II. A   Routes in the North - West Region of the Country



 

     

      Geographically Sofia and its field does not belong to the North - Western Region of the country; in fact it located in the South - western Region,  but putting it here in my description improves my description making it easier for understanding.

 

 

      In this chapter I will give information for the routes to reach Sofia, entering from the border checkpoints shown on the map in the left.

      The sightseeing in this region worth to visit and see are Belogradchik city with its amazing rock formation and Rabisha Cave. Here is Iskar River Gorge - the best river gorge in the country. In next my explanation I will describe ways to visit and travel all these places. Drawing the routes, my intention is to avoid roads with intensive traffic as well.
 

Content

From / to Romania

      1. From Border Checkpoint Vidin - Kalafat (bridge) to Sofia;

 

From / to Serbia

      2. From Border Checkpoint  Bregovo to Sofia;

      3. From Border Checkpoint Vrashka Chucka to Sofia;

      4. From Border Checkpoint Kalotina to Sofia;         

     

 

    The routes from the first three points of the north - west corner of the country to Sofia are the same.


      1. From Border Checkpoint Vidin - Kalafat (bridge) to Sofia;

      2. From Border Checkpoint  Bregovo to Sofia;

      3. From Border Checkpoint Vrashka Chucka to Sofia.

     As these three border checkpoints are very close, the next description will be the same for all them.

       Here is important to avoid the next roads because of the intensive traffic along them:

      - E79: an international road with exceptionally intensive traffic.

      The both next roads are of local importance, traffic along them is also intensive, especially the second one;

      - road 81: From Montana toward Lom;

      - road 15: From Vratsa toward Kozloduy.

      Having all that in mind, I will suggest the next two routes from Vidin to Sofia:

       - route A: via Iskar River Gorge - road 16:

      From Border Checkpoint Bregovo to Vidin to Lom to Valchedram to Borovan to Gabare to Mezdra to Svoge to Sofia;

      - route B: crossing Balkan via Petrohan Pass - road 81:

     From Border Checkpoint Bregovo Vidin to Belogradchik to Montana to Berkovitsa to Sofia.

      The first one is a little longer (280 km) but much easier than the second one (250 km), and for the last one I will show several nice opportunities as well.

      If you plan to explore this areas, my suggestion is of first to choose the place where you will cross Balkan, look in the:

Chapter I Passes in Balkan Sector I. A

          1. Petrohan Pass;

          2. Iskar river Gorge,

where very detail information can be seen concerning them.


Route A

      From Border Checkpoint Bregovo to Vidin to Lom to Valchedram to Borovan to Gabare to Mezdra to Svoge to Novi Iskar to Sofia.

Sector II. A - 1

For more detail information I will split this route in several sectors.

Sector II. A - 1. a

 

     Well, the map needs to be split one more time in two sectors: Here are shown two opportunities to reach Vidin from Border Checkpoint Bregovo: a) directly to Vidin and b) along Danube River:

      1. Directly to Vidin City:

 

      Never mind that the road 12 is an international road between Bulgaria and Serbia, here there is not any traffic. The route is:

      From Border Checkpoint Bregovo to Gamzovo to Inovo to Vidin.

      Exploring the area for the first time, I was very surprise to see this big hill between Vidin and Bregovo, I had to climb in one very hot July afternoon. But of first I had to replace my rear bearing. In Bregovo I found a little work shop,

  people there helped me with a wrench N24 and a heavier hammer, the only tools I need to repair each bike damage, but I do not bring with me ... too heavy ...
Gamzovo is a little apart from the main road, if you need a food or water, you have to leave road 12.

      Relaxing in the little garden in Inovo with a big cup of tonic and cubes of ice - just next to the road there was a little restaurant.

      Approaching Vidin, you can choose to enter or surround Vidin. The City played an important role in Bulgarian mediaeval history. Information about the town

 

can be seen in:

      http://wikitravel.org/en/Vidin

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vidin

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/vidin/vidi

       Have in mind that near Vidin Danube River flows to South - West, not to East, as it is in the people's mind.  It is very easy to lose orientation in this town, do not be surprised, if you see the sun is rising from West :) . . . Next several photos are from Vidin.

      2. A route along Danube River:

 

     For bicyclists entering in BG through Border Checkpint Bregovo and having more time, my suggestion is to elongate a little the tour and pedal along Danube River:

 

      From Border checkpoint Bregovo to Bregovo to Baley (road 122) to Kudelin to Vrav to Novo Selo to Yasen to Florentin to Negovantsi to Gomotartsi to Kohhava to Kutovo to Antimovo to Pokrayna to Vidin.

      The route is in a flat area at all.

      In Bregovo you have to find the sign toward Novo Selo - road 122.

      In the beginning of July I explored this area for the first time, I can say it is beautiful. Roads are nice without any traffic. Water and food is available in all the small villages along the road.

      The region is known with a lot of vineyards and here they produce a local type of aromatic red wine called "Gamza". Behind the big wood on the photo below there is a shop offering a lot of these aromatic local wines.

      My relax place next to Florentin. Exploring this area have in mind to bring with you repellents against mosquitoes. Usually after June the level of Danube River is getting lower.

