The town of Koprivshtitsa lies at the very Sredna Gora Mountain at an altitude of 1 060 m along both banks of the Topolnitza River. The town lies at a distance of 110 km east of Sofia and is a separate municipality. Koprivshtitsa was proclaimed for a town-museum in 1952 and since 1978 it has been an architectural reserve of international significance. The settlement originated in XIV c. At the end of XVIII c. the inhabitants of Koprvshtitsa were 12 000. More than 120 000 sheep, 20 000 cattle and 2 000 horses were grown in the region. This was the town of many crafts. After 1830 great construction work began - many houses, churches, fountains and bridges were built most of which symbols of architectural masterpiece. There are more than 250 architectural monuments in the town. Every year here is held a folklore festival. The town itself has a population of 2 600 inhabitants.
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Tourist sights are: The Oslekov's house, The Lyutov's house, the houses of Georgi Benkovski and Todor Kableshkov, the churches "Uspenie Bogorodichno"/ The Assumption/ (1817) and "St. Nikola" (1844).
Koprivshtitsa is a unique Bulgarian settlement which has preserved historical monuments from the Revival period. Along the terrace shaped slopes there are houses built of stone and wood with big balconies decorated with mural paintings and wood carved ceilings, engirdled by stone walls, wells, stone fountains and wide wooden gates.
The house of Lyuben Karavelov was built for a period of 25 years from local master builders. There are three buildings in the yard - a winter house (1810), a farm building (1820) and a summer house finished in 1835. The floors of the house are covered with many-colored rugs, typical for the region of Koprivshtitsa, while the ceilings are decorated with wood carving. Lyuben Karavelov is the organizer and the ideologist of the Bulgarian National Revolution, a writer and a publicist.
The Oslekov's house in Koprivshtitsa is a Revival period house from 1856. It was built by a master builder from Samokov under an order from Nencho Oslekov. It is a two-storey house with a small yard. The house is notable for its painted facade and the three columns of Lebanon cedar supporting the arch-shaped lower part of the corners. The interior of the rooms is of different colors and the walls have canvases with medallions in the middle depicting various landscapes and flowers. The ethnographic exhibition represents the lifestyle of the people of Koprivshtitsa-original women costumes, hand-made stockings, silk embroidery etc.
The Lyutov's house in Koprivshtitsa is a masterpiece of the Revival architecture built in 1854 from master builders from Plovdiv. The interior of the house has a rich mural decoration with ornamental wall niches, wood carved ceiling and ancient chests. Here are exhibited traditional furniture and other objects.
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The house of Dimcho Debelyanov in the town of Koprivshtitsa, Sofia district, was built in 1830 by his grandfather. Dimcho Debelyanov is a Bulgarian poet who died during the First World War. In the yard of the house there is a sculpture of his mother expecting him to return home. The sculpture was made by Ivan Lazarov.
The house of Todor Kableshkov in Koprivshtitsa was built by the local builder Gencho Mladenov in 1845. The house was built on the principle of symmetry organized around a central round saloon. The ceiling is with wood carvings and the walls have delicate ornaments. Among the exhibits of the house one can see painted plates, metal vessels, wood carved device used for wool treatment, a baby's cradle, a writing desk, old books and school books. Todor Kableshkov is a Bulgarian revolutionary. After the failure of the April Rebellion he was captured and committed a suicide in the police department in the town of Gabrovo.
The house of Georgi Benkovski in Koprivshtitsa was built in 1831. The exhibits which attract the attention of the visitors are knit stockings, a baby's cradle, the wall clock, a meat press, Benkovski's personal gun and many others. Georgi Benkovski is one of the organizers and the leaders of the April Rebellion. After the failure of the rebellion he was betrayed and killed by the village of Ribaritza near the town of Teteven.
The Church "Uspenie Bogorodichno"/The Assumption/ in Koprivshtitsa was built in 1817 over the remains of the old church.
The church is low and painted as a house not to attract attention. The iconostasis was made by Hadzhi Georgi - a representative of the Tryavna art school. It was finished in 1821 and contains scenes from the Bible, vegetation motives, birds and animals. The icons were painted by Zahari Zograf.
