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Close, yet far

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This village is often overlooked for day trips - at 43 kilometres from Sofia it's ideal to catch some fresh air and have a good walk. Situated in the eastern part of the Sarantsi valley, which is one out of 20 Sub-Balkan valleys.

Sub-Balkan means they are situated right south (below) of the Balkan mountain range, well known as Stara Planina. This mountain range cuts Bulgaria in half and divides north and south. These Sub-Balkan valleys are known for their sources of mineral water and for that reason you'll always find some villages to explore - these were obviously founded near the water sources. Also, it's easy to hike because you can go through flatland or take the hills. So, you can choose the terrain to hike through.

The Sarantsi valley is named after the village Sarantsi. To the north are the Murgash mountains. The tallest peak of the Murgash mountains is named Murgash as well, it's 1687 metres tall. Murgash is part of Stara Planina. Then, to the south are the Ihtiman Sredna gora mountains. To the east are the Oporski mountains, that separate the Sarantsi valley from the Kamarska valley. There you also find the tallest mountain nearby, Opor, with 1089 metres. You can hike there, search for Опор in Openstreetmaps and you'll see paths leading there. I haven't tried these yet, so am unaware of the state of these trails.

The Sub-Balkan mountain ranges have their specific microclimates. Stara Planina and Sredna gora mountains shield the valleys and offer shade on the hillsides. Yet, clouds keep stuck so it's possible to have some rain. Best is to check the weather before you go - it might be sunny in Sofia but rainy in the other valleys.

What's the history of Makotsevo?

The first inhabitants of this area were two Thracians, fleeing Turkish persecution. One of them was named Kotse. He was not a tall men and when eventually others came to settle on the Opor mountain, the place was called 'Malkotsevo'. This referred to 'little Kotse'. This was eventually, after many years, abbreviated to Makotsevo. In the beginning, local people mostly kept livestock but over time developed a sense of trade and sold limestone to Sofia.

On the village square is the St. Dimitar church, which during the Ottoman era was robbed by Circassians, an ethnic group from the Northwest Caucasian mountains. They were displaced during the Caucasian War. It had already been hard to get the church constructed in the first place, the Ottomans didn't allow tall and pretty churches to be built in the villages. Permission was required from Constantinople and from the pasha in Sofia. Eventually, it was not allowed to build the church as tall as desired. The last renovation of the church was in 2003 and it looks very pretty now.

How to get there

Trains from Sofia leave frequently, although you'll have to take the slower 'personal' train. It stops at all stations. Check the Bulgarian Railways website and type in 'Sofia' and 'Makotsevo', so you'll find the schedule.

Where to stay

Near Makotsevo is the village Dolno Kamartsi. I haven't made the hike but in Openstreetmap I see there are trails to the village, a nice place surrounded by hills. Dolno Kamartsi had several volunteers for the Battle of the Shipka Pass, during the Russo-Turkish War (1877 - 1878). Two monuments in the village still honour the fighters.

From Makotsevo itself, it might be possible to hike to mountain hut Opor. However I am not sure it's reachable from Makotsevo. You can spend the night there. Should you be a group of 10 people, the Friends Ranch is a cool place to stay. There's a village restaurant on the main square, however it's best to take some groceries from the store next door and enjoy them outside. There's a nice picknick table on the right side of the church.


You could easily make a stop by train in Gorna Malina and visit the Windmills park, where you can swim and even spend the night. Besides this park, there's another two-bedroom villa in Gorna Malina. Check out for the villages Baylovo and Bunovo as well!

Apart from the direct region around Makotsevo, you could continue to Mirkovo or Pirdop and check out the area. The railway line continues all the way to Karlovo and Burgas. South of Karlovo are several nice spa resorts, for example in the towns Banya and Hisarya. From west to east, there's plenty to see on your way!

Find many more places to travel to in my Bulgaria section!

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