     

      Reaching Negovantsi you can pedal directly toward Vidin, but my suggestion is to head back toward Danube river along off road toward Gomotartsi. The off road is in not bad condition but it is not signed, over more Google Map shows it is only 300 meters.

 

      So, leaving Negovantsi look for a signs toward Vinarovo and fuel station (the second photo below) to right.

 The right direction is toward Vinarovo, but you have to turn to left (the first photo below), just 100 meters before the fuel station, it is the off road you need to hit toward   Gomotartsi. 300 meters further your GPS will show that there is no more road, in fact you will reach a bridge over irrigative channel in the field.

      Just after the bridge take the left direction (the last photo above) and follow the off road. No more problems toward  Gomotartsi, the off road will take you to Gomotartsi,

 

if my memory serves, the village is 10 kilometers further.

    The next several photos illustrate this beautiful countryside. I remember there were a lot of blackberry and pears there.

Just before entering in Gomotartsi you will start pedaling again on asphalt road. Food is available in it.

      Toward Koshava. Because it was late, my choose was to reach again Danube River and spent a night next to the river, so I head to the river before entering in Koshava.

      Above is my camp place on the river shore.

 

 

      For the next day my intention was to follow the off road just next to the river, according Google Map it should have took me to Vidin.

      My surprise in the next morning was great, when a kilometer further this off road ended in the bushes - the second photo below.

      So I pedalled up to Koshava taking the main road toward Kutovo and Vidin.

     

 

 

      If you need not to visit Vidin, in Kutovo you can take road 1 (E 79) and surround it heading toward Lom.

 

      Yes, you will be again on the main road and here the traffic is intensive. Maybe to cross Vidin city is a better idea.

 

Sector II. A - 1. b

 

      The route is:

      From Vidin to Tsar Simeon to Botevo to Archer to Dobri Dol to Slivata to Orsoya to Lom.

 

      Leaving Vidin there are several kilometers pedaling on road E 79, which is a little stressing because of the intensive traffic. Unfortunately no way to avoid it. Luckily this very unpleasant road segment is only several kilometers.

      Once reaching road 11, situation is improving considerably, the traffic disappears. 

      Looking the road profile chart below, I am surprise to see so big and sharp picks, in fact nothing like it at practice.       The distance is easy and pleasant for pedaling. The area here is almost flat, there are several places you can stay at the riverside.  

Once leaving the main road, the traffic disappears. Down is our camp place in Tsar Simeonovo - the volleyball ground.

      Tsar Simeon is a low place, so a concrete walls are built near the river. No any problems to supply with food and water in the little villages along the road.

A little restaurant is located between Tsar Simeon and Botevo, they offer fish meals, the fish is worked in Danube river.

           Entering in Archar you will see a coffee place and a little workshop - if you need some technical assistance it is the place. The town garden is nice to relax in the hot summer afternoon.

 After Dobri Dol the traffic disappear totally.
This route is very popular among EU bicyclists - down are 2 guys from Italy we met here.

      Information for Lom:

http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/lom/lom.html

Next to the river you can find out a nice garden and 2 - 3

  hotels, you can stay for the night. There are shops for bicycle spare parts, tires and tubes. Leaving Lom the road cross Lom River.
Leaving Lom the road cross Lom River. My camp place next to the river.

Route A

 

Sector II. A - 2

 

 

       The entire area is extremely pleasant to be explored.

 

      The route is:

 

      From Lom (road 81) to Mokresh (road 133) to Valchedram to Septemvriytsi to Milanovo to Manastiriste to Barzina to Rogozen to Malorad to Borovan.

 

 

      The road enters in Danube Plane. It is not absolutely flat, rolling hills are available all around.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danubian_Plain_

(Bulgaria)

 

      The rivers are flowing from south (from Balkan) to north (to Danube). So, crossing the Plane from west to east, you will climbing steeper left river shores, followed by longer downhill road to east.

      It is visible very well on the road profile chart below. 

      Once leaving Lom and climbing the hill after Lom, toward Valchedram the area is almost flat and there is not any traffic.

 

      Next photos illustrate area just after Lom and our camp place just after Mokresh, taken in the beautiful end of May '18. Poppies are everywhere in the field.

      Valchedram is little town along the route, food and coffee is available in it. A little information for it:

      http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/nw/montana/vulchedrum 

      The next photos are the countryside toward Mihailovo.

      Mihailovo is located in the valley of Ogosta River. Crossing it (the last photo above and the first one below), you will head toward Manastiriste. Next to the bridge thereis very nice spring of cool water.           The next photos illustrate the countryside toward Rogozen, my tour in the early July, 2020. The difference of the field colors in the end of May and middle of July is significant.

      Overnight accommodation is possible in Rogozen, where a friend of mine, Ferdy, has a guest house (everyone in the village knows him):

      https://www.facebook.com/rozenbedbreakfast/

         Wandering in this area I have never missed the chance to spent a night in his garden (appropriate for meditation), as well as to have a bottle of gin with him.

