Welcome to the ULTIMATE travel guide to Bulgaria.
If you’ve been looking for helpful Bulgaria travel tips, you’ll love this comprehensive post, covering everything you need to know about your trip to the gorgeous Balkan country.
In a tiny territory, Bulgaria packs lakes, rivers, beaches, and mountains. It’ll fascinate you with its fantastic food, profound culture, and unmatched magnetism.
Hi! My name is Svet Dimitrov.
I hail from Bulgaria and I absolutely adore my country. Now, it’s your turn to fall in love with it.
The travel tips below represent Bulgaria in its pure, unadulterated form. They’ll truly aid you in experiencing the mind-blowing nature, the jaw-dropping beauty, and the scrumptious food of Bulgaria in a witty and amusing way. Dig in slowly!
Things to Do & Know Before You Go to Bulgaria
Here’s a list of several things you need to do before you travel to Bulgaria.
- Get your visa. Consult the Bulgarian embassy (consulate) in your home country on details. There are three visa types:
- Type A – for an airport transit.
- Type C – for a short stay with the aim of transit or a planned stay.
- Type D – for a long-term stay.
The Bulgarian diplomatic mission in your home country issues the different visas. Find more information about the three visa types here.
- EU, the U.S., and Schengen area member states don’t need a visa. Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, so if your country is an EU member, too, you can stay in Bulgaria for up to 90 days without a visa. This also applies to all Schengen area members, which are not EU member states, as well as to U.S. citizens.
- Arm yourself with a Bulgarian phrasebook. In the capital, Sofia, and in big cities, you’ll get around with English. However, venturing yourself out in the countryside, where the real beauty of Bulgaria unveils, will face you with language challenges. Thus, having a Bulgarian phrasebook in your backpack will be helpful.
- Bulgaria’s standard voltage is 230 V. You can use and/or charge your electronic devices in Bulgaria if your country’s standard voltage varies from 220 to 240 V. This is the case in Europe, the U.K., Australia, and the majority of countries in Asia and Africa. Don’t worry about the small deviations – manufacturers take them into account.
- If your country’s standard voltage is 100 V – 127 V, bring a voltage converter. The power sockets in Bulgaria are of type F, also known as “Schuko”. If you’re from the U.S.A., Canada, or South America (with a few exceptions), you’ll need a voltage converter in Bulgaria.
- The country is located in Southeast Europe. Bulgaria sits on the Balkan Peninsula, bordering Romania to the north, the Black Sea to the east, Greece and Turkey to the south, and Serbia and North Macedonia to the west.
- Bulgaria’s time zone is EET. Eastern European Time (EET), which Bulgaria uses, is 2 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Other EU countries in this time zone are Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania.
- Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic. By form of government, Bulgaria operates under a parliamentary system. The head of government is the prime minister, whereas the president’s powers are more limited.
- There are numerous mountains. The Balkan range divides the country into two parts – North and South. The majority of mountain chains – Rila, Pirin, the Rhodopes, etc. – are found in the southern part, while the Danubian Plain takes most of the northern part.
- Bulgaria has plenty of beaches. The country’s coastline of 354 km (220 mi) offers numerous shimmering beaches with fantastic resorts. If you want to escape the crowds of tourists, my personal recommendation is the beaches around the Kavarna region.
- The country has 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of the most fascinating things about travelling to Bulgaria is visiting its UNESCO spots. They include:
- Seven cultural sites:Boyana Church (1979)Madara Rider (1979)Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo (1979)Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak (1979)Ancient City of Nessebar (1983)Rila Monastery (1983)Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari (1985)
- Three natural sites:Pirin National Park (1983)Srebarna Natural Reserve (1983)Primeval Beech Forests of the Central Balkans (2017)
- Seven cultural sites:
I’ve described most of them in more detail below.
Currency and Money Tips
Although in the EU, Bulgaria has its own currency. For convenience, it’s pegged to the EUR. This section will help you prepare your finances in advance.
- The currency of Bulgaria is the lev (лев). Its symbol is лв., which is placed after the number, not before it like $, £, or ¥. The word “lev” means “lion” in archaic Bulgarian. The plural of lev is leva (лева).
- BGN is the currency code for the Bulgarian lev. The lev’s banknotes include 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 leva – in different sizes and colours. The size increases in an ascending order.
- Bulgaria’s coins are called stotinki. One lev consists of 100 stotinki (стотинки). The name stotinka (singular) derives from the Bulgarian word “sto” (сто), which means “a hundred”. The coins are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 stotinki, as well as 1 and 2 leva.
- Exchange money at home or withdraw from ATMs or bank chains. Withdrawing money from an ATM in Bulgaria is probably your easiest way to get cash.
- 1 EUR is around 2 BGN. The set exchange rate EUR-BGN is 1.95583 BGN for 1 EUR. Banks will have a slightly higher/lower exchange rate for selling and buying EUR and other currencies. Be careful with exchange booths as their rates might be higher.
- Have some cash on you if you’re going to the countryside. Most places in Sofia and large towns accept card payments. However, if you visit local markets or go out in the countryside, cash might be your only option.
- Paying with EUR is possible. At some hotels, it will be possible to pay in euros. The exchange rate might be slightly higher, but it won’t be too bad.
- Tips are recommended but not mandatory. In China, I was chased by waiters because I left 3 RMB (less than a dollar) as a tip. In Bulgaria, that won’t be the case. However, while most people will tip their waitresses/bellboys/taxi drivers (usually around 10% at restaurants and bars), it’s okay to NOT leave a tip if you are not happy with the service.
Bulgaria has its own language, too. And it’s a bit different from most that are spoken in Europe. But that makes traveling to Bulgaria even more exciting, right?
- People in Bulgaria speak Bulgarian. The country has its own language, part of the Slavic languages. It’s an official language of the European Union, and it uses the Cyrillic alphabet, which you can see on EUR banknotes.
- The Cyrillic script was invented by St. Cyril and St. Methodius. The Bulgarian language uses the Cyrillic script named after one of its creators – St. Cyril – by his students. So, no, it’s not Russian. Some letters are the same as in Latin and Greek. For instance, “A”, “E”, “O”, “K”, “M”, and “T” are pronounced almost the same in Latin and Bulgarian. However, the Latin “N” is “H”, “B” is “Б“, and “V” is “B” in Bulgarian.
- Young people tend to speak decent English. Especially in the capital city – Sofia – you will easily ‘survive’ by asking them for directions. In other words, if you’re lost, talk to the youth. 😊
- The road signs are predominantly in Latin. However, some signs of places in the countryside might be only in Cyrillic. A handy idea is to do some research and have all names of spots you’re going to visit in Cyrillic written on a piece of paper or saved on your phone.
