Dupnitsa – An Unbelievably Charming Destination

You have passed through/by a place over and over again, and you have never found it appealing. You have formed an opinion (almost always negative or at most neutral) of the destination and it won’t probably appear on your travel radar. Unless you are shown to the place by a local. That’s what happened last weekend in Dupnitsa, and I simply fell in love with the town.

Location and Nicknames of the Charming Dupnitsa

The mountainous town of Dupnitsa (also spelt as Doupnitsa) is gently embraced by the drop-dead gorgeous Rila Mountain. Dupnitsa stands at around 60 km (37 mi) south of the Bulgarian capital Sofia. Despite that its population is just around 30,000, it is dotted with multitudes of drugstores which has earned it the nickname “the town of pharmacies”.

Another sobriquet of the town is “The Green and Shady Town” which is due to its location and the fact that it is lined with thousands of trees.

The modern name of the town also derives from its specific location – standing in a valley, hugged by hills and mountains. From a bird’s eye view, it resembles a hole (“dupka” in Bulgarian) – thus the name Dupnitsa.

Brief History of Dupnitsa

In fact, the region of Dupnitsa is among the most meticulously researched ones in the country when talking about prehistoric past. Early Neolithic (7,000-6,000 BC) are the first prehistoric settlements from the area. In the Chalcolithic period (5,000 BC), the region has been inhabited – from then are also the earliest traces of human activities.

In the 15th century AD, an Ottoman register mentioned the name “Dupnitsa” for the first time. After Bulgaria’s liberation from the Ottoman Empire’s reign, all mosques have been destroyed but one.

The only preserved mosque in the town. Quite a pity as there used to be more than ten.

When talking about the fortunes of Dupnitsa, I should mention its inextricable relation with the Rila Monastery which during the entire Ottoman period was located in the “kaza” of Dupnitsa, according to the firmans of the sultans.

The monastery itself carries out commercial and economic activities and owns a variety of properties in the town, and many Bulgarian enlighteners were born there – Atanasii Cholakov, Dimitar Biserov, Hristaki Pavlovich, and Hristo Dimitrov, among others.

Hotel Rila Dupnitsa – Comfy Abode in the Heart of the Town

My fellow bloggers and colleagues from ASTOM and I were invited to discover the beauties of Dupnitsa by Hotel Rila. The tour included a couple of activities which I am going to dwell on later on.

But first, I will share my impressions of the hotel. Hotel Rila is a proud owner of 49 double and 9 single rooms, as well as 4 apartments. All of them are very well refurbished and spacious enough for a good stay.

The rooms are renovated and it was very warm and cosy.

These rooms and suites are located on 9 floors and all of them offer amazing views of the town’s centre and the nearby mountains. On the top floor, there are a number of conference rooms which are well-equipped and offer even better views of the surroundings of Dupnitsa.

Hotel Rila’s spa centre, opened at the end of 2015, is absolutely gorgeous and offers a number of facilities for everybody’s needs. They range from an infrared sauna, an herbal sauna, a Finnish sauna, a steam bath, an ice room, and an indoor pool.

To be honest, I tried all of them but what I loved the most was the swimming pool which has staggering photos of mountain sceneries around it which I found brilliant. I will just share one photo from the pool. At the hotel’s website, you can find many more.

The water was great for swimming or just hanging out inside.

The hotel has a cosy restaurant which offers palatable delicacies for dinner, a lunch menu, and a wide choice of dishes for breakfast. I recommend trying the yoghurt – it was mouth-watering.

We started with a delicious green salad with quail eggs.
The main course was a mouth-watering steak with mashed potatoes and gravy sauce.

What to Do in Dupnitsa

As part of our stay in Dupnitsa, the hotel also organised for us a challenging, but super fun, treasure hunt which took place in the mesmerising park “Rila” just a stone throw away of the town. The treasure hunt package will be available very soon at the hotel’s website so make sure to ask them for it if you plan your delightful stay there.


I am not going to showcase what the challenges were, but I am going to share with you some photos of the park which is crossed by a fascinating river. In addition, it also offers several restaurants, an outdoor swimming pool (only open in summer), and a magnificent pond with ducks.

The pond (or lake if you want) with the Rila Mountains at the backdrop.
Aren’t they beautiful? 🙂

After the treasure hunt (which takes between 30 and 60 minutes depending on your sharp mind and running pace, he-he), we came back to the town where we were taken to see the only remaining preserved mosque (as you saw from the photo above). We also sauntered around the town’s public garden which is overlooked by a clock tower.