      Rogozen is popular with the Thracian treasures found near it '80 last century:

      https://www.bulgaria-guide.com/guide/Rogozen_Treasure/200385/

      http://www.omda.bg/public/engl/history/rogozen_treasure.htm

     The Rogozen collection is the richest Thracian treasure found so far. Unearthed in the period 1985 - 1986, it consists of as many as 108 Philae, 54 small jugs and 3 cups. The objects are mostly made of silver with gilt coating. They were collected during a period exceeding a century - from the beginning of the 5th century to the mid-4th century BC. Part of it can be seen in the History Museums in Vratsa and Sofia.    

 

      The countryside toward Borovan.

      A little information for Borovan;

      http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/nw/vratsa/borovan/borovan

Route A

 

Sector II. A - 3

 

      As I have mentioned in the beginning of the item, this route connect Vidin and Sofia via Iskar River Gorge. So in this sector is shown how to reach the Gorge from Borovan.

      The initial point of the Gorge is Cherven Bryag. According to the time you have, you can choose to reach the Gorge at Cherven Bryag, Kunino, Roman or Mezdra. (have in mind overnight accommodation is available only in Cherven Bryag and Mezdra).

      All this area is extremely nice to be explored by bicycle, no any traffic here, I really can not give an advice which variant is best.

 

      Very detail information concerning all this area including route from:

      From Mezdra to Roman to Kunino

can be seen in the Chapter I. BALKAN PASSES, Sector I. A , point 2. Iskar River Gorge, Sector I. A - 2. e: From Mezdra to Roman to Kunino.

 

      The shortest route toward Sofia is:

      From Borovan to Nivyanin to Bukovets to Tlachene to Gabare to Drashan to Kameno Pole to Gorna Beshovitsa to Kalen to Gorna Kremena to Dolna Kremena to Mezdra.

 

      Starting from Borovan toward Tlachene the route is still in Danube Plain.

      Nivyanin and our breakfast in it. We spent a night just at the bed of Skat River flowing through the village.

      The road from Tlachene toward Gabare was not maintained many years, so pedalling here is not so pleasant, at least there is not ant traffic. A food shop is available in Gabare.

Leaving Gabare, the road is in more hilly area, the Danube Plain already is behind you.

       Kameno Pole is one of my favourite places here. It was a big village, but now it is almost leaved. Never mind, there is a food shop & coffee in it.

 

      Next to the village is a small river formed very scenic canyon. To visit it, find the church in the village, then turn left and leave the village.

      Then you will be on the plateau next to the canyon. The area is called "the rocky field", it is easy to understand this name.

      Pedalling along the blue dashed line on the map above you will be next to the canyon. The view is amazing, photos below can not represent how impressive it is.

      There are three groups of rock formations down the river, 2 - 3 kilometers further. There is a rocky track down the river as well. Unfortunately the two times I was there   in the end of my day, I was tired, so I did not explored the entire area. I am sure, one day I'll be back there . . . well I was there again, again was tired and did not explore the canyon . . . .

      ٭An opportunity. From Kameno Pole there is an asphalt road down toward Kunino (the only road I did not pedal in this area) and explore the Gorge starting from Kununo.

       Another opportunity is to head toward Dolna Beshovitsa along a rocky road (photos below), after to Roman - this road is nice and to start exploring the Gorge from Roman.

      Next several photos illustrate the road from Kameno Pole to Mezdra. Again a road without any traffic. I remember that in Gorna Kremena there is a food shop.

     

     Soon you will be in Mezdra. Overnight accommodation is available in it. Information for it:

      http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/nw/vratsa/mezdra/mezdra

 

      A kilometer after leaving Mezdra near road there is a hotel & swimming pool - the photo in left. (unfortunately the water in it is not thermal, never mind, the place is nice).

 

      Mezdra is a line crossroad, trains toward Vidin, Sofia and Varna are stopping there.


٭An opportunity

      Cherven Bryag can be regarded as an initial point of Iskar River Gorge, so if you decide to explore the entire Gorge, you can head toward Cherven Bryag. And several words about the route toward Cherven Bryag: Wanderers

 

 exploring this route may find a shorter road from Gabare to Cherven Bryag, but the one I suggest here is much more easier, meaning no additional climbing here.

      From Borovan to Nivyanin to Bukovets to Tlachene to Gabare to Sushane to Cherven Bryag.

      Overnight accommodation is possible in  Cherven Bryag:

      http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/nw/pleven/cherven_bryag/cherven_bryag


      Again I will say, that very detail information for the route from Cherven Bryag toward Roman and Mezdra can be seen in: Chapter I: Balkan Passes, Sector I. A , Point 2. Iskar River Gorge, Sector I. A - 2. e: from Mezdra to Roman to Kunino.

      For bicyclists entering in Bulgaria through its North-West corner and intending to pedal to east to Black Sea

 

(Varna), I would recommend to look in the Chapter VI. Routes: B. From Sofia to Varna

      Further, to reach Sofia, you have to pedal along Iskar River Gorge from Mezdra to Sofia (road 16). I will not give information concerning Iskar River Gorge here. For details, look in the Chapter I. BALKAN PASSES, Sector I. A , point 2. Iskar River Gorge, Sector I. A - 2. e: From Mezdra to Roman to Kunino.

