This is an endless labyrinth of hills, covered by lush wild forests. Small villages are scattered on the hills and the valleys between them, sleeping in tranquility, peace, and silence, and keeping secrets from the past. A cozy town is in the middle of this off-the-beaten paradise. This is Troyan, and the region around it- one of the underrated places to travel in Bulgaria. Let’s go on a journey to Troyan and explore its beauty and hidden gems!
Table of Contents
The town of Troyan (Троян) and the area around it is a beautiful place in the northern part of Bulgaria, a country not to be missed when on a tour of Europe. It has rich geography and history, and to dive more deeply into its world and atmosphere, let’s first get into detail.
Open the physical or satellite map of Bulgaria and look into its northern part! You can see the Danube River and the segmented plain south of it (called Danubian Plain, Дунавска равнина). Further south, you can see the longest mountain range in the Balkan Peninsula- Stara Planina (Balkan Mountains, Стара планина). And there is a lower, hilly area between Stara Planina and Danubian Plain, called Forebalkan (Предбалкан). All of these geographical features stretch from west to east.
Now, look in the middle of Northern Bulgaria. Here you can see the highest range of Stara Planina with its highest peak Mount Botev (Ботев- 2376 m). Focus on the part of the Forebalkan north-northwest of Mount Botev. Here is where you can find Troyan.
Troyan is a small city on one of the upper sections of Osam River (река Осъм), called White Osam (Бели Осъм), at about 400 m altitude. This river is like an axis, flowing from south to north into the big Danube River. Many small tributaries flow into Osam from left and right through the labyrinth of Forebalkan’s valleys. And most of this area is covered by wild forests with a lot of small villages scattered here and there.
History of Troyan
There is an ancient road, connecting the South with the North of today’s Bulgaria, and you can still see its remains. It crosses the Stara Planina range and reaches the Danube River. And it has been used for millennia by various people- traders, armies, invaders, travelers, or just ordinary people. But who were they?
The area of Troyan has been inhabited since the Stone Age, but the first known people here were the Thracians. Little is left from them, but you can see some pottery and other artifacts in the Museum of Folk arts and crafts.
They came here in the 1st century AD and added the area of Troyan to the Roman Empire in 15 AD. Trajan, one of the Roman Emperors renew the existing ancient road, named it “Via Trajana”, and it is considered that the name “Troyan” comes from the name of this emperor. The Romans also built some fortresses and the ruins of one of them, called Sostra, still can be seen north of the city.
Various new people came during the next centuries. The Goths made destructive raids in the area. The Slavs gradually settled in the hills and the valleys. And in the 7th century, the old Bulgarians joined Troyan into the First Bulgarian Empire.
Although Troyan was conquered again by the East Roman (Byzantine) Empire in the 10th century, then incorporated into the Second Bulgarian Empire in the 12th century, the main population consisted of Bulgarians, from that time until now.
The Ottoman Turks conquered the area of Troyan in the second half of the 14th century, but the ethnic image of the area remained Bulgarian, and the Turks were never a majority here. The Bulgarians kept their culture and religion, as at the end of the 16th century they built the Troyan Monastery (the third largest monastery in Bulgaria).
Finally, in the 19th century, the spirit of the Bulgarian Revival came to Troyan, bringing a bloom in education, arts, crafts, architecture, culture, and economy. Vasil Levski, one of the main heroes of the Bulgarian struggle for independence had a lot of activities here. The region was liberated from the Turks in 1877.
The modern times in Bulgaria include the time period of the independent Bulgarian state, from 1877-1878 until today. During this period, the country passed through various political systems (monarchy, communism, democracy), some wars, as well as a time of peace.
But Troyan hasn’t developed into a big city, it remained a small town. And we can say that this preserved its charm and the off-the-beaten tranquility of the region around it. Many of the small villages were gradually abandoned and conquered by the lush forests. But later, some of them back into revival, turning into small resorts, as well as the museums and other interesting places to see, attracting tourists and travelers to dive into this world of serenity.
