Bulgaria — Overview
Bulgaria’s geography is dominated by two great valleys and two great mountain ranges. They offer a metaphor for the dual nature of Bulgaria as a thriving European nation with a solid national identity and one foot firmly planted in the past. The strong traditions and well-preserved historic sites combine with natural wonders and modern infrastructure to create an amazing travel destination.
Bulgaria’s history and architecture offer a wealth of sightseeing opportunities, from the beautiful domed Aleksander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia to the ancient Roman theater at Plovdiv. Many of the notable buildings tell part of the story of the nation through their various additions in different styles, particularly the World Heritage Rila Monastery, which was originally constructed in the 10th century and expanded and rebuilt over the eras.
No trip to Bulgaria would be complete without soaking in the curative waters of the thermal hot pools at Velingrad or Bansko. Those looking to relax might wish to also add a wine tasting tour to sample locally produced Mavrud, Melnik and Gamza wines. Spending a few days in one of the popular coastal resorts is a good way to access the beaches and explore historic port towns like Nesebar. The many wrecks off the coast offer divers a fascinating opportunity to see sunken history and marine wildlife, and to look for buried treasure.
Those visiting Bulgaria for the busy summer beach or winter ski seasons should book accommodation well in advance, with hotels, hostels and bed and breakfasts generally available and affordable at other times. The shoulder months of May and October are good times to visit, as they are outside of European school holidays and the weather tends to be pleasant. Bulgaria has a tasty, but healthy cuisine, often served in large portions. Seafood is worth sampling along the coast, while meat and cheese are local delicacies in the mountains. The major cities offer a full range of dining options, including fast food and international plates.
Most arrive via the main airport in Sofia before heading to the coast overland. However, it is worth visiting the mountains also, where many of the ancient monasteries and national parks are located. Renting a car can be a challenging, but rewarding experience, as it allows visitors to witness spectacular scenery and interesting towns that might otherwise be missed, albeit on varying road conditions.
- Soak in the hot springs at Velingrad
- Dive for treasure amongst the many Black Sea wrecks
- Marvel at the blend of natural and manmade wonders of the Belogradchik Fortress
- Get back to nature hiking in the Srebarna Nature Reserve
- Step back in time on the cobblestone streets of Nesebar’s walled Old Town
- Splurge on the famous Bulgarian rose oil