 

 

 

 

 

Route B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      Comparing with route A, route B is intended for bicyclists having more time and loving to climb mountain areas. It reaches Sofia passing Balkan via Petrohan Pass, one of the highest passes in Balkan.

 

 

       I will not give here information for the Pass, very detail information about the Pass is given in:

 

Chapter I: Balkan Passes,

Sector I. A ,

Point 1. Petrohan Pass

 

 

 

 

 

Route B

 

 

      The route includes one of the most scenic area in Bulgaria: Belogradchik and its interesting rock formation. My suggestion is to follow this route: 

 

 

      From Vidin to Kula (road14) or from Border checkpoint Vrashka Chuka to Kireevo to Rakovitsa to Belogradchik to  Berkovitsa to  Boychinovtsi to Kostinbrod to Sofia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       For more detailed description I have divided it in four sections, and in addition, I will expand my description a little connecting this route with Iskar River Gorge at Mezdra (from Montana to Vratsa to Mezdra) - for peddlers intending to explore the region near Belogradchik as well as Iskar River Gorge. In fact, this is truly one of my favorite routes in Bulgaria.

 


 

Sector II. A - 4

The route here is: 

                        

      From Vidin to Novoseltsi to Bela Rada to Voynitsa to Kula to Kireevo to Rakovitsa;

 

      As an addition for bicyclists loving off road, I will show an additional route:     

      From Vidin to Novoseltsi to Bela Rada to Voynitsa to Kula to Poletkovtsi to Staropatitsa to Rakovitsa.

 

 

      The next road profile chart is from Vidin to Rakovitsa:   

     A harder for climbing hill here is from Bela Rada to Voynitsa. I do not remember if in both these little villages there were food shops. Climbing after toward Kula is not   difficult.  Even though the road N14 is an international road, it is a local one and there is not any traffic. The next photos illustrate the road from Vidin toward Kula.

      Food and overnight accommodation are available in Kula (meaning Tower - named of the ancient roman tower remains in the little town). Information for Kula (photos below):

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/121

      Toward Kireevo . . . pedaling slowly up the hill . . .  the road toward the Serbian border (Border Checkpoint Vrashka Chuka - Zajcar).

      The road toward the Serbian border (Border Checkpoint Vrashka Chuka - Zajcar), Rakovitsa and Kireevo (Kiryaevo) is well signed.

      The road further is just along the periphery of Danube Field, next to it at your right will be Balkan. Far away on the horizon you will see the rock near Belogradchik which is a higher place.

      For bicyclists loving off road, I will show an additional route:     

      From Vidin to Novoseltsi to Bela Rada to Voynitsa to Kula to Poletkovtsi to Staropatitsa to Rakovitsa.

      I think this route is better in the back direction, although to find the off road in Rakovica is not so easy, the GPS device here would be helpful.

      The road from Kula to Poletkovtsi is renovated and it is in a beautiful conditions. Next to Staropatitsa it is still nice, after to Rakovitsa is off road.


 

 

Sector II. A - 5

 

 

      The route here is:

 

      From Rakovitsa to Rayanovtsi to Podgore to Oshane to Vestitsa to Belogradchik.

 

       The route is extremely pleasant for pedaling. Again, the road further is just along the periphery of Danube Field, next to it at your right will be Balkan. You will be again pedaling in a area without any traffic.

 

 

      The only village you can find food is Rayanovtsi.

 

 

     Far away on the horizon you will see the rock near Belogradchik which is a higher place, as it can be seen from the road profile chart below.

       I can not avoid to put here photos of the "Industrial Camping" just before Rakovirsa, I, Marty and John arranged in a leaved work shop in the raining May night '18. In fact we spend very beautiful evening, having very nice brandy and chocolate.

And my camp place next to Podgore
      The road is well signed because it is a border area. July and August there are a lot of blackberry along the road.

      And the last 10 kilometers from Vestitsa to Belogradchik are not easy. Bring water with you, this road segment is not pleasant in the hot summer afternoons.

      Leaving Bulgaria using this route is even more pleasant than entering Bulgaria using this route.

     Another place which is worth to be seen in the region is Magurata Cave, or Rabisha Cave. If you have more time, you can elongate a little your trip (no more than 5 kilometers) and visit it road 1104. ages

      The Magura Cave has been known to the mankind for millennia. Now it is used not only for tourism but also for

 

producing Natural Sparking Wines. In the recent past it has been used also as a sanatorium, a store for cheese, a refuge for partisans and for many other purposes. But maybe one of most interesting periods was the Stone age when our ancestors inhabited the cave. Luckily for us they were quite artistic and left a lot of paintings on the stone walls of the cave. This is one of the oldest cultural monuments in Europe.

      Information for the cave can be seen here:

https://bulgariatravel.org/en/the-magura-cave-the-rabisha-cave/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magura_Cave

   In the cave, among the stunningly shaped tunnels, you can find more than 700 drawings from different periods: Epipaleolithic (the Stone ages), Neolithic (New stone ages), Eneolithic (Copper ages) and from the beginning  of Bronze ages.

