How to Spend 24 Lazy Hours in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Our 24 hours in Plovdiv were pretty chill. It’s our last weekend in the country, so I wasn’t trying to do anything crazy.

I had heard for all seven weeks leading up to our visit, from every Bulgarian that I met, that Plovdiv was better and more beautiful than Sofia. Safe to say, I was dying to see if the hype was true (spoiler alert: it was).

Want to spend 24 hours in Plovdiv without breaking a sweat? If so, you’ve come to the right place. For a quick, lazy, thoroughly enjoyable visit to Bulgaria’s capital of culture, use this guide below!

 

How to Get to Plovdiv From Sofia

Traveling to Plovdiv was the easiest of all three weekend trips that I took during my stay here. Busses run every hour at least (but actually more) so you can show up to the Central Bus Station and grab one pretty much whenever you decide to roll out of bed. The ride is only 2 hours, so there’s no need for an early morning in my opinion.

One-way tickets from Sofia to Plovdiv cost 14 lev / 8 usd per person and you can see the exact timetable here. Just a quick tip: the Plovdiv ticket booth isn’t with the rest of them. Instead, you have to buy your ticket from Sofia to Plovdiv at the counter next to the INFO booth by the doors.

 

Old Town of Plovdiv, Bulgaria

 

What to Do for 24 Hours in Plovdiv

So, Daniel and I arrived in Plovdiv around 2 pm and it was HOT. We walked to our hostel in the center and dropped off our bags, and then got to exploring. Check out this list of everything we got up to during our 24 hours in Plovdiv.

 

Walk Through the Garden of Tsar Simeon and Sit by the Fountains

One thing I really love about Bulgaria is how green the cities are. Every one we’ve visited has had really nice parks, and Plovdiv is no different. Stretch your legs after being cramped on the bus with a walk through the Garden of Tsar Simeon.

The park is large and shaded, and you can sit and enjoy the Singing Fountains. I’m guessing they’re called this because there’s some type of show that happens here at night, but like I said, this is a lazy 24 hours in Plovdiv and I couldn’t be bothered to figure it out.

 

Visit the Kapana District & Try Some Street Food

I love street food, so when I spied fried dough (funnel cakes for you Americans out there) in a bakery case on the main pedestrian street, I wasn’t about to pass it up. After filling up, we walked around the adorable and totally insta-worthy Kapana District.

This artsy hipster area used to be completely trashed in 2011, but now it’s going through a revival for Plovdiv European Capital of Culture in 2019. There are tons of galleries, shops, cafes, bars, and more to peek your head inside and snap a few pics of. Here we stopped for smoothies and a raw, vegan, sugar-free snickers bar… that was actually delicious. I know, I was surprised too.

There were also bubble waffles, gelato, and so many other places that looked great, so wander through here and stop for a snack at whatever looks good to you!

 

Kapana District in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

 

Walk Up the Danov Hill

Ok, I only did this because it was like three steps from my hostel and you can definitely skip it. However, I did get a couple nice pictures from the top of this short climb, so check it out if you have time.

It takes only a couple minutes to get to the top and there are a lot of places to sit and chill with a view of the city. If you have some snacks (see above) this is also a great place for a picnic!

 

 

Take the Free Walking Tour

The free walking tour is great because you can pretty much cross everything off your Plovdiv to-do list at once. Daniel and I met up with Maria from the Bulgarian Mermaid blog and did the 6 pm summer tour. (Oct. to April the tour is at 2 pm). The 2 hour tour is ideal in the evening when the weather is cooler and we saw the Kapana District again, the Old Town, and even climbed to the Nebet Tepe viewpoint for photos over the city in the evening light.

 

Visit the Nebet Tepe View Point

If you DON’T do the tour, you should still climb up this hill at sunset. You can see the surrounding Rhodope Mountains, three hills, and the city of Plovdiv laid out below you. Everyone knows climbing to a viewpoint is a staple for any 24 hour trip in Europe, and when you’re in Plovdiv, Nebet Tepe is the place.

 

Nebet Tepe viewpoint in Plovdiv

 

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

I only spent 24 hours in Plovdiv so I didn’t try everything, but the food we did eat was consistently delicious.

If you like Turkish food, definitely get dinner at Sofra. The platters come with chicken, beef, lamb, or sausage, thin tortillas, veggies, and rice. I got the wings and it was seriously some of the best meat I’ve ever had. Plus the giant plate was only 10 lev / 6 usd so it was a great deal too. Sofra doesn’t serve alcohol but reviews say you can BYOB, so this is a perfect place to save money and enjoy a great dinner outside in the Kapana District.

Afterward, some of the cutest and coziest bars in Plovdiv are the the Cat and Mouse craft beer bar, the Barber & Cat Bar  and the The Reading Room. However, you really can’t go wrong just wandering through the Kapana District and sitting down wherever strikes your fancy.

