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The central square of Montana
The ruins of Castra ad Montanesium, with the snow-covered Balkan Mountains in the back

Montana is a medium-sized city in northwestern Bulgaria (pop. 40 000), on the banks of the Ogosta river and right by the Ogosta Reservoir. The administrative center of Montana Province, it's 100 km (62 mi) directly north of the capital, Sofia, 50 km (31 mi) directly south of the Danube (at Lom), and 125 km (78 mi) directly east of Pleven.


Montana's unusual name is the result of a series of renamings that reflect Bulgaria's turbulent history. It was originally a village, Golyama Kutlovitsa ("Large Kutlovitsa"). In 1891, it was renamed to Ferdinand, in honor of then-Prince Ferdinand I who had recently become the ruler of Bulgaria, and received town status. After the Communist coup d'etat during WWII, the new government couldn't leave the place with the name of a monarch, so in 1945 they changed it to Mihaylovgrad (lit. "Mihaylov's city"), after the Communist activist Hristo Mihaylov, who had taken control of the city during the failed September Uprising of 1923. After the fall of the Communist regime at the start of the 1990s, a lot of ideologically-named places were renamed again: in 1993 the city chose its new name based on its ruined Roman fortress, Castra ad Montanesium.

Get in[edit]

Montana is on a branch line of the Vidin-Mezdra line, so going by train to anywhere even in Northern Bulgaria (e.g. Pleven or Vidin) usually requires at least one change, either at the village of Boychinovtsi, or at Mezdra (or both). On the other hand, like elsewhere in Bulgaria, there are multiple daily trains, including a twice daily direct connection to Vratsa and Mezdra, and several daily direct trains to Berkovitsa.

The city is better for bus and car travel, as it's on the crossroads between Republic Road 81 (Sofia - Lom) and the Bulgarian segment of European Route E79 (Romania - Vidin - Montana - Vratsa - Botevgrad - Sofia - Pernik - Blagoevgrad - Greece).

Get around[edit]


  • Many Communist-era monuments in Bulgaria have been removed since the 1990s, but the central square of Montana still retains the large statue commemorating the September Uprising.
  • The Regional History Museum is one of the 100 National Tourism Objects of Bulgaria.
  • The ruins of the ancient Roman fortress Castra ad Montanesium are on a small hill overlooking the city, 15 minute walk south-southwest of the city center.
  • Drowned church - the village of Zhivovtsi was demolished and submerged by the construction of the Ogosta Reservoir. Its ruined church, Holy Ascension, built in 1885, has become a minor tourist attraction - it remains partially over the water when the reservoir is full, and stands on dry ground when the water level drops enough.



  • Montana International Folk Festival - a relatively small festival for folk singing and dancing held since 2006, on the days around Pentecost Monday (51 days after East Orthodox Easter; in 2023 it will be held between 3–7 June).
  • International Festival of Wind Orchestras Diko Iliev





  • 1 Hotel Jitomir (Хотел "Житомир", Zhitomir), Dragan Tsankov Str (right at the central square). Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. A four-star hotel right in the center of Montana, with prices to match.


Go next[edit]

In Montana Province[edit]

  • Berkovitsa (Берковица, 25 km (16 mi) directly south of Montana, along Road 81 to Sofia; there are also daily direct trains) - a small city (pop. 12 000) in the Balkan Mountains. A minor mountain and sky resort near Kom Peak - the western end point of the Kom-Emine long-distance hiking trail that runs along the whole length of the Balkan Mountains.
  • Chiprovtsi (Чипровци, 33 km (21 mi) south-east of Montana, branching off Road 102 to Belogradchik) - a small town (pop. 1500) in a scenic valley in the Balkan Mountains, famous in Bulgaria for its hand-woven carpets (чипровски килими, chiprovski kilimi). Though you no longer have to actually go there to buy Chiprovski-style carpets, it has a history museum and a number of waterfalls in the surrounding mountains can be reached by hiking.

Further away[edit]

  • Belogradchik (68 km (42 mi) north-west of Montana via Road 102) - famous for the fairy-tale Belogradchik Rocks and the ruins of the medieval fortress nested in them.
  • Pleven - one of the largest cities in Northern Bulgaria, the scene of a famous siege during the liberation war (1877).
  • Sofia - the capital of Bulgaria. If you drive, Road 81 directly south will take you through Berkovitsa and the Petrohan Pass.
  • Vidin - a port town on the Danube and a major border crossing to Romania via the New Europe Bridge to Calafat. Boasts one of the best-preserved medieval fortresses in Bulgaria, Baba Vida.
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