 

      Our ancestors left us paintings of animals, men and women, cult rituals, one of the first calendars from the Neolithic ages with 366 days for one year, hunting scenes and etc. made by bat guano.

      This section of the cave, though, is permanently closed. They restrict tourist visits to save pictures. The first 2 pics below are not mine.

Belogradchik

     One of the most remarkable places in Bulgaria is Brlogradchik and the area near it. Check out the links below to see what I mean.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belogradchik_Rocks

      https://visitmybulgaria.com/belogradchik-rocks/

      http://www.belogradchik.biz/belogradchik/attractions/rocks.en.html

      It is worth the time to spend an afternoon there and walk in the area of rocks. There are overnight accommodations in the town. The 3 photos next to the map show an approach to Belogradchik from Montana. If you jump over the road guard rail (the blue X on the map - I am stopping with my bike - next to the town label) you can walk in the rock area on the walk track.

      The two blue XX on the map above show the place where you can enter and walk in the fortress - photos below. It is worth the time to spend an evening in the restaurant (I point it on the map above) against the rock - the last photo below.

      On the map above I have point the place of a restaurant with very scenic view toward the rocks. After the sunset the view is even a little unrealistic, when they light up the rocks.


   

 

      As I have mentioned in the beginning of the item, the route B connect Vidin and Sofia via Petrohan Pass, and in this sector the route ends in Berkovitsa, or Montana. Along the road 81 you can cross Balkan via Petrohan Pass and reach Sofia.

 

 

 

Sector II. A - 6

      This route is extremely pleasant for exploring by bicycle in both directions. Climbing is not steep or long, traffic is minimal, and the entire area is appropriate for wild camping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

     The route is:

      From Belogradchik to Izvos to Borovitsa to Sredogriv to Dolni Lom  to Prevala to Gorna Luka to Mitrivtsi to Beli Mel to (Montana) to Gavril Genovo (Ilitsa or Iliza in other maps) to Borovtsi to Berkovitsa .

      Starting from Belogradchik down toward Izvos and Borovitsa there are 12 - 13 very pleasant kilometers down the mountain; the road is extremely scenic, it turns between the rock formations. 

      Be careful locating the road toward Sredogriv (after Borovitsa - the second photo below - both we with the rock behind us). The turn is well signed, but is easy to miss. In fact the crossroad is just before Falkovets, but you will not enter in it.

       It follows 15 kilometers climbing toward Sredogriv and Dolni Lom; the mountain is a little bit steeper after Dolni Lom. In Dolni Lom there is a nice spring of cool water and food shop.

      Toward Prevala Pass, our camp place just on the Pass and Prevala Village from the other side of the Pass. Food is available on it.

      From the Pass toward Gorna Luka, Mitrovitsa and Beli Mell and Gavril Genovo ( Ilitsa or Iliza in other maps) road is down hill, the pedaling here is a real pleasure, there is not any traffic.

      The photo in the middle below shows the hotel in Beli Mell; it doesn't rate very high on my list of favorites, but it can be a nice option in some cases. A restaurant is available there as well.

     If you need overnight accommodation here, it would be better to pedal to Chiprovtsi. It is only 12 km from Beli Mel. The little town Chiptovtsi is placed next to the Balkan mountains, the scenery here is impressing. Overnight accommodation is not a problem - there is a  

nice hotel & restaurant in the center of the little town.

      More information for Chiprovtsi can be seen here:      

http://wikitravel.org/en/Chiprovtsi

http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/nw/montana/chiprovtsi/chiprovtsi

      And . . . you have to climb a little . . .

    Chiprovtsi offer an opportunity to visit a nice monastery as well - turn right 2-3 km after the crossroad, the road toward the Monastery is signed well. A little information for the Monastery:

     https://bulgariatravel.org/en/the-chiprovtsi-monastery-saint-ivan-rilski/

    Toward Chiprovtsi.
And the little town Chiprovtsi, our hotel we spent an afternoon and a night in.

      We will continue toward Berkovitsa. The road toward Gavril Genovo is easy, in the village there is a water and food, it is a little apart from the road. I see that the name of this village is different in the different maps. The old name

  of the village is Gavril Genovo - named of the name of a communist - extremist; obviously the village is renamed: the new name is Ilitsa, or Iliza. The next photos illustrate the countryside between Gavril Genovo and Borovtsi.

      A nice place for relax near Zlatitsa River  can be found out in Gaganitsa - it is a kilometer left from the road 815.

      Soon you will be on road 81 toward Berkovitsa. The next several photos illustrate the road from Montana toward Berkovitsa. It is pleasant for pedalling road at all, the slope toward Berkovica is not steep.

      Overnight accommodation in Berkovitsa is possible, entering in it you will see a lot of signs pointing small hotels and guest houses; information for Berkovitsa and several photos:

       http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/berkovitsa/berkovitsa.html

      You can miss Berkovitsa, pedaling up toward Barzia and Petrohan Pass Pass. Two - three kilometers to Barzia the road is already steep; the slope is 9 - 10 % and it is permanent to the Pass, but very detail information for the pas can be seen in the:

 

      Chapter I. BALKAN PASSES, Sector I. A ,Point 1. Petrohan Pass, I will not write about it here.

