I should start this article by telling you that this is a good “How to spend an incredible weekend nearby Sofia” guide. Nonetheless, the overwhelming love I feel for Dupnitsa and its people didn’t allow me to title this post in such a dull way. Yet, this is exactly what you’ll find here. So read on!
Have you ever thought that Dupnitsa could be a tempting travel destination? No? Me neither… See, as much as I try to avoid stereotypes, they exist for a reason and I always take them into consideration. Yet again, magic happens when you meet that someone/something which makes you forget about your prejudices. Exactly the case with Dupnitsa!
Where to stay and why?
Naturally, I am not suggesting that you drive back and forth all weekend. You should certainly stay in Dupnitsa and more precisely – in hotel Rila. Why, you’d ask. Because whether you want to use some incredible SPA facilities and have some “me” time, or you’re going there with your kids, they have what to offer. On our full review of the hotel (because it deserves an entire article) you can find out details, but here are the highlights:
- Treasure hunt for grown-ups or for kids (incredible fun adventure for any age that we strongly recommend);
- Wonderful SPA with the best herbal sauna we’ve been to;
- Surprisingly delicious restaurant food.
So now that we’ve established the basics, here are ideas about activities that can make your stay in Dupnitsa absolutely unforgettable!
Must-do for larger groups: Treasure Hunt [1.5 hours]
When a while ago Ellie and I passed through nearly all the escape rooms in Sofia we figured there’s only so many of them you can do before you’re bored out of your mind. As interesting and as unique they all are, you’re stuck in a room for an hour. While this is fun to an extend, the treasure hunt that Hotel Rila in Dupnitsa organizes is absolutely incredible! It takes place in the gorgeous park Rila, tests your logical thinking, and gets you exercise with Rila mountain in the background. Pretty darn cool!
The most beautiful city park in Bulgaria [2 hours]
One of the first things we saw in Dupnitsa was Park Rila. It was the grounds of our own Treasure Hunt adventure, which totally wow-ed us. While running around looking for our treasures, we couldn’t help but notice that the park itself was quite the discovery. Beautiful alleys, playgrounds for kids, and the total highlights:
- amazing barbecue areas;
- beautiful lake with the view of the mountain in the background, and
- hungry ducks!
What to do in park Rila? Gather your friends, pack your lunch and spend it in the lovely outdoor barbecue area. If it’s raining (and you’re a sucker for nature and rain like we are) get a book, a blanket, and whatever your drink of choice is and go there! Although we didn’t have the chance to check it out, I am confident that this is one of the most romantic places in the world when it rains. Oh, before I forget: get some bread before going to the park! You will want to feed the ducks and when you throw the pieces away from them you get to watch a duck race! Hilarious!
That incredible coffee!!! [30 minutes]
There’s a (surprisingly) strong connection between Dupnitsa and Italy. On our second day, thirsty for some coffee (as usual) we headed out of the hotel and found a place just around the corner. I asked for a sweet frappe and got a little piece of heaven. Turned out the secret ingredient was a shot of Monin caramel syrup (perhaps you need to mention you want it).
Love affair with food [2 hours]
It doesn’t look much like a restaurant. Visually, it’s a combo between an Italian store and a messy diner, yet even the untrained eye can spot that everything runs smoothly in there. It’s that total Italian feel: it seems like a hot mess but it’s perfectly organized under the surface.
But enough with my thoughts. I am describing a little (in size, not the impression it creates) place, owned by a guy named Elen. We walked in tempted by the idea of a hot soup and a beer (it’s a Bulgarian thing). As we entered this little restaurant/shop we stuck our faces at the labels of several Italian beers (700ml bottles). Next thing you know, 9 of us were sitting down and leaving all choices in the caring hands of Elen. We were not hungry. At all. Yet again, we couldn’t resist his tempting offer and ended up having a massive (ridiculously delicious salad), some of his home-baked bread, fresh local buffalo cheese, and plenty of beer. I need to emphasize on this:
the food was heavenly!
Everything he served was so incredibly delicious, so rich in flavour, so…. It’s not even that I lack words to describe it – I just don’t think that I should try and label what happened there. It was a romance between us, the food, and Elen. Not that kind of telenovela romance, but so perfect we could hardly believe it was not directed by a skillful Hollywood genius. So, dear readers, if you ever find yourselves in Dupnitsa (or decide to go because I have managed to convince you), most certainly have a meal made by Elen.
Don’t miss the Stob Pyramids [2-3 hours trip]
The thing with natural phenomena is that if you are lucky with the weather, you may end up getting some of the best pictures you can ever imagine. The Stob Pyramids are, however, one of these places where you simply can’t go wrong. Whatever the weather, the place is stunning, the walk is easy and pleasant, and the views – they’re jaw-dropping. For more detailed information about the pyramids, check this guide.
The marvelous 7 Rila Lakes [full day trip]
You can’t come to Bulgaria and leave without seeing the 7 Rila Lakes. And it just happens that while you are staying at Hotel Rila in Dupnitsa you have the perfect opportunity to do it. Here’s a detailed guide with everything you need to know before going there (mind you, this is a full day trip).
Rila Monastery [half day trip]
If you haven’t (yet) been to the Rila Monastery or even if you just feel like going back for a couple of hours, your Dupnitsa trip may be the perfect occasion. The monastery is just an hour away: you can spend some time there and pay a visit to Ivan Rilski’s cave.
Ruen Monastery [half day trip]
Just 3 km from the village of Skrino, Ruen Monastery is the newest one in Bulgaria. The fact, that we (Bulgarians, that is) started building it in 1997 makes me proud – it means that Christianity is well alive in this country. The interesting thing about it is the fact that when construction started, the remains from a previous monastery were found underneath. It is believed, that the discovery is the actual monastery, where St. Ival Rilski (St. John of Rila) began his religious journey. As Julia from Time2Travel also tells us, just a short walk from the monastery you can find the first cave in which St. Ivan Rilski lived as a hermit.
And last, but not least, take a walk around Dupnitsa!
I cannot hide that the whole of Dupnitsa is not the most beautiful city in the world. In fact, I strongly urge the people there to take care of their town. After all, if they don’t help themselves, no one will. Nonetheless, there is what to be seen around the town, starting with the only mosque in the area which was not demolished after the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman empire. You can then continue your walk to perhaps the only monument dedicated to the Jews in Bulgaria, stop by the monument of the women who fought for Bulgaria, and then continue for a walk in the city garden.
*Header image by Dani Kacarov from Dupnitsa