The Iskar gorge and Lakatnik rocks can really leave you speechless with its panoramic views and stunning natural sights. No wonder that this is the place that inspired our national poet and the patriarch of Bulgarian literature Ivan Vazov to write the following lines:
My beloved Fatherland, how beautiful you are!
How blue your vast skies are!
How your sights magically change!
Each glance reveals ever newer beauty.
I have had the opportunity to visit the region by different means of transport – be it by car, train or on foot, but to go around the Iskar gorge by a motorbike and by raft is a completely new experience.
Motorcycling on the Iskar gorge
The road Sofia-Novi Iskar-Svoge-Mezdra is a famous motorcycle route, because of its many winding turns, slopes, heights, rural houses and picturesque bridges, sheer cliffs and rapids. When you travel by motorbike, you immerse yourself as much as possible in what is happening on the road, you focus and cannot miss a single detail – the smells, the sounds, the views, the signs, and leaning into turns is a great adventure.
The only downside is that trucks and lorries have been allowed to pass by on weekends, which is a real challenge because the road is simply not suitable for them. Unfortunately, I can’t share photos from the motorcycle, because as a conscientious passenger I didn’t want to unbalance the machine.
Rafting on the Iskar River
Not long after we arrived at the rafting base near the village of Lakatnik, we were instructed – how to row, how to react to various commands from the instructor and not to panic if we fall into the water, but just to take a position “body raft “, i.e. to relax on our backs in the water in the direction of the current.
Equipment and tips
We were equipped with a helmet, life jacket and waterproof neoprene boots. I would like to warn you that it is recommended to apply sunscreen in advance, because if you forget and you are fair-skinned like me, sunburn and subsequent trouble will follow. Also bring a swimsuit, a towel, and a second pair of clothes, because you will be most probably soaking after the rafting is over.
After we equipped ourselves, a minibus took us back to the village of Bov, from where we were supposed to go down the river.
Features of the route
The length of the route is about 12 km, and the trip lasts between an hour and a half and 2 hours. The rafts are inflatable boats, much more stable than the standard ones, so you have nothing to worry about. The route along the river is relatively calm and is suitable even for children. (In June and July – even more so because the river is not as fast and full of water as in March and April.) On the international scale it is defined as level 2 – easy, with more rapids and larger rock sections, in contrast to the one along the Kresna Gorge and the Struma River, which is between 2 and 4 and is more suitable for adrenaline junkies who can swim.
Fauna on the Iskar River
During the trip there were both adrenaline moments and calm sections, during which you can stop rowing and enjoy the surrounding flora and fauna.
The air smelled of the railroad nearby. Throughout the route, we were followed by flocks of dragonflies, which were fluorescing in the light, and black storks, which, according to the instructor, were monogamous and remained faithful to their partner for the rest of their lives. I really wanted to take pictures of them, but we were instructed to leave our phones at the base.
A bit of history
While we were trying to keep the paddles in sync with the rest of the group, the guide of the boat told us how the Iskar gorge was a favorite vacation spot of Ivan Vazov and Ivan Burov and how the construction of the railway ennobled the area, which was previously sparsely populated.
We passed by a river bar, which unfortunately was closed due to COVID-19.
Sightseeing around the Iskar Gorge
In the distance there were several sights of the Iskar Gorge, which must be visited if you are in the area:
- Alpine shelter “Eagle’s Nest” – a small house nestled in the rocks, which can be reached only by rope and which serves as a shelter for climbers. As far as I understood, it has no door and you can go inside only through the windows.
- The cross in memory of the climbers and mountaineers who lost their lives
- The monument in memory of the September uprising in 1923.
We had the opportunity to jump into the river and swim. I tried, too, but I didn’t like it very much. I would like to warn you not to jump with glasses, because the probability of losing them in the water is very high.
At the end of the trip there was a breathtaking view of the Lakatnik rocks from the lowest possible point, which you can not see from the road or from the mountain. From this perspective, the rocks looked really impressive.