Why visit Bulgaria?
Affordable, picturesque, with beaches to rival even the more widely recognised and popular holiday destinations in the world – sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, Bulgaria offers all of the above and more. A cultural melting pot with Greek, Persian and Slavic influences, here’s our comprehensive guide to the Balkan country, so you’ll know how to best travel once you’ve renewed your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and arrived in Bulgaria.
Unmissable Sights To See In Bulgaria
Start your exploration of Bulgaria in the nation’s towering capital. Steeped in history and once the home of the stubborn Soviet Union, Sofia offers an interesting combination of contemporary and ancient design. With Roman ruins visible from the metro stations and the gold-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral stood proudly in the city centre, you’ll find that the capital is rife with relics honouring its heritage. This laid-back yet bustling centre is ideal for travellers seeking a unique insight into Bulgarian culture with the comfort and convenience of being right in the middle of the action. With accommodation ranging from hostels to luxury hotels, this is a location perfect for any budget.
Black Sea Coast
After your visit to the country’s centre, take a trip to Bulgaria’s long Black Sea coastline and enjoy a summertime playground. Populated with sandy beaches spanning from the southern to the northern seafront, you’ll be able to visit two of the country’s most vibrant cities while holidaying on the coastline.
First, you’ll arrive in the port of Burgas. A well-kept pedestrianised centre with more than enough activity to keep you entertained including a seafront park, an array of fascinating museums and some of the best Balkan cuisine Bulgarian restaurants have to offer. We recommend the coastal speciality of gyuvech, a spicy vegetable stew and the ritual bread of pogacha or kravai.
Once you’ve visited Burgas, you’ll move onto its seaside rival – the ‘maritime capital’ of Varna, famous for summer festivals and a dazzling nightlife. It also has Bulgaria’s largest Roman bath complex. The semi-ruined baths date back to the 2nd century and are surprisingly well preserved. You can explore the old bathing rooms which, during summer nights, are illuminated by a lights display to show the whole complex in all its glory. If, after seeing the crumbling ruins, you fancy some R & R of your own, you can head to one of the many mineral springs in the area and enjoy nature’s own answer to a spa treatment.
One of Bulgaria’s most beloved monuments, the Tsarevets Fortress boasts the remains of more than 400 medieval houses, 18 churches and even a royal palace that was once owned by monarchs. Perfect for the history buffs amongst your travelling posse, guided English tours are available for the restored structure where 22 successive kings once ruled Bulgaria and to induce even more culture into your trip, modern murals inside depict 14th and 15th-century Bulgarian history for a seamless blend of old and new.
Summer Palace of Queen Marie & Botanical Gardens
Situated at the western end of the Balchik seafront, the Summer Palace was originally built as a gift for Queen Marie by her husband King Ferdinand.
Featuring a wholly unique architecture and with a blend of local, Islamic and Gothic designs topped off with a minaret, the palace is truly one of a kind – that’s without mentioning the stunning botanical gardens that surround it, with more than 700,000 square feet of land; in fact, the plot accommodates around 2000 different plant species!
Bulgaria’s beauty doesn’t simply stop at its stunning architecture and golden sandy beaches; it also hosts a number of picturesque mountain ranges, the tallest of which is the Rila range. With its peak standing at 9,596 feet, its ancient Greek name roughly translates to ‘well-watered mountains’ which is certainly an apt name considering that the range is covered with glistening reservoirs.
Meadows In The Mountains Festival
Visit Bulgaria in June and you’d be foolish to miss out on the Meadows in the Mountains festival. A three-hour drive from the ancient city of Plovdiv in the south of Bulgaria, this family-run festival offers a diverse musical experience split across four different stages, each with their own distinct feel. Don’t be fooled, however – this festival is not only limited to music. In fact, the festival also offers a range of wellbeing activities for guests to enjoy, including several yoga classes each day along with workshops on plant-based medicine, tarot and Ayurveda. This unique festival runs from the 6th to 9th June in 2019 and if you attend you’ll have the choice between staying with a local villager in their home and sleeping in a campsite within a nearby forest.
The Eyes Of God
In Bulgaria’s largest karst region you’ll find the Prodhodna cave. Famous due to its symmetrical holes in the cave’s ceiling, it affords visitors a peek at the sky. Known as the Eyes of God, these holes are located in the middle chamber of the 262-meter-long cave, illuminating the interior and providing a uniquely framed view for all those who visit. These holes are the result of natural erosive forces, which still continue to do their work today, as often demonstrated by the water running down the cave walls from the “crying” eyes above.
Plovdiv Roman Theatre
This ancient theatre once lost to the elements is now your number one entertainment destination. Originally built during the Roman Empire’s reign to accommodate an audience of 5000-7000, the structure was lost before being rediscovered thanks to a landslide in 1970. Now living on as a venue for dramatic and musical performances, the theatre that once hosted gladiatorial events still bears many striking details that link it back to its ancient past. One such detail is the protective structures that would have been used to prevent wild animals from harming audience members.
Unusual Things To See In Bulgaria
Bagpipe Contest In The Mountains
During the first week of August, you can venture into the heart of the magnificent Rhodope Mountains alongside some of the locals to witness a unique event – the International Bagpipe Contest. Bask in the sunshine on the first Saturday of August and relax in the Ilinden meadows in the village of Gela and witness masters of the incredible instrument that is the bagpipes fill the air with music. This event is an annual tradition and one that brings thousands of people together every single year.
If you are a thrill seeker looking for an unforgettable treat for fun with your friends or family then you will find it with white-water rafting. Hop aboard your own raft and let the fun begin.; your group and experienced mentor will set out onto the water and get the very best of the thrills while promising optimal safety regardless of where you choose to head out onto the waters.
If you are looking for the perfect way to view Bulgaria as you have never seen it before, then the mountain trails you are a unique and unforgettable experience you can’t miss. On a clear day, you will be able to see for miles making it well worth the effort of trekking up the winding trails. You never know what you might find; not only will you get a birds-eye view of some of Bulgaria’s greatest towns and cities, but you may be treated to a spot of wildlife watching along the way.
Bulgaria is a unique country filled with history and culture, all with a distinctly modern twist. This perfect concoction of old and new offers all travellers an unforgettable experience regardless of where and when they visit. Whether you opt to see all the tourist favourites, or you opt for heading off of the beaten path and out into some of the country’s hidden gems, there’s plenty for you to enjoy in Bulgaria.