Immortalised by Bulgaria's Poet Laureate Ivan Vazov in the 19th Century this country's perhaps most spectacular gorge is just an hour's drive from Sofia. It holds a lot more than the promise of a (bumpy) drive along an as yet unmodernised road. Nearby there are plenty of interesting caves for spelunkers, waterfalls for nature lovers, vistas for trekkers, steep cliffs for rock-climbers, an off-the-beaten-track monastery for heritage seekers, a few villages almost untouched by the 20th Century and several not bad restaurants.
This is an all-season destination, with spring and autumn perhaps offering the prettiest sites and liveliest experiences.
Where in Bulgaria are you?
Athena Lao, from Athens, Georgia, guessed correctly that the city we pictured in our latest "Where n Bulgaria Are You?" quiz was Varna. Athena wins a weekend for two at Pirin Spa Hotel, Bansko. Athena Lao has been living in Blagoevgrad as Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at Academician Lyudmil Stoyanov Foreign Language High School since September 2012. The things she likes in Bulgaria include "the wonderful students and colleagues; the elaborate wishes for health and prosperity that Bulgarians say during the holidays; the idea of giving to others during your birthday rather than simply receiving; the beautiful landscapes; cheap and fresh produce; banitsa; and the ubiquitous spokoyno, or take it easy, cure-all for all stressful situations."
However, there are things that concern her: "I hear racist and not very intelligent comments made against the Roma and the Turkish peoples, and I am disappointed when some of my students express only apathy or hopelessness when we discuss the Bulgarian political system."
Athena reads Vagabond, because "it is informative, entertaining, and unique. As an ardent traveler, I love the articles about destinations in Bulgaria that are off the beaten track or feature quirky cultural festivals in the Balkans."