 

Smoke Shisha

When in Bulgaria, do as the Bulgarians do. And the Bulgarians love to smoke shisha. When I don’t want a pounding hangover the next day but also don’t want to head back to a hostel early, I like to stop and smoke shisha for an hour or two.

We went to the Kaya Shisha Place on the main pedestrian road. Here they have a rooftop balcony with a great view of the city at night and pretty good shisha too. We paid 25 lev / 15 usd for a hookah and two 500 ml Stella beers.

 

Finish Your 24 Hours in Plovdiv with Breakfast

So, the night ends, go home, sleep in, and then it’s time for breakfast. I don’t know if you know, but Americans are in love with breakfast. Unfortunately, many cultures don’t share the same affinity with us, so when we’re traveling a great breakfast place is hard to come by. Luckily, in Plovdiv that isn’t the case.

If you want to end your lazy 24 hours in Plovdiv with a tasty breakfast, Eddy’s Cafe is the place. We had two giant crepes with cheddar, eggs, bacon, tomato, and chive, two coffees, and a fresh orange juice for 25 lev / 15 usd. The cafe also has shaded outdoor seating and a cozy and quiet ambiance. Perfect.

 

How to Get from Plovdiv to Sofia

Ready to head back home?

The walk from Eddy’s Cafe to the South Bus Station is 25 minutes, so we opted to skip the taxi and work off our breakfast crepes. Just like the way here, the busses from Plovdiv to Sofia run every hour and even on the half hour at busy times. We showed up at 12:26 and snagged the last two seats on the 12:30 bus home. Total score.

Just keep in mind when you’re looking for the ticket booth, walk in the front doors, straight through the station, and out the back. Then the ticket office will be on your right – it looks like they sell international trips to Istanbul, but they have ’em to Sofia too.

 

What Else Should You do in 24 Hours in Plovdiv?

If you’re looking for more to do in the city, here’s some extra stuff you can easily add to your trip to Plovdiv.

Stop in and take moment to walk around the Church of St. Constantine and Helena in the Old Town, and the Dzhumaya Mosque on the pedestrian street. This is right by the ruins of the Roman Stadium, so take a few minutes to walk down into this reconstructed piece of history as well. You can also see more that were discovered in the basement  of the H&M on the main street, which they preserved to take a peek at while shopping!

If I had more time in Plovdiv, I definitely would have gone hiking in the Rhodope Mountains or even visited the Valley of the Thracian Kings. You can also see a show at the ancient Roman Theater, climb up to the Alyosha Monument, visit the Devil’s Bridge for nice pictures, or just walk through the Old Town more, enjoying the quiet streets, colorful homes, and history of the city!

 

old town of Plovdiv, Bulgaria

 

Plovdiv is a perfect weekend trip from Sofia. It’s only 2 hours away by bus and such a different experience than the capital city. Plovdiv is more beautiful and more walkable. There are plenty of view points for picturesque shots of the city and lots of great food and drinks to try.

If you don’t have much time in Bulgaria, use this guide to spend a lazy 24 hours chilling in the city. It’s going to be the European Cultural Capital in 2019 and is undergoing some serious changes for the better. Because of that, I had an awesome time in Plovdiv and definitely recommend a quick trip to the city next time you pass through!

 

PS Looking for more to see and do in Bulgaria? Go hiking at the 7 Rila Lakes, visit the charming cliffside town of Veliko Tarnovo, or take a trip to Sozopol Beach on the Black Sea! 

Check Out These Related Posts!

Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

The 17 Best Instagram Spots Around Sofia, Bulgaria

Are you looking for the best Instagram spots around Sofia? If so, you’re definitely in the right place.

After living in the capital city for seven weeks, I found 17 amazing Instagram spots around Sofia and throughout Bulgaria as well.

I take my insta game very seriously (as you should) so rest assured that all of these will be hits. Just browse the list below for all the best photo spots around Sofia and beyond and then pick your favorite picture perfect shots for your visit! Each one outside of the city center also comes with a complete guide on where it is, how to get there, and more, so traveling around Sofia for photos has never been easier.

PS if you use this list to make your Instagram shine, tag me in the photos @slight_north ’cause I’d love to see them!

 

The Sofia Regional History Museum

Where: Sofia City Center
Nearby Instagram Spots Around Sofia: St. George Rotunda

The Sofia Regional History Museum

 

Dusk at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Where: Sofia City Center
Nearby Instagram Spots Around Sofia: The Russian Church

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia

 

Dusk at the St. George Rotunda ruins

Where: Sofia City Center
Nearby Instagram Spots Around Sofia: Sofia Regional History Museum

St. George Rotunda, the oldest ruins in Sofia

 

The Colorful Side Streets of Sofia

Where: Sofia City Center

The colorful side streets in Sofia

 

Largo (the former Communist Party Headquarters)

Where: Sofia City Center
Nearby Instagram Spots Around Sofia: the Sofia Regional History Museum

Largo Communist Party Headquarters in Sofia, Bulgaria

 

Ivan Vazov National Theater

Where: Sofia City Center
Nearby Instagram Spots Around Sofia: Largo Former Communist Headquarters

