its address is Kv. Kamelija No36, Sunny Beach 8240

Here is a great map of Sunny Beach complete with a legend – courtesy of carhirebourgasairport.com/

Near Sunny Beach is located probably one of the most interesting towns along the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria – the town’s name is Nessebar / Несебър in Bulgarian.

The town has survived through the centuries and as a result inherited a large number of historic buildings and consequently has been included in the list of World Heritage sites in 1983.

Plovdiv Bulgaria on Lonely Planet’s Best Travel Destinations in 2015

For those of you who have been to Bulgaria – you probably had wondered like I did for many years – why is Bulgaria essentially a destination often considered as the “off the beaten track” place…Well, things have changed drastically – Plovdiv is now on the Lonely Planet’s best places to visit in 2015.  The city made it as number 6 on that list !

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Plovdiv has also been selected as the Culture Capital of Europe for 2019 – this is another proof of the great things the city has to offer to its inhabitants and visitors alike.   The city offers incredible architecture – in the old town, Roman amphitheaters – one of them actually functional, great food and nice weather.

From Plovdiv you can go and explore tons of different place around Southern Bulgaria.  Places like:

Just to name a few…

If you are now ready to head to Bulgaria, you may want to consider a few handy books:

  
For those of you who really want to feel as if you never left Plovdiv – then get a T-Shirt…. There is a good one above…

Other than that, you can just go ahead and plan a trip to see the place for yourself.

Travel from Bulgaria to Istanbul

If you have come to this blog chances are you were searching for information on Bulgaria.  Well, you have come to the right place — and mind you — in the next few days, you will also get access to information on:

  • Getting from Bulgaria to Turkey / Istanbul
  • some places to stay in Istanbul
  • and of course tons of info on sites and interesting places to visit in Istanbul

So, here we go with the first information piece "Travel from Bulgaria to Turkey / Istanbul"

As usual, there are multiple options for getting from Bulgaria to Turkey and Istanbul specifically.  You can get there via

  1. plane: turns out the only fiights we could locate were from Sofia airport; asked for flights from Plovdiv (recently opened airport) and were told that none existed yet.  The flights to Istanbul were not exactly convenient. The only airline that flew directly was Turkish Airlines; All others (British Airways, Lufthansa…) included detour back to London or Munich or….really crazy itinerary given that Istanbul is Southeast of Sofia and those other cities are way West from it…!  As a result of this we decided that air travel was not the option we will pursue;
  2. Train:  We discovered that there are a couple of trains headed overnight to Istanbul.  The one we wanted to get on was the train from Bucharest (Romania) to Istanbul.  It stops at several cities in Bulgaria – Ruse, Gorna Oriahovitsa, Stara Zagora – to name a few.  The problem turned out to be access to sleeping car tickets.  When we checked with the international train ticket desk (called Rila) – we were told that one can buy sleeper car tickets only from Bucharest.  In Bulgaria you can only buy ticket for couchette – so we decided that was not an option for us either;
  3. Rental car:  We checked on getting a rental car in one direction.  Turns out you CANNOT do that.  Turkey requires that all cars that enter the country have to leave with the same driver.  So one way car rental was a no go.  We had only the option of hiring a car with a driver.  The price from Plovdiv: ~ approximately 300 euro!!! 
  4. Bus:  This was the last alternative.  There are a number of bus lines that travel from various points in Bulgaria (Sofia, Ruse, ….) to Istanbul.  We decided to use the HUNTUR bus line and get on the bus in Kazanlak traveling to Stara Zagora, Capitan Andreevo (the border crossing) and Istanbul.   The ticket price from Kazanlak is approximately 45-leva which is very reasonable given the distance traveled (Kazanlak to Istanbul accoriding to Google Maps is ~404km)

Here are some pointer for the bus ride:  (a) get ready for a relatively long journey; (b) the bus may include the occasional smoker – officially smoking is not allowed on the bus.  (c) the bus makes a number of stops for restroom use, smoking brakes; food;

About the Border crossing:

Border Crossing at Capitan Andreevo  Kapikule Border Crossing

Once you get to the border at Kapitan Andreevo (on the Bulgarian side) you will have to get off the bus and go through passport checkpoint.  Then you will get back on the bus and continue to the Turkish side. Before you get there though the bus will most likely make a stop for shopping at the duty free store.  Once you start crossing the Turkey border, you will have to give your passport and e-Visa (if you have purchased one ahead of time) to the Turkey immigration official and then wait for your passport to be processed.  Eventually, the passports will re-emerge and be handed back to you by the bus driver.  