So, what can you enjoy in Troyan, if go there on a journey? In general, there are several gems you can discover:
- Beautiful nature. Troyan is located in the Forebalkan hilly area, bordered in the south by the highest part of the Stara Planina Mountains. This is a labyrinth of mountains, hills, and valleys between them, all covered by wild forests- a real paradise for hiking, picnic, and adventures.
- Travel back in time. Many traces of history can be seen in the museums, in the houses with old architecture, in the historical places to see, but mostly in the tranquil silence of the small villages, where you can feel the echoes of time from hundreds of centuries ago.
- Local arts and crafts. If you are a folklore art lover, you will be not disappointed in Troyan. The region is famous for its woodcarving, clothing, and other arts, but especially for its pottery. For this reason, the main museum of the town is not “History”, “Archaeological”, or “City museum”, but the Museum of Folk arts and crafts.
- Troyanska Slivova. What’s that? “Slivova” comes from the Bulgaria word “sliva”, which means “plum”. What can be done with plums? One of the best brandy drinks in Bulgaria and even abroad! Its full name is “Troyanska Slivova Rakia”- Троянска сливова ракия (“rakia” means “brandy”), and a significant part of the Troyan’s arts, crafts, and local traditions are established around this famous alcoholic drink.
Our journey to Troyan
We visited Troyan two times. We were bloggers from various parts of Bulgaria, and the first visit we met in Troyan. I came from Plovdiv, the oldest living city in the country. I crossed by car the summit of Stara Planina through Beklemeto Pass and descent to Troyan in the north. Here we met and started exploring the city and its surroundings.
It was a rainy summertime and you can only imagine how cool and fresh was nature everywhere, bringing the specific beauty of the forests, mountains, and the villages around. So, we started visiting the interesting places in Troyan and the region, and we did it in such fresh weather.
Our second visit was a year later, again the same season. But this time, we came from another gem- Teteven, located west of Troyan. And we visited different points of interest like Cherni Osam, Patreshko, and Balkanets.
Places to visit in Troyan
So, these are the most interesting places to visit in Troyan, if you want to experience this amazing region in full, and these are the places we visited (at least most of us).
The city of Troyan was once a beautiful settlement with old Revival-style architecture but has been destroyed during the war with the Ottoman empire. So, now almost all of the houses are new. But you can still see a glimpse of the past in the beautiful central Vazrazhdane (Revival) Square (площад Възраждане).
Two buildings draw your attention here, with their old traditional architecture. The first one is the Konak (Конак)-Revival exhibition, where you can see some artifacts from life in the 19th century. And the other building is the Museum of the folklore Arts and Crafts (Музей на народното изкуство и занаяти)- the largest museum in Troyan. If you want to explore the city and its surroundings, visiting this museum is a must.
Museum of the folklore Arts and Crafts
One of the first things you can see when you enter the museum building is seven human figures on the wall over the stairs that lead to the second floor. These figures represent seven crafts, well-developed in Troyan. One of them is especially highlighted- the pottery. As you can guess, since pottery is mainly focused on vessels, it is deeply connected to the Troyanska Slivova and its customs.
As I mentioned above, there are almost no old houses in Troyan. But in this museum, you can see a model of an old street, so you can get an idea of what the city looked like some 150 years ago.
And if you want to see how the Troyanska Slivova was produced, go out of the museum building and behind it, to the bank of the White Osam River. You can see a small exhibition about it, and you can also enjoy one of the best views of the city here.
Working time: Monday to Friday: 9:00 – 17:00; Weekend: 10:00 – 15:00 (only from April to October)
Entrance fee: Adults: 5,00 BGN, children: 2,00 BGN, family ticket- 10,00 BGN
In addition, you can also visit two more exhibitions from this museum- the House-museum of Ivan Hadzhiyski (a local Bulgarian publicist) and the Troyan artists’ house.
Art Gallery Seryakova House
Art Gallery Seryakova House is quite small. But it is different and unique than the “ordinary” art galleries.
