Have you been to Bulgaria? Neither had I. However, I was lucky enough to be invited to stay at the luxury Villa Gella over the past week to experience all that it had to offer. I’m always up for an adventure and when the invitation mentioned luxury villa, mountains and hiking, I could not resist. And so the story unfolds:
Nestled in the Rhodope Mountains in the south East of Bulgaria, Villa Gella is in a league of its own. Perched on top of a hill, you can find the luxury villa in the village of Gella which over looks the town of Shiroka Laka below. As the crow flies, it’s as close as 5km from the Greek border and only a 20 minute drive to the nearest ski resort.
THE LUXURY VILLA
Despite the name, Villa Gella, it is in fact a small boutique hotel. The hotel offers six oversized rooms, each distinguished with their own unique design. Four poster beds draped in flowing white material, generous wardrobes and white linen bathrobes will have you feeling like a queen. I was given a beautiful tour of each room, and of course I picked the one with the most wooden features.
Along with an oversized sunken living room and dinning area, fire place and study, the villa boasts a wellness centre with a 10 meter heated pool, steam room and croquet court (you had me at hello). The modern and grand design of the Villa delights the senses as every single piece of art and adornment has been well thought out. You can book a single room, or hire out the entire hotel for a group holiday or retreat.
The six individually designed rooms can sleep up to 14 guests. Designed by Dutch British designer, Marja Walters, the rooms boast a combination of simplicity and elegance that exudes the local rustic flavour. Almost everything in the Villa was designed and built with local carpenters utilising the copious amounts of natural resources in the area. So as you can imagine, it’s the perfect synergy of Wood and Luxe.
I’m going to begin with I LOVE THE FOOD in Bulgaria. In most countries, vegetarianism can be quite difficult, but not in Bulgaria. There were salads, soups and vegetarian dishes galore. Think stuffed peppers, cabbage wrapped parcels, bean soups and more. Everything served at the Villa is locally sourced and produced. They make their own mouth watering yoghurt, cheeses, cured meats, rose petal jams and bread. Each meal I was delighted with the creativity and variety of the dishes on offer.
When staying at the villa, you are spoilt with some of the most mouth watering wines Bulgaria (and the world) has to offer. The wine is produced locally at their family owned winery called Terra Tangra. My favourite of the stay was their most popular red wine, Single Barrel. This blend includes the indigenous local variety of mavrud and it is exported all over the world. The flavour includes multi layers of forest berries with remnants of tobacco and liquorice. Made to age up to 30 years, you will be wanting to take a few bottles home with you (which can be arranged, of course).
If outdoor activities are your thing, there is a never-ending list that will keep you entertained. A few include: guided horse riding, hiking to a picnic lunch, skiing, shopping, a private musical performance, a winery tour, a visit to a local monastery or climb the Perperikon ruins. All of these activities are on the door step of the Villa. Don’t want to do anything at all? That’s ok too. Pamper yourself with an in-house massage, steam room session or curl up with a good book and a glass of the Single Barrel in front of the fire. The choice is yours.
The service you receive during your stay is second to none. As soon as you arrive at the Villa, you are greeted with open arms and smiles ear to ear. From the breakfast service to wrapping the delicate gifts I bought at the local markets, no request was too great or too small. The staff asked me what I usually ate for breakfast as they noticed I didn’t eat a lot one morning. The following morning a spinach omelette was delivered to my placemat. This is the type of service you can expect.
Want to request a massage? This can be arranged. Guided tour through a UNESCO monastery? No problem. A driver, a historical guide, a hiking partner – it can all be organised at a click of a finger. The entire team of staff are overtly passionate about their country and are more than eager to show you the gems of Bulgaria. Unlike other small hotels, every single element of your stay can be arranged so you don’t have to lift a finger.
There are many possible transport options to arrive at Villa Gella. You can fly to Plovdiv from London Stansted which is a 1.5 hour trip from the villa or you can fly into Sofia and then use the 3 hour car trip to include sightseeing of the numerous cultural attractions Bulgaria has to offer. And if helicopter is more your style, there is a helipad only 30 meters from the Villa.
Villa Gella is not only the most luxurious boutique hotel in Bulgaria, it has so much warmth and character which makes you never want to leave. Whether you want to escape the city and have bit of relaxation, or you want to get out and explore all that Bulgaria has to offer, Villa Gella is the place to be. Along with experiencing all of the features of the hotel, little did I know I would embark on an eye opening cultural and historical tour of the best and most beautiful places in Bulgaria. Stay tuned for the next blog post on what to do and see when staying at Villa Gella.
Want to explore the sites and sounds of Bulgaria? Contact Villa Gella where they can arrange everything from airport transfers, your hiking trails and your complete itinerary. You will be in for a few Bulgarian treats.
Would you like to come to Villa Gella with me for a hiking and yoga retreat in mid-late October? Let me know in the comments below.
Phoebe Greenacre was hosted by Villa Gella in March 2016.