A journey to Teteven, Bulgaria- a return to serenity

A journey to Teteven, Bulgaria- a return to serenity

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Deep valleys, lush forests, pure mountain streams, mysterious caves, magnificent landscapes, and villages with authentic culture around a beautiful town. The Balkans are full of fairy tale pictures, scattered in the endless mountains and valleys. Some of these pictures can be seen in a place, north of Stara Planina (The Balkan Mountains) in Bulgaria. This place is called Teteven- an off-the-beaten-path area, full of serenity. Let’s go on a journey there and discover its incredible beauty!

A house in Teteven
A house in Teteven

About Teteven

Before exploring this amazing place, let’s first open the map, zoom in on the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria and make some research.

Some geography

Stara Planina (The Balkan Mountains) is the longest mountain range in the Eastern Balkans, particularly in Bulgaria. It stretches about 600 km from west to east, reaching the Black Sea.

And you can notice that there are multiple lower hills and ridges, located north of the main mountain chain, stretching along the Balkan Mountains- this area is called Fore-Balkan. And to the north, the Fore-Balkan gradually descends into the Danubian Plain and the Danube River.

But let’s back to the south, and the western part of the Stara Planina, the Fore-Balkan, and the Danubian Plain. Several rivers flow from the mountains to the Danube River. One of them is the Vit River. Its sources are located high in the Stara Planina, its streams join together and flow first to the northwest, on the Vit River Valley which here forms the local boundary between the Stara Planina and the Fore-Balkan.

Mt Treskavets in the Fore-Balkan
Mt Treskavets in the Fore-Balkan

The town of Teteven

Here, in this valley, you can see the town of Teteven, established along the river, sandwiched between the Teteven Range of Stara Planina and the highest part of the Fore-Balkan, called Vasilyovska Planina. This is a wild place, covered by lush forests, with multiple gorges, cliffs, caves, waterfalls, and magnificent peaks.

Today, you can see the town of Teteven and some villages around it, scattered in the valleys and the hills- tranquil places, keeping a lot of authenticity, and history. But to explore them and taste their charm, let’s get into the history of the area.

History of Teteven

The area of Teteven has been inhabited for thousands of years. The earliest known people were the Serds- a Thracian tribe that left some artifacts (they can be seen in the History Museum of Teteven).

From the 1st century AD, the area became a part of the Roman Empire, and after 395- Byzantine Empire. Around the 8th century, it was conquered by the First Bulgarian Empire, then again by the Byzantine Empire, and at the end of the 12th century- by the Second Bulgarian Empire. Until that time, there was nothing but some scattered villages in the wild forests only, until the reign of King Ivan Asen II.

King Ivan Asen II and Glozhene Monastery

Ivan Asen II had a good friend- the king of Kievan Russia Glozh. When the usurper Boril got the power, Ivan Asen II asked Glozh for help, and in return, he offered land northwest of the modern Teteven to Glozh. As a result, one of the most impressive monasteries in Europe was built- Glozhene Monastery. But more on that later- the story is really interesting.

Inside Glozhene Monastery
Inside Glozhene Monastery

Altyn Teteven

In the 14th century, the area was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. However, its demographic remained mainly Bulgarian. One of the villages gradually turned into a town, and the town prospered. It was called Teteven, and due to its wealth, it got the name “Altyn Teteven” (Golden Teteven).

But its prosperity ended in 1801. The end of the 18th century was a turbulent time in the Ottoman Empire. Deserted soldiers from the Ottoman Army formed gangs of robbers, called “Kirdzhalis”. And the prosperous Altyn Teteven drew their attention.

The destruction in 1801

So, the Kirdzhalis besieged the town, but couldn’t conquer it. They withdrew, but a greedy traitor led them back to Teteven on a secret trail. They surprised the inhabitants of the town who couldn’t resist the invasion, and the Kirdzhalis massacred most of the population, destroying almost the whole town. Only the local monastery was left, as well as 3-4 houses.

New Teteven

Several decades passed until the town of Teteven gradually back to life. During the rebellions against the Ottoman power, the Bulgarian hero Vasil Levski organized secret revolutionary committees, but due to internal problems, they couldn’t join the April Uprising against the Ottomans in 1876. After the suppression of the uprising, its main leader Georgi Benkovski escaped to the area of Teteven but was killed by the Ottomans after treachery near the village of Ribaritsa.

Two years later, the Russian army came and Bulgaria gained independence after the Russian-Ottoman War 1877-1878. Teteven became a part of modern Bulgaria, passing through the time of the Third Bulgarian Kingdom, the Communist rule, and democracy after 1989.

Today, Teteven and the area enjoy peace, serenity, and new prosperity, gradually turning into an impressive tourist destination. And there is a lot to see and do here. So, let’s see what the geography and history of Teteven offer to travelers.

The new center of Teteven
The new center of Teteven

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Teteven’s gems

So, what can you enjoy in Teteven, if you go there on a journey? In general, there are several types of gems and activities you can discover:

  • Beautiful nature. The valley of the Vit River, the surrounding mountains, the forests, and the rock formations offer endless opportunities for hiking, sightseeing, climbing, or just relaxing. The town of Teteven and the village of Ribaritsa are good starting points for exploring nature. And if you like the high mountains, south of the town is the ridge of Stara Planina (The Balkan Mountains) that reach more than 2100 m altitude.
  • Travel back in time. This can be felt by visiting ancient ruins- in fact, there aren’t too many of them. But you can travel back in time mostly by visiting some quiet villages where life has remained almost as it has been centuries ago. However, an important part of your “time travel” would be visiting the Historic Museum of Teteven, as well as the monasteries of Glozhene and Teteven.
  • Relaxation. The best place to do it is the village of Ribaritsa. It is the first village declared a resort status in Bulgaria, and its serenity is great for relaxing. But if you want something more off-the-beaten, there are other villages- Vasilyovo, Cherni Vit, Divchovoto, Babintsi, etc.
  • Tetevenska Salamura. This is the local culinary masterpiece. “Tetevenska Salamura” is a special fish soup, made with Balkan Brown Trout that lives in the Vit River. Normally, it is spicy, but they can serve you without chilly if you want. There is even a Festival of Tetevenska Salamura, next to the last Saturday of June.
Teteven and the valley of the Vit River from above
Teteven and the valley of the Vit River from above

Our journey to Teteven

It was our second bloggers’ trip (the first one was a year ago to the neighboring Troyan region). We came by our cars and met together in Glozhene monastery, the westernmost place of interest in the area around Teteven. From there, we traveled eastward, stopping at the main attraction points on the way. We spent the night in the village of Ribaritsa, and on the second day crossed Bogoe Pass to Troyan- the second part of this trip.

So, we spent a day and a half in Teteven and we could essentially taste the best of the area. But there is much more to see and try here. It would require at least a week to dive into the beauty of this place in full. Anyway, this is what we saw and what we could see, touch, and try if we stayed a long time.

Places to visit in Teteven

Let’s start with the town of Teteven, the largest settlement in the area. It is more than 10 km long, established along the Beli Vit River (White Vit)- one of the two main rivers that form the Vit River. The town is relatively new- there is not a classical “old town”. It is a beautiful and relaxing place with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. And there are three points of interest you should visit.

Town center

The first one is the town center. Like everywhere, this is the face of the town. It is a well-designed square, surrounded by the main institutional building of Teteven, a favorite place for relaxation and meetings of the local people, garnished with the surrounding mountains. And one of these buildings is a must to visit- the History Museum.

New new center of Teteven with the History Museum
New new center of Teteven with the History Museum

History Museum

The museum is established in a beautiful three-story building. It presents the history of the town from pre-historic times to the end of the 19th century. However, it doesn’t present only historic artifacts- at the same time, it is an ethnographic museum, exposing artifacts of local life from the last few centuries- art, crafts clothes, customs, and more.

All of this is presented in the three parts of the museum: Archaeology, Ethnography, and Revival.

