IX.  How to enter/leave Sofia by bicycle



       The leaving/entering in Sofia is a problem because of the intensive traffic, so, I believe that some information concerning this problem would be useful. Maybe it would be useful to inform you that the morning traffic pick is 7.30 - 10, so, if you leave Sofia at 6 - 6.30 am, you will have not problem with the traffic.

      If somebody is interested about Sofia, in the links below information concerning Sofia is given, I will not write about it here.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sofia

        http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/SW/sofia-city/stolichna/sofia

      https://bulgariatravel.org/en/sofia/

      On the map below I have shown roads using to leave/enter in Sofia as well as I have pointed destinations of each road. Roads numbered in red would be better to be avoided !!! Traffic along these roads is crazy, and along the Boulevard “Tsarigradsko Shose” (the dashed red line) bicycling is even forbidden (A1).


Doing these descriptions, I have hesitated a long time in my choice concerning the initial/final route point in Sofia. In the end I have decided, that it will be Hotel Favorit:

    https://www.hotelfavorit.bg/en

      In the link you can see the information about the hotel (fortunately it is written in English), so further I will mention only some features important for bicyclists, which are not obvious in the link above. Several are the reason for this my choice:

      - It is very easy to find out this place: close to the Central Railway Station Sofia ("Knyaz Boris I" Str., N 193);

           - The place is very communicative – it is the public transport center of Sofia: here is the Central Railway Station Sofia, Central Sofia Buss Station (Bulgarian Tourism Authority), Bus and Coach Station Traffic Market, there is a metro stop, buss and tram stops; Use the Hotel Site to book a room for you;

-           - It is easy to describe and point routes to leave/enter Sofia with Hotel Favorit as a starting/final point;

-          - It is the perfect place to relax for a night (or more) in Sofia: the place is very clean; the staff is yang, educated, knowing English and behave very friendly;

-          - Opinions of the hotel guests (bicyclists toured with me in BG) are more than best;

           - you can leave a part of your baggage in it while touring in Bulgaria;

           - If you contact with the hotel staff in advance, you can arrange bike/baggage transfer from/to the Sofia Airport, a representative of the hotel will welcome you at the Airport as well.


      On the next maps I have shown roads using to leave/enter Sofia (orientated towards Hotel Favorit), as well as I have pointed destinations of each road.

      Again I will mention, that if you decide to leave Sofia pedaling, my suggestion is to do it early in the morning, no later than 6.30 am. So you definitely will avoid the intensive traffic in the town.


 

 

 

 

 

IX. 1. Toward/from Iskar River Gorge

 

 

      In the:

      Chapter I: Balkan Passes,

      Point 2. Iskar River Gorge

can be found information about this extremely scenic route.

 

 

Sector IX. 1 - A

Toward Iskar River Gorge

      In other to leave Sofia to North (Iskar River Gorge) you have to pedal Overhead Crossing “Nadezhda”, where the traffic is terrible. So, here I always prefer to bicycle between the tram line - it is the road segment between point A and point B on the map in left; the dashed green lines are the tramway underpasses.

      Do not be afraid to pedal just next to the tram line (or between the lines). Here trams are moving very slowly, their speed is no more than 15 km/hours. There is enough space to shift left, right or between lines and leave the tram to pass you by if necessary. The trams are very noisy, but they will follow only the line.

      Tramway underpasses are not dark (as it is obvious from the pics below), no any danger to bicycle there. After the last underpass, you will be on the road again and the terrible overdressing “Nadezhda” will be behind you.

      The velo lane begins from so called "Lion Bridge" (the first photo below); after it go by the Sofia central Line Station toward overcrossing "Nadejda". As can be seen from the pics below, no any danger to pedal between the trains, one more time I will say, never mind they are very noisy, they are moving very slowly. I always use this route to avoid the Overcrossing "Nadejda".


Sector IX. 1 - A

From Iskar River Gorge

 

 

      Coming from Iskar River Gorge, you can pedal up the overcrossing "Nadejda" (the first photo below) - on it you will see the bike lane, simply follow it to the hotel.

 

 

      The other opportunity, as if I like it more, is to follow again the train line I have pointed with a green dashed line on the previous map above.