The "Saint Nikolay" church in Koprivshtitsa was built in 1844. The walls are built of stone blocks from a light grey stone with sparkling flakes. The iconostasis of the church consists of wooden frames where are placed the icons which were painted by Joan Popovich from the town of Elena. The floor is covered with white stone slabs specially ordered from the island of Marmara.
The town of Bankya has a population of 9 000 inhabitants and is a municipal administrative center with 3 component settlements. The town lies at a distance of 17 km west of Sofia along the hilly slopes of Lyulin Mountain. The altitude of the town is about 630-640 m.
The town of Bankya is well-known for its mineral springs suitable for healing cardiovascular diseases. The mineral springs have a capacity of 50 liters per second and a temperature of 34-38 oC.
The town of Pravetz lies at a distance of 9 km northeast of Sofia. The town is the municipal administrative center of 10 component settlements. Pravetz has a population of 4 700 inhabitants. The settlement is located near a micro dam-lake. In the vicinities of the town there are remains of Thracian and Roman fortresses, a Roman bridge and a road used in the Middle Ages. The settlement was registered in the Ottoman documents in 1430.
The region specializes in the manufacture of grains, fodder and there is also a fodder plant.
The tourist sight of the town is the "St. Teodor Tyron" monastery from XIX c.
The town of Botevgrad has a population of 21 000 inhabitants and is a municipal center with 12 component settlements. The town lies at a distance of 58 km from Sofia and is an important crossroad. Botevgrad is situated in a picturesque valley at an altitude of 350 m close to the Arabakonak Pass. The territory of the municipality occupies part of Western Stara Planina and parts of Fore-Balkan.
During the Middle Ages life was localized in the village of Zelin at a distance of 3 km from the present town. At the end of XIV c. the settlement entered the limits of a vast domain with the fortress Bozhenishki Urvich as its centre. In XVIII the village was in a decline and part of its population founded the village of Samundzhievo. The favourable location of the village made Midhad Pasha to proclaim it for an administrative center. He named it Orhanie in honour of Sultan Orhan. Orhanie was later proclaimed for a town in 1866. Since 1934 the town has had the name of the Bulgarian poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev.
The tourist sights of the town are: the clock tower (1866), the church "Sveto Vaznesenie" /St. Ascension/ (1862-1864), remains of the fortress Bozhenishki Urvich, the Vrachesh Monastery (at Vrachesh village), the monasteries "St. Nikolay" and "Sveto Preobrazhenie" (in Skravena village)
The clock tower is the symbol of Botevgrad. It was built in 1866 by the master builder Bunyo Markov from the village of Vrachesh.
The remains of the fortress Bozhenishki Urvich in the village of Bozhenitza is situated at a distance of 23 km from the municipal center. The fortress was the headquarters of the governor of Sofia District - Ognyan who fought the Ottoman Turks during 1378-1385. An inscription dating back from XIV c. is preserved over a rock at the entrance of the fortress. There are also remains of an Early Byzantine fortress and a rocky church in the region. The Bozhenishki Urvich fortress is proclaimed for a monument of culture of national significance.
The Vrachesh Monastery in Vrachesh village was renovated in XIX c.
The town of Samokov is the biggest settlement in Sofia District. It is situated in the Samokov Valley which lies among the mountains Plana, Vitosha, Verila and Rila. The average height of the valley is 950 m. Samokov has a population of 27 000 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 62 km southeast of Sofia. The town is a municipal center with 27 component settlements.
The past of the town is related to the ore-mining which used to be the main means of living of the ancient Thracian's. This means of living was kept during the Middle Ages as well. The town was captured by the Turks in 1372 and was mentioned for the first time in the Ottoman documents in XV c. During the Revival period the town was an important metallurgical center of the Ottoman Empire. Samokov was well known for its icon painters, masons and wood-cutters. The Samokov art school was founded at the end of XVIII c. from H. Dimitrov. It has a national significance for the development of the Bulgarian art.
Among the biggest town's sights are: the churches "Uspenie Bogorodichno"/The Assumption/ and "Rozhdestvo Bogorodichno"/Virgin Mary's Birth/, Bayrakli Mosque and the fountains. The building of fountains is an ancient tradition which is preserved until present days. The fountains should be made of stone so that they last through the centuries, to be beautiful and bring delight to people. The most famous among them are the Many-colored Fountain and the Ear-Ring Fountain which has a stone bird house as annex. The ear-ring consists of three stone parts hewn from a single stone block. The town is the starting point for the "Borovetz' and "Malyovitza" resorts in Rila Mountain.