Working hours:
Monday to Friday: 9:00 – 12:00; 13:00 – 17:00
Weekend and holidays: 10:00 – 12:00; 13:00 – 17:00
Entrance fee: 3 BGN

Teteven Monastery

This is one of the few remains of the old Teteven (before the destruction in 1801). It is called Saint Elijah and is built in the 14th century. This is the only monastery in the Balkans with two preserved layers of murals- from the 17th and 19th centuries. Actually, today it consists only of a church and an old-architecture house beside it.

When the Kirdzhalis destroy Altyn Teteven in 1801, they burn almost all the buildings. But somehow the church of the monastery was skipped by the fire and survived. Today, the church and the house are located in a beautiful garden- an excellent and tranquil place for relaxation.

Teteven Monastery
Teteven Monastery

More of Teteven

If you are looking for more points of interest inside the town of Teteven, you can see the church All Saints, with its old architectural style, and the neighboring Hadzhi Ivanova House- one of the few Revival style architecture houses in the town, today turned into a gallery.

After you explore this, you are ready to “attack” the surroundings of Teteven. Let’s structure it into four directions: downstream of Vit, upstream of Vit, Stara Planina south of Teteven, and Fore-Balkan (Vasilyova Planina) north of Teteven.

Downstream of the Vit River

You follow the Vit River (initially- Beli Vit) downstream, on Road 358. There are two main points of interest in this direction- Glozhene Waterfall and Glozhene Monastery.

Glozhene Waterfall

This waterfall is located 10 km from the center of Teteven, on Road 358, right before the village of Glozhene, at Vidrite restaurant. The waterfall is easily accessible- it is just above the road, and in fact, it can be seen from the road. A short trail above the restaurant (about 100 m long) leads you to the waterfall.

It is spectacular in spring and summer, but almost disappears in late fall and a dry winter.

Glozhene Monastery

Glozhene Monastery is one of the most spectacular monasteries in the Balkans, somehow similar to the famous Greek Meteora (although the rock formations in Glozhene are not as stunning as those in Meteora). It is located 29 km from the center of Teteven (follow Google Maps navigation!).

Glozhene Monastery
Glozhene Monastery
The story of Glozhene Monastery

This monastery was built in the 13th century. As mentioned above, its story is related to the realm of the Bulgarian king Ivan Asen II and his relationship with the Kievan Duke Glozh. A special Orthodox icon from the Kievan Rus disappeared, and Glozh desperately wanted to find it. At the same time, a usurper called Boril took the throne from Ivan Asen II.

Ivan Asen asked Glozh for help, and ultimately, Glozh agreed and gave his help. In return, Ivan Asen gave land in the area of today’s village Glozhene (obviously, derived from the name of the Kievan duke). In the beginning, Glozh hesitated, but suddenly, the wanted icon was found here.

So, they started to build a monastery in the valley of the Vit River. However, during the building process, the icon disappeared again a few times, and every time was found on the peak above the valley. They considered it as a sign that the monastery should be built there, not at the bottom of the valley. Thus, what is today Glozhene Monastery was created. And the icon can be seen in its church.

Glozhene Monastery in the following centuries

During the following centuries, the Ottoman Turks conquered the lands of Bulgaria and destroyed many monasteries and churches. But Glozhene Monastery, probably due to its inaccessibility remained untouched. Today, it preserves the medieval tunnel-like gate and holds a small museum dedicated to Revival-time people who fought against the Ottomans and had activities here.

And finally, the monastery reveals breathtaking views of the valley of the Vit River. You can even see the Glozhene Waterfall from afar. In addition, you can go on a short (45-min) hike to the mysterious Morovitsa Cave (follow the signs), with signs of pre-historic people who lived there. It is several kilometers deep, but only the first 320 m are accessible to ordinary tourists.

A panoramic view from Glozhene Monastery
A panoramic view from Glozhene Monastery

Upstream of the Vit River

Actually, this is upstream of the Beli Vit. The main destination here is the village of Ribaritsa.


