There are three waterfalls north-west of Veliko Tarnovo – near the villages of Hotnitsa, Emen and Vishovgrad. Hotnitsa (‘Kaya Bunar’) is the closest. The journey takes about forty minutes, and on the way back you have the chance to visit one of the most beautiful monasteries in Bulgaria, Preobrazhenski (‘Transfiguration’) Monastery.
The waterfall is where you park the car and is undoubtedly one of the most magical and mystical waterfalls we have visited. To get there from Veliko Tarnovo, follow the brown signs for Preobrazhenski Monastery and for the ancient Roman town Nicopolis ad Istrum. These signs will take you north of Veliko Tarnovo, from where you join the E85 and head in the direction of Samovodene. This main arterial road that joins the towns of Haskovo in the south and Ruse in the north passes along the gorge formed by the river Yantra. After a short while, you will pass the turning for Preobrazhenski Monastery on your left. Keep going straight. In Samovodene, the road divides – the right fork is signposted for Ruse, the left for Resen. You take the left fork and, about a kilometre after leaving Samovodene, take the turning left signposted for the villages of Hotnitsa (5 km) and Pavlikeni.
When you arrive in the centre of Hotnitsa, the waterfall is clearly signposted on your left. The distance from the centre of Hotnitsa to the waterfall is 3 km, and it is clearly signposted all the way. The road ends at the waterfall, where you can park the car. This astonishing waterfall is on your left. The colour of the water is turquoise blue because of the karst spring and limestone rocks.
There is an ecopath (1.5 km) that takes you up the left-hand side of the waterfall, a little up the gorge above the main waterfall and back along the top of the gorge on the right. This ecopath is not for the faint-hearted! I did it carrying our dog, but there are places where you have to climb or descend steep wooden ladders and clamber over the rocks. There are several wooden bridges that take you from side to side of the river Bohot. You can literally stand at the top of the main waterfall. There are smaller waterfalls further upstream. Once you have reached the top of the gorge on the right, the path descends slowly back to the café at the bottom.
On your return to Veliko Tarnovo, don’t miss the chance to visit Preobrazhenski Monastery, which overlooks the Yantra gorge and offers views back to Veliko Tarnovo. The church was built by noted Bulgarian National Revival architect Kolyu Ficheto and painted by another nineteenth-century Bulgarian artist, Zahari Zograf (who also painted Rila and Troyan Monasteries). It has some of the most beautiful frescoes in Bulgaria, including the famous fresco ‘The Circle of Life’ on the outside of the building. Behind the church is a very large rock that missed the church by inches and has been left there to remind us of God’s providence! On the opposite side of the gorge can be seen another important monastery, the Patriarchal Monastery of the Holy Trinity.
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