- People in the countryside don’t speak a lot of English. The countryside is enchanting. That’s where the true gorgeousness of Bulgaria lies. However, it could be a tad challenging to discover it if you don’t know at least some basic Bulgarian.
- Many senior Bulgarians speak or understand Russian. In the past, people used to study Russian in schools in Bulgaria. Thus, if you speak or understand Russian, that’s definitely going to be a plus when conversing with senior locals.
- Even if people don’t know the language you’re speaking, they will try to help you. Bulgarians are among the most amicable people you’ll ever encounter. This is especially true for those who reside in the mountains. I promise you that you’ll tell stories about your amazing adventures in the countryside!
- Turkish and Roma are minority languages. While the only official language is Bulgarian, there are decently-sized minorities of Turks and Roma who use their own language to communicate.
- Expert Advice
Mama Española en Bulgaria
Food in BulgariaHeaven for Vegans, Vegetarians, and Meat Lovers Alike
Bulgarian food is not among the most famous worldwide, but I’m on a mission to make it so. The variety of fruits and veggies, peculiar spices, and fragrant herbs will make you wonder why you haven’t tasted this cuisine earlier. Ready to explore?
- Try the fruits and veggies in spring and summer. Bulgarian fruits and vegetables, especially in summer, are probably the most succulent you’ll ever taste. If you want to indulge in the real home-grown delicacies, go to a market or visit the countryside. I promise you a juicy sensation!
- Bulgaria is a vegan paradise. If you are a vegan or a vegetarian, you’ll have plenty of mouth-watering options. Salads come in abundance, and there are meals that are perfect for fasting (if you are on a keto diet, for instance). Most places will offer vegan dishes.
*My personal recommendations are: beans stew; lentils soup; stuffed peppers with beans; banitsa with leek and sauerkraut (zelnik).
- Bulgarian cuisine uses a lot of meat, too. If you love meat like I do, don’t worry. Besides all the vegan and vegetarian meals, Bulgarian cuisine has a titillating abundance of meats. The most popular meat dishes include chicken and pork, but you’ll find dishes with beef, lamb, and rabbit. Turkey is not very popular, but there are places that serve it. Horse and game meat are a delicacy, and they’re usually an ingredient of dried meats or sausages.
- Try the best yoghurt in the world. Few people know that Bulgaria is the Sacred Land of Yoghurt. Known for around 4,000 years, it was in 1905 when the Bulgarian scientist Stamen Grigorov, discovered the bacteria responsible for the existence of natural yoghurt. As a sign of recognition by the scientific community, the bacteria received the name Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
- Banitsa and boza are Bulgaria’s most typical breakfast. A scrumptious pastry and a gooey drink make for the perfect breakfast combo in the Eastern European country. Banitsa is usually salty (epitomising white brine cheese or sirene), while boza is a sweet and very thick, fermented drink typically produced of rye, wheat, barley, or einkorn. The latter also contains around 0.1% alcohol due to the fermentation, so don’t drink too much if you’re going to drive.
- Enjoy your food slowly. We prefer to enjoy our food, accompanied not only by a friend or two but also by a drink or two. If you’ve been to Spain, you’ll find a lot of similarities between the two nations when it comes to table behaviour.
- Expert Advice
Bulgarian DrinksThe Source of Potent Life
The most important thing that you need to know about drinking in Bulgaria is this:
Don’t drink in shots!
Not only you’ll get drunk quickly, but you won’t be able to enjoy the fabulous beverages that pleasantly soothe the mind, body, and soul.
- Drink plenty of mineral water. Bulgaria comes second, only after Iceland, in the variety of its mineral springs. It’s non-surprising that in the southern part of the country, you’ll find Velingrad – the Spa Capital of the Balkans. The mineral water in Bulgaria is one of the best you’ll ever quench your thirst with, guaranteed!
- Tap water, especially in Sofia, is safe to drink. While there are exceptions, most of the tap water in Bulgaria is safe to drink. If you want to be completely certain that you won’t bug your stomach, though, stick with mineral water.
- Bulgaria might be the birthplace of wine. Wine is related to the ancient Thracians. And they lived in the lands of modern Bulgaria. Does this mean Bulgaria is the birthplace of wine? I’ll let you decide, but this relates to the next tip.
- Taste the various Bulgarian red wines. Bulgaria used to be the second largest exporter of wine in the world some 30 years ago. This position has changed, but nowadays, it’s claiming its place back in the top 5. I’ve spoken to many wine connoisseurs, some of them hailing from France and Italy, and they claim Bulgarian red wine is among the Top 5 in the world. Consume it slowly and accompany it with cold meat appetisers or assorted cheeses.
- Even if you’re not a fan of highly alcoholic beverages, Bulgarian rakia is a must. The fiery beverage comes in many different varieties, but the two most notable ones are made from grapes and prunes (plums). Rakia* is the ideal accompaniment to any salad – whether it’s spring greeny or autumn reddy. Senior people say it helps cure 30+ illnesses. And we know we can’t argue with senior people, can we?
Note: Rakia is an aperitif, not a digestif.
- Don’t drink your beverage in shots. Much like eating, when Bulgarians drink, they do it slowly. That’s due to many reasons but mainly because we like taking our time to enjoy the food and drinks with our friends and family.
- Look into the eyes of your companions. When you clink your glass with a Bulgarian and your lips pronounce ‘Nazdrave’ (Bulgarian for ‘Cheers!’), you have to look them in the eyes. That’s a sign of respect.
- Try the thick goo called “boza”. How does a fermented grains drink sound to you? You’ll either love it or hate it, but you just can’t miss tasting it. The best thing about it? It has negligible amounts of alcohol. Just don’t forget to consume it with banitsa.
- Quench your thirst with ayran in every season. Ayran is one of the most refreshing drinks Bulgaria (and some other Balkan countries) offers. It’s super easy to make, and you can find it in virtually every restaurant in Bulgaria. It’s made of yoghurt, so the good ones are thick and satiating.
I can literally go all day talking about food and drinks. And you will, too, when you come to visit Bulgaria.
Health and Health-Related Tips
In this section of my 166 Bulgaria travel tips, I’ll provide you with useful information on how to manage your health in Bulgaria.
- Have your insurance ready. Bulgarian hospital services are definitely more affordable than most EU countries. Yet having an insurance with you will save you a lot of trouble if you ever need medical or other assistance.
- Have hand wipes with you. It’s rare that you won’t find soap or toilet paper in restrooms in Bulgaria. But it happens. So, I’d suggest you always carry antibacterial hand wipes and a hand sanitiser with you.