Ivan Vazov National Theater in Sofia, Bulgaria

 

The View Restaurant

Where: Sofia City Center
Learn More

the view restaurant is one of the best photo spots around sofia

 

The Russian Church

Where: Sofia City Center
Nearby Instagram Spots Around Sofia: The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The Russian Church in Sofia, Bulgaria

 

Animal Rescue Sofia

Location: 30 minutes from Sofia
Learn More

volunteering with puppies at Animal Rescue Sofia

 

Kamen Del View Point

Location: 45 minutes from Sofia
Nearby photo spots around Sofia: Aleko Hut
How to Get There

view of Sofia from Kamen Del

 

Hiking at Aleko Hut

Where: 45 minutes from Sofia
Nearby Photo Spots Around Sofia: Kamen Del View Point
How to Get There

hiking in Sofia on Vitosha Mountain

 

Hiking at the Seven Rila Lakes

Location: 1.5 hours from Sofia
How to Get There

Hiking at the 7 Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

 

The Kapana District in Plovdiv

Location: 2 hours from Sofia
How to Get There

The Kapana arts district in Plovdiv

 

Nebet Tepe Hill in Plovdiv

Location: 2 hours from Sofia
How to Get There

view point in Plovdiv

 

The Old Town of Veliko Tarnovo

Where: 3 hours from Sofia
Nearby Photo Spots: Tsarevets Fortress
How to Get There

Veliko Tarnovo, a cliffside town in Bulgaria

 

Tsarevets Fortress

Where: 3 hours from Sofia
Nearby Photo Spots: Veliko Tarnovo Old Town
Learn More

Tsarevets Fortress in Veliko Tarnovo

 

Sozopol on the Black Sea

Where: 6 hours from Sofia
How to Get There

Sozopol Beach in Bulgaria

 

If you’re visiting Bulgaria and love to take photos, you’re in luck. I was surprised to find that pretty much everywhere in the country is picturesque and perfect for the Instagram fiend in you.

So, use this list to discover the 17 best Instagram spots around Sofia and beyond, and enjoy the beauty of Bulgaria along the way 🙂

 

PS I know, I know, photography makes my hungry too. Check out the 9 best cheap restaurants in Sofia and then finish your hard day’s work with the complete guide to craft beer in Sofia!

Check Out These Related Posts!

Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

Lost in the Borneo Jungle: A Survival Story

What should have been a simple overnight excursion turned into a true battle of man vs. nature. Read his story below and learn how Seth Pevey survived three days lost in the Borneo jungle.

 

When one arrives at the dock, the only entry point into Bako National Park in Malaysian Borneo, one is generally greeted by monkeys waiting to steal cellphones, cameras, glasses, anything. Try yelling an exasperated “why?” at these wordless hoodlums and they will give a look that stands in for their obvious mantra: “This is the jungle and fuck you.” You get this message quite a lot once there, an odd refrain, though it isn’t on the brochure.

The staff does provide comfortable hostel-style cabins which are frequented by the infamous proboscis monkeys of Bako: creatures sliding around the porches with their noses hanging red and veiny and reminding one of a wine soaked uncle. The majority of guests wisely book these cabins in advance.

I booked one in advance.

But, when I arrived and saw the rows of manicured cabin lawns; witnessed the French family snapping photos of a cobweb a foot from a well maintained cement path; walked past the Chinese girls taking selfies next to the ranger station sign; I decided I wouldn’t settle for this empty simulacrum. Not me. I came to see the jungle damn it.

 

Heading Into the Borneo Jungle

The ranger looked tired and his eyes were from far away. “Take some food, and mind the tide,” he told me as he handed me a tent stuffed in a duffle bag. Maybe he was hung over, overworked, fighting with his wife, or just didn’t like the cut of my jib, whatever, I’d like to formally blame him for not stereotyping me enough.

A real Malay park ranger with his head in the game would have slapped me across the face and reminded me I wasn’t Jack London.

My destination was a secluded beach at the end of an 18 kilometer path winding though equatorial rainforest. I bought the following at the little park store: two one-gallon jugs of water, three boiled eggs, a cake of cornbread, and 2 bags of peanuts. The plan was to arrive at the beach around sundown, camp out, and return the next morning to catch a bateau back to Kuching, the nearest city. I pictured myself arriving at the beach after a leisurely five or six hours.

 

Starting the Hike

It was Borneo jungle alright, pure and green. Green and intoxicating and swallowing me up one step at a time.

The start of the path led up for an hour, up and up and clambering all the way.  At times I was climbing on all fours, finally up to a high plateau where the forest cleared, overlooking an isle studded South Asian Sea. I had not expected this kind of intensity when I started, but things seemed to be opening up and flattening out.

The plants were strange. Nepenthes lowii one rotting sign read on side of the path, referencing the pitcher plants which carpeted the ground, famous for making a living luring in flies with sweet smelling nectar until they slip and drown in digestive juices and slowly dissolve over the following days.