First, this gallery is located in a historic house- the house of Georgi Seryakov, one of the people who fought against the Ottomans with the national hero Hristo Botev. And it has beautiful architecture from the second half of the 19th century.
Second- it doesn’t present only pictures, but they are also combined with music. Thus, the visitor has a deeper experience for the eyes, ears, and the soul. In addition, there is a Bar Art Club in the basement, where you can relax, drinking coffee or something else in an art atmosphere.
And finally- the exhibition here is not static. It often presents various art activities of various themes. The music can be different too, and you can even enjoy some jazz life performance.
Monday to Friday: 10:00-12:00; 14:00-18:00
Did I mention Troyanska Slivova? You can buy this traditional drink in many stores or supermarkets, but there is a place in Troyan where you can get deeper into this tradition, including a tasting. This place is Vinprom Troyan, the factory where the drink is produced.
Yes, usually the word “factory”, bringing in mind something “industrial” doesn’t sound so “travel-related”. But this one is different, it offers tours that introduce the whole producing process, give you knowledge about the Troyanska Slivova and its versions, as well as other related drinks, and offers availability for degustation.
The tours are scheduled every Saturday from 15:00. Price: 15 BGN.
Forest park Turlata
Would you like to relax in the nature and see Troyan from above? Then, you should go to the best park in the city- Forest park Turlata (лесопарк Турлата). It is located on a hill with remains of an ancient Thracian sanctuary.
Today, the hill is covered by a lush forest with great panoramic views of the city from the open meadows, with two eco trails. And there are excellent places for relaxing at the foot of the hill. This is the best place for panoramic photos of Troyan.
This is the most iconic place to visit, one of the landmarks of Bulgaria. The Troyan Monastery (Троянски манастир) is the third largest Christian Orthodox monastery in the country. It is established at the end of the 16th century, during the Ottoman era in Bulgaria. Since then, it grew and although it was partially destroyed by the Turks, it was revived again.
Vasil Levski, one of the main national heroes of Bulgaria had some activities here, related to the Bulgarian struggle for independence in the second half of the 19th century.
Today, the monastery consists of a double yard, surrounded and separated by three-story buildings. These buildings consist of the monks’ dwelling section, a hotel for visitors, and a small museum with the room where Vasil Levski lived. There is also a tall bell tower in the inner yard and the main church in the middle of the yard.
The Troyan Monastery is located south of Oreshak village, about 11 km from Troyan. There is a big parking lot beside it, a market for souvenirs, and an attractive “House of herbs”, as well as some restaurants.
Mountain Guides School in Cherni Osam
This is another non-standard point of interest in the region of Troyan. The Mountain Guides School is the only school in Europe training students to become mountain guides, or specialists in everything travel-related. It looks like just a normal school, and you may wonder how it can be a tourist attraction?
There are climbing walls installed inside the school. On these walls, the students train their climbing skills. But the walls are not only for them, they are opened for tourists too. So, you can go to the school, you can learn about the mountaineering and travel education, try your climbing skills, and have a lot of fun.
Visiting hours: Every Tuesday, from 17:00 to 19:30, no reservation in advance. Closed during the vacation time. No entrance fee, but donations are appreciated.
Natural Science Museum in Cherni Osam
The Mountain Guides School is not the only point of interest in this village. Next to it is the Natural Science Museum– a nice way to dive into the natural world in Bulgaria, and even beyond. The museum has three halls, presenting various animals. One of the most interesting exhibition here is in the Insects hall, where the dominating animals are butterflies.
This museum is involved in the ecological activities. It joins various projects. One of the most interesting projects is designing a cinema with bicycle riding as a source of electricity- it provides a lot of fun for the biking children. And there is also a volunteer programme for students from other countries.
Working hours: every day, from 8:00 to 17:00.
Crafts and arts exhibition in Oreshak
Go less than a kilometer north of the Troyan Monastery and you will see a renewed tourist center with several buildings, where you can dive more deeply into the arts and crafts of Troyan. And unlike the museum in the city of Troyan, this center’s goal is to preserve the art and craft traditions for the future.
