The Bulgarian Shopluk is a cultural region that is part of the greater Shopluk region in the eastern heights of Serbia and North Macedonia and the western mountains of Bulgaria.
Culturally the wider Shopluk is very homogeneous: the traditions and the temper of the Shopi (the Shopluk locals) in Serbia, Bulgaria and North Macedonia are the same. The Bulgarian Shopluk, however, is in itself uneven because of the big city of Sofia in it.
The Bulgarian capital is the largest city in the country combining the functions of economical, administrative and population centre of Bulgaria. Thus, the environment in Sofia is sharply distinct from that of the area. The city has grown immensely in the past 30 years accommodating over a third of the country's population during the day for business purposes, and with a fifth of Bulgaria's population being permanently settled in it there are lots of non-locals around. Sofia is "the big village" of Bulgaria with inhabitants from all over the country.
The true cultural Bulgarian Shopluk starts from the outskirts of the capital city. The mountains around modern urban megalopolis keep their traditional character unchanged. Towns such as Botevgrad and Etropole in the Western Balkan, Samokov in Rila, Kyustendil in the foot of Osogovo Mountain, and Pernik surrounded by the mountains Vitosha, Golo Brdo and Lyulin are typical Shopluk settlements.
Because of the differences between the city and the rest of the region, and the differences between certain aspects of the mountains (such as height, formation processes as well as influences from neighbouring cultural regions) Shopluka (the local for the Shopluk) in Bulgaria can be further subdivided into areas:
- Sofia Plateau - The city of Sofia has many historical and modern cultural and purely entertaining sites to offer tourists. The area also includes the towns of Bankya famous for its mineral waters, Bistritsa famous for its singers and monastery, Klisura also famous for its monastery. In fact, in the area there are so many churches and monasteries that people are referring to them as the Sofia Athos. The Boyana Church, considered by UNESCO to be a world heritage, is part of the "holy archipelago" of Sofia.
- Shopski Balkan - Only the Western Balkan heights are included in Shopluka. Architecturally fascinating towns such as Botevgrad and Etropole lie in these mountains. Same as the rest of the Balkan Mountains, the West Balkan has its freedom-fighter glory. In fact, the final battle of one of the immortal names in Bulgarian history - the poet-revolutionary Hristo Botev - was near mount Okolchitsa in the western Balkan.
- Vitosha - Because of its closeness to Sofia the mountain Vitosha has its northern ridge almost entirely absorbed by the city, sheltering some of the poshest districts of the capital and having a cabin lift that leads almost to the peak at mount Cherni Vruh. Therefore, the area "Vitosha" excludes "the roof of the capital" and consists of the southern side of Vitosha and the other smaller mountains between it and Rila. The area includes some beautiful traditional villages that are unbelievably serene just minutes away from the hectic life in the capital.
- The Low Western Mountains of Shopluka- Some astonishing natural views, such as the gorge of Erma river can be seen in the area. The industrial town of Pernik and "the Orchard of Bulgaria" Kyustendil lie in the valleys between the small mountains.
- 1 Dragoman Marsh (Драгоманското блато) - If you enjoy bird watching or just enjoy taking in the surroundings of a beautiful and peaceful natural environment, you should make a visit to the Dragoman marsh and Chepun hill. It is only a short drive west from Sofia. The Dragoman marsh is the only limestone marsh in the whole country and together with Chepun hill it forms a habitat of high conservation value. Due to its location, the marsh serves as an important stop-over along the Balkans' bird migratory route "Via Aristotelis".
The one public bus to Rila Monastery leaves the small bus station from Sofia at 10:20, and after two hours it returns to Sofia.
- the gorge of Erma river
- the natural pyramids of Stob
- Rila Monastery — a UNESCO World Heritage site
- the seven lakes of Rila
- Tsari Mali Grad