IX. 2. Toward/from Petrohan Pass

      In the Chapter I. Balkan Passes, Point 1. Petrohan Pass can be found information about this route.

 

      Leaving and entering in Sofia concerning this route is easy. As I have pointed on the map in left, between point A and point B there is a nice velo lane. (I have mention it begins from the "Lion Bridge". The lane will lead you to  overcrossing “Nadezhda”, after simply go only straight on along Lomsko Shose Str.

 

      Entering in Sofia, you will see the velo lane (at your right side - it begins just after "Billa" Shop), it will lead you to the Central Railway Station Sofia and Hotel Favorit. (Hotel "Favorit" is just behind Hotel Princes - the high white building on the last photo below).


IX. 3. Toward / from Border Checkpoint Kalotina (BG/Serbian border)

 

 

      In Chapter II. Routes from BG / Serbian & BG / Macedonian borders to Sofia, Point 2. Border Checkpoint Kalotina – Sofia can be found information about this route.

 

      I think no any problem to find this road. Entering in Sofia, go only straight on Boul. Slivnitsa.

 

      Leaving Sofia, pedal only straight on Boul. Slivnitsa – it will lead you to the BG/Serbian border. (I think the road is well labeled).

      Photos from this area


IX. 4. Toward/from Border Checkpoint Strezimirovtsi

(BG/Serbian border)

 

      In Chapter II. Routes from BG / Serbian & BG / Macedonian borders to Sofia, Point 1. Border Checkpoint Strezimirovtsi –  Sofia can be found information about this route.

      Again here bicycling is along Boul. Slivnitsa, but reaching Bozhuriste, do not surround it along the road for the transit traffic, enter in it, further the road is signed toward Breznik (toward Gurmazovo, Pozharevo, ext.).

      To leave Bulgaria to west direction it is the best route.

      Photos from this area


IX. 5. Toward/from Pernik: to Border Check Points: Kulata (BG/Greece Border) and Gyueshevo (BG/Macedonian Border)

 

      In Chapter III. Crossing Bulgaria from north to south, Part II, Point 1. Border Checkpoint Kulata - Sofia can be found information about this route.

      As it can be seen from the map IX.5 there are three possible routes between Pernik and Sofia:

      - route A (Buchinski Pass):

       from Sofia to Malo Buchino to Golemo Buchino to Pernik.

My suggestion is to choose it; it is in very nice conditions and it is parallel to the motor road A3;

 

      - route B (Lyulin Mountain):

      from Sofia to Bankya to Lyulin to Pernik.

It is easy to be find out from Pernik to Sofia, there is an off-road segment;

 

      - route C (Vladaiski Pass):

      from Sofia to Vladaya to Dragichevo to Pernik.

The traffic here is intensive, I use this route when I enter in Sofia.

 

      On next 3 charts you can see and compare the road profile of the 3 routes:


Route A:

      This road (in very nice condition) is parallel to the motorway A3. It is very convenient to pedal Sofia – Pernik (and back) and I recommend it, no any traffic along it.

      It is appropriate to reach BG/Greece border – Border Checkpoint Kulata. It is not easy to find out this road in Sofia. No any signs, I think here GPS device would work. Ask and look for Malo Buchino.

      The next map is more detailed one: Pedal along Boul. Alexander Stamboliiski - it is easy to find it, after go only straight on Suhodolska Str.

Be careful to avoid the motor road A3!


Route B:

      Beginning from Sofia it is easy to find the road toward Bankya, but after - it is not signed. The off road is steep up to the mountain divide and it is muddy in the raining seasons as well. From Pernik to Sofia it is easy to find out this road. Avoid this route when it is raining.

Next map shows the easiest route from Sofia city to Bankya.

      I am not sure if it is easy to find the road after Bankya toward Pernik. GPS device surely will help here. Next several photos illustrate this area. Again I will say that from Bankya to the divide you will climb an off road. From Pernik it is not a problem to find out this road.


Route C:

      The traffic along this is very intensive, especially mornings toward Sofia and late afternoons in the back direction, as well as Sunday afternoons, it would be better to be avoided, especially when leave Sofia. Too much exhaustive gasses up to Vladaiski Pass. In the opposite direction the situation is a little better.