- Summers in Bulgaria can get very hot. Sofia typically gets the “coolest” weather in summer. However, if you visit Pleven, Plovdiv, or Veliko Tarnovo in the summer months, be prepared. The maximums sometimes reach 40-42 C (104-107 F). Avoid the heat, drink plenty of water, and bring electrolytes with you.
- Don’t approach feral dogs. Rabies is fatal when untreated. The alarming number of stray dogs in the country makes this an issue. In the unfortunate event a dog bites you, immediately seek medical help.
- Use a pharmacy if you have to. If you’ve forgotten your medication or you’ve run out of it, visit a pharmacy. In most cases, it won’t be an issue to purchase prescription medication without a prescription. Showing one in English should be okay, too. The pharmacists might require your ID card or passport, though. Most of them speak good English.
- Big cities have hospitals with English-speaking staff. Bulgarian hospitals in the countryside can be an unpleasant adventure. However, hospitals in the capital, Sofia, and the majority of them in towns over 100,000 are neat and there are English-speaking staff.
- Bring some probiotics with you. If you’re coming from a country that has a totally different cuisine from Bulgarian, this might upset your stomach. Having some probiotics with you would be helpful. Just make sure you’ve talked to your doctor about this. I personally suggest probiotics with at least 5 billion microorganisms.
Pollution in Bulgaria
Compared to China, Bulgaria is not as polluted. But as a member of the European Union, Bulgaria is not doing great in terms of clean air.
- Sofia is one of the most polluted capitals in the EU. That sounds scarier than it is. The pollution is usually slightly above 50 particles. But it can peak in the winter months when it’s foggy.
- Some large towns are slightly polluted, too. In big towns like Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, or Pleven, there could also be some pollution, especially in winter. But don’t sweat about it too much. It’s just above the safe zone.
- The countryside is safe and clean. Yes, there are many households in the village areas that use wood to warm their houses. But in general, the air in the countryside, especially in the mountains, is clean and even energising to breathe.
- Bring a mask if you’re sensitive. If you’re very sensitive to pollution, it’s only wise to place a mask in your luggage. Plus, they’re light and take little space.
- How to select a mask?
- Choose an airtight mask that forms a close-fitting seal around your face.
- Basic cotton masks or surgical-style masks might be more hazardous than wearing nothing at all.
- Check out material of the pollution mask – it has to be able filter out even the smallest particles of matter.
- If you’d like to exercise outdoors, look at the mask’s ventilation – it needs to have some space for breathing.
- Consider the style of the mask. Those that are most effective are rarely pretty, so a good idea might be to place the “ugly” one under the “pretty” one. No, this won’t double the protection, but it’ll be less awkward when you walk around with it.
Accommodation in BulgariaHotels, Hostels, and Airbnb
Bulgaria has relatively cheap accommodation, compared to Western standards. But that doesn’t mean the quality is worse, by any means.
There aren’t many countries that have both golden sandy beaches and jaw-dropping mountains within an hour of each other. Due to that and the fact that new airline routes are opening every month, tourists have been flocking to Bulgaria to benefit from this powerful combo.
And where there are tourists, hotels follow. New accommodation is mushrooming to keep up with the rising demand.
General Accommodation Tips
- Smoking is forbidden. Unlike China, smoking in public spaces, including hostels and other accommodation, is not allowed in Bulgaria. Great news for you, non-smokers. For smokers, I suggest you book a room with a balcony.
- Get your hotel’s business card when you check in. It will have the name and address of the hotel in both Bulgarian and English. If you lose your way, show the card to a taxi driver or ask for directions on the street.
- Most hotels/hostels offer complimentary breakfast. You can expect to have a buffet breakfast included in the price for the night. But if I were you, I’d double check.
- Lock your valuables and have earplugs on you. If you opt to stay at a hostel or other shared accommodation spots, it’s advisable to lock your valuables and bring earplugs to sleep like a baby.
- Most accommodation spots have a FREE Wi–Fi. But it gets even better. The speed will be fast as Bulgaria is among the Top 10 in the world by internet speed.
- Avoid holidays and high seasons if you want to get the best deals. The months of July and August are the craziest in summer. December, around Christmas, is also busy. And make sure to avoid Easter holidays, too – just remember that Bulgaria celebrates Easter with the Orthodox Christians and Christmas with the Catholics.
Hotel Types in Bulgaria
Bulgaria boasts an extensive base of 16,000+ hotels. From unpretentious 1- and 2-star hotels through decent 3-star family hotels to the grand 4- and 5-star beach and mountain resorts, rest assured you’ll be able to find yourself a spot to your liking.
- One-star or two-star hotels are clean and basic. Prices start at $15-20 per night, and the staff is likely to speak English. Most will have a private bathroom, but other conditions will be basic.
- Mid-range three-star hotels are a great blend of price and comfort. These are probably the most sought-after options. Expect an air conditioner, a flat-screen TV, a fridge, a gym, a phone, and a cosy private bathroom. Prices start at $35-40 per night.
- Four- and five-star hotels are a great deal, too. If you’re not on a strict budget, splurging on a five-star hotel is a good deal for the money you pay. Expect multiple facilities, SPA centres, swimming pools, gym and fitness spaces, and concierge services. Breakfast will be hearty, with a mix of international and continental options. Prices start at $50-55 per night.
Insider Tip: International brands (Hilton, Radisson, Sheraton, etc.) are great, but local ones are often a better choice.
*All hotel prices are according to research on Agoda, Booking, and Expedia.
Hostels and Other Accommodation Options
Sofia and Plovdiv boast dozens of hostel options, but most smaller cities and towns will have little to none. Thus, either look for a guest house or an Airbnb.
- Hostels are good, cosy, and inexpensive. The majority of hostels in the country will be around $10-15 per night, breakfast included. Plus, most of them will offer breakfast. My personal recommendation is Hostel Mostel.
- Spoil yourself at an authentic guest house. Many old, traditional houses, dating from the time of the Bulgarian Renaissance, now function as guest houses. Their exterior might look a bit rustic, but inside, they are conveniently refurbished. This is not only to preserve the authentic atmosphere of the past but also to accommodate you in a convenient way. Most will be affordable, with prices between $15 and $50, depending on the size, the conditions, and the number of people.
- If you are into hiking and trekking, visit a mountain hut. Bulgaria’s territory prides itself on numerous mountains with jaw-dropping vistas. One of the most genuine ways to enjoy nature’s mind-boggling creations is to visit some of the innumerable mountain huts. Keep in mind that the conditions there are basic and bathrooms are a luxury, rather than a given.
Airbnb in Bulgaria
- Airbnb is getting more and more popular in Bulgaria. If hotels and hostels are not your cups of vacation tea, you can then opt for an Airbnb spot. Just remember to do proper research of the place, read the reviews, and contact the owner with any questions prior to booking.
