Veliko Tarnovo is a beautiful old city and its “Sound and Light” should definitely be in every tourist visiting Bulgaria “To Do’’ list. Nearby there are a lot of other sightseeing destinations. Only 15km away is Hotnitsa waterfall or Kaya Bunar, which is an easily accessible place. The biggest water cascade in the country, Krushuna waterfalls, is also in the area and it looks amazing. Close by is the humongous Devetashka cave. The four attractions make the perfect 2-3 days trip depending mainly on what type of transportation you are using. If you have a car you can do it in 2 days. I don’t have a car, so for me and my partner in crime, it took 3 days. My journey started in Sofia and we were mostly using hitchhiking and Couchsurfing. However, I will include also tips and links what else people can use to get there and back, so even if you are not so adventures keep reading.
Part one: Veliko Tarnovo
Veliko Tarnovo is one of the oldest capitals of a Great Bulgaria. It preserved its charm through the ages and people, who were born there, still believe they are direct descendants of the kings. That’s probably impossible having in mind those kings lived about 1000 years ago, but try to be respectful to people’s beliefs and they will love you. To get there we used bus starting from the Central Bus Station in Sofia. It cost 22lv (~11 euro). The best time to get there is before noon, so you have the time in the afternoon to explore the area. Biomet is one of the biggest transportation companies and you can find the schedule and buy the tickets online on their website (English version available). The ride takes around 3 hours. You can reach the center of the city walking from the bus station there for about 15 minutes. The main attraction is the medieval fortress of Tsarevets where during night time you can enjoy “Sound and light” show for free. During summertime, you can see the show most of the weekends. And when there are official Bulgarian holidays you can add a bonus to it – fireworks. To be sure the show will be on – check the official website. Note that probably a lot of other people will be enjoying the same thing at night so explore beforehand, find the best spot and don’t be late to have the best view.
Part two: Hotnitsa waterfall “Kaya Bunar”
To reach the village of Hotnitsa we hitchhiked on the main road connecting Veliko T. and Ruse. It worked out pretty well, although you need to walk around 30 minutes to reach the road from the center. You need to exit the car somewhere in the village of Samovodene, if you weren’t extremely lucky and catch a ride which goes exactly to your direction. The best thing you can do is to write a sign, so people will know where you are going and will tell you where to exit. The young people will probably be able to speak to you in English, but above 45 years old most of the people will probably understand Russian, a little bit German, but no English. After about 1.5 hours, three cars, and a guy who offered to drive us to Bucharest (Romania), we arrived at the site. The place is amazing but its beauty is a little bit spoiled by its easy access. However, climb on the left side where you will find a second waterfall and a lake which offers more private experience and during summertime, you can even jump into the water. If there are other people on the site try to hitchhike at the parking lot because they will be also tourist and probably can drive you further to your next destination. In our case, we reached Sevlievo, where you can enjoy the sunset from another old fortress. The beautiful Bulgarian girl, who is working as a guide there, will tell you all about it. There are also busses going early in the morning from Veliko T. to the village of Hotnitsa which can be used as an alternative to hitchhiking. Ask at the bus station for the exact time as the schedule may vary depending on the day.
Part three: Devetashka cave and Krushuna waterfalls
Next morning we went to a place on the main road, where the locals said we will find a lot of traffic going to Lovech. You can take a taxi from the city which will cost you no more than 3-4lv (2 euros) and tell the taxi driver you want to hitchhike to Lovech. Everyone knows the spot and as the locals promised it is working very fast. A truck driver picked us up in his truck and left us at the north exit of Lovech. We found another car which left us 500m from Devetashka cave on the main road to Krushuna. The cave is amazingly big and even Hollywood decided that it is huge enough to fit all the stars from “The Expendables 2”. I have never watched that movie but I bet there is amazing background in some of the fighting scenes. Our journey continued returning to the road and luckily we found guys which drove us directly to the village of Krushuna. The waterfalls are very close by and you will need about 1.5 hours to see all points of interest and enjoy this tranquil place. Returning to Sofia, we stayed just in front of the only supermarket in the village and used the power of our super awesome sign saying that we want to go to Sofia. Two minutes later we had a ride and later we got home safely and in time. Another way to get to the places is to catch a bus either from Sevlievo or Lovech to Krushuna. They exist, just ask at the bus station. Please note that the last bus from Lovech to Sofia is around 4 pm, so plan your trip wisely.
Couchsurfing is working really well in Veliko Tarnovo and you will probably meet other members from the expat society there. They all can help you plan your trip and give you good advice. There are hosts also in Lovech and Sevlievo. We had amazing host in the second one. You can find a hotel room for about 20 euros and there are also hostels in Veliko Tarnovo. If there are some holidays at the time you will be visiting book your hotel at least 2 weeks ahead because the above destinations are very popular also among the locals. Have an amazing trip. Love Bulgaria.