With superb beaches, numerous historic towns and a web of working villages with traditions straight out of the 19th century, Bulgaria has a wealth of attractions crammed into a relatively compact country. More than anything else, this is a land of adventures. Once you step off the beaten track, road signs and bus timetables often disappear (or are only in Cyrillic), and few people speak a foreign language, but almost everyone you meet will be determined to help you on your way. Long, sandy beaches and fine weather reel holidaymakers into Bulgaria’s Black Sea resorts each summer.
Bulgarian inlanders are helplessly drawn to the freshening sea breeze and miles of turquoise water. Foreign visitors, too, are wise to Bulgaria’s coast, thanks to gorgeous seaside resorts such as Primorsko (and prices that compete well with Western Europe). Even the coast’s two big cities, Varna and Burgas, have attractive beaches within minutes of their urban hearts. And while Sunny Beach, Sozopol and other favourites are thoroughly developed, there are still plenty of undiscovered coves north and south of the major hubs. Bulgaria’s untamed landscapes quicken the pulse of hikers, mountain bikers and skiers.
Seven mountain ranges ripple across the country. Glacial lakes sparkle between these snow-dusted peaks and tangles of forest conceal wolves, bears and lynx, a glimpse of Europe’s primeval past. Networks of trails and hizhas (hiking huts) allow access to such raw beauty panoramas in the Stara Planina range and sunrise from Bulgaria’s second-highest peak, Mt Vihren (2915m). Between trekking among Rodopi villages, thundering across ski fields in Bansko or birdwatching in Pirin National Park, Bulgaria has much to delight lovers of the great outdoors. Whispers of history emanate from Bulgaria’s fortresses and ruins.
Caves secreted in Bulgaria’s river-sculpted wilds hold traces of Neolithic settlements. The mysterious Thracians left behind dazzling hauls of gold and silver, and tombs that can be explored to this day. The Romans built cities of breathtaking scale, the bathhouses, walls and amphitheatres of which sit nonchalantly in the midst of modern cities such as Varna and Plovdiv. Successions of tsars strutted along the ramparts of Tsarevets Fortress at former capital Veliko Tarnovo. And these histories are no less relevant today, with Thracian art and Bulgaria’s victory over the Ottomans continuing to inspire. Bulgarian cuisine is exceptionally diverse and delicious, consisting of various salads, breadstuffs, stews, and other local dishes. Many of the dishes are prepared according to traditional recipes handed down from generation to generation over the centuries.
Top 10 Places to Visit in Bulgaria
1. Varna – Visiting the sun-splashed and wonderful Varna in the summertime is a favourite thing not only of Bulgarians but a lot of tourists and travellers too. The “marine capital” of Bulgaria as locals call it is way more than a holiday resort on the eastern edge of Bulgaria where the Black Sea meets to coast. With a long, rich, and interesting history, Varna is an important city in Bulgaria’s history and culture too and offers so much to be explored and enjoyed.
2. Veliko Tarnovo – Veliko Tarnovo is known as the City of the Tsars and you can totally connect to its imperial and majestic charm the minute you start strolling around the city’s atmospheric streets leading you to the edge of the rising foothills of the northern mountains of Bulgaria. The Yantra River crossing the city adds even more to the breath-taking backdrop you are going to enjoy no matter where you are staying in Veliko Tarnovo. Full of history, culture, and traditional architecture, Bulgaria’s capital in the past definitely deserves a visit so make sure to reserve a few days.
3. Sofia – Of course, you cannot visit Bulgaria and miss the capital Sofia. Many tourists start their getting to know the country trip with Sofia exactly and there is no wonder why. The charming Sofia is a patchwork of its own past, mixing and matching so many elements of architecture, culture, past and present. Pieces from rich ancient history and the grime brutalist of the Soviet rule can confuse you with the juxtaposition of modern buildings and fancy bars. Sofia hardly ever fail to impress with its eclectic beauty so make sure to give it a visit.
4. Zheravna – Bulgaria can be considered a lucky country since so many places dotted on the country’s map have managed to preserve the dramatic and turbulent history of this land in a very proud way and the little town of Zheravna is yet another example. A rustic and raw place that showcases Bulgaria’s traditions and culture, Zheravna expects you to enjoy its iconic architectural styles from the time of the Bulgarian National Revival and the beauty of the Balkan Mountains surrounding the place.
5. Burgas – Burgas is one of the many gems Bulgaria is blessed with. One of the favourite summer holiday getaways located on the southern stretches of the Black Sea coast, Burgas is way more than a sun, sand, and sea destination as if this is not enough to make you enjoy it. The coastal city has almost nothing to do with the ancient historical remains dotted elsewhere the country but definitely will take your breath away with the beauty of its way to showcase Art Deco style. The city is also home to some of the best music festivals in the country.
6. Rila Monastery – Part of the UNESCO World Heritage List way back in 1983, Rila Monastery is one of the prides of Bulgaria. In fact, Rila Monastery is most probably the most popular Eastern Orthodox monastery in the whole world and a symbol of the Bulgaria nation not only in terms of tourism but also in a deeply spiritual way. Featuring an impressive and unique mixture of Mamluk, Byzantine, arabesque, and Romanesque styles, this monastery will offer you to explore more than 1000 years of turbulent history.
7. Bansko – You will be very impressed to find out that Bulgaria has it all – the high mountains, the luscious valleys, the wild rivers, the tranquil beaches, and, of course, some great mountain resorts such as Bansko. But please, don’t envision the classic winter ski resort as Bansko is more than that. There is some traditional Bulgaria architecture and history to explore in the town once you are done having fun with winter sports and enjoying the rugged setting in the Pirin Mountain.
8. Pirin National Park – Rising against the borders of Macedonia and Greece and part of the UNESCO’s list of world heritage landmarks, Pirin National Park is the perfect place to go to whenever you fancy some jaw-dropping beauty and views, hiking, and hopping on impressive treks. The snow-capped hills and peaks shift into alpine valleys, avalanches of pine and fir forests, and bits of edelweiss oasis here and there.
9. Belogradchik – This land of geological wonders in Bulgaria may seem like out of another world. Located right on the edge of Belogradchik town, the Belogradchik Rocks rarely fail to impress with the curious and impressive beauty. You can make sure to visit the place by reaching to the northward slopes of the Balkan Mountains and the trek is not difficult at all. The place has its very own and very special energy while the anthropomorphic monoliths have inspired not a single folk legend and myth.
10. Plovdiv – Your stroll around Bulgaria wouldn’t be complete without visiting one of the most interesting, beautiful, and atmospheric cities in the country. Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria but unlike any other eclectic and hectic large city, Plovdiv’s atmosphere and appearance are truly laidback, very cultured, very relaxed. Draped over seven hills and along the courses of Maritsa River, Plovdiv houses as many historical sites as you can imagine since it is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. But don’t let the Game of Thrones-esque setting of stone-clad streets mislead you like the city bursts into a youthful energy and modern lifestyle.