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Beyond the Blue Rocks of Sliven

The area around the city of Sliven is packed with exciting things to do and see. It is most famed for the Blue Rock Nature Park, which dominates the city's backdrop, but there is more to this area than nature alone. Discover some of the key highlights of this wonderful region and plan your own mini break there. There are nature reserves, a chair lift to experience the dizzying heights of the rocks, architectural gems in numerous small villages.

 

Sinite Kamani, Blue Rock Nature Park

The breathtaking Blue Rock Nature Park offers panoramic views and an array of rare flora and fauna. It comprises 7,000 hectares and it is the third largest National Park after Pirin and Vitosha. It also houses an ancient beech forest near the Kushbunar spring and the Karandila hilltop, whilst there is a massive bee-keeping farm on the edge. The favourable climate has seen increases in the plant species, of which there are now over 1000 along with 235 invertebrate animal species. The mountain is steep and reaches 1,181 m above the sea level at its highest point. The north and northwest winds, and the world famous Bora wind sweep through the region. This park is full of waterfalls, caves, interesting rock formations and rivers. There is a chair lift affording wonderful views, which transports visitors to the high mountain peak, although many interesting sights can also be reached on foot. And ideal spot for those seeking peace and quiet in some of Bulgaria's best nature.

 

Karandila

Sliven’s most visited site is the Karandila, a hilltop 1,050 m above sea level in the Blue Rock National Park. It lends some spectacular views across the city. The hill is also home to an intriguing rock formation called the Hulkata or "The Ring." This is a rock overhang with an unusual hole in the centre. There is much local folklore attached to this site, the most bizarre being that those who pass through the centre of the ring would change gender.

 

The Caves and Waterfalls

Sliven is home to many caves; one of the most popular is the Zmeiovi Dupki or Dragon’s Cave, situated 5 km north-east of the town.

There is an underwater river in the cave, which is 150 m in length. Another nearby but inaccessible cave is the Eagles’ Holes cave, which is perched on the top of a vertical cliff, which as the name suggests, only eagles can reach.

Sliven is also home to some picturesque waterfalls. The Dragon’s Cave Waterfall is extremely wide, 8 m high and flows into the Mara Deer River. The Camel’s Step Waterfall on the Goliam Djendem River is 10 m high and lies situated in a beautiful lush forest.

 

 

Peach Valley

Peach Valley lies to the west of Sliven and as it name suggests this is where the peach groves lie laden with their scented crop of juicy Bulgarian peaches. Worth stopping on the road and buying the fresh fruits you'll find on the stalls, fresh from the tree.

 

Windy Hills Chateau

A superb vineyard on the edge of Sliven. Winetasting and a gastronomic restaurant. If you feel you've had a drop too much of their splendid wines, why not stay the night in one of the comfortable hotel rooms.

 

Kotel

Tucked away in the mountains, 50 km from Sliven is the charming museum town of Kotel.

Known as the “Cradle of the Renaissance”, Kotel is a beautifully preserved town with many listed buildings in the true wooden Revival style. It used to be the largest carpet weaving centre in Bulgaria and it is still possible to see people making colourful carpets in their homes. The Galatansko School contains a fascinating collection of weaved carpets as does the ethnographic museum in Kyorpeevata House. Some of the towns churches, namely St. Trinity and St Peter and Pavel have a remarkable collection of old wood carvings and artwork.

Kotel is also home to the Filip Kutev School, which is Bulgaria’s first high school for folklore, singing and music, many of whose students perform internationally. Lots of small restos and bars to whet your appetite, including the delightful Old Watermill which is at the end of the old town in the entrance to the wonderful park.

To reach Kotel from Sliven, take the back road, which winds up and down the mountains with spectacular views. Worth stopping en route at Ichera for a stroll around this pretty village; where there is also a delightful small hotel with pool for a stopover.

Between Ichera and Kotel, take a small detour to the very attractive hamlet of Katounishte with its pretty river and lovely traditional houses perched up the hill.

 

Zheravna

Zheravna is a small, architecturally protected village, which lies in a valley at the southern foot of the eastern Balkan Mountains.

It has more than 200 one- and two-storey wooden houses in the architectural style of the National Revival period and the village is surrounded by stone walls and cobblestone alleys. This is a real 'must' to visit - you'll feel as if you've stepped back 100 years!

Popular sites in the village include the museum house of the merchant Rusi, the Church of St Nicholas, which houses amazing religious icons from the 18th and early 19th century, the museum house of the distinguished writer Yordan Yokov, the art gallery, which is housed in the old school house and the museum house of the educator Sava Filaterov.