- Expert Advice
The Top Bulgarian Cities to Visit
Ready for a virtual tour around Bulgaria’s major cities and must-visit spots? Cool, let’s go!
Disclaimer: To facilitate your travel plans for Bulgaria, I’ve included a recommended tour for you after each place. This is an affiliate link, which means I receive a small commission when you book a tour – at NO extra cost for you.
Sofia Population: 1.27 million Location: South-West Bulgaria Province: Capital city of Bulgaria Landmarks: Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Boyana Church, National Palace of Culture Famous for: 7,000+ years of historyIf you’re a history aficionado, Sofia will enchant you with its numerous museums. On top of that, Bulgaria’s capital has experienced vertiginous growth in the last decade, and is now a booming metropolis with an abundance of parks and a buzzing nightlife. What greatly adds up to Sofia’s unprecedented beauty are the majestic Vitosha Mountains that overlook the city.Sofia Afternoon Walking Tour with Wine and Food Tasting: This tour combines the useful and the pleasant – seeing the city’s main landmarks and savouring the local delicacies. Head here to explore the best Sofia tours.
Plovdiv Population: 347K Location: South-Central Bulgaria Province: Plovdiv Landmarks: Ancient Roman Amphitheatre, Old Town, The Seven Hills (Tepes) Famous for: The oldest city in Europe (dating back to 6th millennium BC)Plovdiv is the oldest city in Europe. But if that’s not enough of a reason to visit, let’s add some more:
Full-Day Virtual Reality Tour of Plovdiv and Asen’s Fortress: Profit from a full-day trip from Sofia to Plovdiv. The tour includes exploring its Old Town, the Roman Theatre, and numerous churches, as well as a visit to the mediaeval Asen’s Fortress. Discover all tours from Plovdiv here.
- European Capital of Culture for 2019
- Roman Amphitheatre
- Art District “Kapana”
- Quaint Old Town
Varna Population: 336K Location: North-East Bulgaria Province: Varna Landmarks: Aladzha Monastery, Roman Thermae, Sea Garden, Dolphinarium Famous for: The oldest gold treasure in the world (dating back to 4200-4600 BC)There’s a popular song that starts like this: “Varna, the sea, the beautiful women”. In this regard, Varna has both a seaside shore and beautiful women. But it also has resplendent cathedrals, Roman Thermae, and a gold treasure, which happens to be the oldest in the world. There are many direct flights to Varna Airport.Varna: Customised Private Walking Tour with a Local: If you’re not a fan of usual sightseeing tours, why not explore Varna’s unprecedented beauty through the eyes of a local? Customise the itinerary according to your own interests.
Burgas Population: 196K Location: South-East Bulgaria Province: Burgas Landmarks: Burgas Lakes, Sea Garden, St. Anastasia Island, Aqua Kalite Famous for: The largest oil refinery in South-eastern EuropeBurgas packs a mighty punch of attractions. Be it a stroll in the Sea Garden, a trip to St. Anastasia Island, or a jaunt to the Burgas Lakes, Burgas is sure to satisfy your cravings. If you just fancy a lunch, you’ll find a plenty of options in the area around the beach. Just look for places that attract local people – that’s a sure way to know the food is delicious.Sunny Beach: Half-Day Black Sea Catamaran Cruise: If you happen to be in Sunny Beach, why not hop on a VIP catamaran and discover the shimmering waters of the Black Sea? Jump in for a swim and enjoy a fabulous lunch with a selection of drinks.
Ruse Population: 143K Location: North-East Bulgaria Province: Ruse Landmarks: Ivanovo Rock Monastery, Opera House, Sveta Troitsa Cathedral Famous for: The Little Vienna due to its Neo-Baroque and Neo-Rococo architectureIf you’re an architecture worshipper, marching Ruse’s streets should be on your to-do list. But Ruse is much more than beautiful Neo-Baroque buildings. Its shores are washed by the mighty Danube River, and strolling the river promenade is one of the numerous things you can do there. If you feel like venturing out of town, the Ivanovo Rock-hewn Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will spellbind you. Guaranteed.Private Day Trip to Medieval Bulgaria from Ruse: See the best of Bulgaria in just a day. Tour the UNESCO Ivanovo Rock-Hewn Churches, the mediaeval city of Veliko Tarnovo, and the 12th century Tsarevets Fortress. Book in advance for skip-the-line-tickets and don’t waste time queuing.
Stara Zagora Population: 136K Location: South-Central Bulgaria Province: Stara Zagora Landmarks: Antique Forum August Trayana, Samara Flag Monument, Mineral Baths Famous for: The only Museum of Religions in a temple in the world; numerous Bulgarian poetsThis breathtaking town was completely burnt to ashes just a little over a hundred years ago. Now, it’s a cosmopolitan place famous for its Linden trees, fantastic women, and hot mineral springs (in its vicinity). And if the little food daredevil inside of you is hungry, try the local delicacy – grilled pig ears!
Pleven Population: 94K Location: North-Central Bulgaria Province: Pleven Landmarks: Kaylaka Park, Panorama Pleven, Storgozia Fortress, Wine Museum Famous for: The birthplace of wine; the water cascadeSitting in the heart of the Danubian Plain, the picturesque town of Pleven will mesmerise you with its peculiarities. It has the second longest pedestrian area in Europe (after Plovdiv) and the most gorgeous fountains you’ll see in Bulgaria. In fact, it’s a chain of water cascades over an area that’s the size of at least three football (soccer) stadiums. And if that’s not enough, there’s a wine museum in a cave, and a magnificent park that’s larger than NYC’s Central Park in size.
Veliko Tarnovo Population: 68.5K Location: North-Central Bulgaria Province: Veliko Tarnovo Landmarks: Tsarevets and Triaditsa Hills, The Old Town, Arbanasi Village Famous for: The capital of Bulgaria during the Second Bulgarian KingdomThe former capital of Bulgaria boasts a fascinating mix of history and modern elements. The small town sits on several hills, through which meanders the picturesque Yantra River. Veliko Tarnovo is home to one of Bulgaria’s largest universities, which means many students dot its pretty streets and have fun at its numerous bars.Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi Day Trip from Sofia: Discover Bulgaria’s mediaeval capital Veliko Tarnovo. Marvel at spectacular heritage and picturesque nature. Spend the afternoon by losing yourself in the small village of Arbanasi, famed for its old stone houses and fantastic places for lunch.
