Seven Days Exploring The Remains Of The Communist Regime In Bulgaria

During this 7 days trip you will be able to explore the Bulgarian Socialist industrial landscape, a few places with Socialist collective housing and some of the most important monuments of the Socialist realism in Bulgaria.

We will have a special sightseeing tour dedicated to the monumental Stalinist architecture in downtown Sofia, the women’s market and the industrial district around the train station. We will visit the nearby industrial towns of Pernik and Radomir, which are sort of “an open-air museums” with an exposition of massive industrial buildings – strange “monuments” to Bulgaria’s socialist industrialism of 30 years ago. We will travel to the Buzludzha, maybe the most famous abandoned Socialist realism monument in Bulgaria.

The next stop will be Dimitrovgrad, one of the most characteristic examples of the architectural transformation of Bulgaria during socialism. Then we will continue to the former mining town of Madzharovo, with its typical collective housing constructions and where we also you will enjoy the magnificent meanders and beaches of the Arda River.

We will also visit the valley of Byala reka and the extraordinary villages of Odrintsi, Mandritsa, Dolno Lukovo, Gorno Lukovo and Meden Buk, where we will have a short walk along the meanders of the river. On our way back to Sofia, we will stop at the abandoned neighbourhoods of the village of Djanka.

The tour can be done from Varna.

Basic Information

Type: a guided or a self-drive tour;
Duration: 6 nights/7 days;
Price: We specialise in tailor-made travel to Bulgaria and our travel suggestions are individually designed to suit your personal requirements. If you would like us to contact you with a proposal for this tour, please use the form at the end of this page or the other communication channels on our contacts page.
Tour dates: round the year;
Tour mileage: 1,500 km from Sofia;
Minimum number of travellers: 2

More details

Day 1 Sofia

The journey will begin in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, from the hotel arranged beforehand for participants (all participants on this trip need to have arrived in Sofia the previous day). 

We will have first a sightseeing tour around the city, with an accent on old, monumental Stalinist architecture in downtown Sofia, with some of the best-preserved examples of the style in the former communist bloc. However critically the architectural qualities of these buildings may be viewed, 

they form part of the cultural past of the country and in this way represent its wealth. We will visit the women’s market, one of the liveliest places in Sofia, where we will have the opportunity to photograph locals in all their vividness. We will also visit the area around the train station (not far from the women’s market) are Sofia’s industrial districts, a strange mix of old buildings left over from the communist period placed in the context of a contemporary industrial landscape. Lodging in Sofia.

Day 2 Radomir and Pernik

The following day we will travel to the nearby cities of Radomir and Pernik, a region famous for its heavy industry which in recent years has suffered serious decline. This region is practically an open-air museum with an exposition made of massive industrial buildings – ruins left to endure the passage of time, strange “monuments” to Bulgaria’s socialist industrialism of 20 years ago. At times these surroundings can feel downright Orwellian. Lodging in Sofia.

Day 3 Sofia – Buzludzha – Dimitrovgrad

After the breakfast in the hotel we will head off for Buzludzha, a historical peak in the Central Balkan Mountains. 

The Buzludzha Monument on the peak was built by the Bulgarian communist regime to commemorate the events in 1891 when the socialists led by Dimitar Blagoev assembled secretly in the area to form an organised socialist movement with the founding of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party, a fore-runner of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The Monument was opened in 1981. No longer maintained by the Bulgarian government, it has fallen into disuse.

We will go on to the south of the Balkans to Dimitrovgrad, where we will arrive at late afternoon. Lodging in Dimitrovgrad.

Day 4 Dimitrovgrad – Madzharovo  – Ivaylovgrad 

The first half of the day we will have a stroll in Dimitrovgrad

Dimitrovgrad has experienced a unique history. It was founded on 2 September 1947 when 40 youths arrived in order to build the “city of dreams”. This enthusiasm for  construction grew, with labourers numbering 50,000 coming from 963 Bulgarian towns and villages. Dimitrovgrad was built as a kind of architectural textbook, following the norms developed during the time of the Romans, according to specialists. It was held that the principles of Soviet city planning were also applied and whose model was used as the basis for many such undertakings at that time.