13 km north-west of Samokov are situated the Belchinovo Mineral Baths. The mineral water of the baths has a temperature of 40-41oC and is suitable for healing diseases of the locomotory system, neuralgic and other diseases.
The bishop's church "Uspenie Bogorodichno"/ The Assumption/ in Samokov was built in two stages in 1793 and 1805 at the site of an earlier temple. It is one of the biggest Revival period churches. It is a three-nave church with an open vault narthex to the west and a semi-circle apse to the east. The church is dug into the ground at a depth of 1,20 m. The church has a beautiful iconostasis made by the Samokov art school. The central part was made in the Monastery of Aton and was brought back to Samokov in pieces in 1793. The side wings are made later on from icon masters from Samokov.
The Church "Rozhdenie Bogorodichno"/ Virgin Mary's Birth/ in Samokov was built in XIV c. over the foundations of an ancient basilica. It was reconstructed in 1867 and a bell-tower was built in 1879. The church is proclaimed for a cultural monument. It is situated at a distance of 3 km south of the town.
Bayrakli Mosque in Samokov dates back to the middle of XIX c. and was built from Bulgarian master builders. The praying saloon of the mosque is almost square with four free-standing wooden columns supporting a high drum and a spherical dome. The decoration of the mosque is done by representatives of the Samokov art school.
The Alino Monastery in the village of Alino is located at a distance of 20 km west of the municipal center. It is located in Plana Mountain. The monastery church has distinctive priceless mural paintings.
Borovetz is a high-mountains resort located among centuries-old forests in Eastern Rila Mountain. There are perfect conditions for the development of ski Alps disciplines, ski running and biathlon. The ski slopes are of different degree of difficulty and are suitable for both beginners and trained skiers. There are ski tow-lifts, cabin lifts and cabin cable line to Yastrebetz peak (2 363 m). These facilities can service up to 10 000 people an hour.
The village of Govedartzi lies at a distance of 13 km from the Municipal center. There is a ski slope, serviced by a ski tow-lift within the territory of the village.
The tourist centre of Malyovitza is located at a distance of 27 km from the village of Malyovitza. It is a famous tourist and Alps center situated at the northern foot of Malyovitza peak in Rila Mountain.
The town of Kostinbrod lies at a distance of 15 km northwest of Sofia. The town is a municipal center with 13 component settlements. Kostinbrod has a population of 12 000 inhabitants. In the vicinity of the town were discovered ancient mosaic buildings from IV and VI centuries and a medieval settlement. The town is known to have existed ever since 1430. Kostinbrod specializes in the food-processing industry.
The town of Pirdop lies at a distance of 81 km east of Sofia and has a population of 8 400 inhabitants. Pirdop is a municipal center with 1 component settlement. The town is situated in the Zlatitza-Pirdop Valley along the Pirdopska River.
In the vicinity of the town there are findings from the Neolith, Thracian mounds, an ancient settlement and a Byzantine basilica from V-VI c. Remains from an ancient settlement have been found for which archaeologists believe that they are from the Thracian town of Burdapa. The town is the successor of a medieval settlement. With its present day name it became famous in XVII c.
In 1490 and 1700 the settlement was described in the Ottoman documents. Pirdop was a craftsman's and cattle breeding centre during the Revival period. Pirdop is the home town of Todor Vlaykov - a prominent writer and a public figure and Nikola Pushkarov - the father of the Bulgarian agrology.
The tourist sights of the town are: the church "Uspenie Bogorodicho"/ The Assumption/ (1819), the house-museum of Nikola Pushkarov, the Lukanov's house and the remains of the Helena basilica (dating back from the Roman period).
The Church "Sveto Uspenie Bogorodichno" /The Assumption/ in Pirdop was built in 1819. It has a unique wood carved iconostasis - the work of the Debar art school. The icons in the church were painted by the famous Tryavna artist Yoanikii papa.
The Helena basilica in Pirdop shows the ruins of an impressive basilica from the Roman period. It lies 6 km north-east of the town. The remains of an ancient Thracian town are also located in the region.
