As Bulgaria is blessed with a wealth of diverse sights, it might be hard to choose what to see. It is often very rewarding to save time on the road and to pick a base from which to make short trips. There are plenty of such bases all over the country. A remarkable and very centrally located one is Lukovit. It is north of Sofia, at just 112 kilometres on a good stretch of the Hemus highway.
This town receives far fewer visitors than it deserves. However, it is a good starting point from where to explore both northern and central Bulgaria. From Lukovit - Sofia, Lovech, Pleven, Vidin / Belogradchik and the Svoge area are all relatively close. Besides, Lukovit is surrounded by plenty of natural beauty. The Iskar gorge, Balkan mountain range, Stara Planina mountain range and the Danube plains are a short drive away. The Geopark Iskar-Panega, with an eco trail, is just five minutes driving south of Lukovit. Likewise, the area has some very pretty caves to explore such as the Prohodna cave, Saeva Dupka cave and Devetashka cave. Glozhene monastery (Glozhenski manastir) is located at 36 kilometres from town.
Coming from Sofia, there are several ways to reach Lukovit. The fastest one is by taking the Hemus highway, which takes you there in less than two hours. You can also drive east from Sofia and cross the Etropolski mountain pass, visiting the town of Etropole as well. Arguably the prettiest trip, provided you have the time, is through the Svoge area, past Tserovo, Lakatnik, Mezdra and the Prohodna cave. You can easily visit these along the way. Lukovit has some places to stay, the best one being the Diplomat Plaza hotel. There is also a hotel a bit cheaper and basic but it's clean and comfortable; the Diplomat Park hotel. The first one is right on the town square and the second one about 750 metres from there. Both places have a restaurant. There are a few other restaurants near the square, a walk around town will definitely get you to some nice examples.
Have a look at this itinerary as well, which passes through Lukovit and describes another place to spend the night.
About four kilometres from Lukovit is the eco trail Iskar-Panega. Take the main road south and about five minutes out of town, on your right, is a large parking. A small man-made tunnel gets you to the staircase leading to the river. This park, along the Panega river, is the first Geopark of the country. The term Geopark stands for to a sustainable park, which should advance protection of nature. Local people are involved in its development to stimulate the economy. With good paths, wooden bridges and plenty of places to rest, this is a pleasant and easy trail to follow. In the clip on the left side, you can see some impressions of my roadtrip to Lukovit and the Geopark Iskar-Panega. Pictures are below.
The village is just south of the main axes between Sofia / Pleven / Ruse and Sofia / Varna. It's on the very scenic road to Teteven, Ribaritsa and eventually Troyan. Just the route itself is worth a trip but Glozhene should not be skipped. First, after coming from the highway, you will see signs leading you to Glozhene monastery (Glozhenski manastir). The road passes the village Malak Izvor and then goes all the way up towards the monastery. There are two parkings, the first one on the left and a bit farther down the main parking. At both parkings, it's two levas for a car. A guard walks around the main parking to collect the fee and will hand you a receipt. From there, it takes three minutes to walk to the monastery.
Glozhene monastery sits on top of a mountain. On one side are tall rock formations. If you look the other way, through the windows of the complex or outside the courtyard, is Teteven valley. This location makes the monastery easy to see from far away. Not only is its location impressive, so is the complex itself. It is constructed in a typical Bulgarian style, with white walls from inside the courtyard and wood from the outside. The church, in the middle of the complex, rises above the buildings surrounding it. Together with the mountains as a background, this is a very scenic place.
The legend goes that Georgi Glozh (from the Eastern Slavic Kievan Rus) was permitted to stay in this area by Tsar Ivan Asen II. He built a monastery and later on, the monks built a separate monastery not far away. They were connected through a tunnel, which later collapsed during an earthquake. The initial monastery was lost because of earthquakes as well. Glozhene monastery has remained. Wood-carved icons from the initial monastery are on display in the current monastery's church. On 6 May, St. George Day, celebrations take place at the monastery. This complex is truly worth a visit. Even though it is on a mountain, it is easy to reach by car, just off the Hemus highway. By public transport it would become a lot harder, though. There might be organised tours from Sofia but best is to have a car. Then, you have the freedom to visit other sights.
If you go to the actual village Glozhene, almost 17 kilometres from the monastery, you can find restaurant Mehana Vidrite. It is a typical Bulgarian style restaurant, along the main road to Teteven. It's on the left side of the road, just south of Glozhene. If you look close, behind the restaurant there is a waterfall. You'd have to stand on the side of the road, left of the restaurant, to see it. Alternatively, pass through the garden. I could not find a website of restaurant Mehana Vidrite. However, I found an accommodation also named Vidrite. Even though I have not been there, it looks nice and it is in the same village, Glozhene.
In the village Malak Izvor, near the monastery, is Little Spring Guesthouse. Another one, along the main main road in the same village, is called Izvorche. This also translates to little spring. However, these are separate guesthouses. Izvorche is the light blue house on the right side, coming into the village. It's hard to miss. Their phone number: 00359888550720. I stayed in the Diplomat Park Hotel in Lukovit. It was great for my small budget (33 levas for one person as of May 2016). Clean and comfortable rooms, not including breakfast. This is available for a small fee. There are other guesthouses in surrounding villages. Often, signs will point you in their direction.
In the album, from halfway until the end, are pictures of Glozhene monastery. The last one is of the waterfall near the village.