Many visitors to Bulgaria become intrigued by the huge variety the country has to offer. During my stay, there have been many moments where I was just stunned by some of the beauty I was witnessing. One of the strongest of these impressions was in the region around Shumen, for example in the old capitals Pliska and Veliki Preslav but most of all in Madara. Apart from the Horseman, the whole surrounding area left me with my eyes wide open, to take in all of this prettiness. I'm referring to the rocky, steep walls that rise high into the blue skies. You have to bend your neck in all turns and twists to see it all - that's how tall the walls rise. They are all around. The green vegetation climbing up against these rocks, never being able to reach even the half of their majestic height. Birds flying in and out of the walls and over the trees whilst singing soft songs. As you arrive to Madara with in the back of your head the idea of seeing the Horseman, this is not the only sight you should come for. Be prepared to stare in awe at least a few hours at the area right around it as well.
The Horseman itself; it's wondrous. A Horseman carved in rocks way too high to be reached by even the most inventive tribes. As you climb the stairs, it will suddenly appear behind the dense bushes. From the platform you stare up to the carvings and you cannot help but think "How was this ever made?" Another category of intrigue that can be experienced in Bulgaria. It proves that the era people live in says nothing about their capabilities, when humanity is united many a great thing can be made. This must have been the case for the Madara Horseman as well; this is probably not the work of one man. If you look closely, you will see a lion by the feet of the horse and a hunting dog behind them. Interesting to know is that the statue was declared the national symbol of Bulgaria in 2008. Besides, the monument had been included on the UNESCO List of World Heritage in 1979.
Palaces and monuments located nearby were destroyed by the Ottomans. All that remains is the Horseman and the natural beauty that can still be enjoyed. Continuing your walk from the Madara Horseman, you have access to the top of the rock wall the Horseman is carved in. Quite a hike but definitely worth the view, I suppose. There are several eco paths in the area; many signs point in their direction and it is truly a pleasant area to walk. You can choose a route that is relatively flat or you can climb up towards the plateau. I have not climbed the cliffs but instead chose to walk along the rock wall, towards the caves. As you stand with your back towards the Horseman, take one flight of stairs down and go left. Following the path, you will pass a small cave that is used as a place of worship. People leave coins and banknotes and make wishes. There are several caves around, I am unsure whether any are accessible. If you continue following the path, farther away from the horseman, you will pass some abandoned cabins that were used to find solitude in this pristine area. Now a sad sight. Walk along past some small statues and there is a sign pointing towards a tall sequoia tree. The sign says "Секвоя" and will lead you a hundred metres towards the tree, which you can see from afar. This tree was planted on behalf of Tsar Boris III in 1937. If you retrace your steps back towards the sign and continue the path you were following, you'll have made a circle. You'll arrive at the car park with restaurant "Madarski Konnik".
Where to stay and what else to see
Should you want to spend the night in Madara, there's Guesthouse Madara Omaya. Besides, in the nearby village Kyulevcha is the Vila Bulgaria Eco, alternatively Guesthouse Pri Bai Rusi or Guesthouse Rai. Plenty of options to spend the night in a nice rural setting, not far away from Shumen and Varna. Even though Madara is a long way from Sofia, it is worth the trip provided that you combine it with other sights. As mentioned, Pliska and Veliki Preslav are nearby. So is Ovech Fortress. You will have so much to see that you'd have to choose to avoid being overwhelmed; the Northeast of Bulgaria deserves a longer visit than just a few days. Madara is best visited by car, especially keeping in mind that you might want to visit more places in the area. Please let me know in case of any questions!