The town of Slivnitza lies at a distance of 30 km northwest of Sofia. The town is the center of a municipality with 12 settlements. Slivnitza has a population of about 8 000 inhabitants. Within the limits of the town there are findings of an ancient settlement. The town is described in the Ottoman registry books from 1728 under the name of Halkalu. There is a museum dedicated to the Slivnitza battle from 1885 when Serbia attacked Bulgaria when the Bulgarian troops are retreated at the border with Turkey.
The town of Zlatitza lies at a distance of 77 km east of Sofia and has a population of 6 000 inhabitants. Zlatitza is a municipal center with 3 component settlements. The town is situated in the Zlatitza-Pirdop valley near the Zlatishka River. To the north of the town is located the Kashana barium filed.
The town is mentioned with this name for the first time in the deed of King Konstantin Asen from 1257-1277. The town became famous in relation with the battle at the Zlatitza Pass waged by the crusaders Vladislav III Yagelo, the Transylvanian leader Yan Hunyadi and the Serbian prince Georgi Brankovich with the Ottoman soldiers. The town is also mentioned in the Ottoman registry books from 1668.
The tourist sights of the town are: the Church "St. Georgi" from 1859, the clock tower from 1829, Revival period houses and the single-vault bridge from 1789.
The town of Svoge lies at a distance of 62 km north of Sofia. The town is a municipal center with 37 component settlements. Svoge has a population of 8 600 inhabitants. The town is located in the biggest and most favorable widening of the Iskar Gorge. The town specializes in the food industry with production of pastries, alcohol and soft drinks. Svoge is also a climate resort.
The tourist sights of the town are: The "St. Petka" Monastery in Svoge, the "St.St. Peter and Pavel" Church, the waterfalls Skalya and Sinia vir, the rocky formation "The Jungle", the Lakatnk Rocks, the "Sedemte prestola" /The Seven Chapels/ Monastery and other.
10 km away from Svoge is situated the village of Iskrets known for its karst springs with varying capacity of 2 000 -17 000 liters per second.
The "St Petka" Monastery is founded in 1118. It is proclaimed for a monument of culture. There are two churches in the monastery complex: the old "St. Petka" with mural paintings dating back to XVI-XVII c. and the new three-nave "St. St. Peter and Pavel" church finished in 1927.
The "Sveta Bogoroditza" /Holy Virgin/ Monastery in the village of Iskrets is founded during the Middle Ages. Precious mural paintings from XVII c. and XIX c. are preserved in the old church.
The "Sedemte prestola"/The Seven Chapels/ Monastery in the village of Osenovlag in the Municipality of Svoge is located along the upper current of the Gabrovitza River. The monastery is founded in the Middle ages. During the period of the Ottoman yoke it has been demolished and restored several times. The preserved monastery church is built in 1815. It is a big three-apses building with a cylindrical dome. It has an original architectural plan. There are 6 chapels which together with the central one give the name of the monastery. There are mural paintings from XVI_XVII c. Interesting are also the wood carved iconostasis, the monastery clapper from 1799 and a precious wooden chandelier from 1815.
The town of Etropole has a population of 11 000 inhabitants and is a municipal centre with 9 component settlements. The town is situated along the northern slopes of Stara Planina in the beautiful valley of the Malki Iskar river at a distance of 72 km north-east of Sofia. The average altitude of the Etropole valley is 580 m.
The settlement dates back to VII-VI c. B.C. The first inhabitants are the Thracian tribes the Tribals. The Thracian settlement and later on the Roman one are located at a strategic road. Through this valley passed the troops of Philip Makedonski in 339 B.C., the troops of Alexander Makedonski in 335 B.C., Celtic tribes and Roman legions. Iron, copper, gold and silver was obtained in the region. In XVI c. skilled ore-miners from Saxon settled in the region and introduced a new technology in the ore-mining. The development of the ore-mines stimulates the development of several crafts such as - blacksmith's, coppersmith's, cutlery and goldsmith's trade. During the Revival period Etropole was an educational centre. The Etropole literary school was established at the end of XVI c. Among its main representatives are the priest-monk Danail Etropolski, priest-monk Rafail, Zaharii and others. In XVII c. written monuments from Etropole reached the Aton Peninsula (present day Greece).
