Many visitors of Bulgaria head to Rila Monastery in the first days of their stay, and this is awesome. Rila Monastery is definitely a place everyone coming to Bulgaria should visit. Moreover, it is fairly easily accessible with rent a car, bus shuttles, inter city buses, etc.
But, if you have a full day for Rila Monastery and your own transport, I’d advise to get up early and plan for these 2 splendid natural sights on the road as well – the Stob Pyramids and Bohemia waterfalls.
Stob Pyramids – how to reach, what to see
Stob Pyramids are the more famous sight of the two – you can easily find their location on Google Maps. When driving to Rila Monastery, pass the village of Kocherinovo and then keep looking for a sign to the Pyramids on the right. There is a spacious car park just in front of the entry point to the sight and nice informational boards. Small entrance fee applies.
Have in mind the walk to the Pyramids (30-40 minutes) is mostly sunny and it tends to get hot, so get water and a hat. Also make sure you have decent shoes, not sandals, flip-flops, etc as the road has small pebbles on places and it tends to get slippery.
The pyramids are a completely natural formation – lovely work of art by the sun, wind and erosion. Most of them are up to 10 meters high, some have stone ‘hats’ on top of them, making them look like giant mushrooms.
The several groups of pyramids have been named in different ways, following their resemblance to people, towers, etc. And legends are know for some of them, the most famous being about the group of pyramids named The Wedding.
The legends says that a wedding processing was coming back from the neighboring village, with the bride having joined the procession. Because of the tradition that the bride’s face should not be uncovered before the wedding vows, everyone in the procession wondered if she was beautiful or ugly. Suddenly a strong wind came up, lifted the bride’s veil and everyone saw how beautiful she was. The best man, who was part of the procession, was tempted to go and kiss the bride. Suddenly, all people part of the wedding got stoned, being ashamed of his act…
Have in mind the path leading to the pyramids lets you see them from the top and on the sides. If you want to see them from the bottom up, you need to return to the village (the road below can be easily seen and passes through some local houses).
On the way to the Pyramids there are remnants from a 12th century church being destroyed during the Muslim occupation because the christian people visiting the church were claimed to be looking from the top, into the yards of the muslim families living beneath. Despite being moved, on the church place there are still signs of worship – icons, candles, flowers and a big cross.
Bohemia waterfalls – how to reach, what to see
Bohemia waterfalls is another amazing place that only takes an hour to visit an enjoy. I’d recommend, however, to take food for picnic and enjoy the coolness of the place a bit longer 🙂
The eco trail to these waterfalls has been the fruit of local people’s efforts. This is maybe the reason it is not yet that popular but the trail is very well maintained and the sequence of waterfalls is spectacular.
You will find a small sign showing the start of the waterfalls, just after you pass the village of Rila on your way to Rila Monastery. There is a place of worship on the road, and after that is a sign to the waterfalls, along with a small road deviation allowing you to park the car.
The road to the waterfalls goes through the woods for about 10-15 minutes, slightly steep at first, until you reach a wooden refuge. Keep walking and looking for a small sign on the right – this is a sign for the so-called ‘Extreme’ version of the eco trail.
It is indeed exciting but safe enough, so I would advise to take it IF you have good shoes (= no sandals and flip flops since the stones are pretty slippery at times, mountain shoes would work best). The Extreme version basically goes straight to the waterfalls and you walk up against them, passing through or sideways of them. Nothing dangerous, just be careful. Use the rope provided, avoid slippery stones. The entire route can be made for 20 minutes or so.
Otherwise, if you’d rather take up on the safe and more leisure version, keep going straight until you reach the top of the waterfalls and a small bridge. You will see there a small tube which brings water to the refuge you came across earlier. The view from there is still nice but.. well, not that exciting I have to admit 🙂 If taking this road, look for a small cave just under the bridge – you can go there via a small wooden ladder and admire the fall of the water from underneath
This place is cool, shady and comfortable and nice for a picnic or rest under the trees.
Tip: in the village of Stob there is a tourist center and just before it (50 meters) there is a nice bakery in something like a small park selling freshly baked bread. There is also a (free) mineral water fountain. So – here’s where you can get bread and water for the picnic 🙂
Here they are – 2 spots you can visit in quite a short time, but that would make your Rila Monastery trip an even more exciting adventure 🙂