Yes, the whole procedure is very strange and you need to pay attention to signs of what you need to do — that is unless you can speak Turkish and get information from the bus driver.

All in all the crossing is OK, and takes about one and a half hours.

After that, the bus stopped at one more restaurant and rest stop on the Turkey side and from there it was a non-stop run to Istanbul.    

In the next article I will summarize options for hotels in the European side of Istanbul and near the main sites in the city.  Stay tuned.

Istanbul view Istanbul views

Interesting approach to getting the article message out – or Not (not completely a travel article)

For those of you who are regularly interested in checking property prices around the globe this may be somewhat of an update – on Bulgarian properties….Or may be NOT!   Reading or not the article "Bulgarian property prices ‘have hit bottom’ brokers say – report"  you probably will end up not any smarter on the deals ahead of you in 2012…..

Funny how journalists write…. reading the headline you say "Oh, I must consider this a good time to buy….." then the article ends with a proclamation "property prices would remain around current levels, possibly with a slight decline"    Go figure 🙂    I can make such predictions as well and do not have to be an analyst for that!

 

Bulgaria in the Winter — A Pictorial

This February I had to travel to Bulgaria unexpectedly… Spent a week in the country and manage to be there during a major winter weather — heavy snow fall, near disaster conditions (lucky for me not in the area where I was staying) and extremely cold weather (or at least so it seemed to me)

While in Bulgaria I managed to snap a bunch of photos during the time I dared to venture outside with a car…..Yes, there were days when I had to do it.   Believe me – it is pretty rough out there in the winter weather… And of course driving in the snow and ice took some getting used to, but what can you do, there was a need for it so had to do it….

Here is my photo album — some winter scapes:

So How do I find these Famous Thracian Tombs? Where are they….

There are several tombs you can plan to visit while in Kazanlak / Bulgaria.  Here are instructions on how to get to them.  WE assume you are capable of making it to Kazanlak 🙂  from your location in Bulgaria….

Most tourists end up visiting at least the so called "Kazanlak Thracian Tomb" which is probably the most well known in and out of Bulgaria.  The Kazanlak Tomb is located about 1 – 1.5km from the center of town in its North East part in a hilly neighborhood known as "Тюлбето” (Tiulbeto).  It is about 15min walking distance from the central square of the town, or you could drive there (about 5min).  The tomb is open between 9am and 5pm and if you go to Kazanlak in the winter or spring, the tomb is open only for large groups.

If you would like to try your skills you could even check on current conditions and status via phone +359 – 431 63762 (359 is the code for dialing Bulgaria — assuming you are using your overseas mobile phone even while in Bulgaria)

The second tomb we recommend you try to visit is "Goliamata Kosmatka"  (which was the topic of our previous blog posting).  The tomb is located well outside of Kazanlak on the road to Shipka / North West of town.  If you are driving yourself, just take the road to Shipka (also the same road that will take you through the Shipka mountain pass to the town of Gabrovo and Northern Bulgaria).  Once you leave Kazanlak, you will pass by the village of Krqn and next you should look for the brown color signs on the road — they announce the various tombs in the valley.  You should see a turn off for the Goliamata Kosmakta tomb (mogila) well before you reach the village of Shipka – it will be a left turn if coming from Kazanlak

If you desire to do some good exercise and if the weather is nice you could take a 2 hour hike to the tomb (from downtown Kazanlak) – the distance is about 12km (0.8miles).

I need to point out also that in each / or most of the tombs you could request a guided tour – where you will hear narrative from a lecturer from the Kazanlak ISKRA museum — an excellent museum in Kazanlak hosting a large number of exhibits on the topic of Thracian culture as well as Bulgarian art, etc. 

Here is a link to the museum — limited information but still…. http://museum.starazagora.net/English/others/EKazanluk.html

And another link http://kazanlaktour.com/en/index.php?s=30

(The museum ISKRA is located about 5 min walk from the main town square)

Well we hope this is useful for your adventures in the VALLEY OF THRACIAN KINGS!  

Next, will bring you a recommendation for a place to go see how the famous rose oil is made and enjoy a beautiful rose garden….