Home » 12 Amazing Day Trips from Veliko Tarnovo
a tiny stream with a bridge and a tree and a blue house at the background, Etara Gabrovo

12 Amazing Day Trips from Veliko Tarnovo

by Daniela

Located centrally in North Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo is the perfect home base to discover the region one day trip at a time. Quaint villages, historical places, UNESCO sites, monasteries, caves, waterfalls and beautiful nature are some of the treasures that this part of Bulgaria has in store for you. There’s so much authenticity and pureness in this region and of course tons of history and culture. So, if you are looking to discover one of the most beautiful regions in Europe without the crowds, then stay longer than a day in the old capital of Bulgaria and take at least one or two of those amazing day trips from Veliko Tarnovo.

Places to visit on a day trip from Veliko Tarnovo


The diversity of places near Veliko Tarnovo is just overwhelming, but hey, what a better way to get to know a country then to visit as many as possible different sites: nature parks, architectural reserves, ancient cities, unique monasteries… It was so difficult to make this selection. There are so many beautiful places near Veliko Tarnovo, but this selection covers the must-sees, the places that will lead you through each layer of Bulgaria’s history and will unveil a bit of its stunning nature.
lush green hills dotted with spring flowers and a city at the distance with some hilly mountains, Veliko Tarnovo seen from Arbanassi

Arbanasi

Arbanasi

distance from Veliko Tarnovo – 4 km

This little village is perched on a hill above Veliko Tarnovo and offers breathtaking views of the city. Stroll along the cobbled streets and get back in time with the houses dating back to the Bulgarian National Revival (18th – 19th century). When in Arbanasi, do not miss the Konstantsaliev House – an ethnographic museum, where you will have the opportunity to see how the houses looked in that period and how people lived then. The indisputable gem in this cute little village is the Church of the Nativity – a richly decorated 16th century church with beautiful frescoes and the eye-catching Wheel of Life. The ex-communist leader of Bulgaria – Todor Zhivkov (in office 1954-1989) had one of his residences in the village. Today, it’s a posh 5-star hotel, but you can still access the terrace of the building from where you will have one of those scenic views of Veliko Tarnovo. The locals love to visit Arbanasi on a day trip and when I used to live in Veliko Tarnovo, I would just take a taxi and go there for a little walk, or hike in the weekend.

Tip: Make sure you have a lunch or a dinner in one of the many traditional restaurants in Arbanasi.


How to get to Arbanasi from Veliko Tarnovo

My advice is to take a taxi – it’s affordable and you will be in no time there. You can even choose to walk to the village, as there are only 4 km. Of course, you can always rent a car.

a white house with wooden window frames and doors and hanging colourful rugs on a balcony, Etara Ethnographic Complex

Etara

Etara

distance from Veliko Tarnovo – 52 km

You don’t need a time travel machine to go back in time, just visit the open-air ethnographic village Etara to get transported to the 18th century. This is one of the most picturesque places in Bulgaria and a preferred place by the locals for a day trip. This ethnographic museum is working, so there are not only exhibits but you can see how things are actually made, or should I say how they used to be made in the past. Most of these crafts (22 in total) are pretty much extinguished, but you can see how fur caps are made, or cattle harnesses, or knives. All craftsmen sell their hand-made products, which make great souvenirs. One of my favorite places there is the predecessor of the modern washing machine.

When in Etara, you should get to the local café and try their Turkish coffee made on sand and the local delicacy Byalo Sladko (White Candy) – a sort of a fresh marshmallow mixture that hasn’t dried up yet served in a spoon in a glass with ice water.


Know before you go: Etara is open from 9:00 am till 5:00 pm (1 October – 30 April) and from 9:00 am till 7:00 pm (1 May – 30 September). Entrance fee for adults is 5 BGN and for students – 2 BGN.

How to get to Etara from Veliko Tarnovo

The fastest way is to rent a car. It takes a while to get to Etara by public transport, but it’s doable. I’ve been myself many times by public transport there. There are two options: either by train or by bus.

  • By train: take the train from Veliko Tarnovo to Stara Zagora. In Tsareva Livada change trains to Gabrovo. That’s also it’s final stop. Then get bus line 7 to Etara.
  • By bus: take the bus from Veliko Tarnovo to Gabrovo. They depart each hour and a half. From Gabrovo take bus line 1 to Etara.
Tip: The buses to Gabrovo depart from Bus Station West, which is a bit far from the centre of the city. If you are taking a taxi to the bus station you should emphasizes to the driver that you need to go to Bus Station West (or Avtogara ZapadАвтогара „Запад“, in Bulgarian), as the taxi driver might think you are going to Sofia or Varna as a foreigner, and will bring you to Bus Station South (Avtogara YugАвтогара „Юг“, in Bulgarian). You can guess by the names that they are at different parts of the city.
an old stone cock tower with a belfry on a square surrounded by white houses; Tryavna Bulgaria

Tryavna

Tryavna

distance from Veliko Tarnovo – 40 km

Tryavna is a small town with lovely houses in the National Revival Style, that’s bustling with life. You can admire the clock tower (1814) in the middle of the square, which is the only square in Bulgaria in National Revival Style, preserved in completely intact state from those days. This place breathes and radiates history. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was an important hub where education and revolutionary ideas were bred. One of the most famous Bulgarian period writers Pencho Slaveyvkov was born there. Tryavna is also famous for the woodcarving and applied arts. Visit the Daskalov House to admire the masterpieces on the ceilings and hear the story of the apprentice who outmastered his master in a woodcarving competition.


