Vazov’s Hiking Trail & Skaklya | The Bulgarian “Rocky Mountains”

It’s December 31st. The final chapter in a year full of great moments and great mishaps. We are headed to Zasele: a small village at the top of a series of pictureque road turns along the Iskar Gorge.

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I am looking out the car window and taking in the view: mountains, curvy road turns, pine trees, rows of houses up on the hills… Cough. Cough. Cough. It’s not me. The car is choking and when I look back there is blanket of thick white-to-gray-to-coal-black smoke coming out of it. Luckily we are just a few kilometers away from the village, so we park in the nearest pile of snow and leave the Cherokee behind for the rest of the road. 2016 reminds us it is still not over so I am keeping my fingers crossed for the remaining 10 hours of it.

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Our guest house is 5 minutes away from the Vazov Hiking Trail which connects Gara Bov and the village where we are staying (Skaklya) so instead of spending time indoors we head to see the trail and the waterfall it leads to.

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According to local legends the village was founded by a French Crusader knight by the name of Saint de Bœuf, but historians ascribe this backstory to the poetic hints given by Ivan Vazov (called the Patriarch of Bulgarian Literature) who mentioned this area in his itineraries and used it as a setting for one of his most prominent short stories.

The start/end of the trail at Zasele is truly impressive. You get to see the whole area from above: with its unusual geological shapes, the overreaching horizon and the almost doll-like houses at the bottom of the gorge.

There are small hidden treasures along the road: if you pay attention you can see woodcarvings on the trees and if you enjoy fresh air (and it isn’t -10 degrees outside) there are picknick spots with wooden benches and pleasant rest stops.

It is lovely to hear the clean white snow crunch below you. In the city winters are never this lovely, especially when snow turns into mud. Here. in the mountain: it is a real winter tale. Despite the biting frost, you feel free and energized, surrounded by quiet, serene landscape and a view which is no less impressive than the famous Rocky Mountains.

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It gets even better when you approach the Skaklya Waterfall: you have a different point of view of the rock formations and in the winter you get to see the frozen waterfall, like a gaint icicle attached to the rock.

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I have seen Bov and walked a small portion of the trail in summer as well and I must say: this is one of the places which work equally great in any season. Definitely a view to remember and a great spot to see on the last day of the old year and on the first day of the new one

How to get there?

Recommendation

If you are about to spend the night in the area (and especially if you are planning on a big trip with many friends (and kids), I definitely recommend tha place where we stayed: Lakata. Clean, warm and with a cosy setting, fully equipped professional kitchen, fooseball and tennis table

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