      An advantage here is that there is very convenient velo lane in Sofia town between point A (so called “Russian" Monument  the first photo below) and point B (behind Sofia Ring).

Once leaving Sofia an ascending begins toward Vladaya. Maybe this is the most unpleasant road segment here.

      In the end I would say here, that to leave Sofia by a train to Vladaya would be a nice decision. (Look Chapter IX. Roads and Trains in Bulgaria).


 IX. 6. Toward/from Samokov

      Never mind this route includes very scenery gorge along Iskar River (Road 82):

      From Sofia to German to Pancharevo to Kokalyane to Dolni Pasarel to Samokov,

never mind there are a lot of peddlers from Sofia toured this route in the weekends, I think it would be better to avoid it. Very intensive traffic (especially weekends) including heavy trucks, narrow segments, only turns.

 

 

      A possibility I see here are both rotes I have shown on the map:

      Route a (Road 181):

      From Sofia to Bistritsa to Zheleznitsa to Kovachevtsi to Popovyane to Belchinski Bani to Relyovo to Samokov,

      Route b:

      From Sofia to Bistritsa to Zheleznitsa to Plana to Dolni Okol to Gorni Okol to Samokov.

      But  . . .  I can not suggest an appropriate route between the hotel Favorit and Sofia ring. The crossing of Sofia in this direction is not easy (having in mind the traffic).

The next road profile chart is the route 6, I do not recommend it.

 The next two profile charts are much better concerning the traffic, but here the climbing is much more.

Route 6, a

Route 6, b

Next photos illustrate the road from Sofia ring to Zheleznitsa, route b, I do recommend it!


IX. 7. Toward/from Plovdiv

      In the Chapter VI. Routes: D. From Sofia to Plovdiv and Edirne (in Turkey) can be found detailed information about this route.


 

IX. 8. Toward/from Burgas

      Take Botevgradsko Shose Str. toward Dolni Bogrov, after it pedal along road N6 (E871). More about this route can be seen in Chapter VI. Routes: B. From Sofia to Varna;

                                                     A. From Sofia to Burgas.


 

IX. 9. Toward/from Vitinia Pass

      More about this route can be seen in Chapter VI. Routes: B. From Sofia to Varna, as well as In Chapter I. Balkan Passes, Point 3. Vitinya Pass can be found information about this route.

      For all the points 7, 8, and 9 (also the next point 10) the best variant is to find out Boul. Botevgradsko Shose, which is not hard. There is a traffic here, but the boulevard is save for pedaling. The next map (sector IX. 7 - 1) is more detailed.

      The road is signed very well:

      - Toward Burgas (route 8) pedal only straight on after Sofia ring;

 

      - Towards Vitinia Pass (route 9) be more careful: look for Gorni Bogrov, and Yana – you will avoid the motor road A2.

 

      - Along Boul. Botevgradsko shose (route 7) you will not see signs toward Plovdiv, so look in: Chapter II. Routes from BG / Serbian & BG / Macedonian borders to Sofia, Point 6. Sofia - Border Checkpoint Kapitan Andreevo. In it you will find out detailed information about this route. I also illustrated this road by several photos.

        Again I would say here, that to leave Sofia by a train to Elin Pelin Railway Station would be a nice decision. (Look Chapter VIII. Roads and Trains in Bulgaria).

Next three photos illustrate Boul Botevgradsko Shose.


IX. 10. Airport – Hotel Favorite

      In the end, here I have shown the most convenient road connecting Hotel Favorite and Sofia airport, I know, some bicyclists start and finish theirs tour to/from airport. According to me it is the safest one for bicyclists, although a better variant would be to call for a taxi.



Several photos from Sofia City



      Near Sofia is located Vitosha Mountain. It is the oldest National reserve in Bulgaria. Information for the Mountain:

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

      https://bulgariatravel.org/en/natural-park-vitosha-and-the-vitosha-mountain/

      A route to explore Vitosha Mountain I have shown in the

      Chapter VII.  NICE ROUTES IN MOUTAINS,

      - RILA Mountain,

      Point B.  Approaches toward Rila Mountains from Sofia.

      Some photos from Vitosha Mountain



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