An hour passed, and then another. A fourth of my water was gone, and I’d only hiked about two kilometers. I braved on.

Sweat was pouring out of me, enough that the shirt I was wearing became heavy with it. I took it off and gave it a wring. It was like climbing a never ending flight of stairs inside of an enormous sauna during a Louisiana August.

The Borneo jungle loomed all around, more threatening now, like a happy bout of drinking gone sour and dark. Kilometer marker four passed, then five, and then a rest next to a waterfall. Some Germans passed and asked me if I was alright. They were going the other way, back towards civilization. When I told them my plan they smiled their wry smiles and said nothing. “Do you have any iodine pills?” a girl asked.

 

monkey in the Borneo Jungle

 

Running Out of Water

A few hours later at kilometer marker number ten I was out of water and starting to panic a bit. How have I possibly consumed so much? Two gallons gone and not even finished getting there? How will I make it back? Nervously I recalled something about three days. Is that right? Humans can live about three days without water?

I carried on; sweat pouring out of me, a garden hose left on to tinkle into the grass. Thirty minutes later I urinated something the color of Sunkist and realized my body was in trouble. What can I do? The sun was getting lower in the sky, and a troupe of boy sized monkeys seemed to be following me.

If I turned back, I’d be tromping through the deep dark Borneo jungle at night, jealous simians for company, and I’d never make it safely. I’d step on a snake or stumble into one of the many deep crevices along the path, I’d sink and be overwhelmed in quicksand.

I had to push forward.

I had to get out of the jungle and onto a pure tropical beach.

Every time I took a break, the largest alpha male monkey would swing down and look at me directly in the eyes, hanging from the canopy with a face like a disappointed gym coach. The path got rougher, and there weren’t many signs that the Germans, nor anyone else had been this far out in some time, no empty water bottles, no footprints or cigarette butts- just an endless tunnel of green that was now undulating up and down over jagged rocks and bicep-like tree roots.

What I wouldn’t have given for the reassuring sign of humanity, but there were none. I was in a part of the park that was seldom visited. Everything was sharp, jagged, piercing. A thousand thorns tore my arms and legs to shreds, and I started to bleed in places.

It was picturing the beach in my head, lovely, open and safe, that kept one foot moving in front of the other. Surely I could wave down a fisherman and ask for water at the beach. I remembered ‘air’ as the curiously contrary word for water in the Malay tongue, perhaps the only word I knew, but that wouldn’t help me unless I found Malaysians. However, they seemed to be smart enough to avoid this particular part of their otherwise lovely country.

 

Lost in the Dark

The sun went down at kilometer marker sixteen, leaving me two short. “Went down” is just an expression though. In reality it plummeted. I didn’t know it before, but at the equator, the sun has an on/off switch rather than the romantic dimmer of the temperate zones. From the time it cast its first orange hues, until total darkness, seemed to take only ten minutes. The monkeys overhead laughed at me and went to their suppers.

Two kilometers to go, and the blackest night you have ever seen. I pulled out my headlamp, happy with myself and reckoning that while I demonstratively had very little sense for being in this situation to begin with, I had enough to bring a light.

The Borneo jungle at night is scary. There are sounds of nightmares, things that howl from above and things that chortle from behind trees, long slippery things that squirm and dance against your skin and when you paw at them are incorporeal. A mental struggle ensued. I followed the blue blazes over rocks and through caves and then, in a canebrake, I lost them entirely.

I lost the path.

I darted around, at first making blind plunges in random directions. Realizing my danger, I calmed and tried to use my head. I made an ever widening circle in the suffocating cane, but no blue and friendly blaze beckoned me. Cane, in every dark direction, was blocking me in: tall, thick, and unassailable.

I was lost, lost in another country, lost in the Borneo Jungle, lost at night and without any water over ten miles from the needle in a haystack ranger station.  

This is the jungle and fuck you. You are not Jack London. He has a state park in California named after him, and you are going to be just some bones that give a couple of hikers a surprise. They will take a video on their smart phone most likely, maybe post it online (NSFW) and have a story to tell at the bar when they get back to Cape Town. That is, if anyone finds you at all.

I had a camera with me. For some reason I took a picture of myself with the flash turned on. I wanted to see what I looked like when I was scared. Then I called out for help as loud as I could in the empty and echoing blackness. Nothing. I wandered for another hour in the black sauna of the night, scared and imagining the shape of my moss covered bones.

 

Searching for the Beach

I thought about what to do, about all the camping trips I’d been on, books I’d read, Bear Grylls, things I’d heard about situations like this.

One old adage kept popping up in my head. I’m sure you have heard it too. It goes like this: when you get lost in the wilderness, the thing to do is to head down. 

If you follow a downward slope, eventually you will come to a stream or a brook; the brook will turn into a river that flows to the sea. Follow that enough and you will find people because people love water. Any major river or ocean in the world will have civilization all up and down its glorious banks, the reasoning goes.