Here you can see more beautiful art masterpieces, mainly by contemporary artists. But the main attraction is the pottery workshop in one of the buildings, where you can watch how pottery vessels are made, and you can even try it by yourself! Your trainer and guide will be Mrs. Nadezhda Hristova.
Working time: Monday-Friday: 9:00 – 17:30; Saturday-Sunday: 10:00 – 18:00
Entrance fee: Adults: 5,00 BGN, children under 7: free, family ticket: 12,00 BGN
Now, let’s explore the surroundings of Troyan. There is a lot to see or just to enjoy, but several places deserve more special attention.
This is a village, located about 20 km northeast of Troyan. Although geographically it is near to the neighboring town of Apriltsi, it belongs to Troyan district.
Gumoshtnik (Гумощник) used to be a large village, consisting of more than 20 hamlets, but today many of them are abandoned and conquered by the wild forests. Anyway, this is one of the best places where you can dive into the past… not to a particular era, because the time here looks like remained still for centuries! And there are two spots where you can travel back in time!
Cell School, the church St. Nicolas Letni (Summer’s), and… Titanic!
The first one is the “Cell school” and the church St. Nicolas Letni (Summer’s). Four things are of particular interest here:
- The school (Килийното училище). It is built in the 19th century, now restored. Here you can see how the classrooms looked like some 150 years ago- with sand bars for writing and other “strange”, but very practical things. You can also see a small museum on the 1st floor, exposing local artifacts.
- The church St. Nicolas Letni (Summer’s) (църква Свети Николай Летни). This is an old church, sharing the same yard with the Cell school, with interesting wood carvings and paintings designed to tell stories from the Bible.
- The grave memorials in the yard. Here you can see one of the most interesting grave memorials in Bulgaria- the memorial of several people from Gumoshtnik that traveled on the Titanic and drowned in the cold Atlantic! However, don’t skip the first three memorials, because they belong to heroes who died for the independence of Bulgaria during the wars!
- The silence and the views of the village. Yes, here everything is so silent and calm! Don’t be quick to see this place and go, but stay for a while and enjoy the tranquility of the place!
Another place of interest is the so-called Clay House (Глинената къща). This is an old local house, located in one of the higher hamlets of Gumoshtnik, called Lakarevo, today turned into something like a museum. First, this house is arranged exactly like how it has been centuries ago. Second- from its balcony, you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the highest parts of the Stara Planina Mountains and the hilly area before it. And again, everything is in a centuries-old tranquil silence!
The unique thing is that you not only can visit this house and explore it, but you can even spend the night there, literally traveling back in time! But to do this, you have to contact its owner- Mrs. Angelina Georgieva. Its phone is +359-889 991587. And don’t forget to try the local sweet fried wheat!
Guesthouse Na KyrYT (На КърЪТ) in Patreshko Village
There are a lot of guesthouses in the region of Troyan, in Bulgaria, and in the world. Most of them are just a nice and cozy place to spend the night. But some are more than that- they are not just an accommodation, but a place of interest.
One of them is Guesthouse Na KyrYT (На КърЪТ). The name is in a local Bulgarian dialect, and means “On a place beside (but out of) a village”. The village is called Patreshko, one of the smallest villages in Bulgaria, located on a hilly area covered by forests, with stunning views of the Stara Planina (The Balkan Mountains), and the guesthouse is located at its end, in a quite silent and wild location.
The house was built in the 18th century, now is restored but still keep its old traditional architectural style. And the guests not only can sleep in such a tranquility, where the time has stopped for centuries, but they can also watch and even join a special Orthodox tradition. It is called “Making a Prosphora”.
Prosphora is an Orthodox ritual bread, made for blessing, with prayer. It is an Orthodox tradition and the owned of the house Mrs Tsarova is a professional of making it. She can make it in front of you, following the tradition, and even you can join it. Finally, you must eat the bread, not leaving even a crumb.
