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Beautiful Lake Iskar
Beautiful Lake Iskar<< Back to list of articles
IT'S a pleasant surprise how venturing a mere 20 minutes out of Sofia brings you into tree-covered mountains, refreshingly erasing any remnants of urban life from the landscape. There aren’t many other capital cities I’ve been to from which you can escape the bright lights and be amid goat herders, fields and hills so quickly.
These qualities have proved very useful in keeping entertained the seemingly endless stream of friends and family that has come this summer to find out what all the fuss on Bulgaria is about.
This has meant rediscovering, or in many cases, discovering for the first time, some of the sights right on our doorstep which we didn’t get around to seeing in our initial burst of exploration upon our arrival in Bulgaria, and which we have since become too complacent as regular Sofia dwellers to bother visiting.
The following are a few suggestions of places to visit within easy reach of Sofia, which serve well as part of day trips for visiting friends and family, or may be of interest if you are a visitor to Bulgaria and find yourself with a day to spare in Sofia and want to head out of town.
Turning off the ring road toward Samokov and Lake Iskar, brings you first to Panchervo, a stretch of water lined with restaurants and cafes, which I thought quite impressive until we continued driving upstream for another half an hour or so and reached the main lake. The drive itself is enjoyable, the road winding gently through the mountains, suddenly revealing a steep drop and a view of tree-covered mountain tops, before descending again, affording glimpses of water skirting one side of the road and hedgerows speckled with purple flowers flashing past on the other.
Pedal boats and tents can be hired at spots along the road and even on this somewhat grey and overcast day, the bright sails of windsurfers and sailing boats could be seen scudding across the lake. A couple of jet-skis were also skimming across the water in a roaring mist of spray.
We stopped in one of the many lay-bys next to a track leading down to the lake, hoping to go for a walk along its banks. The trees made it difficult to walk along the bank, and it has to be noted that the amount of rubbish littering the woods was pretty disgraceful, but this didn’t deter the pockets of fishermen that were dotted along the water’s edge. We spotted a path on the other side of the lake and the next half hour was spent trying to find a way to the other side, which consisted of a few abortive attempts at driving the car along bumpy tracks, still under water from the recent heavy rain in many places. Now, if we’d had a jeep and not my “trusty” old machine, complete with bumper tied on with a bit of washing line, we may have been a little more adventurous, but the prospect of glugging to an embarrassing halt in the middle of a large puddle – more a small pond really – was both equally likely and unappealing. So, sadly, we had to abandon our mission to get to the other side. However, we did see cars and people over there, so it must be possible somehow!
All was not lost and we consoled ourselves with lunch and a beer at one of the restaurants at the lake’s edge watching the activity on the water. With its pedal boats, windsurfers and canoes for hire, its restaurants and opportunities for picnicking, camping and fishing, as well as its easy accessibility from the capital – about one-and-a -half hours by car – its easy to see why Lake Iskar is a popular weekend getaway for Sofians.