 

      The next opportunity is for bicyclist wanted to visit Montana. The roate is next to the very scenic Ogosta Dam.

      Near Ogosta Dam. I have pedalled this area many times in different seasons. The first two photos below are taken in the end of May, the next three -  middle of June, the last tone - in the end of July.

      In the end, you will be in Montana. Overnight accommodation in Montana is not a problem; information for Montana and several photos:

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/montana/montana.html

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montana,_Bulgaria


 

Sector II. A - 7

      For bicyclists intending to explore the region near Belogradchik as well as Iskar River Gorge, further I will expand my description a little, connecting this route with Iskar River Gorge at Mezdra (from Montana to Vratsa to Mezdra - route a). In fact, this is truly one of my favorite routes in Bulgaria.

 

 

     I will expand a little my description in this sector showing several opportunities as well:

   - from Borovtsi to Lakatnik from Berkovitsa to Lakatnik route b,

    -  and crossing Balkan from Vratsa toward Milanovo and Lakatnik route c.

 

 

      According to the time you have to explore this area, you can choose the best variant for you.

      Route a:

      From Montana to Erden (road 816) to Ogosta to Boychinovtsi to Palilula (road 101) Krivodol to Vratsa to (road E 79) Mezdra  (or to Pavolche - road 1004 to chelopek to Lyutibrod - Iskar River Gorge)

      Do not hesitate to elongate a little your route heading from Montana toward Boychinovtsi. Avoiding road E 79 (road N1) you will pedal in a beautiful area without any traffic. Next several pictures illustrate it.

      Information about Vratsa can be seen here:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vratsa

      https://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/vratsa/vratsa.html

      Several photos from the town:

     The town is placed just below the Balkans, is a scenic place, the History Museum in the town is worth seeing, and overnight accommodation in the town is easy to find. Information on the History Museum in the town can be found here:

 

http://www.vratsamuseum.com/index.php?lang=en

https://bulgariatravel.org/en/vratsa-regional-history-museum/

      There are a lot of Thracian gold treasures in it: Valchedram Gold treasure: Especially impressive is the gold crown shown in the last photo - one of the most impressive things I have ever seen in my life.

      and more than 200 peaces of Rogosen gold - silver treasure:

      

      From Vratsa toward Mezdra you have to pedal on the road E 79. The traffic here can be demanding, but the road is wide enough, so pedaling here is not dangerous.

      Mezdra is a small town where overnight accommodation is possible.

      http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/nw/vratsa/mezdra/mezdra

      Here you will enter in Iskar River Gorge, a detail description for it you can find in the Chapter I. BALKAN PASSES, Sector I. A , Point  2. Iskar River Gorge

      About 2 km after Mezdra, on the road segment from Vratsa to Mezdra, you will find a nice hotel, near road E 79,  and swimming pool, unfortunately the pool water is not thermal. The restaurant in the hotel is relatively expensive. Be aware there are 2 - 3 very unpleasant kilometers between Mezdra and Rebarkovo.

      To avoid this very unpleasant road section, you can pedal:

       From Vratsa to Pavolche to Chelopek to Lyutibrod. 

       I do recommend it!

      And as it can be seen, here a climbing is available, but it is easy from Vratsa toward Chelopek. And three photos from this area.

      Sector II. A - 7. a

      And one very nice opportunity here is:

      Route c

      It is purposed for fans of mountain & off-road bicycling, I would recommend:

      From Vratsa to "Vratcata" Gorge  to Zgorigrad to Ledenika Cave to Parshevitsa Hut  to Milanovo to Iskar River Gorge (Lakatnik).

 

     The route is in an area of the National Reserve:

https://bulgariatravel.org/en/the-vratsa-balkan-nature-reserve/

      The most scenic place here is the gorge named "Vratsata" (the first pics below) between Vratsa and Zgorigrad: I remember that beginning from Zgorigrad arter 1,5 - 2 hours of climbing there was a spring of water.

http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/vratsata_gorge/vratsata_gorge.html     

 

      Overnight accommodation is possible in  Zgorigrad - the photo in the middle below,

http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/nw/vratsa/vratsa/zgorigrad

near Ledenika Cave, Parshevitsa Hut. Little information for Parshevitsa Hut:

http://vr-balkan.net/en/huts/

http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/parshevitsa/parshevitsa.html

      In the mountain the off road section is not signed, but I believe it is easy to maintain your orientation in the area as it is an open area; no forest, the visibility is nice in each direction (the last two photos below show the

 

highest place in the mountain, faraway down is Iskar River Gorge). On the highest point you can find Parshevitsa Hut, information for it:

https://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/parshevitsa/parshevitsa.html

      Approx 15 km after Zgorigrad there is a remarkable cave "Ledenika", maybe the most popular cave

 

destination in Bulgaria, it is worth to be visited.                  

http://vr-balkan.net/en/ledenika-cave/

      An especially  scenic area is the road segment between Milanovo and Lakatnik (Iskar River Gorge). 

  While bicycling down the mountain, from Milanovo down to Iskar River Gorge, 9 kilometers you will enjoy a great view.

