Written by Irina Dorosieva
A few things are more authentically local than walking up a hill for a sunset drink with friends on a warm summer evening. Historically built on seven hills Plovdiv is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. Each of the hills has a story to tell and the people of Plovdiv know well how to make the most out of these natural phenomena.
Out of the seven hills there are six that remain today. The seventh hill, Markovo Tepe (tepe is the Turkish word for hill) was demolished between the end of 19th and the middle of the 20th century and its syenite rocks were used to pave the cobble streets of Plovdiv and also were exported to Germany. This perhaps makes Markovo tepe (hill) one of the most spread out hills in the world.
While you might not notice it at first, Plovdiv’s Old Town is located on three hills: Nebet Tepe, Taxim Tepe and Dzhambaz Tepe, collectively called: The Three Hills. The picturesque streets of the Old Town attract visitors any time of the day and year, but the top of Nebet Tepe is a special point of attraction at sunset, when the whole city is bathed in the soft lights of the setting sun. This spectacular view is treasured by residents and visitors of Plovdiv, friends, lovers and people seeking a place to contemplate. Nebet Tepe at sunset is perhaps one of the most spectacular experiences one can have in Plovdiv standing on 8,000 year old ruins, the birthplace of Plovdiv.
And while The Three Hills (Plovdiv Old Town and Roman Amphitheatre) are no doubtfully the most popular among tourists you have to go to the other three (Danov Hill, Bunardzhik and Youths’ Hill)for a truly local experience of Plovdiv’s hills.
Danov’s Hill located just off the pedestrian street is an interesting and easy to access hill known for its clock tower (therefore its Turkish name Sahat Tepe - Clock Hill). A pleasant stroll along this beautiful hill park takes you straight to the Clock Tower built in the 16th century still measuring time with a ring every round hour. Danov hill is a popular meet up point for locals who seek some privacy in the heart of the busy city center.
Further west, just couple of blocks away, right by the traffic lights at Mall Markovo Tepe and boulevard Ruski, lays Bunardzhik Hill, easily recognized with its large memorial statue of the soviet soldier Alyosha on top. Bunardzhik Tepe is a much loved place for walks, sunset drinks and it is also a popular photo shooting spot, with the stunning Rhodope Mountains and Plovdiv as a backdrop.
Many paths lead up to the top of the Bunardzhik hill, but even if you chose not to hike your way to the top, you are still guaranteed to have a pleasant time just hanging down its shaded alley. Benches usually full up mornings and afternoons with people, some of them regular visitors of the park for years. It is a great place for short runs, roller skating and a popular destinations for kids learning to bike J
But the beautiful paths of Bunardzhik Tepe are sure to tempt you to explore more of this wonderful park. Cars are not allowed on the hill (even though you are likely to see a few up the hill under the cover of the night) and you can choose between taking one of the many stair paths beginning at the base of the hill or go on a more leisurely walk taking the main road up.
Whichever way you take there are plenty of beautiful spots to stop, catch your breath and enjoy the view.
Reaching the top of the hill won’t take you more than 20 minutes, with its 108 meters altitude it is a pleasant stroll rewarded with beautiful views. Alyosha’s scenic terrace is a great city escape in the hot summer evenings when shortly after sunset the night breeze rewards all who had made it to the top. It is not unusual to see group of friends enjoying a drink and staying up the hill well into the night. Throw a full moon into the mix and you’ve got the perfect romantic setup.
For the more adventurous and those who enjoy a good hike Youth Hill is the place to go. Also called Dzhendem Tepe (Ghosts’ Hill), it is the highest hill in Plovdiv with an altitude of 307 meters. But while no ghosts are reported seen there, Youth Hill will challenge anyone up for a decent city hike. Its rocky surface is covered with narrow paths that go among rocks and steep trails. Exploring the hill this way is always a pleasure, but it is not the only way to go. Like the rest of the hills in Plovdiv, Youth Hill has a nice cobbled road leading all the way up.
The hills of Plovdiv are much loved by young and old not just for the beautiful views of Plovdiv and Rhodope Mountains, the cool breeze on a summer night and the opportunity to escape the city without really leaving it, but also for the very special way one feels connecting with nature there, leaving the noise and business of the city behind and finding that inner peace and quietness that see you return home just a little bit happier.
About the author:
Irina is a native-born Plovdivian with a passion for culture, travel, food and nature. She is an advocate of Slow Travel, a philosophy of immersion in and engaging with local communities, and "slowing down" in order to savour each moment, thereby creating deeper, richer travel experiences.
After 15 years living abroad, Irina returned to her roots in Plovdiv to lead tours sharing her fondness for the picturesque cobblestone streets, hills and neighbourhoods of her birthplace and her love of the majestic Rhodope Mountains, connecting visitors with the people, food and traditions of Bulgaria.