There is also a Salt room (Salt House), good for therapy of various illnesses, and of course for your good mood. It is located just 200 m before the guesthouse.
If you want to try Na KyrYT, contact the owner Mrs Tsarova on this phone: +359-884 942020.
And if you want to visit the Salt room (Salt House)- call this number: +359-878 592344
Now, let’s go to the north of Troyan, on the road to Lovech. Here, at 12 km from Troyan, you can see the best-preserved Roman fortress in the region. Sostra (Состра) is a small military fort (although at some points in history it grew into a larger settlement) that served as a Roman garrison on the ancient road that connects the South with the North of Bulgaria.
Today, only parts of the Eastern Wall are preserved and restored. The railroad from Troyan to Levski city passes through the ruins of Sostra, so you have to cross it to see these ruins behind the rails. And in front of the Eastern Wall and gate, you can see a fragment of the original ancient road.
Sostra is located just 50 m west of the main road Troyan-Lovech, near Lomets village. It is not developed as a tourist site yet, so you can just stop in the parking place there and explore it freely, most probably alone.
This is the fourth largest dam lake in Bulgaria, located about 30-35 km northwest of Troyan. Although it is an artificial lake, it has formed a great landscape of a lake coast, meadows, and forests. It is a great place for relaxation, fishing, and some water sports like kayaking or just swimming.
To reach the dam lake from Troyan, you have to go to Golyama Zhelyazna (Голяма Желязна) village and from the village center you have to turn left (to the north), and soon you will arrive at the lake coast, where you can find several resort buildings. Here is the restaurant “Rayski Zaliv” (“Paradise Bay”) and the small hotel at the wharf, from where you can borrow a kayak or just enjoy a paddle boat, as we did.
And if you want to stay there for a longer time, you can contact Mr. Milen
Petkov (tel: +359-878 342468). In this case, you can enjoy the water sports in the dam lake for free!
This is the most beautiful waterfall around Troyan. Although it is not so high- only 8 m, it is worth visiting for relaxation and some adventures in the area around it. It is also called Kaleitsa or Skokat (The Jump) Falls. And like every beautiful waterfall, its water falls on a small river pond where you can play in the water.
To reach Lopushnitsa Waterfall (водопад Лопушница), you have to go to Kaleitsa (Калейца) Village, about 9 km northwest of Troyan, and proceed 2 more km westward. You will see a small parking lot and a road sign. From this place, following the signs, you will reach a nice meadow with benches, and a trail that descends over the waterfall. The trail crosses the river twice- first over the waterfall, then below it and turns straight to the water pond (turning left twice too).
Eco-trail Zhalna and the ancient Via Trayana road
As mentioned above, the ancient Roman road connecting the Danube River with Plovdiv (Philippopolis) passes through the region of Troyan and crosses the Stara Planina (The Balkan Mountain) through Beklemeto Pass. And you can walk on it today, on its ancient stones that are preserved here and there on the road.
An excellent way to do this is to make a cirquit hike from Balkanets Village. There is a new eco-trail called Zhalna (named after the local mountain stream, related to a legend about an ancient Bulgarian hero called Krali Marko whose tears due to the loss of his beloved created the river Zhalna, which means “Sorrowful”).
This trail starts from the village, first as a paved road, then as a narrow stoned road, and finally as a forest path. This path passes through beautiful forests and meadows and ascends to the main road connecting Plovdiv with Troyan. Then, it descends back to Balkanec on the ancient Via Trayana road. The whole route can be hiked for about 5-6 hours and provides not only pleasure from the nature but also some feeling of history.
Beklemeto and the summit of Stara Planina
What would be Troyan and the region without Stara Planina? This mountain chain, the longest on the Balkan Peninsula divides Northern the Southern Bulgaria, and Beklemeto Pass is one of the connections between these two parts of the country.
Beklemeto (Беклемето) is located at 1525 m above sea level, in the alpine grassland zone of the mountain. One of the most popular hiking trails in the Balkans, called “Kom-Emine” (E3) passes through it, following the summit of the Stara Planina.