      In the end, you will be in Iskar River Gorge. Again, I will mention that more information for it can be seen in  Chapter I. BALKAN PASSES, Sector I. A , Point 2. Iskar River Gorge.

 

Sector II. A - 7. b

Route b

 

     The route I would suggest here (towart Iskar river Gorge) is a little shorter than previous one, but it includes a little bit more climbing. It is a shortcut between Borovtsi and Iskar River Gorge.

 

      The route is in the Balkans, and there is very little traffic in this section. The road is nice for pedaling in the both directions, is steeper in the opposite direction (from Lakatnik to Borovtsi, but still nice for pedaling.

 

 

 

      Next I will suggest two opportunities:

 

       The first one is:

      From Borovtsi to Zamfirovo to Parlichevo to Stoyanovo to Dolna Bela Rechka to Gorna Bela Rechka to Milanovo to Lakatnik (Iskar River Gorge).

 

      The Next one is:

     From Borovtsi to Berkovitsa to Spanchevtsi to Varshets to to Dolna Bela Rechka to Gorna Byala Rechka to Milanovo to Lakatnik (Iskar River Gorge).

 

 

 

     The road profile chart for the first opportunity:

The next several photos illustrate the countryside from Borovtsi to Parlichevo.

The next several photos illustrate the countryside from Stoyanovo to Milanovo.

      The climbing is harder after Dolna Byala Rechka; to the top of the pass are almost 9 kilometers.

      The second opportunity I have mentioned for this area is:

 

     From Borovtsi to Berkovitsa to Spanchevtsi to Varshets to to Dolna Bela Rechka to Gorna Byala Rechka to Milanovo to Lakatnik (Iskar River Gorge).

 
 

      It is purposed for bicyclists wanting to visit Barkovitsa, Klisurski Monastery and Varshets. The only disadvantage I see here is that you have to pedal several kilometers on road N 81, which is with relatively intensive traffic especially in the weekends - Friday & Sunday afternoons.

      The road profile chart shows the various lay without long steep hills, extremely pleasant for pedalling.

     The countryside from Borovtsi toward Berkovitsa.

      Berkovica is a picturesque little town placed just below the Balkan. Overnight accommodation in it is possible, entering in it you will see a lot of signs pointing

 

small  hotels and guest houses; information for Berkovitsa and several photos:

http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/berkovitsa/berkovitsa.html

      Leaving Bercovitsa, you will see signs toward Varshets and Klisyrski Monastery.

      Bicyclists having time can visit the Klisurski Monastery (the road toward it is signed well), overnight  accommodation is possible there, there is a restaurant as

 

well. Information for the Monastery:

http://www.bulgariamonasteries.com/en/klisura_monastery.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DNcwXPOew0

      Next small village is Spanchevtsi, it is a small spa resort:

      http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/nw/montana/varshets/spanchevtsi

      If you need overnight accommodation, my suggestion is to go a little further to Varshets, entering it it you will see a lot of labels for little private guest homes and hotels:

      http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/nw/montana/varshets/varshets

      Countryside after Varshets toward  Golyama Byala Rechka and my camp place.

      In the end, for bicyclists loving the hard climbing, I would suggest after Montana, to take the road toward Petrohan Pass, details for this route can be found out in the Chapter I. BALKAN PASSES, Sector I. A , Point 1. Petrohan Pass.


2. From Border Checkpoint Kalotina to Sofia

 

 

 

 

     Is a segment of the international road from  Vienna to Istanbul, and is the shortest road from the west Bulgarian Border toward Turk Border: Border Checkpoint Kapitan Andreevo).

 

 

 

 

 


     

      In the moment E 80 is in reconstruction, the motor road will be ready for exploitation maybe 2022, maybe 2023, I am not sure, so the next information needs updating permanently.

 

      So far the motor road is ready from Sofia to Dragoman. Pedalling along it is forbidden, so you have to find the old road parallel to the motor road.

 

 

      If you increase the scale of the map, you will see the old road parallel to E 80. Starting from Sofia, the old road is 6 - 7 kilometres west from Bozhuriste almost to the Border Checkpoint Kalotina. It is very rough pavement, I think it is not very nice to pedal along it. 

 

 

     The road profile chart shows that route is not hard for pedalling.

      Next photos are taken between Bozhuriste and Slivnitsa.

      Overnight accommodation in Slivnitsa is possible (there are motels along the road as well); Information for Slivnitsa:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slivnitsa

      The motor road toward Dragoman is ready almost to Dragoman. The next three photos were taken up in the spring of 2021, when I rode this part of the motor road, when there was still not traffic.

    

 

      As I have mentioned above, if you increase the scale of the map, you will see the old road parallel to E 80.

 

      Starting from Sofia, the old road is 7 - 8 kilometres west from Bozhuriste almost to the Border Checkpoint Kalotina. It is very rough pavement, I think it is not very nice to pedal along it, but is really would be much safer than the motor road.

      What about Dragoman - the most interesting is the swamp near it - there is not many places in Bulgaria like this one:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnUQslTbZBA

      Overnight accommodation is possible in the hotel I have posted above.

