Travelling is not just about seeing new places. It is also about experiencing their atmosphere and their food, their people and their stories. Elena, in the central Stara Planina near Veliko Tarnovo, is a destination that has all this, and more. There, you will find yourself deep amid green forests, old churches and traditional houses, complete with the feeling of a place still stuck in the early 1990s. As a bonus, the town is the home of one of Bulgaria's renowned delicacies: the Elenski but ham.
An easy drive from Sofia, nestled deep in the leafy Sredna Gora mountains, Koprivshtitsa has all the elements of an exemplary Revival Period experience. The surrounding landscape is all high slopes, lush forests and meadows. Beautiful 200-year-old mansions line cobbled streets. Old stone bridges span the local river. Charming old water fountains, their worn inscriptions still legible, are here, there and everywhere. Koprivshtitsa's history is also captivating, as this was where the April Uprising of 1876 began.
Perched on an outcrop of rock above the Chaya River in the Rhodope, Bachkovo Monastery is a place packed with all the hallmarks of Bulgarian-ness. Its mediaeval ossuary preserves the only mural portrait of a Bulgarian king. The last patriarch before Bulgaria fell under the Ottomans, Evtimiy of Tarnovo, is believed to have been exiled and to have died there. The fortress-like complex is one of the finest architectural creations of the Bulgarian national revival period, and some of the frescoes are by Zahariy Zograf, the most prominent Bulgarian artist of the 19th Century.