Shumen Population: 75K Location: North-East Bulgaria Province: Shumen Landmarks: Madara Rider, Shumen Fortress, Pliska and Preslav Famous for: Shumensko BeerShumen is one of the lesser-known places in Bulgaria, and the town itself is nothing spectacular. However, there are several mind-blowing spots in its vicinity. The Madara Horseman (or Madara Rider) is a huge, early mediaeval rock relief. It’s chiselled in the Madara Plateau, east of Shumen, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The horseman is 23 m (75 ft) above the ground, carved in an almost vertical cliff 100 m (328 ft) high.
Blagoevgrad Population: 69K Location: South-West Bulgaria Province: Blagoevgrad Landmarks: Park Bachinovo, Varosha Etnographic Complex, Stob’s Pyramids Famous for: The American University in BulgariaThe stunningly scenic Blagoevgrad hosts two large universities, so expect a young crowd marching its marble town centre. It’s full of fantastic cafés and restaurants, but if you grow weary of the town itself, take a stroll in Park Bachinovo or venture out to the Stob’s Pyramids or the magnificent Rila Monastery.
Kazanlak Population: 44K Location: South-Central Bulgaria Province: Landmarks: Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak, Valley of Roses, The Tomb of Tsar Sevt Famous for: The Festival of RosesFancy roses and Thracian tombs? You can have both in the charming town of Kazanlak. Visiting the tombs is possible all year round, but the international Festival of Roses happens every year in the beginning of June. Dancing, fragrant roses, and beautiful women are all part of the celebrations that last over a week. Kazanlak is a twin town (sister city) with the Japanese city of Fukuyama, so during the festival, expect to see Japanese tourists, learning to dance traditional Bulgarian dances.Tombs and Museums Walking Tour: Explore the gorgeous Valley of Roses, famous for the best rose oil in the world. The tour includes a visit of the Valley of the Thracian Kings, the Golyama Kosmatka Tomb with its breathtaking frescoes, and much more.
Velingrad Population: 21K Location: South-Central Bulgaria Province: Pazardzhik Landmarks: Dorkovo Pliocene Museum, Historical Museum, Avramavo Train Station Famous for: The Spa Capital of the BalkansIf spa is your cup of everyday tea, then you’re in for a hot and sweaty treat! Velingrad takes great pride in its abundance of mineral waters, known for healing stubborn wounds and illnesses. Its altitude is perfect for rejuvenating and the local delicacies there are to die for. My personal recommendation: Take the narrow-gauge railway train to Avramovo, the highest train station on the Balkans. The trip meanders you around a drop-dead gorgeous scenery.Further read: Velingrad – the Spa Capital of the Balkans
Melnik Population: 325 Location: South-West Bulgaria Province: Blagoevgrad Landmarks: Korpodopulova House, Rozhen Monastery, Sand Pyramids Famous for: Bulgaria’s smallest town; open-air museumHow about an open-air museum where you can marvel at fascinating sand formations all while sipping Churchill’s favourite wine? Bulgaria’s smallest town – Melnik – enchants locals and foreigners alike with its jaw-dropping Sand Pyramids. Their powerful embrace makes sauntering its cobble-stoned streets an unforgettable piece of experience.Melnik Wine Tour from Sofia: If you’re a wine lover or a sommelier, this tour has been designed especially for you. Besides tasting exceptional wine, you have the option to visit the scenic Rozhen Monastery, overlooking the town.
Other Must-Visit Spots in BulgariaIf you’re spending more than a week in Bulgaria, and I strongly suggest you do, here are some more ideas for places that will blow your mind.
- The Belogradchik Rocks Location: Belogradchik, North-West Bulgaria Province: VratsaIf you’ve been to Montserrat’s Monastery near Barcelona, you’ve experienced some breathtaking rock formations. Well, the rocks near Belogradchik are as breathtaking (if not more) than those in the Montserrat Mountains. See them for yourself – I bet you won’t regret it.Day Trip to the Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress from Sofia: Marvel at the heart-stoppingly beautiful Belogradchik Rocks – recognised as one of Europe’s most gorgeous landscapes. The tour includes a visit to the impressive Belogradchik Fortress, which dates back to the Middle Ages.
- Tatul & Perperikon Location: South-Central Bulgaria Province: KardzhaliPrehistoric cult places and the most puzzling megalithic monuments in Bulgaria await you near the villages of Tatul and Perperikon. The complex near Tatul is the best-preserved temple complex carved in a monolithic piece of rock. Here’s a video if you can’t wait to see it live.
- The Seven Rila Lakes Location: South-West Bulgaria Province: KyustendilImagine 7 footsteps of giants in the mountains that are now full of water. This is one of the legends for the origin of the Seven Rila Lakes. The highest lake – the Teardrop – lies at 2,535 m (8,317 ft). A few steps above it, you’ll find a jaw-dropping vista of all the lakes.The Seven Rila Lakes: Full-Day Tour from Sofia: Put your trekking shoes to a test by hiking the drop-dead gorgeous Seven Rila Lakes. After a 90-minute drive from Sofia, see for yourself why these glacial lakes go by the name “The Blue Pearls of the Rila Mountains”. Explore all other Rila Lakes tours here.
- Cabyle Location: South-East Bulgaria Province: YambolAncient Thracian fortresses, anyone? The small town of Cabyle (Kabyle or Cibeles) lies just opposite of Yambol. If you’re a worshipper of history, this 4,000-year old settlement will go beyond your expectations.Further read: Cabyle – the Ancient Thracian Village
- Koprivshtitsa Location: South-West Bulgaria Province: SofiaHow about a powerful plunge in the 19th century? The incredibly charming little town of Koprivshtitsa gives you the unique chance to stroll in the past. Strikingly beautiful old houses line its cobble-stoned streets. And when you grow weary of walking, stop at one of its many restaurants to quench your hunger with traditional delicacies.Koprivshtitsa Day Trip: Explore the quaint little town of Koprivshtitsa with its strikingly beautiful 19-th century architecture.
- Hisarya Location: South-Central Bulgaria Province: PlovdivHaving been through a horrendous kidney stone crisis, I know what’s to give birth now. Jokes aside, Hisarya’s mineral water is said to effectively cure kidney stones. What’s more, the town has a Roman Thermae and holds the remains of the ancient Roman City Diocletianopolis.
- Asen’s Fortress Location: South-Central Bulgaria Province: PlovdivDo mediaeval fortresses strike your fancy? Well, add to the mix a high rocky edge and a gorgeous river, and you’ll be picturing the stunning Asen’s Fortress. Located very close to Bulgaria’s second largest monastery – the Bachkovo Monastery – archaeological findings from the area date from the time of ancient Thracians.