 


٭Opportunities in this region

      Next I will suggest you two more routes in this area, in cases you head to:

      1. If you head toward Black seaside - to Varna, missing Sofia, (Look also the Chapter VI. Crossing Bulgaria from west to east. Routes: B. From Sofia to Varna );    

      2. If you head toward Greece missing Sofia (Look also the Chapter II. Routes: B. Routes in the South - West Region of the Country


      ٭1. Bicyclists intending to bicycle directly to Black seaside (Varna) crossing Northern part of Bulgaria (north from Balkan) missing Sofia, I would suggest the next three routes from the Border Checkpoints Kalotina to Iskar River Gorge (Svoge).

      More details further I will give only for road segments I still do not give information so far.


      Route a

      From Border Checkpoint Kalotina to Dragoman to (road 813) Prekraste to Kalenovtsi to Bukorovtsi to Godech to Shuma to Buchin Pass (road 81) to Iskrets (road 164) to Svidnya to Svoge

      The only thing I can say, it is extreme scenic area; ones leaving the road E 80, you will pedal along roads without any traffic. It would be nice to bring with you spray against dogs here.

 

      Reaching Dragoman you have to hit road 813 toward Godech - you will enter in Balkan, you will start climbing.

      My camp place just next to Prekraste is shown on the next photos.

     I do not remember if food shops are available in the villages to Godech, so bring food and water with you leaving Dragoman.

       Godech is a little town, overnight accommodation is possible there. Winter time it is one of the coolest place in the country.  A little information about Godech:       http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/SW/sofia/godech/godech

      The road toward Buchin Pass is signed well.

      Crossing road N81 you will see a nice restaurant. You will pedal 2-3 kilometres down along road N81, just here it is not so wide and the traffic is relatively intensive, so, be careful. The road toward Svoge is signed well.

        At the crossroad (roads 813 & 81) there is a restaurant and water (the second photo below); the same is at the crossroad toward Svoge (2 km down the first crossroad), and a food shop is available as well.

      Next several photos are the countryside illustrating the area from Buchin Pass down to Svoge, I and my daughter Maya explored in the very sunny and warm April '18. 

      Svoge is placed by Iskar River, you will be not disappoint if choose to pedal further along the Gorge. Details for it can be seen in the Chapter I. Passes in Balkan, Sector I. A , Point 2. Iskar River Gorge.

 

Information for Svoge and 3 photos from the town:

 

http://www.picturesofbulgaria.com/article/svoge.html

http://en.svoge.bg/


      Route b

     From Border Checkpoint Kalotina to Dragoman to Golyamo Malovo (road 8103) to Rayanovo to Malo Malovo to Vasilovtsi to Tsaklevtsi to Buckin Pass to Iskrets (road 164) to Svidnya to Svoge.

        Here the distance is almost the same, but climbing is a little bit less rather than the route a. Again along the road there are several villages, but I do not remember if food was available between Dragoman and Buchin Pass.

      Next several photos are the countryside from Dragoman to Buchin Pass; you will pedal several kilometers more on the road 81, which can be busier especially in the weekends.


      Route c

      From Border Checkpoint Kalotina to Dragoman (E 80) to Slivnitsa to Bogyovtsi (road 811) to Gradets to Tsarichina (road 8102) to Svidnya (road 164) to Svoge.

      For this route I will show more detailed description for the road segment from Slivnitsa to Svoge.

       Never mind that comparing with the previous two routes, this one is longer as well as the climbing here is more, as if I like this route most of all. A little more will be the pedalling along road N81, but here it is wider and safer. Food is available in Opitsvet, Tsarichia and Svidnya.

      The words I wrote for the previous route are valid for this one as well. I love this area, it is beautiful for a camp in the wilderness. The next several photos are taken toward Tsarichina.

Our camp place just before Tsarichina. I camped many times at this area.
Down toward Svoge.

     

      ٭2. To bicyclists intending to bicycle directly to Greece (Border Checkpoint Kulata) missing Sofia I would suggest the route:

      From Kalotina to Dragoman to Slivnitsa to Galavbovtsi to Gurgulyat to Arzan to Breznik to Batanovtsi to Radomir to Dupnitsa . . . to Border Checkpoint Kulata.

 

      The road segment from Slivnitsa to Breznik crossing Viskyar Mountain is in very bad conditions, but the nature is saved, area is very very scenery - several photos of this area are shown down. Bring food with you. In Gurgulyat water is available.

 

 

      More information concerning route to Border Checkpoint Kulata at Greece/Bulgaria border can be found out in:

     II. Routes: B. Routes in the South - West Region of the Country

      Gurgulyat is connected with the our new history:

      http://visit.guide-bulgaria.com/a/1008/pantheon_of_the_perished_in_the_battle_for_gurgulyat.htm

      What about Breznik, I am not sure if overnight accommodation is possible in it. Very little information about Breznik Municipality and Breznik can be seen here:

      http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/SW/pernik/breznik

 

     Again I will say, More information concerning route toward Border Checkpoint Kulata at Greece/Bulgaria border can be found out in the Chapter:

     II. Routes: B. Routes in the South - West Region of the Country

 



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