Vratsa[dead link] is a city of 53,000 people in North Bulgaria. It's at the foot of the Vrachanski Balkan, and is the starting point for numerous caves, waterfalls and interesting rock formations. The most famous of them are the Ledenika Cave, Skaklya Waterfall and the Vratsata Pass.
Vratsa can be reached by train, bus or car.
The main railway station connects the city with the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia, and also with the cities of Vidin, Lom, and Mezdra. The train frequency is acceptable. An express first-class-only train runs once a day from Plovdiv (via Sofia) and back.
The omnibus station is near the railway station. Buses connect Vratza directly with Sofia, Vidin, Kozloduy, Lom, Oriahovo, and many other cities. Nearby villages are also connected via bus links. The bus frequency to and from Sofia is very good, from early morning to the late afternoon. In summer, there are also bus lines to some Black Sea resorts. There are also buses to Spain and Portugal, but not as often as the inter-Bulgaria connections.
Vratsa is on the international E-79 route, and thus easily accessed from Vidin (2 hours), Sofia (1.5-2 hours), etc. Road signs are mostly written in the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets.
There is no boat transportation to Vratsa. The nearest ports are in Oryahovo and Kozlodui (Danube River).
Most sites in the centre of Vratsa can be reached by walking. Remote places can be reached by a taxi, a bus or a trolleybus.
Some remote places can also be reached by bike (like Hizhata), see it like a nice work-out. Cycling on the road can be dangerous, since not all car drivers keep distance and tolerate bikers. Cycling through the main street in the rush hour or in the weekend can be quite challenging when trying to avoid crashes with the huge number of pedestrians. Some pedestrian areas are forbidden for bikers.
There is a ski and bike rental shop on Ul. Polk Buyukliyski (2 лв/hour). Ring the buzzer if you can't find the shopkeeper, someone upstairs might help you or at least say something out the window. The shopkeeper is often not there, so maybe not a good idea to rent here if you need your passport back by a certain time.
The yellow cabs can be spotted very often and are rather cheap. The prices are shown on the windshield of the vehicle. Mind that there are different fees (like call fee) that are added to the regular kilometre fee.
By trolleybus or bus
This kind of transportation connects the remote parts of the city and the centre. Although rather slow it is a good and cheap alternative to the taxis. This is the means of transportation that is most often used by the locals.
- Historical Museum. This museum is worth visiting, especially the Rogozen Treasure. Also has art and geological and other sections. Wonderful ethnographic museum.
- Ledenika cave.
- Mountain Passage 'Vratsata'.
- Hizhata (the Hut).
- Different sport activities. At the sport complex of the city.
- Shopping, Targovska str.
- Urban Sightseeing.
- Trade center 'Sumi'.
- Billa Supermarket.
- Kaufland Supermarket. Kaufland supermarket in Vratsa - walkable without groceries, for returning to Chaika Motel take yellow cab from Kaufland car park - 1.63 лв on meter.
- Pizzeria 'Milevi'. Besides pizza and pasta you can enjoy some traditional delicious Bulgarian food.
- Hotel/Restaurant 'Chaika' (located outside Vratza, along the Leva river, direction mountains). Rather pricy, great kitchen, fantastic ambiente. After dinner, go up to the small terrace just above the restaurant: a pleasant view of the mountains.
- Bar 'Antik'. Free Wi-Fi.
- Bar 'Caramel' (opposite Hotel 'Hemus'). Free Wi-Fi.
- Café Kadife. Free Wi-Fi.
- Trakijska Printzessa (Thracian Princess). One of the oldest cafés of the city, renovated, free Wi-Fi.
- Hotel 'Hemus' (in the Botev Square).
- Hotel 'Chaika' (outside Vratza in the Vratza Mountains near the river of Leva). Beware the shower in the luxury rooms—although there's a shower tray, the shower curtain lets the water flood the bathroom in some of the rooms. There's a fridge in the room but the room attendant puts the electricity card in the "off" position so the fridge doesn't work while you're out unless you put the card in the "on" position before you go out. Bottom sheets not fitted and not big enough. Good wireless Internet in rooms. There are grocery stores and a tourism information office within walkable distance from the hotel.
- Hotel 'Rade'.
- Hotel 'Hushove' (outside Vratza).
The two biggest squares in the city offer a free but rather unreliable Wi-Fi access. Most cafés along the main pedestrian street offer also free wireless access. Or you can use the sometimes few crowded internet cafés. The mobile network coverage is good.
- A day trip to the Ledenika Cave (16 km away from the city) combined with a barbecue or horse riding (rent-a-horse) afternoon in the mountains is a very pleasant experience, especially in summer. Make sure you have warm clothes and watertight shoes, since the temperatures in the cave are rather low. There was a local bus line servicing the area around the cave, but a better option is to organize your own transportation (rent-a-car or bikes). As of October 2010, there is no bus line going to Ledenika Cave; everyone in town says taxi was the only way. It takes about 2 hours to bike to the cave, with the majority of the time spent on the climb between the two forks (head right at both, at kilometers 2 and 12). Save a little energy as the last 2-3 kilometers to the cave are a steep downhill, which you have to climb back up after the tour. There also appeared to be a chair lift heading in the direction of the cave from the first fork—it is not possible to see where it ended especially in the foggy days, but it isn't running anyway. Your mountain trip can be extended over two or more days: there is a small budget hotel near the Ledenika Cave. A pre-booking is useful.