- Buzludzha Monument Location: Central Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria Province: Stara ZagoraHave you seen a UFO? Well, that’s what this weird, ginormous monument reminds of. What’s even more peculiar – it’s a symbol of socialism! Next to the UFO building stands a staggering 70 m (230 ft) tower. But there’s more! The glass stars that flank the tower’s north and south sides are 12 m (39 ft) across – believed to be the biggest in the world!Day Tour to the UFO Building: Discover the imposing Buzludzha Monument and learn about Bulgaria’s communist era from your guide. The tour also includes a visit to the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia.
“Nestled in the mountains about 3 hours from Sofia by bus is the small town of Bansko. Popular among digital nomads for its lively coworking community, you can ski and snowboard in the winter, and go hiking in the summer. There are several hot springs nearby, and the traditional restaurants will surely make tourists fall in love with Bulgarian cuisine, if they haven’t already. ”Maggie Abernathy , Online English Teacher and Bulgaria Travel Expert
- Expert Advice
Nightlife in Bulgaria Bars, Clubs, and Discos
Among the many things Bulgarians are famous for is the fact that we love having fun. The enormous variety of entertainment venues in the country proves that.
- Your music liking will be fulfilled. From casual pubs and elegant piano bars to noisy rock clubs and pulsating discos, you’ll find a place to dance the night away. Guaranteed.
- Sofia has one of the best nightlives in Europe, and the world. The vibrant, vivacious, and voluptuous capital of Bulgaria offers to its many locals and tourists some of the best bars and clubs not only in Europe but in the world.
- Don’t worry about the party stopping at midnight. Most clubs and discos in Bulgaria stay open until early morning. In summertime, most seaside party venues are open non-stop.
- Smoking is forbidden by law. Unfortunately, this law is mostly trespassed after 22:00 (10 PM), so don’t wear your best clothes as you’ll have to wash them after a long stay at the club. During summer, you’ll find a plenty of outside bars, so this won’t be an issue.
- Entrance fees are affordable and booze is inexpensive. The entrance to most bars and clubs in Bulgaria is either FREE or between 5 and 10 BGN (special events have a higher price). Alcoholic beverages are quite affordable, too – a guarantee for an (un)forgettable night.
- Spend the night outside in summer. If you don’t fancy crowded bars and noisy discos, but you still want to enjoy nightlife in Bulgaria, don’t worry. Many people gather outside in spring and summer months to drink the night away. Drinking in public places in Bulgaria is allowed, so grab a beer (or three), sit on a bench, and chat with the locals.
Personal recommendation: The area in front of Ivan Vazov National Theatre in Sofia’s City Garden is a popular gathering spot.
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TransportationEverything You Need to Know about Travelling in Bulgaria
Contrary to most of Western Europe, trains are cheaper or as cheap as buses in Bulgaria. This section will tell you more about how to travel in Bulgaria.
- Taxis are quite affordable. The rate per km in Bulgaria varies from 0.6 BGN to 1.20 BGN. The fare should be displayed on the left side of the windshield of the car.
- Beware of taxis around bus and train stations, and airports. Most of them are ‘illegal’ taxis that charge at least twice as much and are driven by questionable characters.
- Public transport is affordable, too. The price varies from 1.00 BGN in the countryside to 1.60 BGN in Sofia. The price is the same for the metro line in the capital.
- Many locals use Facebook rideshare groups. For this option, you’ll have to probably know some Bulgarian. However, since the majority of people in these groups are young, they’ll speak some English. Just go to Facebook groups and search for your departure and destination spots. For instance, here’s the one for people travelling from Sofia to Plovdiv and back. A piece of advice: Take a look at the driver’s profile before you message him/her. And don’t forget to respect the rules of the group.
- Rail travel in Bulgaria is not fast, but it’s inexpensive. If you don’t have any other option, use the railway system BDZ. Most of the trains are of decent quality, but delays are NOT a rare occurrence. On the bright side, the picturesque scenery through which most lines pass makes up for the slow journey.
- Buses are nice, cheap, and quicker than trains. If you’re from Western Europe, this might surprise you. But having read the previous tip, you’ll understand why buses in Bulgaria usually take you faster from point A to point B. If you don’t fancy trains (hey, I’m not judging) or sharing rides with strangers (creeps are everywhere, I know), hopping on a bus is your thing. I recommend Etap and Union Ivkoni.
- Flights are also an option. Bulgaria has four airports that serve civil passengers – Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, and Burgas. Since the furthest distance is from Sofia to Varna, catching an early morning flight from the former to the latter gives you a chance to arrive on time for a business meeting or enjoy the whole day, unwinding on the golden sands.
- If you hire a car, drive with your lights on. Whether it’s dark, raining, or even sunny, your car lights must be on. Don’t forget them as the police might pull you over and fine you.
“If you are going to travel around the country, rent a car. Trains are slow, and unless you are super-extroverted, the camaraderie that develops on them can get old fast. The main roads are not as bad as Bulgarians complain; they are just very narrow. A main highway can be only two lanes each way at its widest. Passing on the left by going into the oncoming traffic lane is legal except where the signs prohibit it to avoid collision on hairpin turns. There are some potholes and patches, but nothing worse than Northern New Jersey. ”Jim and Olga Galvin , New York Couple in Love with Bulgaria
- Expert Advice
The Best Bulgarian Festivals and When to Visit
If you’re a festival goer, you’re up for a feast. The calendar is full of them! Some are so peculiar, you’re not gonna believe what your eyes are seeing. I’ve arranged them chronologically. Let’s dive right in.
Note: There are some traditions mentioned, too.
- Surva access_timeEnd of JanuaryIf you’re not afraid of scary faces and loud noises, then Surva is something that might strike your fancy. It’s held in Pernik, which is 30 minutes away from the capital, Sofia. The only thing you have to endure are the subzero temperatures as Surva takes place in January. A colourful multitude of customs, dances, and songs, along with gift shops with peculiar art and crafts, await you in Pernik. Nowadays, it’s an international festival with lots of visiting groups from the Balkans.
- Nestinarstvo A hard to pronounce word, isn’t it? You know what’s even harder? Actually doing the fire walking. Nestinarstvo is just some “crazy” guys and gals walking barefoot on smouldering embers. They go by the name nestinari. The hypnotising beat of a drum or the enthralling sound of a bagpipe accompanies the dance. The music makes the performers reach a religious trance state. Maybe that’s why they don’t feel the burning embers.
- Tsvetnitsa (Vrabnitsa) access_timeOne week before EasterThis festival is just one day after Lazaruvane and a week before Easter. The name stems from “tsvete” (цвете), which means “a flower”. Everybody whose name means a plant celebrates on Tsvetnitsa. It’s a very colourful celebration, full of fun and exchanges of wishes.
