ROADTRIP WESTERN BULGARIA
Itinerary: Sofia - Blagoevgrad - Rila Monastery - Ruen Monastery "Sv. Ivan Rilski" - Church of St Demetrius, Boboshevo - Nevestino - Kyustendil - Vaksevo - Kutugertsi - Razlog - Bansko - Vihren - Belitsa - Sofia.
This part of the roadtrip will be covered by a separate blog post.
This part will be covered by a separate blog post (to be written).
This part of the roadtrip will be covered by this blog post.
The first night, I stayed at the City Hotel in Blagoevgrad. An unassuming and comfortable hotel with a quick breakfast. Great base for day trips to the Rila Monastery, Ruen Monastery and Church of St Demetrius. Actually a pretty fun student city, with somewhat of a restaurant scene and night life. It is often called one of Bulgaria's best cities to live, with plenty of families opting to buy apartments or houses. It is close enough to Sofia to work in the capital and live in Blagoevgrad, with more space for the kids, fresher air, and nature nearby. Although I don't find the city very appealing, the Varosha area, the old center, is worth a quick visit. For an overnight stay, Blagoevgrad is absolutely fine. You will not get bored, but do not spend a whole week there.
SOME VLOGS OF THIS TRIP
Храм „Свети Теодосий Търновски“
Храм „Свети Теодосий Търновски“
My next accommodation was Hotel Ramira in Kyustendil. A good hotel with an actually excellent 0n-site restaurant. Breakfast was fine as well. I like Kyustendil a lot, as a quiet provincial town with good food and hotels available. Besides, it is a town on hot water wells. So if you want the spa experience, pick a hotel like Strimon Spa. I've used the spa here and it has excellent fascilities. You can also get access if you don't stay at the hotel.
The magic of Kyustendil is more in the surrounding area rather than within the town itself. Take the Hisarlaka Fortress, a good example of well maintained historical heritage. The zoo of Kyustendil can be skipped, I found it rather sad, with overdue maintenance. I do recommend checking out the Old Sequoia Trees nearby, you'll need a car. Do a Google Maps search and you'll easily find these impressive trees within the forest.
Kyustendil is a provincial town, as said, and is well known for growing excellent fruits and vegetables. Most well known are its cherries but try any other fruit as well, it's sold on the market near the abandoned mosque of the city. There's a yearly cherry festival as well, be sure to check the date if you're in town in summer. A visit to the market is a fun experience in either case, the fruits are delicious and it will be fun to speak with the local people, despite a language barrier you might face. People in this area are very friendly.
Unfortunately, depopulation being a huge issue in Bulgarian provinces, Kyustendil is heavily affected. Although the city is quite packed, the province is near empty. Although it is close to Sofia, it is too far for daily commutes, and Kyustendil is just not a popular province to live in. It is mostly overlooked, people know little about it. Nonetheless, it is a diamond in the rough. In my opinion, one of Bulgaria's most untouched places, packed with things to explore. You need an adventurous spirit and a car, most things are remote, and there are few people around. There's a railway line from Kyustendil to Gyueshevo, which is on the border with Northern Macedonia. The train rides a few times a week, check the website of BDZ. It is a once in a lifetime experience to take this train, although it might be hard to take an immediate train back from Gyueshevo to Kyustendil. I had a car so drove alongside the railway line, through the villages. This is a surreal experience. The villages are mostly abandoned and the stations are in a state of total disrepair. I have seen a lot of abandoned places in Bulgaria, but these villages seemed very eerie. Nonetheless it is fascinating to see, albeit quite sad. By car, you can follow the railway line easily, and visit many little churches and mountain villages tucked away. THE ABANDONED VILLAGES PART WILL BE COVERED IN A SEPARATE SECTION OF MY WEBSITE, CLICK THIS LINK.