So, if you like hiking and adventures, the high area of Stara Planina south of Troyan is for you. From here, you can hike eastward to Mt. Botev (2376 m), the highest point of the mountain range. But of course, you have to prepare well- although not the highest, it is the harshest mountain range in the Balkans, especially in winter!
Besides these places, there are many other nice places in the area around Troyan, although not so popular and special. Anyway, I would mention two more resort villages, located west of the city- Shipkovo and Chiflik, famous for their hot mineral springs (and hotels with swimming pools).
How to reach Troyan
Troyan is well-connected to the capital Sofia and the other big cities in Bulgaria by good roads. There are regular buses from Sofia to Troyan and the trip is about 4 hours. Also, there are buses from Plovdiv and Pleven.
Another option is to travel by train, although there is no direct train to Troyan, however, you have to move to another train from Levski- a bit inconvenient and slow, but cheap and still exciting.
However, the best option is to rent a car. By car, you would be much more independent, and you can go to every point of interest out of the city wherever you want. There is a highway from Sofia to Brestnitsa, then a good road to Troyan. Or, you can come from the south, through Beklemeto Pass, enjoying fantastic views all the time.
Where to stay in Troyan
Although Troyan is a bit off the beaten and not so touristy, there are enough places to sleep- various types of hotels (including some luxurious), guest houses, or homestays, and you can find some good options in Booking, Agoda, or Airbnb.
On our first trip, we personally spent the night in Eco village Azareia (Азарея), located near the village of Gorno Trape (Горно Трапе). It consists of several round-shaped bungalows in a beautiful garden- a nice place, not only for spending the night but also for relaxation.
If you want something more alternative, you can choose the hotel part of Troyan Monastery. Or, as I mentioned above, you can sleep in the Clay House in Gumoshtnik. Both options can give you a different experience than just a standard hotel stay- in the Troyan Monastery, you can dive into the old Orthodox atmosphere, and in Gumoshtnik you can literally stay in another world and time.
On our second trip, we spent the night in Guesthouse Nedelya 2 (there are Nedelya and Nedelya 2 houses) in Oreshak Village- a cozy new property in three floors with clean and fresh rooms, and a beautiful garden outside. And for dinner and breakfast, we went to one of the best hotel-restaurant complexes in the region, called Family Hotel Strannopriemnitza, offering excellent traditional atmosphere, with some live music performances.
Where to eat in Troyan
If you just want to eat and you are not so interested in food, there are enough places for that- big and small restaurants, fast foods, supermarkets, and more, mainly in the city of Troyan, as well as in the bigger villages.
But if you want something more special, I would recommend some traditional Bulgarian food. One of the best places to try it is the restaurant Hany (Ханъ), located in Balkanets (Балканец) village, just a few km south of Troyan. Here you not only can eat delicious food but also enjoy a nice traditional interior atmosphere.
Another unique place is Eating House “Na Dvorat” (“На дворЪТ”)- a nice vintage restaurant in the center of Troyan. Here you not only can enjoy their unique dishes, made by some of the best chefs in the region but also relax in the specific atmosphere, provided by the restaurant’s host- a friendly lady with a colorful sense of humor.
And along with all of the above, if you drink alcohol, don’t forget to try Troyanska Slivova!
This is Troyan. The ancient road, connecting the North and the South of Bulgaria is abandoned a long time ago. A newly paved road follows the same route through the Stara Planina Mountains and the city of Troyan. We left the region from this road, everyone in different direction. But the picturesque nature and the traces from the past that stay still for centuries remained in our hearts, leaving an unforgettable impression from this amazing geographical point.
Get more inspiration of Troyan from the video below!
Take a look at some books about Bulgaria:
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
So, we created this blog Journey Beyond the Horizon, where we share geographical knowledge, travel guides and tips how to experience it when you explore our planet, and a lot of inspiration.
And we wish you a happy journey, not just virtually, but most of all- in reality.