- Lazaruvane access_timeEight days before EasterIn contrast to most other festivals, Lazaruvane happens in towns and villages all over the country. Bulgarians celebrate it on St. Lazarus Day (Lazarovden), which is always eight days before Easter. This ancient Bulgarian custom marks the beginning of spring. Peculiarly enough, only girls perform this tradition. On Lazarovden, groups of girls (around 16 years of age and not married) go around their village. They’re dressed up in traditional clothes, sing folk songs, and pay a visit to every home. Once the ritual is over, the girls are considered ready to get married.
- Rose Festival access_timeBeginning of JuneSome would argue that roses are the most famous and fragrant flowers in the world. There’s one thing that’s unarguable, though – Bulgaria is the leading producer of rose oil in the world (around 80%). So, it makes perfect sense there’s a Rose Festival in Bulgaria. It occurs at the beginning of June in the Rose Valley, near the picturesque town of Kazanlak. There’s a Rose Museum in the town, too.
- Cherry Festival access_timeEnd of JuneThe end of June is your time to taste the best Bulgarian cherries in Kyustendil. The city hosts the two-day Cherry Festival, where you can seduce your fruit-craving palate with an abundance of cherry varieties. The event displays delectable cakes, syrups, and marmalades, as well as exotic cherry assortments. Pack your cherry-tasting shoes and indulge in a juicy fruit extravaganza!
- A to JazZ Festivalaccess_timeEnd of June One of the modern symbols of musical Sofia is the International A to JazZ Festival. The festival marks the start of summer and takes place in the open air. Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles, Joe James, Nik West, Robert Glasper, and Roy Hargrove are some of the many brilliant musicians who have performed in front of more than 120,000 people since 2011.
- Blueberry Festival access_timeEnd of July Another fruit festival? Yes, sir! Fun? Check. Music? Check. Games, crisp air, fresh blueberries? Check, check, check. Just make sure you reserve your spot in advance at the hut or bring your own tent 😉 More info here. The Blueberry Festival occurs high in the Stara Planina Mountains at the end of July in the Ambaritsa Hut. As a fairly new event, in the last few years, it has gathered momentum.
- Rozhen Festival access_timeEnd of JulyThis festival will mesmerise you with the number of traditional costumes and livestock. It occurs in the lush meadows of the Rozhen Pass in the vicinity of Rozhen Peak in the Rhodope Mountains. It gathers together tens of thousands of participants and hundreds of performers. The latter consists of dance, vocal, and instrumental groups, as well as individual performers. All of them compete to outplay their counterparts.
- Bagpipe Festival access_timeFirst Saturday of AugustScotland and Ireland are famous for their bagpipes. So is Bulgaria. In fact, it’s so famous there’s an International Bagpipe Festival. It’s held in the drop-dead gorgeous village of Gela, tucked in the mighty embrace of the majestic Rhodope Mountains. The Bulgarian bagpipe goes by the name of Kaba Gaida, and I can guarantee my cute Bulgarian tushie this instrument will stun, enchant, and mesmerise you – all at the same time. The festival attracts visitors from various countries, including France, Hungary, Japan, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
- International Jazz Festival Bansko access_timeBeginning of August.Another Jazz festival? Well, we, Bulgarians, love jazz! This one is actually the biggest one of its type, dating its way back to 1998. People from across the globe come to the picturesque town of Bansko to perform and listen to the magical sounds of modern jazzmen. The 2019 fest will run from 6th to the 10th of August, with well-known performers from the U.S., the U.K., Italy, France, Greece, and Hungary.
- Beglika Fest access_timeMid of August Beglika is a space for alternative culture “and a manifestation of our strong relation to nature, our kin, and the people around us”, says its Facebook page. The south meadows of Golyam Beglik reservoir have been the hosting grounds for free people, enthusiasts, dreamers, and co-creators of artistic content. The festival’s programme includes music, circus, crafts, theatre, discussions, art workshops, sports activities, and entertaining games for children and adults alike.
- Zheravna Festivalaccess_timeLast weekend of August Fancy dressing up in a traditional Bulgarian costume? Well, if you want to take part in the Zheravna National Costume Festival, you don’t have a choice as that’s the rule. Additionally, it’s forbidden to use modern life objects. Don’t worry, you can still call your friends to tell them how cool Zheravna is, but that’s only possible in specially designated calling areas. The purpose of all this? To teleport you in the life of Bulgarians 150 years ago.
Religion in BulgariaThe Top 10 Monasteries to Visit
Religion has played a significant role in the history of Bulgaria. Although it has one predominant religion, there are several other that peacefully coexist in the country. Let’s see.
- Bulgaria’s religion is Christianity. Since its adoption as state religion in 865, Christianity has been prevalent in Bulgaria. The dominant majority is Eastern Orthodox Christians, with Catholicism and Protestantism representing less than 2% combined.
- The second largest religious group is Islam. Throughout the Ottoman rule, Sunni Islam spread on the lands of Bulgaria. It’s a significant minority nowadays, representing around 8% of the population.
- You can practice any religion. The Bulgarian constitution safeguards the free exercise of any religion. Plus, the country has never experienced any major ethnic or religious conflicts. The religious communities coexist in peace.
- Bulgaria celebrates Christmas on a different day. Although Bulgaria is Eastern Orthodox, we celebrate Christmas Eve with the Catholics – on the 25th of December. In contrast, other Eastern Orthodox countries celebrate Christmas on the 6th of January due to using different calendars.
- Marvel at some of the largest Eastern Orthodox temples in the world. If you happen to trot Sofia’s boulevards, a must-marvel-at landmark is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Located in the very heart of the city, the temple is the second largest in the world, after St. Sava in Belgrade, Serbia.
- Dress appropriately in churches and monasteries. While Bulgaria is nowhere near strict as some Muslim countries in terms of clothing, outfits that reveal too much are a huge no-no. Also, make sure you remove any headwear in churches.
- Visit the Boyana Church. The Boyana Church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its jaw-dropping frescoes. It’s a tiny church that cosily sits in the outskirts of Sofia, at the foot of Vitosha mountain. The entrance fee is 10 BGN (5 EUR).
Insider tip: The entrance is free on Mondays after 3 PM.
- Visit some of Bulgaria’s monasteries. There are 220+ monasteries on the territory of Bulgaria. Some of the most famous ones are the Rila Monastery, the Bachkovo Monastery, and the Troyan Monastery. Check out the top 10 in the list below.
The Top 10 Monasteries in Bulgaria
Bulgaria’s monasteries are quiet and mystical, yet full of life. This list is my personal selection.
- Rila Monastery Rila Mountains, South-West BulgariaThe largest and most famous monastery in Bulgaria, the Rila Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Incepted in the 10th century, it attracts 1+ million visitors per year. Don’t miss the mind-boggling frescoes!