The clock tower looks so imposing, doesn’t it?

Soon after that, we passed by the historical museum which holds archaeological relics from the Dupnitsa region, and we also visited an ethnography exposition in a house that belonged to Zhelyu (a partisan) which was quite interesting.

A peek into one of the rooms where some two-three generations ago, the lady of the house would work.

Where to Eat Your Heart Out

After all this wandering around, we grew hungry and on our way back to the town’s centre, we stumbled upon a wonderful petite restaurant called Bar Moda. The owners of the place greeted us with beaming smiles and made our stay “scrumptious”.

The place has a unique charm and offers Italian beverages, ranging from Italian beer to aperitivi and digestive (aperitifs and digestive), as well as fresh salads with delectable mozzarella, sprinkled with Sicilian olive oil and Balsamic vinegar of the highest class.

We started with Italian beer. Plays gently with the palate, I would say.
The owner, who’s also the chef, prepared this absolutely delectable salad. You can see arugula, buffalo mozzarella (made in Bulgaria), Italian olives from Sicily, and scrumptious pink tomatoes.
I came back on the next day to sample the home-made croissant with Nutella cioccolato. I was in heaven.
The interesting interior. You can easily see that one can write a message on the walls there. I have put my blog there, too. Hehe.

What made our late lunch even more delicious was the one-of-a-kind attitude of the staff. I highly recommend visiting the place.

*On a side note, it is not so surprising that we encountered a place like this there as the town of Dupnitsa is often regarded as “The Little Italy of Bulgaria”. This nickname is owed to the fact that many of the town’s citizens over the years have been working in Italy and each summer they would return home.

Around the Region of Dupnitsa

The region around Dupnitsa has tonnes of things to do and visit. What we did last weekend was visit the Rouen Monastery and the Stob Pyramids. Both of these places are around 20-30 minutes by car from the town.

Rouen Monastery – a Particularly Fascinating Abode

The Rouen Monastery near the village of Skrino bears the name of the Saint Ivan Rilski, the founder of the largest monastery in Bulgaria – the Rila Monastery (which is also quite close to Dupnitsa). It is one of the newest monasteries in the country since it was constructed on the remnants of another ancient monastery.

From the Rouen Monastery, you can take hikes to:

  • The cave where St. Ivan Rilski started his monk life;
  • An area with a big cross from which a mesmerising panorama of the Rila Mountain can be observed;
  • Place with wholly water (we didn’t do this one last Sunday since we had to go).
The new Rouen Monastery.
A pants-dropping vista from the area of the Cross.
This is the small cave where Ivan Rilski started his monk life.

The Stob Pyramids – a Jaw-dropping Natural Phenomenon

„Стобските пирамиди“ – the Stob Pyramids – are sandstone pyramids near the village of Stob. The majority of the pyramids are 6 to 12 metres in height and 30-40 metres in thickness. Their needle-like and pointy forms are absolutely stunning a natural phenomenon. Besides, there are some others that are round and have sandstone “hats” thus looking like gigantic mushrooms.



You can see the sand “hats” on top of the pyramids.
Aren’t they stunning?
From near the pyramids, at a good elevation and if the weather is sunny, one can have a stupendous view of the valley.

Going there around sunset or contemplating them at moonlight is the best you can do. Here are some photos I took there.

There’s an entrance fee of 2 BGN (1 EUR). The hike from the entrance to the pyramids is around 30-40 minutes and at the top, there is a stupendous view of the Rila Valley.

The village of Stob stands on the road to the Rila Monastery. My fellow bloggers from Follow the Sisters have compiled a great article on sleeping in the monastery so make sure to check it out.

The Seven Rila Lakes – One of the Most Magnetic Places Worldwide

Another amazing place which you can visit should you find yourself in Dupnitsa are the Seven Rila Lakes. The seven lakes have glacial origins and are definitely the most visited group of lakes in the country of Bulgaria (and believe me, there are many groups in the mountains).

I am going to write a thorough article about the Seven Rila Lakes since I love the area and I have been there a couple of times, so to finish this one, here’s a flabbergasting photo of some of the lakes.

These are four of the seven lakes. Each of them has a different name, shape, and depth.

Dupnitsa and its surroundings beauties fascinated me, and I am sure it will fascinate you. However, if you feel like you’d need some help with navigating around, you can download a GPS version of this article here. *I’ll get a small commission for that, so I’d like to thank you in advance if you do so.

Have you been to a place which you thought was nothing specific and turned out to be amazing? Where exactly?