The tourist sights of the town are: The Etropole Monastery, The clock tower from 1718, the building of the town-hall from the Ottoman period, the churches "St. Archaengel Michael"(1600), "St. Georgi" (1836), the ancient Revival period houses - the Pavelponchov's, the Hadzhigrigorov's, the Valchev's, the Arnaudov's and remains of the Thracian fortress Cherti Grad.
The clock tower in Etropole was finished in 1710. It was built for an observation point and since 1821 it has had a clock mechanism done by the watch maker Dido.
The town-hall from the Ottoman period /the Konak/ was built by master builders Deno and Tzvetko from Etropole during 1852-1870. Today it houses the History museum of the town.
The Arnaudov's House in Etropole is a monument of culture. It is a Revival period house with rich wooden carving. It houses the ethnographic exhibition of the History museum.
The Monastery "Sveta Troitza" /Holy Trinity/ lies at a distance of 5 km east of Etropole. The Monastery is situated in a beautiful mountainous site with centuries-old trees. It was founded in XII c. During the Ottoman domination it was the most-important literary center in the northern Bulgarian lands. At the end of XVI c. the Etropole literary school was established. The date of the building of the old church is not known. The new one was built in 1858. The external decoration of the new church was finished in 1860 and the mural paintings - in 1907.
The remains of the Thracian fortress Cherti Grad in the village of Brusen lie at a distance of 18 km north-east of Etropole. The rocky complex is situated in a beautiful mountainous site with rare plant and animal species.
The remains of a Thracian settlement on Bogotvor hill near Etropole date back to V-IV c. B.C. Within the territory of Etropole there are several Thracian mound necropolises.
The remains of a medieval fortress on Atanas hill near Etropole are built on the foundations of an ancient Thracian sanctuary.
The village of Ribaritza is located at a distance of 5 km east of Etropole. The village is a small resort place where there is a House of Crafts demonstrating the most famous crafts of the region of Etropole.
The town of Elin Pelin lies at a distance of 25 km east of Sofia. The town is situated in the Sofia valley. Elin Pelin is a municipal centre with 18 component settlements. The town of Elin Pelin has a population of 6 600 inhabitants. The region specializes in growing wheat, barley and maize. Remains from the late-ancient period have been discovered in the region.
The tourist sight of the town is the "Sveti Nikolai Chudotvoretz" church built in 1846.
The village of Chelopech is the centre of a separate municipality in the Sofia District. It is located at the south-eastern slope of the Etropole part of Stara Planina at a distance of 71 km east of Sofia. Chelopech has a railway station on the Sofia-Karlovo-Burgas railway line. On the territory of the settlement have been discovered a settlement mound from the Neolith, remains of medieval fortresses and a Slavic settlement. The village is mentioned in the Ottoman documents in 1430.
The town of Godech lies at a distance of 58 km northwest of Sofia. The town is the municipal centre of 19 settlements. The town of Godech has a population of about 5 000 inhabitants. The town specializes in the manufacture of electro-technical appliances and fish-farming. The town is situated in the valley of the Nishava River which springs from the Malak Kom peak in Western Stara Planina.
The "St. Nikolay Mirotvorski" Monastery at the village of Malo Malovo is located at a distance of 12 km from the town. Here are preserved mural paintings from XVI c.
The Razboishki Monastery "Vavedenie Bogorodichno"/Holy Annunciation/ is among the few preserved ancient monuments in the Godech region. The monastery is among the most famous and highly cherished monasteries in Bulgaria. The main church of the monastery was built high in the rocks above the monastery. For the ancient traditions of the monastery speak the remains of mural paintings along the western facade of the church.
The town of Ihtiman lies at a distance of 56 km southeast of Sofia in the Ihtiman valley. The town is a municipal center with 28 component settlements. Ihtiman has a population of 13 500 inhabitants.
The settlement was established in X c. by the inhabitants of the medieval fortress Shtipone. They formed the present day settlement at the site of the Roman road station of Egerika. The town was a small administrative center in the Ottoman Empire known for the production of charcoal. After the Liberation (1878) it became an agricultural town.
The tourist sights of the town are: the church "Uspenie Bogorodichno" /The Assumption/ from 1835 which has precious icons, the History museum and the golf club.