How to get to Tryavna from Veliko Tarnovo

Tryavna is easily accessible by train. There are a few trains per day, and it takes about an hour.  Alternatively, you can always hire a car.

a monastery with colourful frescoes on the outer walls and a beautiful bell tower with a clock and a high rock on the background, Dryanovo Monastery

Preobrazhenski Monastery

Preobrazhenski Monastery

distance from Veliko Tarnovo – 7 km

Preobrazhenski Monastery is just outside of Veliko Tarnovo. The original monastery was built in the 11th century and is still functioning as such. Its outer walls are richly decorated with frescoes, but the inside is even more beautiful! The inside frescoes are made by the most famous Bulgarian artist from the National Revival period – Zahari Zograf. If you love stories, the monastery has plenty to tell. One of the latest is about the miracle of 1991, when a big land slide almost destroyed the whole place. There was this huge piece of rock rolling towards the church but just before it smashed it, it broke in two pieces and the two halves rolled alongside the church. True story? A miracle? Or another urban legend? It doesn’t matter. The monastery and the nature around it are absolutely stunning. A walk to the monastery used to be my favourite Sunday trip in spring for many years.


How to get to Preobrazhenski Monastery from Veliko Tarnovo

The monastery is some 7 km away from the city. You can go there by car, but the best way is to take one of the trails that start from the city.

a monastery with a bell tower on the background with some green forests and a river and a bridge on the foreground, Dryanovo Monastery Bulgaria

Dryanovo Monastery

Dryanovo Monastery

distance from Veliko Tarnovo – 30 km

The Monastery of Archangel Michael near Dryanovo or Dryanovski Monastery/Dryanovo Monastery, the way it’s known, was built in 1206. In the 14th century it was one of the Hesychastic centres in the country. It was completely demolished in 1396 during the Ottoman invasion and rebuilt in later. During the Bulgarian National Revival, the Monastery played an important role as hide-place for the revolutionary-minded. During the April Uprising of 1876 the Monastery was used as an ammunition and food depot and one of the detachments was sieged there. Today, in the Monastery’s courtyard there is an ossuary and a memorial dedicated to the rebels who died after defending the Monastery for whole nine days.

The Dryanovo Monastery is a popular day-trip among the Bulgarians and a good place to learn a bit more about the history of Bulgaria.


Tip: As the monastery is located in the foot of the mountain, in the beautiful gorge cut out by the Dryanovo River, there are many hiking trails starting in the neighbourhood. One can easily spend there a whole day, especially if you combine it with a visit to the Bacho Kiro Cave. This is actually what the locals do.

How to get to Dryanovo Monastery from Veliko Tarnovo

The easiest way is to go by car. There’s a large parking space in front of the Monastery. I have to admit that on a sunny day in the weekend it can get quite busy. Locals just love this place.

  • By train: take the train from Veliko Tarnovo to Stara Zagora and get off at Bacho Kiro train stop. Walk to the Monastery which is only 0,5 km from the train stop. The way goes through a camping.
  • By bus: take the bus from Veliko Tarnovo to Gabrovo. They depart each hour and a half. You need to ask the driver to stop for you at the junction for the Monastery. Then you’ll need to walk about an hour to get to the Monastery. See above some tips about getting the bus from Veliko Tarnovo to Gabrovo.
the inside of a cave, Bacho Kiro Cave near Dryanovo

Bacho Kiro Cave

Bacho Kiro Cave

distance from Veliko Tarnovo – 30 km

When you visit the Dryanovo Monastery on a day trip from Veliko Tarnovo, you need to combine it with a visit to famous Bacho Kiro Cave. The cave is just a short walk from the Monastery. It’s the first cave in Bulgaria that has be open for tourists, but it’s not the biggest one. Actually it’s at number 13. There are two routes and I highly recommend taking the long one – it takes about an hour and is always guided. In this cave there were found the oldest human remains on the territory of Bulgaria, carbon dated to some 43 000 years ago.

The cave keeps many stories and legends and you will hear all of them if you take the tour. Ready to spill out your sins? No need… You can enter the Purgatory (a tiny passage of 60 by 40 cm) and if you manage to get out of it, you will be cleansed. Ready to try?


