With so many countries throughout Europe that we have yet to cover in the magazine, this is one camping and 4WD touring gem that we were keen to focus on. Bulgaria is a Balkan nation with diverse terrain encompassing the Black Sea coastline, a mountainous interior, and rivers, including the Danube. A cultural melting pot with Greek, Slavic, Ottoman, and Persian influences, it has a rich heritage of traditional dance, music, costumes, and crafts and also just happens to be an awesome destination for exploring remote tracks in your 4WD. Sitting between 44°13’ and 41°14’ north latitude, 22°22’ and 28°37’ east longitude, it’s geographic location places it on the crossroad between Europe, Asia, and Africa.
The total length of Bulgaria’s borders is 2,245 km. Of these borders, 1,181 km are on land, 686 km are on rivers, and 378 km are on the sea. Bulgaria borders to the north with Romania, to the east with the Black Sea, to the south with Turkey and Greece, and to the west with Macedonia and Serbia.
Weatherwise, it falls within the southern part of the temperate climate zone with a subtropical influence. The country’s geographic position also determines the relatively wide angle of sunlight that falls on the country, making the country predominantly sunny and perfect for the touring lifestyle and of course growing sunflowers for which the country is famous. We recently caught up with Bulgarian native Kiril Lliev where we had the opportunity to discuss what Bulgaria has to offer the 4WD touring community.
Adventure seekers Kiril and his wife Doroteya are involved in the local Overlanding Community where they run tours and share details on remote trails and off the beaten track camping locations to fellow tourers. They also produce videos for their YouTube channel, where you can find gear testing and GPS coordinates for landmarks with a bit of historical background.
“We are keen mountain bikers and rock climbers and given our love for adventurous activities it was a natural progression for us to get involved in off-road touring in Bulgaria’’. ‘’Our beloved Hilux takes us and our three kids much further into the wilderness and this has allowed us to explore remote areas in Bulgaria’’. Kiril and Doroteya have since started a company simply called “4×4 Camping Bulgaria” and have begun importing quality 4WD touring products that they also use and test on the trails. Kiril said that the 4WD touring lifestyle is relatively new in Bulgaria and that is why we are spreading the word about awesome products available like the DARCHE brand and the benefits of this adventurous lifestyle.
Kiril told us that while the Balkans is popular among 4WD tourers, Bulgaria is often overlooked as a touring destination despite the fact that it possesses incredible trails, plenty of history, and stunning landscapes.
Bulgaria is blessed with plenty of free camping spots, in recent years the iOverlander app has flourished highlighting places to stay for a day or two before venturing further into your adventure. Generally, you can free camp anywhere, unless it is explicitly forbidden or not allowed for your own safety, explained Kiril. For example, the Rila mountains are home to a bear population so caution is required. Kiril also told us that near the Stara Planina it is not unusual to hear the howls of native wolves as you settle down for the night, how cool is that.
But its not all about the awesome camping and 4WD tracks, when traveling in these remote areas, you are likely to stumble upon high mountain villages ( 1,000m above sea level) with some of them accessed by challenging dirt or rocky roads. Some of these villages are now partially abandoned with trees coming out of the roofs of some of the dwellings. Close to the remote Strandja mountain, you will find ancient Thracian ruins which are well worth checking out, Kiril recommends seeking out a local guide who will unfold the amazing history surrounding this ancient terrain.
There are three National Parks and eleven nature parks in Bulgaria. Generally, the national parks do not allow vehicle access however some tracks are opened with special permission from the respective park administrations.It is also worth noting that there can also be a quota for the number of vehicles exploring the National Parks,for some parks it is around two vehicles per weekend). Each park has a website where you can get familiar with each area’s rules and regulations. For example, the Rila National Park has a detailed map that highlights the routes open to 4WD vehicles and the ones that are not.
When it comes to navigating yourself off-grid in Bulgaria, Kiril pointed us towards the free BG Mountains (https://bgmountains.org/en/) which is regularly updated with new tracks. However Kiril highlighted that these maps are more suitable for hiking and mountain biking. Another recommendation includes Wildmaps (Android / iOS based app) these are maps especially developed and supported for offroad usage. They have distinctive trail markings for 4WD / 4×4 or ATV / cross-motor. If you happen to have a proper GPS unit, you can buy a lifetime license (per device) for that map – OFRM (https://karta.bg/index.php?nobody=nobody?language_id=2).
There are some discrepancies in all of the digital and paper maps, but you can still pretty much plan your route with them. There are still lots of ancient Roman rocky roads preserved to this day and usable,good suspensions are recommended before tackling these tracks.
The local community
Kirirl and Doroteya are also members of the local Land Rover Club who run lots of initiatives to preserve the tracks and places of interest.For example, the club has run various restoration activities, where they have restored shelters, tables, and benches for tourists and visitors to rest. They have planned more initiatives with other national parks in the future.
All up, we will be keeping a closer eye on developments in Bulgaria, one thing for sure is that it certainly has plenty to offer the 4WD tourer when it comes to exploring remote tracks, enjoying amazing vistas and experiencing a culture that is rich in history.