In this post I suggest you go through an unknown site in southwestern Bulgaria. Three small villages surrounded by mountains and a natural environment promise us a pleasant day and some activities to do. We will visit Strumyani, Ilindentsi and Mikrevo.
We arrived at the place through the E-79 route that connects the city of Sofia with the neighboring country of Greece. After traveling 145 kilometers from the Bulgarian capital and shortly before reaching Sandanski, we arrived at the small town of Strumyani.
The place is very sparsely populated and in many cases it goes almost unnoticed by travelers. From here we have two secondary roads that go into the mountainous landscape and take us to the other destinations planned for today, Ilindentsi to the east and Mikrevo to the west.
The territory of Bulgaria is divided into 28 provinces and each of them is divided into municipalities. The three locations we will meet are within the Municipality of Strumyani, in the Province of Blagoevgrad.
Arriving at Strumyani, we found several houses and small shops on the side of the road. The main activity is concentrated on the E-79 route, where there is a oil station, a small supermarket and the Hotel Karelia complex. The railway station is a few meters away from here.
If we divide Strumyani into two parts by the E-79 road, we will have the western sector with several houses and some fields of crops, which extend to the Struma River. It is in this place where the Struma Highway or A3 is currently being built, which aims to provide greater capacity and safety to vehicular transport in this region of Bulgaria.
Meanwhile, in the eastern sector of the town we have railroad tracks and some neighborhoods that rise in altitude as we approach the Pirin Mountains.
Strumyani was formed in 1970 by the merger of the Ograzhden station with the town of Mikrevo. Over the years, Mikrevo split again to form an independent locality. Currently Strumyani has 960 inhabitants.
The museum of the place, founded in 2002, exhibits diverse pieces belonging to 4 categories: paleontology, general history, archeology and ethnography. Some objects from the Late Miocene (5-2 million years) and the Iron Age stand out. We found it in the 7th April Square.
From Strumyani to the east, by a small asphalt road we access Ilindentsi. Only 3 kilometers separate both towns.
Ilindentsi is characterized by its sloping landscape, with the Pirin Mountains to the east and magnificent views of the Sandanski Valley to the west.
The first thing we find in the entrance of the town is a bifurcation of streets. Among them they have created a park with some sculptures and posters that follow each other in a row as we gain height.
Among the points of interest of this picturesque village of 898 inhabitants, I can recommend you the well known Ilindentsi Art Center.
This art center has an information center and a large sculpture park where Svetlin Rusev’s sculptures stand out, one of the center’s most active participants, who died in May of this year.
Many of the pieces are made with marble from the largest quarry in the Balkan peninsula, located a few kilometers up the mountain.
Every year the international sculpture symposium is held here, which brings together sculptor artists from different parts of the planet.
In addition to the Art Center, at a short distance we can visit the spring of healing waters Vanga, or Zandanite, a beautiful place with rock formations.
Every year in this town, the Festival of the Gods of Wine is celebrated, which takes place on the first Saturday of the month of February. At the party, there are tastings and awards are given to the best local wines, among which Keratsuda stands out.
The rocky mountains that surround Ilindentsi are suitable for climbing or simply to know its beautiful karst caves. You can also go hiking around the town, in the middle of a quiet environment surrounded by the Shaska River and mixed coniferous and deciduous forests.
Fishing in the small Ilindentsi dam complements the offer of outdoor activities in the area.
If we continue 5 kilometers to the east we will arrive at Ploski, another small town located at the foot of the Pirin Mountains and the imposing Vihren Mountain, of 2914 meters (9561 feet). The visit to this town and climb to Pirin mountains deserve a separate article with all the details 😉
It’s time to return to the E-79 road, to the town of Strumyani. From here I propose to take route 1008 to the west. We make less than 2 kilometers, cross the Struma River and arrive at our third destination today: Mikrevo.
This village on the banks of the small stream Tsaparevska has 2228 inhabitants, is quite small and its streets can be covered on foot in a few minutes.
The majority of its inhabitants are engaged in agriculture. The sedimentary lands on both banks of the Struma River are very fertile and suitable for various crops. That is why we see this town surrounded by planted fields and numerous greenhouses.
In Mikrevo there are some bunkers of the Second World War. In the past there were tunnels that were used to protect against attacks. They led to the neighboring towns of Strumyani and Kamenitsa, after the war they were covered.
Hiking in Mikrevo or traveling the dirt road that goes into the Maleshevska Mountains to remote locations such as Razdol and Dobri Laki, are experiences that bring us closer to the nature and essence of rural Bulgaria.
The views that are obtained from the hills that surround Mikrevo give us another perspective of the Sandanski Valley. Now, from here, the cultivated lands through which the Struma River flows are to the east and in front of us we can see the Pirin Mountains in all their splendor.
In Mikrevo is celebrated the International Folklore Festival Malashevo Sings and Dances. The event gathers artists and spectators from all over Bulgaria and neighboring countries every October since 2003.
Gastronomy and Accommodation
There are several gastronomic establishments where we can try the traditional Bulgarian food and enjoy the excellent local wines such as Keratsuda.
Some places are Karelia, Bar Emona and Mety Restaurant, in the town of Strumyani. While in Mikrevo we have Bella Napoli and Maya Anastasova.
If we talk about accommodation, in the center of Strumyani, on the same road E-79 we have the hotel complex Karelia, which has all the amenities as well as a restaurant and ample parking even for trucks. Motel Thesaloniki and Struma Dolinata are other establishments that complement the offer of the town.
In Ilindentsi, the Art Center has 7 rooms. Also there we found Vlagovesta Guest House and the Pod Skalite ecological Village, among several other options.
Another accommodation option is the Sinanitsa family hotel, located in the village of Varbi, north of Strumyani and on the way to Kresna.
Do not forget that the destinations traveled today are just a few kilometers from the tourist thermal city of Sandanski. In it we can find many more options for accommodation, gastronomy and leisure.
The town of Strumyani is located 145 kilometers south of Sofia and 33 kilometers north of the border with Greece. It is reached by the E-79 Route, which in the section between Sofia and Blagoevgrad we have enabled the Struma A3 freeway.
In the center of Strumyani you have a bus stop. The companies Struma 11, Trans-6 and Union Ivkoni provide connection between this town and the cities of Sandanski and Sofia.
A trip between the Bulgarian capital and Strumyani takes 3 hours and costs 6.14 euros one way.
To get to Ilindentsi or Mikrevo, we have the company ET “Singel-Kostadin Filipov”, which owns the Sansanski – Ilindentsi and Sandanski – Strumyani – Mikrevo – Drakata lines.
The service of the first line mentioned works on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, while the second line operates from Monday to Friday.
The company ET “Lyudmila Ilieva” operates the route Sandanski – Dobri Laki, which also passes through the towns of Strumyani and Mikrevo.
The most convenient to visit these villages is to rent a car, which will give us greater freedom of schedules and the possibility of reaching any destination. Both in Sofia and in nearby Sandanski we find several agencies that provide the service.
Strumyani and Sofia can also be joined by train. BDZ is the company that operates the line between Sofia and Kulata, with a stop at the town station.
The trip takes around 4 hours and costs 4.80 euros in one way.