I figured heading down would at the very least lead me to the sea, which is where I had planned on being all along. I would be out in the open and that was all I wanted at that moment.

So I did that, reckoning if I just went down a bit I was bound to find a beach. I didn’t care what beach so long as it got me out of the terrifying blackness of the nighttime jungle. I found the nearest downward slope, and let myself start sliding down it, the weight of my tent filled backpack pushing me forward.

It was a mistake that almost killed me.

While the reasoning was sound, I hadn’t taken into account the terrain. I was sliding down the slope, loose gravel and dirt giving way under me. I shone my light ahead and all at once, in a flash of approaching death, noticed there was no ground.

Suddenly, I was on a precipice.

About three feet in front of me was a hundred foot drop, a cliff that lead down to an angry sea crashing against jagged rocks. In panic I started to scramble back up, but the backpack, and my position, made it difficult. I was being edged forward to die.

I could already feel what it would be like, my body flying through the moist air, crashing down into the sea and maybe breaking a leg. I would struggle to stay afloat for a moment or two; before I inhaled a few burning lungful of water and the waves dashed my semi-conscious brains out against the cliff face. Later I would turn up on some Indonesian fisherman’s boat deck, having been emptied out of the guts of a tiger shark.

I put my arms out at my sides and grabbed at nothing, at first. My left hand grasped a rock that gave way and tumbled down to where I was surely headed. Some loose vines tore at my right and I followed them up with my fingers until I managed to finally get a hold of a root.  The other arm grasped at a sapling, and I managed to pull myself up, the pebbles I’d unsettled splashing deep below me.

I scrambled, clutching at my racing heart, and managed the top of the hill. Then, as if by freak accident, through a clearing in the branches I saw a wide beach glistening in the moonlight. I found the North Star just to the left of it.

I had to get there. It was beautiful even from a mile away, and yet so far below me.

 

Risking Everything on the Rocks

Once I started to head in that direction the real danger started.

Remember those video games where the programmer has really run out of creative ideas, and so they just go with some platforms over lava? You test your skill jumping from block to block, knowing you have three lives to make it to the end. The way leading to the beach was just like that.

There were pillars of rock and they were wide and sturdy, but separated by caves of echoing blackness that I didn’t even want to imagine what was at the bottom of.

I went slowly, knowing one false step would see me plunge down into the maw of one of these caverns. Maybe I would survive the fall. Perhaps I would get trapped down in one, surviving for two weeks on a stalactite trickle à la Injun Joe. But no school children would ever read about it and no one would ever find me there and there would be no rock formations named for me in this alien place.

I had my camera holstered in a pack on my belt (which Americans would call a fanny pack, though the traveler learns not to refer to it in such a way, as it makes the Britons blush). At a particularly tight squeeze, I had to throw my weight back suddenly against a rock face to avoid tumbling.  When I did the camera ripped off and plummeted into the darkness, never to return. If some spelunker does find it in working order, I expect they will be confused.

Finally, after several hours of clambering over jagged rock, I could see the beach stretched out in front of me. But by now the moon had grabbed up the water. At high tide, the pathway down was a raging torrent of crashing waves; it was as if most of the beach had been swallowed up.    

 

beach in the Borneo Jungle

 

Desperate for Water

I was so thirsty, waiting there on the edge for the bosom of the sea to recede, that I started to lick the moss and lichen growing from the rocks. I found leaves on the ground with trapped rainwater and drank those. I even tried once to dig down into the ground in a silted spot to see if I could release any groundwater. But it wasn’t enough, and after a day of sweating my body cried out for more.  

I rested against a rock, and several hours later the tide receded and I could see the moon shining on a solid sandy path and a long strip of beach. I threw my bag down a ten foot drop and tried to shimmy my way down. Finally, I had made it.

Still no path back, but that would have to wait for the morning.  I set up my tent and had the first break from mosquitos all day. Then, I set out to find water.

I’ve never been so thankful to litterbugs in all my life. The receding tide had left a line of drift all across the otherwise unspoiled beach. There were bottles, dozens of them. Some had their caps still screwed on. Of those, most were filled with sea water, and one with some sort of motor oil I will never forget the taste of. But, after an hour of searching among the refuge, I had 3 bottles of palatable water and a coconut.

I drank the water until my stomach roiled in joy and then I broke the coconut open on a stalagmite and drank its sweet milk. Things were going to be ok. My worry receded and for the first time I noticed the beach.

Aside from a few pieces of trash, the place was astonishing. Palm trees and white sand glowing in the moonlight. The stars were a milky strip of brilliance across the tropic sky. My breathing slowed. I slept, hearing mudskippers slap into my tent flap, and hoping no saltwater crocodiles chose that particular beach for a nightcap.

 

New Day, New Problems

The next morning I scouted around and found the path again. Someone was watching out for me. Everything was indeed fine, and I reckoned I could be back by dark. I had one gallon of water and would be home soon… but for the rain.

It started to pour the big fat drops that give the rainforest its name.

