Sliven is a city on the foot of the Balkan mountains and is definitely not so famous among tourists. However, the first time I visited it, I knew I will want to come again – the steep rocks, the TV tower and the high peaks that look above the town make Sliven look like a beautiful place hidden in the middle of Bulgaria.
“Karandila area is the best kept secret of the town of Sliven”, an article says. Now that I have visited the town, I can only confirm it. The area is located in the “Sinite kamani” park (in English “Blue rocks”) – right where the TV tower is. It can be reached by car (around 30 minutes away from Sliven), open lift (children-friendly, takes around 30 minutes) or hiking.
The most famous way (but definitely not so easy) to hike up to Karandila is via Haidushka trail. “Haidutin” in Bulgarian language refers to the rebels who fought against the Ottoman empire and who used to hide in the mountains. Hence, locals truly believe that years ago the Bulgarian haiduti actually used the same path!
Haidushka path is marked in red (white-red-white) and starts very close to the lift in front of a tourist information center. It is in the “suburbs” of the town, so you can catch a taxi or you can go walking too (it takes around 50 minutes from the city center). From the start of the Haidushka path to Karandila it takes around 2 hours and it is only going uphill, so the hike is rather demanding (but not scary!). I personally love it because it is very scenic – when you turn around, you will see the town of Sliven and will witness a beautiful view.
The first one hour it is a bit steep and you are hiking on stones, so wearing a hat and sun protection is a must. Around the middle of the path you will see a shelter called “Stote voivodi”. On the way there you might see some other signs (blue, yellow, etc.), but just stick to the red one and you will get to your final destination. Also, remember that you are always going uphill. The last one hour of the hike is not so steep and it is in the forest. You will also cross a small river and around 15 minutes before the end, you will see a place where you can fill up your water bottle. There the path turns into stairs.
At the end you will reach a road as well as the old Karandila hotel which does not work right now (May, 2019). There are signs on the road, so you will see that on the right side (200 m away) there is a lovely bakery, a restaurant and a couple of children-friendly places like a football field, adventure park, etc. Also, there is a beautiful lake behind the bakery!
If you go left though and keep walking straight, you can reach the Karandila hut in about 10 minutes. It has been renovated recently, so it looks amazing! If you keep walking on the main road, it will soon split – from there you can go to the TV tower or to the lift (via a small paved alley). Around 30 minutes away from the lift, you can also visit Futula waterfall.
Once you are at Karandila, you can spend the night there (at the hut or at a few hotels/bungalows built in the area) or go back to the town of Sliven via the Haidushka path or via the Haidusha path and the yellow path which passes the rock phenomenon Halkata.
Things to keep in mind: