The town of Etropole (12386 inhabitants, 580 m above sea level) is situated at the northern foothills of Etropolska Mountain (the most eastern part of Western Stara Planina), along the two banks of Malki Iskar River. It is 87 km north-east of Sofia, 25 km south-east of Botevgrad, 28 km south of Yablanitsa, 43 km south-west of Teteven and 27 km north-west of Zlatitsa.
There was a Thracian and later on a Roman settlement in the area of the nowadays town, the main occupation of its inhabitants being ore mining. In the beginning of 9th century the settlement was within the territory of the Bulgarian State. Thanks to the ore mining it turned into a flourishing settlement in 16th and 17th century (iron, silver and gold were mined). The crafts related thereto such as blacksmith, goldsmith, manufacture of knives, weapons, agricultural tools, etc., were also well developed. Some ore-miners came to this place from the Saxon area, Serbia and Bosna (the family names of the Alemans, Avramovs and Bohorovs date back to that period). Coins were minted in Etropole during 17th century. The village was destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1749, but the bright highlanders quickly restored it. Then the year of 1791 came, when the town was ruined 6 times by the kurdzhalii (Turkish brigands). It was once again recovered and took its deserved place in the countrywide cultural and national uplift during the Revival. A manuscript dating back to 1820 named it The glorious town of Etropolia. Todays name of the town probably has a Thracian origin etr meaning water, i.e. a water field (pole field).
Together with the old church in 1710 a town tower (turned into a clock tower in 1821) was erected, while in 1871 a community cultural centre was built. There the famous Etropoles literary school was established and the proximity of the Etropolski Monastery, only 5 km away from the town, contributed to its sustained development. In 1870 Levski founded a secret revolutionary committee, headed by Todor Peev, one of the brightest leaders of the Revival. The natives of Etropole took part in the Rakovskis Legiya (legion), in the detachments of Hadzhi Dimitur and Stefan Karadzha, of Panayot Hitov, Hristo Makedonski, Hristo Botev. Etropole was liberated on 24th November 1877 by the troops of Gen. Gourko. After the Liberation the town declined. It gradually developed as a tourist centre, taking advantage of the favourable natural resources facilitating this development.
The Town Museum of History (107, Rouski Blvd., tel.: 0720 2124, working hours: - 8.30 a.m. - 12.00 p.m. and 1.30 p.m. - 5.00 p.m.). St. Archangel Mihail Church (in the centre of the town, located at Malki Pazar Square) was first mentioned in 1600, but the present building dates back to 1837, famous with its iconostasis of fine walnut woodcarving. Interesting as well are the Jewish Tower dating back to 14th century and the 20 metres high Defence Turret (Rouski Blvd.). St. George Church (10, Hristo Botev Str.)was erected in the middle of 17th century on the foundations of an old medieval church, completely ruined during the attacks of the kurdzhalii. It was completely built of river stones and pebbles. Twenty-five Revival houses attract the visitors attention. Beautifully scattered along the river of Malki Iskar, they are distinguished for their exuberant and rich wood-carved ceilings, doors, cupboards, hearth places, columns, etc. The walls are whitewashed and colourfully wood-framed. The most typical houses are the Pavelponchovs, the Hadzhigrigorovs, the Vulchevs, and the Arnaoudovs houses.
Memorial monument of the soldiers and volunteers killed during the wars, as well as many other monuments.
Etropole is famous with its unique annually held festivities of the men, living in the houses of their parents-in-law.
Bus transport is the only available. There are regular bus lines to Sofia, Botevgrad, Pravets, Yablanitsa, Loukovit, etc. The bus station (tel.: 0720 2300) is situated at the southeastern end of the town.
St. Trinity Etropolski Monastery (Varovitets) is 5 km east of the town on the road to the village of Ribaritsa and the summer resort of Yamna. It was built back in 1158. During the Turkish rule it was the most significant scholar centre in the lands lying north of the Balkan. At the end of 16th and during 17th century the Etropole Literary School was established in Etropole and the nearby monastery. Its major representatives are the monk Danail Etropolski, the priest Rafail, Daskal Koyo (Kolyo the Teacher), Gramatik Boicho, Deacon Yoan, Vasilii Sofianin. The unique Fourfold Gospel was created here far back in the 1585 and is still well-preserved nowadays. Other remarkable manuscripts are the Fourfold Gospel from 15th century, the Apostle (16th century), Oktoih and Tipik (16th-17th century), the Prologue of Danail (1620). Varovitets monks drafted the manuscript on the life of Yoan Rilski, telling the story of the solemn transfer of the holy bones of the saint from Turnovo to the Rila Monastery in 1469. The treasury of the monastery holds two ancient silver crests with inscriptions, on one of which the year 1492 is marked. Also the silver ark is very interesting. The monastery gave shelter to our national apostle Vassil Levski. One can reach the monastery taking the bus in the direction of Yamna summer resort.
The Thracian settlement (5th-4th century BC) - its ruins were found on the isolated hill of Bogotvor, close to the town. It has about a dozen of sepulchral mounds. Chetrigrad is the place of the remains from a famous Thracian fortress (this name of the area was given later). The ruins are situated east of the town on the hill between the villages of Lopyan, Broussen, Cherni Vit and Yamna. One can reach the sight by taking the bus to Yamna village and after that continuing on foot. Ruins of a medieval fortress are found on the St. Atanas Hill, very close to the town. The summer resort and the village of Yamna (approximately 15 km north-east of the town) are situated among the northern hills of the Zlatishko-Tetevenski Balkan. It serves as on of the departure points to the Svishti Plaz Chalet (approximately 5 hours walk). There is a regular bus transport to the village. Etropole is a departure point of many hiking routes in the Etropolski Balkan and Zlatishko-Tetevenska Mountain (refer to the Stara Planina related chapter herein).
Acropol Hotel (Central Square). Etropole Hotel (at the street above the bus station, offering 120 beds, restaurant, bar, discotheque). Staroplaninets Tourist House (in the Lozeto area, 15 minutes away from the bus station) offers 50 beds in rooms of 2, 4, 5 and 9 beds. The Bash Samokov Tourist Hostel (7 km to the right along the road to Zlatitsa) has 40 beds in rooms of 2, 3, 4 and more beds.
Tourist information is available at the hotels, the Tourist House and at Staroplaninski Tourist Association on Tourism (located in the building of the public forestry building, P.O.Box 53, tel.: 0720 3506).