Kapinovo-Ruhovtsi

There are two waterfalls south-east of Veliko Tarnovo, near the villages of Kapinovo and Ruhovtsi. They can be visited together.

Ruhovtsi is a village 5 km east of the town of Elena. The waterfall is named ‘Hristovski’ after a nearby settlement. Drive from Veliko Tarnovo along the E772 in the direction of Varna. After 10 km, turn right for Elena (33 km). Drive past Elena and continue for another 4 km until you reach the turning on the right for Ruhovtsi (1 km). When you reach the main square of the village, turn right and continue for 1.8 km. Just after crossing a river, you will see a sign for the waterfall on your right and an open space to park your car on the left. Follow the dirt track that leaves the road on your right for about 15 minutes. The dirt track veers left through the forest and then leads directly to the waterfall. This waterfall is attractive because of the width of its cascade.

To visit Kapinovo Waterfall, you need to go not to the village of Kapinovo, but to Kapinovo Monastery. The waterfall is in the grounds of the monastery. Drive back past Elena in the direction of the E772. 15 km after Elena, you will reach the village of Mindya. Turn left for Kapinovo. Drive straight through Kapinovo (ignore the sign for Kapinovo Monastery on your left, just before the main square, the road is not fit for normal vehicles), continue through the villages of Tserova Koria and Pchelishte, and then turn left at the sign for Velchevo (7 km). Drive straight through Velchevo and continue for another 6 km to Kapinovo Monastery. The grounds of the monastery have been turned into a campsite. On entering the monastery grounds, you will be able to park the car at a small roundabout. The waterfall is over on your left, by the rocks. There is a guesthouse overlooking the waterfall. The path to the waterfall descends to the right of the guesthouse.

Don’t forget to visit the church of Kapinovo Monastery, which is dedicated to St Nicholas and has an impressive fresco of ‘The Last Judgement’ on its façade. The church is a short distance from the waterfall and can be reached by following a subsidiary road.

Of course, it is possible to visit Kapinovo Waterfall without going to Elena and Ruhovtsi. In which case, all you need to do is to take the E85 south of Veliko Tarnovo in the direction of Debelets, Dryanovo and Gabrovo. After only 1 km, there will be a turning on your left for Prisovo, Kapinovo and Mindya. Take this turning. Drive through Prisovo and then turn right at the sign for Velchevo (7 km). Drive through Velchevo and continue to Kapinovo Monastery.

These waterfalls are not as impressive as the waterfalls north-west of Veliko Tarnovo – Hotnitsa, Emen and Vishovgrad – but they are still beautiful and worth a visit. There are numerous other monasteries in or near the surrounding villages of Kilifarevo, Prisovo, Plakovo (this monastery is just before Kapinovo Monastery), Merdanya, Maryan… Just remember while some monasteries are located in the village, most are some distance away – at the end of the road…

Mural in Elena.
The dirt track leaving the road for Ruhovtsi Waterfall.
The dirt track as it passes through the forest.
April blossom!
Ruhovtsi (‘Hristovski’) Waterfall.
Close-up of Ruhovtsi Waterfall.
The waterfall from the side.
The path to Kapinovo Waterfall in the monastery grounds (campsite). The path leads right of a guesthouse.
Kapinovo Waterfall from above.
Kapinovo Waterfall.
Close-up – the rock resembles a dog lapping water!
The peaceful view downstream.
The fresco ‘The Last Judgement’ in Kapinovo Monastery.

Hotnitsa

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.

The road from the village of Hotnitsa ends at the waterfall.
An overview of Hotnitsa Waterfall.
The upper part of the waterfall.
A view from the side.
A view from the ecopath above – note the turquoise blue water!
The ecopath (no, it’s not a dungeon!).
A view back to the pool below the waterfall.
Standing at the top of the waterfall – be careful!
A smaller waterfall further upstream.
One of the wooden bridges crossing the river Bohot.
One of the steep wooden ladders.
The sun captured in the river.
A view from the top of the gorge back to the car park.
The fresco ‘The Circle of Life’ at Transfiguration Monastery.
View from Transfiguration Monastery to Veliko Tarnovo – note the plateau on the left, above the gorge, where the village of Arbanasi with its famous churches is situated.