Ribaritsa is one of the longest villages in Bulgaria- about 12 km long, and only a few hundred meters wide. The middle of the village is located about 12 km from the center of Teteven. It is also known as one of the best mountain resorts in Bulgaria.

The village started to attract intellectuals at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then, it grew in size and turned into one of the best climatic resorts in the country. The main highlight here is not history or ethnography and culture, but the wild nature- endless forests, deep valleys, natural reserves, and natural phenomena.

Ribaritsa is full of guesthouses, small hotels, and restaurants. We spent the night in one of them, called Stoyanova House. It offers cozy rooms, and the restaurant Teslyta next to it is in traditional folk style, right beside the bank of the Beli Vit River. They also offer some services like rental bikes.

This place is a great starting point for exploring the Stara Planina (The Balkan Mountains) and the neighboring Vasilyova Planina- by hiking, biking, or other types of adventures.

North of Teteven: Vasilyova Planina

The main area of exploring north of Teteven and Ribaritsa is Vasilyova Planina. It is the highest mountain range of the Fore-Balkan, with its highest peak Mt. Vasilyov (1490 m). The highlight of this range is the natural beauty- there are some impressive peaks, surrounded by deep forests. Several small villages are scattered here, and they bring additional charm to the hiking adventures.

There are two main hiking directions- Babintsi, and Vasilyova trail.


Babintsi is a small village, connected by a 9 km paved road from Teteven. The village is a starting point for 3 short eco-trails:

  • Treskavets. It is a mountain peak with an elevation of 1152 m, located west of Babintsi. There are remains of an ancient fortress on the peak. The eco-trail to the peak is about 45 min long and is called “The Old Fortress.
  • Ostrich. This is another peak, 1069 m high. It is located south of Babintsi and looks quite sharp, hence the name “Ostrich” (“Sharp”). A small chapel is built on the top, and the panoramic views of Teteven and the valley of the Vit River are magnificent. The eco-trail to the top is 30 min. long.
  • Cherven. This is the highest peak around Babintsi- 1229 m. Its name means “Red” due to the reddish color that can be seen from Teteven during the sunset on the rocks. The eco-trail to the top is called “Up to the Sun”, and is about 1 hour 30 min long. A version of it starts from the center of Teteven and joins the trail from Babintsi.
Mt Ostrich
Mt Ostrich

Vasilyova trail

This is a 23 km trail starting from Skrebatna (a small village area between Teteven and Ribaritsa), ascending to the summit of the Vasilyova Planina, reaching Mt Vasilyov, and finally descending to the road Teteven-Troyan. Versions of it descend to Ribaritsa instead, making it longer. It is proper for a 2-3 day hike. You can spend the night in Vasilyov Lodge.

South of Teteven: the foot of the Stara Planina

Now, let’s take a look at the other side of the Beli Vit River. The same type of high mountains surround the valley and there are some beautiful points on their slopes or side valleys that are easily accessible and not far from the main road.

Opasnia Zyb and Mt Petrahilya

This is the most iconic natural point of Teteven. Opasniya Zyb (in English- “Dangerous Tooth”) is a system of cliffs, one of them protruding like a tooth. The high peak that rises above the cliffs is called Petrahilya (1179 m), and a beautiful eco-trail called “Fresh Breath of Air Under the Sunstone” leads you to the Dangerous Tooth, and branches to Petrahilya. The panoramic views of the whole area are fantastic.

Skoka Falls

Skoka (“The Jump”) is the most beautiful waterfall in the area of Teteven. It is located south of the town, about 3 km on a paved road, and about 15 min walk on a trail to the waterfall. This eco-trail is called “Under the Splashes of the Waterfall” and is another iconic place for locals and visitors.

Skoka Falls
Skoka Falls

Benkovski Monument

This is another short trail to the south, starting from Ribaritsa. It is a paved alley, following the valley of the Kostina River (a tributary of the Beli Vit). The trail guides you to a place with tragic history- here the leader of the April Uprising Georgi Benkovski was killed by the Ottoman police in 1876, thanks to a local traitor.