Tip: If you plan to visit the cave, always have a jacket with you, as it won’t matter that outside it’s scorching 40 degrees Celsius – the temperature in the cave is only 13 degrees Celsius, all year round.

Know before you go: The cave is open from 10:00 am till 4:00 pm (1 November – 31 March) and from 9:00 am till 6:00 pm (1 April – 31 October). Entrance fee for adults is 5 BGN (long route) / 3 BGN (short route) and for students – 3 BGN (long route) / 1 BGN (short route).

How to get to Bacho Kiro Cave from Veliko Tarnovo

The cave is very close to Dryanovo Monastery, so check above for my instructions how to reach Dryanovo.

ruins of columns and a paved street from an ancient Roman city with some green trees at the background

Nicopolis ad Istrum

Nicopolis ad Istrum

distance from Veliko Tarnovo – 20 km

Nicopolis ad Istrum is an ancient Roman city built by the Roman Emperor Trajan in 101 AD to celebrate his victory over the Dacians (in today’s Romania). You remember the Trajan’s Column in Rome? Yep, that’s the same Trajan. The city prospered until the 5th century when it was destroyed by the Huns. Today, there are only ruins left from this once thriving place which even had own harbour on the Rositsa River. If you love ancient history, you should visit this place – just another layer of the Bulgaria’s historical heritage. Nicopolis ad Istrum is on the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


Know before you go: The archaeological site is open from 9:00 am till 6:00 pm (1 April – 31 October). Entrance fee for adults is 6 BGN for students – 2 BGN.

How to get to Nicopolis ad Istrum from Veliko Tarnovo

Well, as always the best way is by car. The ancient Roman city is located near the village of Nikyup, to the north of  Rositsa River. Public transport is however also an option:

  • By bus: take the bus from Veliko Tarnovo to Nikyup, get off at the village and then walk for about 3 km to the site. The buses depart from Bus Station West at 5:55 am, 7:30 am, 12:30 pm, 5:30 pm.
a stone monument with a lion in front and a canon on the top of a hill, Shipka Memorial Bulgaria

Shipka Memorial

Shipka

distance from Veliko Tarnovo – 65 km

If there is one monument that’s equally dear and special to all Bulgarians, it’s for sure the Shipka Monument. The monument was finished in 1930 and is dedicated to those who died in the decisive Battle at the Shipka Pass in 1878 during the Russo-Turkish Wars. This place is a symbol of the courage and the bravery of those who died for the liberation of Bulgaria. On the national holiday of Bulgaria3 March, the national celebrations are held at the Shipka Monument. The monument stands on the top of Stoletov Peak. From there you have an amazing panoramic view, as if you can see the whole of Bulgaria from there. Well, you will see a small part of it.

Tip: To the top of the monument there are 890  stairs. Make sure you are wearing appropriate shoes, as I am pretty sure high heels, for example, won’t do the job. You can also reach the monument via the road.

Know before you go: The Museum is open from 9:00 am till 5:00 pm (1 October – 30 April) and from 9:00 am till 7:00 pm (1 May – 30 September). Entrance fee for adults is 3 BGN and for students – 1 BGN.


How to get to Shipka from Veliko Tarnovo

The best way to go to Shipka, is by car. It makes a great road trip to Shipka as the road is winding up in the Balkan Mountains with some breathtaking hairpin turns. There’s public transportation from Gabrovo or Kazanlak, but it’s pretty complicated.

Tip: You can combine Shipka and the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak in one day, as the road will take you directly to Kazanlak if you continue southwards after Shipka.
a tiny river cutting a gorge through the rocks and lots of green seen from above, Emen Canyon in Bulgaria

Emen Canyon

Emen Canyon

distance from Veliko Tarnovo – 25 km

One of the most beautiful canyons in Bulgaria is the Negovanka River Canyon, which is also known as the Emen Canyon. The river meanders through the Predbalkan (the northern hilly part of the Balkan Mountain Range), cutting a narrow gorge through the rocks. Along the canyon there is a walking trail that will lead you through a cave, hanging bridges and deep crevices, and a waterfall, showing you some breathtaking views of a part of Bulgaria, that remains unknown for the rest of the world. The trail is not difficult and can be done even by people that are not that fit. However, you should have good shoes, as it can be slippery. After all, you will be doing some climbing or walking on rocks, so your shoes need to have a good grip.


Note: Unfortunately the last years the trail hasn’t been maintained well and the condition of some of the bridges has deteriorated. There are warning signs telling you not to cross them, but they are in Bulgarian. So, if you see a red sign with white letters, you can be 100% sure it tells you not to cross the bridge.

How to get to Emen Canyon from Veliko Tarnovo

The easiest way is to go by car. The walking trail starts a bit to the north of the village of Emen. You can park close to the beginning of the trail or in the village itself.

