While Bulgaria might not yet appear on many people’s must-visit lists when looking at a European vacation – it should! It’s an up-and-coming destination with a lot of hidden gems to discover – Bulgaria has something for everyone. We reveal some of our top insider tips for different types of travelers.
Plenty of outdoor activities await adventurers in Bulgaria here’s a couple of our highlights.
The Pirin National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s not hard to see why – trek the diverse landscapes covering over 40,000 ha to enjoy limestone mountain landscapes with glacial lakes, waterfalls, caves and predominantly coniferous forests. You can find some mountain huts surrounded by stunning scenery to stay in as well as some quaint little guesthouses.
While in the area, at the right time of year, you can also Ski at Bansko Ski Resort – this is a great option for beginners and intermediates though expert skiers might find it a bit limiting. One of the best thing about skiing here is the cost – way cheaper than other European counterparts. Bansko offers year-round activities on the lakes and mountains surrounding it too.
FOR BEACH LOVERS
There are a number of increasingly famous beaches in Bulgaria – in particular – the party capital of Bulgaria – Sunny Beach. But if you’d rather avoid loud Brits drinking cheap alcohol, there are plenty more beaches to visit. Here are just two of our picks.
Sozopol – Founded in the 7th century by Greeks Sozopol has several beaches on offer Harmani Beach and the Town Beach are the more popular picks and might find you among more people. But for a quieter choice the Golden Fish and Kavatsi Beache,s just a couple kilometres from the town centre are the best places to set yourself up. It’s also worth walking along the town’s walls for some great views.
Silistar Beach – Protected status beach Silistar is not the easiest of beaches to get to but if you’re after some uninhibited beach times, this is where you’ll want to go. It sits in the Strandzha National Park which makes it a nature lovers paradise. The water is shallow and clear with soft sand and if you’re a camping lover who is well-equipped, wild camping is allowed (no facilities though).
The history of Bulgaria is long and sometimes illustrious, serving as cradles for Roman, Byzantine, Greek, Ottoman and Mongol empires as well as Bulgaria’s own empire at various points in time. It hosts a surprising number of World Heritage Sites not to mention archaeologists think they found the world’s oldest gold artifact there recently. Take a look at our picks for the culture lovers.
Veliko Târnovo – Full of Medieval history, the town is surrounded by fortified walls and navigated through cobbled lanes. As one of Bulgaria’s oldest towns there is of course a fortress, the Tsarevets Fortress was citadel of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Set beside the picturesque Yantra River, Veliko Târnovo also has a handicraft market Samovodska Charshiya, which evokes its centuries old history and is popular for souvenirs. It’s a top spot for backpackers and tourists alike so is a lively place for a day or two visit.
Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak – A 15-minute walk northeast of Kazanlâk’s centre is an archaeologist’s dream. A 4th-century-BC tomb of a Thracian ruler with equally ancient frescos. Discovered in 1944 during construction of a bomb shelter – unfortunately visitors aren’t currently allowed inside, but you can explore the replica right next door. It’s amazing being surrounded by such epic history – the burial chamber itself is 12m in diameter and covered in Thracian 3rd-to-5th-century-BC design.
Book a private tour with a knowledgeable guide from Private Guide Bulgaria.
If you like doing something no one else has done yet Bulgaria has some choice options and these are the tips for you!
Want to make your own version of Buzzy Beauty Ingredient of the moment, Rose Oil? Bulgaria is said to be the origin of the sweet smelling elixir and you can try your hand at Bulgaria’s oldest functioning Rose Oil distillery – Enio Bonchev.
Bulgaria is now in the top 5 exporters of herbs in the world! One way to truly experience Bulgaria’s fresh produce and nature is Wild Thyme Farm. Its an eco-friendly stay where you can do a number of traditional activities and get an opportunity to forage for said herbs & produce.
Even though Bulgaria has an aging population the nation’s capital Sofia is full of young-arty types. You can pick up some truly unique modern local goods. Try N8 for uber-cool interiors & accessories, Mirella Bratova for nature inspired, comfortable and cool womenswear, designer scarves at Shevitza, to take home some locally designed gifts and ephemera check out, cool, design curated Gifted – (you can also hire a bike & store luggage!). Find some sweet local street & skatewear at Blok Supply co – guaranteeing your friend’s back home won’t have peeped a tee from СОФT before.
If you are searching for the more traditional and ‘old school’ souvenirs and handicrafts the town of Tryavna has streets lined with locally made wood goods as well as other traditional items. It’s also another rather charming and quaint place to visit.
Traditionally Bulgaria doesn’t immediately evoke foodie culture but there is a rich and interesting history of cuisine, influenced by it’s many empires and locale. A real movement toward ethically cultivated & great local produce also plays a heavy part. For more on traditional Bulgarian cuisine check out Super Foods Life great interview with Bulgarian Food Blogger Darina of Bulgarian Food Net.
Our picks for the best dining experiences Bulgaria has to offer:-
In Sofia try Before 10 a Bulgarian favourite with hearty local dishes in a quiet and relaxing environment. Vegan food is having an international renaissance and Bulgaria’s not immune – seek out one of Sofia’s best vegan spots at Soul Kitchen. Their menu satisfies with comfort foods as well as delicate daily specials. While in Sofia we recommend trying a free Balkan Bites Food Tour which allows you to sample a variety of dishes at some of Sofia’s favourite restaurants – it’s a great way to dive in to the food scene here.
Further afield – for a great taste of Bulgarian food & wine check out Avgustiada, Stara Zagora’s annual Food & Wine festival running in October every year – the town boasts Roman ruins that play host to the festival so you can take in some culture at the same time. The three day festival includes a competition for best wine as well as wine master classes and the gourmet corner showcases tasty local produce and food vendors.
In the mountain village of Gela you must try Villa Gella – high-end dining and service in rustic surroundings, with some stunning views to boot. Limited edition local wines, delicious modern takes on traditional dishes make for a heavenly experience and everything is locally sourced and organic.
If you’re looking for a real homemade experience try Levana Guesthouse near Varna, strong local dishes cooked by the most friendly host and served the truly authentic way – for rustic home-cooking you won’t be disappointed.
Although it’s placing has slipped in recent years Bulgaria still boasts the 23rd spot in the world’s fastest internet speeds (according to State of the Internet Report by Akamai). Considering Australia and Germany rank below them this is no mean feat. This connectivity makes Bulgaria a great place for a workventurer to, well, venture. Couple this with some top-notch, eye-pleasing co-working spaces and it’s a great place enjoy new experiences while fitting in some work, at your bleisure (groan). Check out Cosmos, housed in an old writers union building they host a number of community events as well as providing a creative and friendly environment to work.
Overall Bulgaria has a great many things to discover, do and experience. The people are generally friendly and welcoming and it is relatively safe. Sophisticated pickpockets and poor driving would be a travelers biggest concerns. To top it off it is great value for money and whether you choose luxury or moderate travel you’ll still be paying significantly less than other parts of Europe for most things including accommodation, dining and gifts.