16 comments on “Dupnitsa – An Unbelievably Charming Destination

  1. Stanislava E.

    Visting Dupnitsa was one of these moments when you realise that giving a second chance to a place is definitely a wise decision. Hotel Rila was a wonderful experience, both travel and culinary. We need to revisit it, what do you think, Svet?

    • Svet

      Oh, Sany, you said it so well! Let’s do it very soon. I’d love to do some bars (in both senses) and indulge in Italian aperitivi!

  2. Sarah Kim, Tales From a Fork

    Wow I can’t believe all the mosques were destroyed but one. That hotel you stayed at looks so cozy! I love the wallpaper especially.

    • Svet

      Hey, Sarah! Yeah, it’s so atrocious that people in the past did not care about the cultural (religious or anything else) heritage. I really loved the hotel and I think I have not shared it, but there was even a welcome note with my name and blog on it which was super cute and flattering! 🙂

  3. blondemoments

    I seriously never had heard about that place – what a shame! It looks so stunning and what an interessting history! thanks so much for sharing this one 🙂

    • Svet

      Well, well, thanks very much for reading about it. It was a pleasure compiling the article and I am very happy you liked it. Have a great day!

  4. Nisha

    Love the Rila lakes. Was it a difficult climb? Those Stob pyramids with sand hats remind me of Capadoccia rocks.
    Looking forward to your detailed article as we are planning a trip to Eastern Europe next year. Do you suggest some other places in Bulgaria?

    • Svet

      Hey, Nisha! The Rila Lakes are a bit challenging, I would say, but doable if you have been to the mountains at least a couple of times. Yes, the Stob Pyramids with their sand hats really look like Capadoccia.

      I can suggest literally hundreds of places, but I need you to be more specific – would you like to explore history, culture, food, cities, mountains, seaside, museums 🙂

      • Nisha

        Though we cover everything, we would be mostly interested in culture, food, people, markets, festivals, unusual things (like Stob Pyramids), unusual museums etc. Is there any festival in May/June/July?
        Thanks in advance.

        • Nisha

          Also, I loved the pop up screen on right hand side which tells me what all this article contains. 🙂 Is it a plugin or you coded yourself?

          • Svet

            My friend coded it. It is pretty cool, isn’t it? I thought some may find it annoying, but one can easily close it. Thanks for your feedback about it!

        • Svet

          Hello, Nisha, thanks for being a little bit more specific. If you are coming in the middle of spring or the beginning of summer, you have chosen probably the best time (I would suggest May and June since July sometimes is quite hot).

          I definitely recommend visiting Plovdiv – it will be the European Capital of Culture for 2019. It’s the second largest city; it has countless restaurants (very cheap, too), and it also boasts an amazing Old Town.

          Near Plovdiv, you can visit Asenovgrad and its fortress as well as the Bachkovo monastery where you can buy tonnes of interesting home-made jams, foods, cutlery, pottery, etc.

          Sofia, as a capital, is a must, of course, but I would not spend more than 2-3 days there. Do make sure to join the Free Sofia Tour, the Free Food Tour, and the Communist Tour (this one requires a small fee).

          As I am from Pleven, I recommend going there for a day – it has a wine museum, situated in a cave, and a gorgeous panorama building. Also, it has an amazing array of water cascades in the centre. Hopefully, by the end of April, I would be able to compile a big guide about it.

          Cabyle (search on my blog the name and you will find an article) is a great place to visit for its history. Also, if you liked the Stob Pyramids, you should definitely visit the rock formations near Belogradchik (they are similar to Montserrat near Barcelona).

          We can discuss further when you start planning your trip.

  5. Anne @TravelTheGlobe (@TTGLOBE4L)

    Wow that view from the swimming pool is really incredible!! I think I might drown by distraction if I jumped into that. The seven lakes look gorgeous too – a little like my beloved Peak District in the UK

    • Svet

      Hehe, yes, I was really stunned when I saw how beautiful the swimming pool really is. Mountains and water – a perfect combo! The Seven Rila Lakes are one of the most gorgeous (or rather majestic) places in the world. They have a special energy.

  6. Tara

    I’d love to visit the Seven Rila Lakes. What a treasure! And of course I would totally stay in the Hotel Rila – if only for those incredible views from the swimming pool!

    • Svet

      Hey, Tara, thanks for your comment. The Seven Rila Lakes are magnificent! This is definitely a must when visiting Bulgaria. And the swimming pool is the winner today, I guess. Everybody loved it! 🙂

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