Before we set off on a road trip to the Belogradchik Rocks, I quickly fix a healthy breakfast: banana pancakes (prepared without flour or milk, just a 1:2 ratio of bananas and eggs) covered with yoghurt, cinnamon, flax seed, mint leaves and a sprinkle of rum baking essence. It’s filling and delicious and it gives Stef all the energy he needs to deal with what’s ahead: driving a car full of girls for several hours. Poor him 🙂
Assembling the task force
We pick up the ladies and we are ready to go: the distance from Sofia to Belogradchik is not so big but the road is in a terrible condition and there are many steep turns in the woods (with people driving like crazy in the opposite lane) so we take our time.
Horror movies, photography, how our grandparents met and fell in love (respective grandparents, not mutual grandparents): the topics flow carefree as the rock music on the radio.
In order to reach the natural vista which overlooks the Belogradchik rocks, you need to pass through the Kaleto Fortress. It is one of the most well preserved fortresses in Bulgaria dating back to Late Antiquity.
The natural advantages of the area were well appreciated by the Romans who used the fortress to protect some of their most strategically important roads. It is cleverly incorporated into the natural rock formations around it and was used mainly for overlooking the area, and not really in defense battles.
The fortress offers an easy and pleasant climb onto the Belogradchik Rocks vista. I was surprised to hear many people breathing heavily on their way up and sharing how they “can’t go on”. If you have healthy and moderately active lifestyle it takes literally 5-10 minutes to climb the somewhat steep stairs (while taking photos) and reach the view on top which is definitely worth it.
The Belogradchik Rocks | How are they even possible?
The fortress offers the best view, but the rocks in fact form a 30km (18.6 miles) long range so you can also see them from other spots or walk around in the skirts of the rock formation. Made up of sandstone, the rock formations vary in cover: most are quite reddish and shaped in peculiar rounded angles.
The rock formation dates back to 230 million years ago: you can try to impress friends by noting that was back in the Triassic period and when you tell them you can try sounding very matter-of-factly like Ross from Friends – or perhaps a bit more cheerful.
Anyway, around that time major tectonic movements shaped the area and raised up the region around Belogradchik. Later on the area used to be at the bottom of a shallow sea and then in the Jurassic period (you know that one from Jurassic Park, at least) the hot climate formed oxides which produced the red color of rocks and the settling of the Earth crust caused smaller sandstones to merge into larger formation. Eventually the area became dry land again, having some trouble to make up its mind (geologically speaking).
The result of these complex processes, mixed with erosion, denudation, surface rivers, etc. shaped the amazing place you see on the photos. In 2007 the Belogradchik Rocks were even nominated for one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
Even if you are not interested in how they were formed: enjoying the view is an inevitable side effect of coming to this area. It is quite breathtaking and I would definitely like to come back again.
My friend Talitha told me they camped here (outside the fortess) and that the area looked absolutely amazing when it was covered in thick milky fog. Definitely adding this to my Bucket list.
Short visit to Vratsa | Hotspot for Climbing
We spent too much time in Belogradchik, so we couldn’t get to Vratsa in time for exploring the Magura Cave and Ledenika (they are open for visitors until 5pm).
However, we we able to take a nice look at the rock climbers along the Vratsata Gorge.
If you are into rock and boulder climbing this is definitely your spot.
This article is part of a Series on Mobile Travel Photography which aims to test how well do smartphones capture the excitement of exploration and travel | Model tested: HuaweiP9
How to get there
✓If you are visiting during the summer- bring a lot of water with you because it can get scorching out there on the rocks
✓Take a walk around outside the fortress as well: the best view is definitely there but if you have time there is a hiking path on the right of the main entrance which takes you through the woods and ends up at the bottom of Belogradchik
✓ Take your wide angle camera/lens with you: the scenery is gorgeous
✓Visit Vratsa on your way back: there are some impressive rocks for climbing and several picturesque caves and nature landmarks in the area. However, try to get there in the early afternoon, because access to Magurata is closed after 17.00