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Kyustendil, Bulgaria’s Orchard

Kyustendil lies in the Kyustendil Plain in the south west of the country close to the Macedonian border and is home to 46,882 people. It is an area famed for its hot mineral springs and fruit growing in particular its plums, cherries and apples, which have given rise to its nickname “Bulgaria’s Orchard.” Its Mediterranean climate means that it has many hours of sunshine throughout the year and is perfect for year round tourism. Its location is completely awesome, enveloped by the Osogovo and Konyavo Mountains at 482 m above sea level and lying on the banks of the tranquil Banska River, it is surrounded by fertile plains and striking canyons.

 

 

Getting There

Kyustendil lies approximately 90 km to the southwest of the capital, where you will find the closest international airport and only 69 km northwest of the city of Blagoevgrad. The Macedonian border is a mere 22 km away. Its strategic location on one of the oldest trade routed linking Constantinople with the Adriatic has meant that it has always thrived in terms of tourism and business. Transport links between the town and the capital are extremely good with regular buses, which also link the town with neighbouring Dupnitsa, Pernik and Blagoevgrad. There are also good rail links between Sofia and the Macedonian border. Within the town everything is accessible by foot.

A Dip Back in Time

Kyustendil has historic roots in the Thracian period and was known at this time as Pautalia, which means “a town of springs.” It flourished during Thracian times because of its location on a major trade route and because of its mineral springs. It was also a roman stronghold with the Hisarlaka Fortress protecting the area from the 4th century. When the Slavs invaded in the 11th century, the town became known as Velbazhd, after one of its leading citizens Konstantin Velbazhd. During this period it was a key religious and administrative centre.  It acquired its present name when it became part of the Second Bulgarian Empire in the 16th century; the name means “a land of Konstantin” and was so given after a medieval lord Kontantin Dragash who ruled the area.

During the period of Ottoman rule, the local people played a leading role in the Bulgarian National Revival. Crafts and trade thrived here and contributed to the strong sense of nationalism that was growing at this time.  Once the town was liberated by the Russians in 1878 it became a major spa and tobacco centre.

Eating, Drinking and Where to Stay

Kyustendil offers much in the way of entertainment with over 50 restaurants alone. If you are looking for something that offers traditional Bulgarian cuisine then the Pastuh House Mehana is well worth a visit. The town centre is pedestrianised and lined with a varied range of bars and cafes and there are plenty of night clubs offering a vibrant nightlife.

There are also several hotels in and close to the town all at reasonable prices with a night for two in a three-star hotel working out at around 60 Euros; the Tri Buki Hotel offers quality accommodation in a mix of rooms, apartments and even family houses. The views of the pine forest from the hotel are spectacular and it’s possible to spend hours in the panoramic restaurant or at the poolside bar. The hotel also has a fitness centre, sauna and massage and offers a varied range of sporting facilities like skiing, tennis, football and volleyball. The five-star Strimon Spa Club, which offers guests some amazing spa experiences including a romantic bath for two in milk. The Lazur Hotel offers a variety of accommodation including a luxury apartment. It also has a large restaurant and a piano bar as well as a gym and sauna.