At first I was thrilled. I pulled out my tent and stretched it out wide on the forest floor, letting it collect into a full puddle of water which I happily lapped up, and washed the caked blood and dirt from my arms and shins.

I could see the monkeys flashing away from me through the trees, going into their secret cubby holes.  And before I knew it, I was cold. It was a surprise when I started to shiver in what had been a baking hell up until that point. I found shelter under a cave and spent a few hours drinking from the stalactites and reading a copy of Dracula I had foolishly toted along.

Two hours or so later, the rain stopped.  It was already noon and I had barely gone a quarter of the way.  But, at least I was hydrated and cool. A new set of problems now made themselves known.

The rain had summoned the snakes.

I came to a sort of jungle ladder, of the kind used by tribesmen in those parts. It is basically just a log leaned up against a steep point, with little notches cut into it. Unless you are a mountain goat (or a Borneo tribesman), it is a guaranteed busted ass, but often less so than the alternative.

However, when I started down one particular ladder I noticed a golden band about halfway down. A hiss froze my progress, and I was looking it in the eye. I noticed the wide jaw and elliptical pupils that always signify poison glands. Later when I was back in the glow of the internet I would find a picture of it: Pope’s pit viper.   

I threw a stick at it but it only looked at me fetchingly, willing me to come closer and try that again. I jumped down the incline, avoiding the ladder, realized how close I had been, how well the snake had blended in and how it had remained motionless until I was upon it.

Again, a fantasy of death flashed before my eyes. I was bitten by a snake here, in the ankle perhaps, a day’s walk away from aid. The faster I run towards the ranger’s hut the more the toxin quickens through my veins. My foot swells up and turns black, I felt a wave of cold weakness and nausea wash over me and a coppery taste in my mouth. I can’t keep going so I lie down on the path, telling myself I just need a short nap to regain my strength. If I ever wake up again it is only for long enough to curse myself a fool as I stare up Borneo’s blurring jungle canopy.

 

Ready for Respite

I keep going, but now progress is slow. I’m worried that every vine may have a surprise curled around it, so I pick up a hefty walking stick to brush in front of me like a blind man.  The rain has stopped but in places it has turned the path to quicksand. Deep sucking silt comes up to my knees and beckons me to stay.

After a full day I’d only made it half way. I would have to sleep in the jungle.

That second night, I found the clearest, most open spot I could at the top of a hill.  The sky was visible, showcasing infinity. I realized by now that I would be ok. I also realized that there are an infinite number of worse ways to die than expiring out here with all this nature, free and traveling and self-reliant.

I lost my fear in that moment, with the darkness of the Borneo jungle circling all around me with its strange serpentine noises. I was a part of it and I slept one of the deepest sleeps of my life.

 

path through the Borneo Jungle

 

Making It Out of the Borneo Jungle Alive

The next day I made it back.

When I emerged from the jungle I was bleeding and haggard, my face was yellow, I was dehydrated and my skin breaking out in strange rashes. I’d been in the Borneo jungle for over 50 hours and for a good ten I was lost and scared.

When I walked out into the clearing of the ranger station, there were happy Europeans sunbathing on a beach, a local had a generator going and was making pineapple smoothies, and there were South Africans playing volleyball.

I bought a beer and a monkey tried to steal it. I widened my stance, threw my pack down on the ground, and made a whooping sound in his face to assert my dominance. The sunbathers looked up at me, puzzled. Clearly I had been in the Borneo jungle too long and the Chinese girls went flittering in another direction, away from me.

It was time to go.

I hosed myself off, applied some antiseptic to my cuts and bruises, and paid a fisherman to take me to a beach resort where I ordered the surf and turf and white wine and sat in a beach chair that evening turning over my experience in my head.

Perhaps I’d been a fool. Perhaps I had almost died. But I had seen what I’d come to see.

 

Looking for more like this? Read these 4 travel horror stories by bloggers who (barely) lived to tell the tale, or our own adrenaline-pumping adventure climbing 19,000 ft. up Misti Volcano.

 

Seth Pevey is a Louisiana native. He has worked as a teacher and journalist around the world, and now writes both fiction and non-fiction from his country home outside of New Orleans. Keep up with his work at SethPevey.com

Check Out These Related Posts!

Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

5 Essential Resources for Digital Nomads in Sofia

I’ve been living in Bulgaria for seven weeks now and have been slowly discovering some awesome resources for digital nomads in Sofia.

These are people and companies that you need to know about in the city. This roundup includes travel apps, hiking sites, free trips, meet ups, and more. If you live here or are planning to visit soon, bookmark this list of five essential resources for digital nomads in Sofia, because I guarantee you’ll want to use it!

 

5 Essential Resources for Digital Nomads in Sofia

This list has something for any kind of traveler. Even if you’re just passing through and not sticking around in Sofia for long, there are definitely some helpful sites to make your trip more fun. Meet people, discover hidden places, and simplify your stay with these five resources.