The town of Kostenetz has a population of 10 000 inhabitants and is the centre of a Municipality with 7 component settlements. The town is located at the foot of Rila Mountain along the Maritza river at an altitude of 835 m. Kostenetz lies at a distance of 75 m south-east of Sofia.
The region has been populated since the Bronze and the Iron Ages. The Thracian tribe of Besi populated the settlement in I c. B.C. The development of the present day municipal center began in 1884 with the construction of the railway line which was part of the Sofia-Constantinople/Istanbul/ route. In 1964 the three villages of Kostenetz Banya, Momin Prohod and Momina Banya were united to form the town of Kostenetz. The region is rich of mineral springs which are suitable for healing diseases of the locomotory system, the peripheral nervous system, gynaecological, chronic and other diseases. The mineral springs are with a capacity of 42 litres per second and a temperature of 46-73oC. Near the town is situated the Kostenetz waterfall on the Kostenetzka River in Northeastern Rila Mountain. Its waters fall from a height of 12 m and splash into a rocky bed. The waterfall is proclaimed for a natural landmark.
The Trayan Pass lies at a distance of 20 km from the municipal center between the Eledzhik and Golak hills at an altitude of 800 m. A significant strategic road connecting Western to Middle Europe went through this pass in the ancient times. During the Roman Epoch here existed a road station under the name of Sineum. At the highest point of the pass was built the famous Trayan's Gate dating back to the I-II c. A French traveler from 1719 described the gate as of 15 feet width and 24 feet height. The pass was functional during the Middle Ages until the Ottoman domination.
The town of Novi Iskar has a population of about 13 000 inhabitants and is a municipal administrative center. The town lies at a distance of 15 km north of Sofia.
In the region of Novi Iskar there is a settlement from the Neolith, prehistoric settlements and settlement mounds from the Neolith, the Bronze and the Roman Ages. The present day town was formed after the union of the villages of Aleksander Voykov, Gnilyane and Kurilo in 1974.
Tourist sights are: the church "Sveta Troitza"/ Holy Trinity/ (XI-XII c.) and the Kurilo Monastery.
The Kurilo Monastery in the Kurilo quarter of Novi Iskar lies at a distance of 15 km north-east of Sofia at the foot of Stara Planina at the beginning of the Iskar Gorge. The monastery was destroyed by the Turks and later on restored in XVI c. In the church of the monastery there are murals of high artistic value.
The town of Dragoman has a population of about 4 000 inhabitants and is a municipal administrative center with 33 component settlements. The town lies at a distance of 43 km northwest of Sofia at the foot of Chepan Mountain. The altitude of the town is about 630-640 m.
There are remains of an ancient and some medieval settlements in the vicinity of the town.
The Nedelishte Monastery near the village of Nedelishte was built in XIV c. To the right of the altar there is a magnificent mask - a combination of a human face and an animal head. Interesting are also the stone relieves in the southern and western facade of the church. They represent the folk ideas about cherished saints from the Christian mythology. The monastery has also preserved the king's gates from an ancient iconostasis.
The town of Dolna Banya lies at a distance of 81 km southeast of Sofia. Dolna Banya is a separate municipality with a population of 5 000 inhabitants.
The town is a spa and climate center. The mineral waters have a capacity of 25 liters per second and a temperature of 55-64o C. Near the town of Dolna Banya are situated the remains of a fortified wall from XVI c., the Kaleto fortress and a medieval monastery. The settlement is registered in the Ottoman documents from 1576 under the name of Bani.
The town of Buhovo lies at a distance of 25 km northeast of Sofia. The town has a population of 2 900 inhabitants. In the vicinity of the town there are two monasteries.
The village of Chavdar is the center of a separate municipality. It is located in the Zlatitza-Pirdop Valley at a distance of 67 km east of Sofia with a population of 1 400 inhabitants. A prehistoric mound and the remains of a Thracian and a medieval settlement have been discovered within the limits of the village. The village is described in the Ottoman documents in 1430.
The village of Anton is the center of a separate municipality. The village is at a distance of 85 km east of Sofia and has a population of 1 800 inhabitants. It is located along the railway line Sofia-Karlovo-Bourgas. The region specializes in the production of fodder cultures and potatoes.