  • By bus – there are buses from Veliko Tarnovo to Emen but the time schedule is not convenient. There’s an early morning bus and an evening one and nothing in between. If you still decide to go by bus, you should go to Bus Station West (see my remarks above) and take the bus to Pavlikeni via Emen. There are other bus lines that go to Pavlikeni, but do not stop in Emen. So don’t assume that each line that goes to Pavlikeni stops in Emen.
not very high waterfalls falling in a green pool of water with beautiful green trees around, Kaya Bunar Waterfalls

Kaya Bunar Waterfalls

Kaya Bunar Waterfalls

distance from Veliko Tarnovo – 20 km

Kaya Bunar Waterfalls, also known as Hotnistsa Waterfalls are one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Bulgaria. The water falls from some 30 m in a natural pool, offering some spectacular views. The waterfalls are perhaps one of the most popular day trips from Veliko Tarnovo for visitors and locals alike. It’s also a popular destination for a weekend pick-nick with families or friends. There is also a walking trail along the Bohot River and its picturesque gorge, that starts at the waterfalls. If you visit Veliko Tarnovo in the summer and when the temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius (Yes! It can be that warm in Bulgaria) in the city, then the waterfalls are a much sought escape to enjoy some coolness in the heart of the forest.


How to get to Kaya Bunar/Hotnitsa Waterfall from Veliko Tarnovo

This is perhaps the most accessible waterfall in Bulgaria – you park your car and you are there. The waterfalls are just outside of the village of Hotnitsa.

  • By bus – take the bus to Pavlikeni and get off at the village of Hotnitsa and then walk about 3 km to the waterfall. The buses depart at 6:00 am, 7:30 am, 9:00 am, 1:30 pm, 3:00 pm and 5:30 pm from Bus Station West in Veliko Tarnovo. See above for tips on how to get to the bus station.
Tip: When you are taking the bus to Pavlikeni, make sure it’s via Hotnitsa. Sometimes Hotnitsa can be spelled as Hotnica, and in Bulgarian you’ll see it written as Хотница.
church dug into the rocks with some colourful frescoes, rock-hewn churches of Ivanovo

Rock-hewen Churches of Ivanovo

Ivanovo Rock-hewn Churches

distance from Veliko Tarnovo – 95 km

Thee Rock-hewen Churches of Ivanovo are one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria and for a reason. This unique complex of churches, chapels and cloisters is actually dug out in the rocks some 30 m above the Rusenski Lom River. The first monastery in the natural cavities in the rocks was established at the beginning of the 13th century. Today, we can admire there some of the few frescoes remained from the glorious days of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185 – 1396).

Know before you go: The Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo are open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Entrance fee for adults is 5 BGN and for students – 2 BGN.

How to get to Ivanovo Rock Churches from Veliko Tarnovo

The best way to get to the rock churches is by car. They are located near the village of Ivanovo.

frescoes with chariots and horses on the inside of a round cupola, the Thracian Tomb in Kazanlak

Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak

Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak

distance from Veliko Tarnovo – 90 km

If you are after UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there’s another one for you – the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak, that can be easily visited on a day trip from Veliko Tarnovo. The tomb dates back to the 4 century BC and is a part of a necropolis located near Seutopolis – the capital city of the Thracians under Seuthes III. Unfortunately today Seutopolis lies under the waters of the Koprinka Reservoir hiding for good its treasures and secrets. The Thracian Tomb in Kazanlak is not very big but it features some remarkable frescoes. They are so beautiful that you can stand there admiring them for quite some time. At least I did. To preserve the tomb and its unique frescoes, it was closed for visitors, instead tourists can visit an exact replica which is as beautiful as the real thing.


Tip: Since you won’t need much time for the Thracian Tomb (it’s really only one room), you can combine it with Shipka on one day trip. If you are going from Veliko Tarnovo to Kazanlak by car, you will pass anyway by Shipka. Another option would be to visit also the Museum of the Rose or the Ethnographic Museum in Kazanlak.

Know before you go: The Thracian Tomb is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Entrance fee for adults is 6 BGN and for students – 2 BGN. Every last Monday of the month is free admission.

How to get to Kazanlak from Veliko Tarnovo
The best option is still by car. It makes also a great road trip as the road will take you through the Shipka Pass and you will be crossing the Balkan Mountain Range. Getting to Kazanlak from Veliko Tarnovo is also possible:

  • By train: take the train from Veliko Tarnovo to Tulovo. In Tulovo change trains to Sofia. Kazanlak is the first stop. There’s a convenient train departing at 8:32 am from Veliko Tarnovo. The trips is about 2:40 hrs.
  • By bus: there are a few buses departing daily from Bus Station West. You can check here which buses stop in Kazanlak.


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a collage of pictures with overlay text: Best day trips from Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, recommended by a local

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