Today, there is a monument of Benkovski, a stone well called “Bloody Well”, where the Ottomans washed the head of Benkovski after they cut it. And there is a reconstruction of the small wooden bridge over the river, where Benkovski and two of his fellows were shot.
The whole area is also a nice place for picnics, and the paved trail is excellent for biking (we tried it). From here, the trail proceeds further upstream, become a dirt path, and ascends to the high zones of the Stara Planina (The Balkan Mountains).

So, these are some attractive trails south of the road Teteven-Ribaritsa. But the wildest part starts further beyond- here is the Stara Planina.

Zlatishko-Tetevenska Stara Planina

This is the segment of the Stara Planina, located right beside Teteven, south of it, from Zlatitsa Pass t- Troyan Pass. Its highest peak is Vezhen (2198 m), and the whole summit rises high above the tree line, featuring vast alpine grasslands.

One of the most popular European trails (marked as E-3), called “Kom-Emine” follows the summit of The Balkan Mountains from the border with Serbia to Cape Emine at the Black Sea.

A section of it passes on the Zlatishko-Tetevenska Planina and is a part of the Teteven region.
Here you can enjoy wild treks in the Central Balkan National Park. You can follow the local section of Kom-Emine, but also you can try some side trails to various points, including natural reserves like Boatin and Tsarichina.

In general, these are the main points of interest in Teteven and around it. I can also add additional places like the villages of Cherni Vit, Glogovo, and Golyam Izvor, but even those described above are enough to make your trip full of impressions.

The summit of the Zlatishko-Tetevenska Planina
The summit of the Zlatishko-Tetevenska Planina

How to reach Teteven

Teteven is a bit remote place, and there are not too many options to reach it. The easiest way to travel to Teteven is by bus from Sofia. There are 3 (seasonably 4 or 5) buses traveling from Sofia to Teteven for 2 hours. One of the buses proceeds to Ribaritsa.

But the best way to explore the area is by car. You can rent a car and you have the freedom to build your own itinerary and to visit many more points where buses don’t go. Distances: Sofia-Teteven: 112 km; Plovdiv-Teteven (via Troyan): 171 km; Varna-Teteven: 362 km; Burgas-Teteven: 358 km.

Find the best rental cars in Bulgaria!

Where to stay in Teteven

When you plan the accommodation part of your itinerary, focus not only on Teteven but Ribaritsa too. Most of the hotels are small and cozy, and there are a lot of guest houses. You can choose some of them on Booking or Agoda, but there are many more that you can find only on Google Maps or just when you arrive there.

Check for accommodation in Teteven on Booking!

Check for accommodations in Teteven on Agoda!

In Teteven, I would recommend Family Hotel Teteven. It is one of the relatively luxurious hotels in the town, at the same time with quite low prices. The hotel includes a restaurant, wellness facilities, and a sauna. It is located not far from the center, so it could be a very convenient place to stay.

Teteven tours

Finally, you can visit Teteven by joining a tour. Here is the following one:

  • Balkan Mountains Walk. This is an 8-day tour, including transportation and hiking. It is focused mainly on the western part of the Teteven region and more destinations nearby like Saeva Dupka Cave, Glozhene Monastery, Golyam Izvor, Teteven (with a hike to Mt Cherven), and Ribaritsa. The starting and ending point of the tour is Sofia.

We left the region of Teteven through Bogoe Pass, separating Stara Planina from Vasilyova Planina, and descent to Troyan, where we traveled a year ago, and now visited some places that we haven’t been last time. But we felt that our stay in Teteven was too short- it was like tasting a delicious cake, and we wanted to “eat” it again. Teteven impressed us and made us return to serenity, remaining one of our favorite places for us in Bulgaria.

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A guide to Teteven, Bulgaria, and the area around it- geography, history, nature, with useful tips and more information. A guide to Teteven, Bulgaria, and the area around it- geography, history, nature, with useful tips and more information.

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