 

1. TravelSmart

Best for: Cheap domestic and international flights
More Info Here

The Travel Smart website was started by Martin over three years ago. I met him at a travel blogger meet up in Sofia and was really bummed I didn’t know about his website sooner!

Travel Smart is perfect for digital nomads in Sofia who want to save money while exploring the world. Martin finds the crazy cheap flights, both within the country and internationally, and then publishes them daily on the site. Just this week they had fares from Sofia to Jordan for 47 euros round trip, flights to Israel for 37 euros, and flights to Russia for only 89 euros.

Travel Smart also pairs the flights with hotel deals in the destination city, so your trip is pretty much planned for you. Thanks Martin!

 

2. IvoTravelling

Best for: Free trips!
More Info Here

I also met Ivaylo at a travel blogger meet up in Sofia and love what he does. In 2016 he wanted to go on a trip, but it was too expensive to go alone. So, he posted on Facebook to ask if anyone wanted to join… and 18 people showed up! That’s when his idea was born.

Now he created a Facebook page where he hosts free trips every week around Bulgaria and the surrounding countries. Of course, you need to pay your way on transport and buy food for yourself, but this is still an amazing resource to help you get to the far away and unknown places in the area. Plus, you get to meet fun people along the way.

Trips are usually planned and listed a month or two in advance, so just join the IvoTravelling Facebook group to see whats coming up next!

 

3. Trips Journal

Best for: Hiking routes around the country
More Info Here

Trips Journal is another cool blog from the meet up. Panayot started it in 2014 and it has become a go-to resource for nature lovers throughout the country. The website is a great resource for avid hikers (like me) looking to get beyond the common routes like Vitosha Mountain or the 7 Rila Lakes.

How does it work? Trips Journal crowd sources not just the best hiking routes in Bulgaria, but all of the hiking routes. People can actually upload their GPS coordinates from their treks, so there are tons of different options to browse. Check it out to see all of the nature and beauty around Sofia, and then get out there and explore it yourself!

 

4. Meetup

Best for: Entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts
More Info Here

I’ve known about this website for awhile but never used it. Until now, that is.

Meetup is a great resource for digital nomads in Sofia because this city has an awesome startup scene. Because of that, there are actually a lot of tech talks and events with prominent founders and entrepreneurs (and yes, most of them are held in English).

Of course, there’s also the usual board game meet ups as well (I went to one and it was great) so this resource will help digital nomads in Sofia get imspired or get social, whatever you’re looking for at the moment.

 

5. Travel Bloggers Bulgaria – ASTOM

Best for: Travel bloggers in Sofia
More Info Here

If you don’t blog about it, were you even traveling at all? I’m just kidding of course, but I know there’s a huge overlap between travel bloggers and digital nomads in Sofia so I think many of you can put this resource to good use.

You can also join the Travel Bloggers for Bulgaria Facebook group to find events in the city, like the recent meet up I attended with over 200 Bulgarian travel bloggers and enthusiasts. They also share info about other get togethers you might be interested in, like an annual fall blogger’s retreat in the mountains, workshops on digital marketing, and more.

My friend Maria from Travelling Buzz has really pulled the travel blogging community in Bulgaria together, and it was fun to be a part of it even if it was only for a short time. I made some great connections and wish I could stick around for more!

 

I know these resources for digital nomads in Sofia will help you save money, explore more, and travel better during your stay in the country. Whether you’re here for a few weeks or a few years, the websites and the people behind them are essential for anyone who wants to discover another layer to the city and make the most of their time as a digital nomad in Sofia.

Check them out, and comment below if you have any more recommendations that I missed!

 

PS Visit the Bulgaria guide to see more of my own experience as a digital nomad in Sofia, including the complete guide to craft beer in the city, how to volunteer at an animal shelter, and so much more. If you’re still on the road to location independence, explore the Working Abroad series for step-by-step guides to turn that dream into a reality.

Check Out These Related Posts!

Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

Meet Dogs & Do Good When You Volunteer in Sofia

Do you want to volunteer in Sofia?

Whether you’re a traveler or a local, I know just the place for you. I’m a total dog lover, so when I found out how easy it is to volunteer in the city at the Animal Rescue Sofia, I knew I had to share with you all as well!

Here’s everything you need to know to meet adorable dogs, do good, and spend a day volunteering in the city!

 

Where to Volunteer in Sofia

The Animal Rescue Sofia is a great place to start. The dog shelter is on the outskirts of the city and so far they’ve re-homed over 5,000 dogs. Seriously awesome. Partnerships with other EU countries mean they find homes for the dogs in Germany, Holland, and the Netherlands along with the families here in Bulgaria.

The main mission at Animal Rescue Sofia, beyond adoption, is to rescue the sick and hurt dogs in Sofia. They are one of the only shelters who take in pregnant moms and puppies, and they work hard to help the animals that are the most in need.

Animal Rescue Sofia is made up of a clinic, a ranch, and a farm sanctuary (where we volunteered). The Farm Shelter is located here and it’s about a 30 minute drive from Sofia city center. If you don’t have a car (like us) you can take a bus or taxi, but the easiest option is to post in the Animal Rescue Facebook Page where you can connect with other volunteers and get a ride out with them.

