If you are willing to try alternative routes to Greece, in order to make your journey more interesting (not shorter), we suggest you take the route through Bulgaria, passing through Vlasina Lake. This route is recommended only for those who are not in a hurry and want to enjoy nature while driving to their destination in Greece.

If you decide to take this route, it is best to exit the E-75 highway near Leskovac and head towards Vlasotince (6km), and then drive about fifty kilometers to Vlasina Lake on a road that is mostly covered with new asphalt.

Vlasina lake

Upon arrival at Vlasina, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the untouched nature around Vlasina Lake, in an extremely pleasant climate, surrounded by greenery, and even swimming in the lake, which has a water temperature of about 22 degrees Celsius during the summer. Vlasina, with its natural characteristics, untouched nature, good climate, and floating islands unique in the world, has been declared a landscape of exceptional features. The lake is located at an altitude of 1213m, surrounded by mountains, and is filled with fresh air, so staying at the lake is often recommended for therapeutic purposes. Vlasina Lake is bordered by a rolling plateau that resembles a green carpet adorned with meadows, pastures, and forests with diverse flora and fauna.
The surface area of the lake is 16 square kilometers, making it the largest mountain lake in Serbia. On the slopes of the surrounding mountains, there are several settlements where clear streams and rivers with wooded gorges gurgle. The color of the lake ranges from gray-blue near the shore to dark blue in the middle of the lake, and it is particularly beautiful on clear, summer days. If you are a nature lover, you will enjoy walking on narrow forest paths that lead to the water or the settlements. Along the lake, there are covered benches that can be used for picnics, rest, and enjoying the view.
There are no organized beaches, but there are accessible approaches to the lake where you can safely swim. If you wish, you can rent a paddle boat for 300 dinars for half an hour or a motorboat for 200 dinars per person. Vlasina can also be an ideal place to stay overnight on your way to Greece. There are several hotels, none of which are high-category, but all are decent for both overnight stays and longer stays. Within the hotels, there are excellent restaurants where you can try southern specialties and fresh fish from Vlasina Lake. The lake is rich in fish, making it excellent for fishing enthusiasts (it is abundant in perch, rainbow trout, eel, roach, brown trout…), and it is also known for its endemic plant species.
As for landmarks, you can visit the Monastery of the Presentation of the Holy Mother of God in Palja (from the 13th century), the Church of St. Elijah in the village of Rida, and the tower and Church of the Holy Trinity in Klisura. If you opt for a walk, you will enjoy the pine and birch forest. While walking, you can take water from the springs, which are a special natural treasure, with over 70 of them. The coldest and most attractive spring is the Fountain of St. Nicholas. After immersing yourself in fresh air, admiring the greenery, and relaxing in the absolute tranquility that this natural gem offers, you can decide which path to take next.

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Border crossings over Vlasina Lake

On Vlasina, in fact, there are two border crossings. One is in the village of Strezimirovce and the other is in the village of Ribarce. From the lake to both border crossings leads an asphalt road through beautiful and untouched landscapes, forests, meadows, idyllic villages.

Strezimirovce border crossing

The road to the Strezimirovce border crossing and further through Bulgaria, to the exit to the highway near Pernik, is quite good, and it is about 100km long. Buy the vignette at the border crossing itself. The price for seven days is 5e. As you approach and pass through Pernik, follow the signs for “Sofia” and shortly before reaching the highway exit, you will see a sign for “Kulata” which you should follow to go towards Bansko and the border crossing to Greece.
The advantage of this route can also be that you avoid any traffic jams at the border crossing near Dimitrovgrad and the bypass around Sofia, and the disadvantage is that this route is about 60 kilometers longer than the route through Dimitrovgrad, but in our opinion, it is much more beautiful.

Border crossing Ribarce

These days, we wanted to try the slowest route, through the Ribarce border crossing. When you reach the “Promaja” intersection, the road to Surdulica and Vladičin Han, or the highway towards North Macedonia, branches off to the right, and we turn left and continue along the lake shore for a while. The next intersection comes quickly with signs for Bosilegrad or GP Ribarci or GP Strezimirovce. When you turn right towards Bosilegrad, you have nowhere to miss until the border.

Bosilegrad awaits you at the thirty-seventh kilometer, but on this stretch, you will have to drive slower because the road is patched up and poor, but not bad enough to spoil the fantastic atmosphere provided by the natural beauty. In fact, this part of the road may be the most beautiful on the entire journey, so slower driving will definitely suit you, and maybe you will even stop a few times like we did.
On this part, you pass by another lake, much smaller, called Lisinsko.

The road through Bosilegrad is like stepping into a time machine, because it seems like time has stood still here for the past 30 years. Unfortunately, this is the sad fate of many places in Serbia, but it is certainly interesting to see. You pass through several smaller, semi-abandoned villages on both sides of the border, which somewhat resemble ghost towns. However, at the beginning of the road from Vlasina to the border, there are also very beautiful, idyllic villages, with fields and meadows, beautiful courtyards, and green pastures. One of them is the village of Božica where we couldn’t resist making a pause, climbing the hill, and enjoying the view.

The Ribarci border crossing is a few kilometers away from Bosilegrad, nestled between high hills covered in dense forest. In line with the tranquility of the whole area, this border crossing also looks like that, with a ramp still painted in the colors of the former SFRY, that is, blue-white-red. Unfortunately, they didn’t allow us to take a photo of this detail. Expect a slightly more “serious” inspection when crossing (opening the trunk, and even the bags), because on one hand, the border guards are bored, so it’s a way for them to pass the time, and on the other hand, you automatically raise suspicion by using this route, because, as we said, this is the least optimal route to Greece if you are only interested in getting there quickly. You can buy the vignette for Bulgarian roads right from their customs officers, and we recommend it so that you don’t have to look for them later at gas stations, and not all of them sell them. The vignette costs 5€ and is valid for seven days.

Upon entering Bulgaria, you will be greeted by more beautiful landscapes with quite acceptable asphalt all the way to Kyustendil, which is about 30km away from the border. If you thought that the area around Bosilegrad was forgotten in some other time until now, a true experience awaits you on this part of the road. Since it is really difficult to describe the settlements you pass through, we will leave it to you to witness for yourself if you choose this route.

Upon arrival in Kyustendil, follow the signs for Sofia or Dupnitsa wherever you see them, because in Dupnitsa, you will join that part of the road that you would have passed if you had gone to the Dimitrovgrad border crossing.
This part of the road, although a main road, has excellent asphalt, wide lanes, and very clear visibility, so the drive to Dupnitsa is more relaxed, with beautiful scenery.

In Dupnitsa, you should join the main road towards Blagoevgrad and the Kulata/Promahonas border crossing. Along a long stretch of the road, you will drive alongside the Struma River, and about fifteen kilometers after the town of Simitli, you will notice an expansion on the road for parking and several restaurants and shops on the left side of the road. We stopped at one of the restaurants with a beautiful garden under which the Struma River roars. Besides the lovely garden, the view of the river, and the deep shade, nothing else “sat well” with us, so we do not recommend trying reheated barbecue here like we did :-) Definitely stop by for a juice, beer, or coffee, and continue further for lunch. What we do recommend is buying excellent locally made sour sheep milk in jars.

After crossing the border, you will encounter a good and unburdened road that will quickly take you to Drama (do not enter the city, go around it), and then to the highway junction near Kavala, and towards Xanthi if you are heading to Thasos.

If you are going to Halkidiki, follow the road to Thessaloniki.
See our text HERE for the latest information on toll booths and travel costs to Greece.

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