Even if you’ve already heard of Bulgaria or considered visiting it, I bet you never thought someone could be recommending Sliven, let alone an area 30 minutes drive away from the town. Well, that’s because many are engaging into showing you the beaten path. Let us take you away from it for a while and I promise you’ll want to follow in our footsteps.
One of the things that we, Bulgarians, still have is the memory of the freshly baked bread with a heavenly aroma, which is made with natural ingredients only and Stovall preservatives free. Sadly, capitalism is taking over Bulgaria just as quick as other countries and this bread is no longer cost effective for the mass producer. And just when I thought it can no longer be found I happened to visit Karandila.
Our journey there was initiated by our Sliven hosts’ words: people from the area gather on Karandila on the weekends for the freshly baked bread from the bakery there, the sunflower seeds, and the view. Well, this is where we need to be then! Here are the best things to do on Karandila one by one.
Getting to Karandila
There are 4 ways to get to Karandila, and we’ve decided to list them here so you can choose your own.
- Hiking the Haidushka Pateka
Haidushka pateka is a 2h hiking path, and it starts right after the Tourist Info Center. On the pics below you can see both – the info center and the sign marking the beginning of the path. It is well marked (white-red-white) and takes you up to an old commi hotel (closed). Go around the hotel and continue further down the asphalt road for another 100 meters.
This hiking path doesn’t take long, but it’s rather hard for the unexperienced hikers. It’s really rocky, so nothing but proper hiking shoes will do. Also, it’s important to mention that a large part of the path is outside the forest, so passing it on a hot, sunny day isn’t a bright idea. And last, but not least: the change of altitude is about 800m – be sure you’re up for the challenge before you head off.
- Hiking from the ring through the Haidushka Pateka to Karandila
Although this hike is longer, it’s far more doable than the first one (yes, we tried them both). The path starts right about here, goes up to the Ring (which we will soon tell you more about) and then merges with the Haidushka Pateka further up. The mark you should follow is white-yellow-white and I strongly recommend having some sort of navigation that can show you your exact location (even Google Maps with the satelite pictures enabled will do).
- Driving to Karandila
This one is quite easy and takes about 30 minutes (40-45 the first time). Mind you, the road has lots and lots of turns, so do not try to speed. Here’s the Google Maps link with the location of the bakery (which you’ll learn more about below).
- Taking the lift
In case you don’t feel like neither driving, nor hiking, you can always take the lift from Sliven. It works from 8:30 until 16:30 and starts here. The lift costs 3 lev per direction (1,5 EUR) and takes about 20-25 minutes. As you come off the lift, go right and you’ll reach Karandila after about a kilometer walking on the asphalt.
The bakery with the most amazing bread!
I’ve tried French bread (yes, in France) and all I remember about it was its sweetness. Don’t get me wrong – it’s absolutely delicious. But what the bakery on Karandila makes can only be described as heavenly! This is one of the last (if not THE LAST) places in Bulgaria where bread is still made by hand and then baked in a stone oven heated with wood. Flattered by our interest, the baker told us about the process: before each batch of bread, the entire oven is filled with wood, burned to heat it up. Then the wood is removed and the oven quickly cleaned so the loaves of bread can take their place. This is why the baker was hesitant when I asked to take a picture – the heat shouldn’t be allowed out of the over until the bread is ready.
And about the taste of that bread? OMG! I cannot describe it with words. You should absolutely go and try it yourself. Have in mind that the bakery works only during the weekends and the latest you should be there is 1p.m. If you’re a meat-lover, combine the bread with kebaptche from the grill outside and perhaps even a beer. You’ll thank us later 😉
The sweetest lake!
You can choose to have your bread on one of the tables near the bakery, or go a little further and enjoy this beautiful lake. If you’ve been to our blog before you’ll know we have a soft spot for lakes and dams, which is why we couldn’t possibly miss seeing this little jewel. The lake is about a 100 meters away from the bakery and there are several benches nearby.
The view from the blue stones [location link]
The blue stones above Sliven are one of the places you may have heard of. There are lots of ways to see them including hiking or watching the sunset from the TV tower above Sliven, but you can also enjoy them nearby Karandila. Pass the little bridge over the lake and go right. The path goes for about 300 meters and reaches some of those blue rocks, opening an incredible view over Southern Bulgaria. Some even say that on a clear day you can see as far as the Aegean Sea.