 

 

When to Volunteer in Sofia

Animal Rescue Sofia makes it really easy to give back. They have “Volunteer Walks” every Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm, and you can join for some or all of the time.

Simply show up, read the rules, and then it’s time to meet the dogs! Each one needs a 30-minute walk and lots of love and attention, because this is all the time they get out of their cages every week.

I stayed from 11 to 2:30 and met quite a few dogs, but my favorite was Dadi. He was blind, derpy, and beyond adorable, and it seriously broke my hear to put him back in his cage and leave him behind.

By the way – if you’re a large group you can also arrange to come walk the dogs during the week. Just contact the Animal Rescue ahead of time to set up an appointment.

 

volunteering in Sofia at Animal Rescue Sofia

 

What Else Can You Do To Show Support?

As with any animal shelter, donations can go a long way to help the rescue pay for food, medicine, vaccines, vet bills, upkeep, and more. Click here to make a donation or you can explore the website to purchase things off their shelter wishlist, foster pups, or find other volunteer opportunities.

Of course, they are also always looking for forever homes for the dogs as well, so if you’ve been considering adding a new member to your family visit Animal Rescue Sofia to find the perfect match!

 

puppy at Animal Rescue Sofia

 

Volunteering in Sofia at Animal Rescue Sofia was one of the highlights on my two-month stay in the city. The animals will break your heart and then mend it again in 100 different ways. It’s tough to see them without the love they deserve, but at least we can go for a day and make a small difference in their lives.

Join their Volunteer Walks every weekend and meet some of the most adorable dogs in the city, you definitely won’t regret it.

 

PS looking for more to do in the city? Check out our Bulgaria page for the complete guide, where you’ll find articles like The Complete Guide to Craft Beer in Sofia, learn How to Hike to Kamen Del for the Best View of Sofia, and so much more!

Check Out These Related Posts!

Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

How to Hike to Kamen Del for the Best View of Sofia

Hiking on mountains is all about the views, and Kamen Del truly delivers. This short route is flat, easy, and offers stunning panoramas of the city spread out below your feet.

If you want to explore Vitosha Mountain while in Sofia, the hike to Kamen Del is my favorite and has the best view of Sofia in the city.

 

How to Hike to Kamen Del

It’s really easy to do this on a half-day trip even without a car. Daniel and I left our apartment around 11 am and were back in the city by 3 pm, so this excursion is pretty short and sweet. If you want to check it out, simply follow these 3 steps to hike to Kamen Del for the best view of Sofia!

 

Step 1: Get to Aleko Hut

Take bus 66 or the Simeonovo chair lift to Aleko Hut on top of Vitosha Mountain. In the summer, these only run on weekends so if you don’t have a car you will only be able to hike to Kamen Del on Saturday, Sunday, or holidays.

Bus 66 leaves from the Zoo and you can see the full route here. If you opt for the Simeonovo chair lift, make sure it’s running before you go by checking the website and looking for a green check mark next to “Cabin Lift” on the list. If it is, the cost will be 14 lev / 8 usd round trip per person.

Both options take around 45 minutes to an hour to get from Sofia city center to Aleko Hu on Vitosha Mountain

 

view of Sofia on the hike to Kamen Del

 

Step 2: Hike to Kamen Del

Now for the fun part! This out and back trek to Kamen Del will only take one or two hours depending on how fast you walk and how long you like to enjoy the view.

If you arrived to Aleko Hut by chair lift you simply walk out of the lift, cross the road, and walk straight onto the path to Kamen Del. If you go by car or bus, then walk up the road until you see the Simeonovo ski lift on your left. Stop here and enter the trail to Kamen Del on the right.

Next you will follow the trail for about 30 minutes until you reach a dead end at another ski lift. Turn left here, and then after a few steps a trail will split from your path. Don’t keep following the main gravel path. Instead, leave it and walk to the right on the grassy trail instead.

From here, it will be about another easy and flat 30 minutes through a field until you reach the Kamen Del view point.

 

Step 3: Enjoy the View!

You will definitely be rewarded with amazing photo ops on your hike to Kamen Del, because it finishes with the best views of Sofia. Bring a picnic to sit in the grass and enjoy from high up on the mountainside. When the sun is shining the city is nothing short of picturesque spread out below your feet.

 

view of Sofia on the hike to Kamen Del

 

I love the hike to Kamen Del because of the beautiful views, and because it’s so easy to get to! It”s only a quick half-day trip but I felt like I completely escaped the city and the rush and the crowds that make up my days there. I love to get out in nature and recharge on the weekends, and the hike to Kamen Del is the best place to do it in Sofia!

 

PS looking for more excursions from the city? Learn how to take a day trip to the seven Rila Lakes or hike more routes on Vitosha Mountain. 

Check Out These Related Posts!

Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

Pin It on Pinterest