The building of Dimitrovgrad is a symbol of the last century because it has turned into one of the most characteristic examples of the architectural transformation of Bulgaria during socialism.

At noon we will set off for Madzharovo.

Madzharovo is a former mining town, where we can see a lot of the typical collective housing constructions. During the peak of mining activity more than 6,000 people called Madzharovo home. Now that number is around 500. The natural sights of the Eastern Rhodopes in the region around Madzharovo is magical – the enchanting meanders of the Arda River and vultures hanging in the sky create an inimitable atmosphere.

The rest of the day we will walk and photograph the surrounding landscapes, sandy river beaches and rocky massifs with distinctive names such as Kulata, Momina Skala, Sivridikme, Hisarya, Kovankaya, Patronkaya, Okopa and Meneka. 

In the evening, just before dark, we will leave for Ivailovgrad, a cozy little town in the Eastern Rhodopes, not far from Madzharovo, where we will spend the night in a hotel.

Day 5 Ivaylovgrad – the meanders and villages along the Byala River

After the breakfast we will head off for the meanders and villages around the Byala River. We will take a walk and will photograph the villages Odrintsi, Mandritsa, Dolno and Gorno Lukovo, as well as Meden Buk.

During the time of the socialist cooperative agrarian movement, these villages were active and included municipal buildings such as hospitals, movie theatres, etc., regardless of their remoteness. Today, existing in an open market, they have been almost completely abandoned.

In these southern lands is established the first in the country sericultural micro-region. Favourable combination of Mediterranean climate and fertile soils in the valley of the river Byala foreordain the excellent conditions for thriving of mulberry trees, used for feeding of silkworms. Sericulture remained here until about 1980. Today, the big sericulture houses remained as desolate witnesses of the effervescent days of these rich families of the beginning of XX century. 

Mandritsa is the sole Albanian village in Bulgaria, and a part of the population still speaks Albanian. In the village, the big, old, three-storied adobe and brick Greek styled houses are preserved, being excellent representatives of the Thracian region’s architecture, with carved ceilings, wrought-iron balconies and colonnades. In the village we may see the oldest church in the Eastern Rhodopes (1708) – “Sveta Nedelya”.

In Dolno Lukovo we will see the 200-year-old church “St.St. Constantine and Helena”, built in 1806 by the Christians in the village. In the women’s section, there are neither frescoes nor altar, while the men’s section is decorated with carvings and frescoes, made by unknown carvers and painters. Frescoes themselves are very interesting and certainly remarkable.

Gorno Lukovo has two inhabitants only. Walking through this almost deserted village, just a few hundred meters from the border, is like travelling in the past. Many of the houses, though abandoned, are preserved and may be seen from inside.

Lodging in the village of Manadritsa.

Day 6 Manadritsa – Ivaylovgrad – neighbourhoods of Djanka – Sofia

After the breakfast at the hotel, we continue to neighbourhoods of Djanka. 

Nearby is located one of the waterfalls of the river Dushan dere, declared a natural landmark, and 11 cliff niches in the neighbourhood Kalvach, which we may see. However, these abandoned neighbourhoods of the village, scattered in a ravishing landscape, remain our goal. Before Djanka is located the village of Kovil, which is very picturesque as well, and there an ancient Thracian complex from Late Bronze and Early Iron Age has been found. At the afternoon we will travel back to Sofia. Lodging in Sofi.

Day 7 Departure

Departure from Sofia

Guided and self-drive tours

A guided tour shall include: services of a professionally qualified tour guide; pickup and drop off from your hotel/accommodation in Sofia or Varna (yes, the tour can start from Varna and finish back in Varna or in Sofia); transportation by A/C vehicle, fuel and parking expenses; accommodation;  transfer from/to airport and all other services you might need.

A guided tour does not include: international air fares; personal medical or travel insurance; food; any expenses of a personal nature.

A self-drive tour shall include: hotel reservations depending on your preferences; maps and detailed itinerary description + GPS coordinates of the places/hotels; information for places of interest; car rental depending on your preferences; extensive pre-arrival information and services and all other services you might need;

Typically a self-guided tour does not include: flights to/from Bulgaria; fuel, food; personal medical or travel insurance; any expenses of a personal nature. 

Please fill out the contact form and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.