About an hour and fifteen minutes north of Sofia, Lakatnik makes an excellent destination for a day trip. The name Lakatnik derives from the Bulgarian word for elbow, referring to the bend in the Iskar river. Whilst exploring the area around Sofia, you have plenty of options to enjoy diverse natural sceneries. Lakatnik is one of your top choices, especially if you’re up for a hike to reach some wide views over the .
Lakatnik is a village in the Iskar Gorge, a long canyon north of Sofia. The canyon connects Sofia and Mezdra and passes right through the Stara Planina mountain chain. Both the road and railway offer good views of the mountains and the Iskar river. In terms of geology, this river is the oldest in the Balkans. Moreover, it is the only river that has preserved its original direction, despite enormous geological changes.
Getting from Sofia to Lakatnik by train will set you back only a couple of Euros, depending on the train type you choose. Traveling first class on an intercity train is recommended as it is a lot faster than the slow ‘Personal’ trains. Likewise, you have significantly more legroom in first class. That being said, you will most likely be standing at the window to enjoy the view.
When you arrive in Lakatnik by train, the first thing you see is the ‘Skaklya’. This is an immense wall of rock formations that reaches up to 250 metres. They have been formed by the Iskar River, that used to be far wider and deeper than it is today. In addition, the rocks got their fantastic shapes from being exposed to the force of erosion for thousands of years. You can ascend the Lakatnik Trail to reach the top of these cliffs. There are six hiking areas with over 350(!) routes of varying difficulty. The area boasts many unexplored, mystical and deep caves as well. However, these are only accessible by experienced explorers with the right equipment and accompanied by a local guide. The most common hiking trail, reaching the top of the Lakatnik cliffs, is described here.
After arriving at the small station, follow the train’s direction to leave the platform. The path descends, then take the pedestrain bridge on your left to cross the river. In front of you is the main road from Sofia to Mezdra. Take a right and walk down the quiet road upto the small restaurant on your left, alongside a waterfall. It’s impossible to miss. You can stock up on some water or food but do not count on it, take some from Sofia regardless. There’s a chance the weather is completely different than in Sofia. When it’s very warm in Lakatnik, you could ask to leave your jacket or sweater at the restaurant, not having to carry it.
You might fancy to have a drink at the terrace next to the waterfall and then start the hike. The narrow trail begins on the left side of the waterfall. It will take you an hour and a half to reach the top, depending on your condition and the number of stops. Stay well clear of the steep cliffs as there is no fence whatsoever. On the way, you might come across mountain goats climbing the rock walls. It’s interesting to take a break and watch how these animals live on such rough terrain.
Halfway during the climb, you come across a communist monument and a cross on a cliff. If you look carefully, you can see the Alpine hut ‘Eagle’s Nest’ precariously sitting on a cliff’s ledge. After resting at the end of your walk and enjoying the views, you can either; retrace your steps, continue your trek in the mountain range or take a long hike back via the road, passing Milanovo village.