- Bachkovo Monastery Rhodope Mountains, South-Central BulgariaKnown and revered for the unique combination of Bulgarian, Byzantine, and Georgian culture, the Bachkovo Monastery lies in a gorgeous spot, on the right bank of the Chepelare River.
- Troyan Monastery Central Balkan Mountains, North-Central BulgariaThe third largest in the country, the Troyan Monastery sits on the banks of Cherni Osam river. It’s home to one of the Bulgarian Orthodoxy’s holiest icons – the Three-Handed Virgin.
- Ivanovo Monastery Ruse Province, North-East BulgariaThe Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo are what their name suggests – hewn out of solid rock. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, they are entirely different from other Bulgarian monastery complexes. The place is appreciated for its well-preserved mediaeval frescoes.
- Rozhen Monastery Pirin Mountains, South-West BulgariaThe largest monastery in the Pirin Mountains, the Rozhen Monastery sits on top of Melnik’s Sand Pyramids. Despite that a fire destroyed many buildings in the 15th century, it was restored in the next century. Nowadays, it’s one of the best-preserved mediaeval monasteries in Bulgaria.
- Dryanovo Monastery Dryanovo, North-Central BulgariaFounded in the 12th century, the Dryanovo Monastery played a crucial role in the uprising against the Ottoman Empire, serving both as a meeting place and battlegrounds for several fights.
- Aladzha Monastery Varna Province, North-East BulgariaSitting in a grotto, the Aladzha Monastery resembles that of Ivanovo in some way. The monastery caves were hewn into a 25-m (82-ft) high vertical cliff and belong to the protected area of Golden Sands Nature Park.
- Klisura Monastery Western Balkan Mountains, North-West BulgariaThe faith of the fourth largest monastery in Bulgaria – the Klisura Monastery – was not very pretty. In 1862, a Turkish pasha burned it down and killed all monks and pilgrims inside. Today, the complex consists of two churches, three residential buildings, a kitchen, and a farmyard.
- Glozhene Monastery Central Balkan Mountains, North-Central BulgariaErected in the 13th century, the Glozhene Monastery sits on a breathtaking hill, overlooking the village of Glozhene and the Cherni Vit river. Unfortunately, an earthquake devastated it and its frescoes in 1913. The modern church dates to 1951.
- Cherepish Monastery Western Balkan Mountains, North-West BulgariaLocated in the drop-dead gorgeous Iskar Gorge, legend says that the Cherepish Monastery acquired its name due to the white colour of the bones of deceased Bulgarian soldiers. Check out the shroud of Jesus Christ and the spectacular iconostasis with intricate woodcarvings.
Culture and History Peculiar Habits and Fascinating Differences
Weird Cultural Peculiarities
- The nodding and shaking of heads in Bulgaria is confusing. When we agree with something, we don’t nod but shake our head. Likewise, when we don’t agree with something, we nod rather than shake our heads. Bulgaria is the only country in the world that does that – as far as I know.
- People in Bulgaria stare. Probably that’s typical of some Asian countries, such as China, but in Europe, not so much. So, if you are Scandinavian, African-American, or Asian, be prepared for some staring.
- There are obituary signs on trees and residential buildings. Peculiarly enough, those signs with photos that are usually put on trees and the entrances of old residential buildings are not of burglars or “Wanted” people but of individuals that have passed away.
- There are numerous name days. We take our names seriously. In some countries across the globe, locals also celebrate name days, but in Bulgaria, it’s a big thing. Especially on Ivanovden, when 300,000+ Ivans and the like celebrate.
Fascinating Historical Facts
- Bulgaria is the third richest country in the world when it comes to archaeological sites. Preceded only by Greece and Italy, Bulgaria takes the third place in terms of the number of its archaeological sites and historical artefacts.
- There are thousands of Thracian tombs. Up until today, more than 15,000 Thracian tombs have been unearthed or discovered on the territory of modern Bulgaria. The majority of them are yet to be explored in more detail.
- The oldest golden treasure in the world is in Bulgaria. Unearthed near the coastal city of Varna, the world’s oldest golden treasure dates back 6,000+ years. It consists of approximately 3,000 objects.
- Bulgaria is Europe’s only country that has not changed its name since its inception. The First Bulgarian State dates back to 681 AD when Khan Asparukh crossed the Danube River from the north and established the country. Its name has not undertaken any changes since then.
Other Peculiar Facts About Bulgaria
- In battle, the army of Bulgaria has never lost a single flag. That’s a fact to be proud of, isn’t it?
- Bulgaria is the largest producer of rose oil. Over 75% of the world’s rose oil comes from Bulgarian soils. This means it’s highly likely that your perfume contains Bulgarian rose oil.
- A Bulgarian song was played in outer space. “Izlel e Delyu Haydutin”, a folk song by the Bulgarian folk music performer and singer, Valya Balkanska, went to deep space on the board of the American Voyager I and Voyager II space probes. It was a part of a collection of the Earth’s finest cultural artefacts, together with Bach’s and Mozart’s masterpieces. They served as a message to alien intelligence.
- The inventor of the first computer was of Bulgarian descent. John Vincent Atanasoff, whose name is associated with the invention of the first electronic computer, was a physicist whose origins are traced back to Bulgarian soils.
- Bulgarian women are incredibly beautiful. You have been warned. The mixture of Slavic, Thracian, and Proto-Bulgarian traits has produced something irresistible.
When to Visit Bulgaria
Depending on your preference, Bulgaria can be attractive all year round. This section tells you what’s hot in every season.
- Winter. Ski fan? Most of Bulgaria is blanketed by snow for four months of the year, making the country a fantastic destination for winter sport fanatics. It’s not uncommon to be able to ski in April, too. Popular mountain resorts include Bansko (Pirin), Borovets (Rila), and Pamporovo (the Rhodopes).
- Spring. If you worship greenery, May is your best choice when the days are long, the weather is pleasant, and the girls are hot. The average temperatures in April and May are between 15 C (60 F) and 21 C (70 F) – perfect for sightseeing.
- Summer. If you don’t mind hot weather, July and August are your months. The seaside will be jam-packed, so you might wanna lose yourself in lush forests and jaw-dropping mountains. August is full of festivals, too.
- Autumn. The most colourful season, without any doubt. October is usually warm, with ups of 25 C (77 F), making it excellent for walks. But the real fall beauty awaits you at the beginning of November when the foliage shows its numerous colours.
Here’s a short recap:
- Best time to ski: January to March
- Best time for exploring cities on foot: April, May, September, and October
- Best time for beach fun or summer hikes: July and August
“For travellers interested in nature and history, visit Bulgaria around October. During this time, the weather is still relatively warm – 10-20 C (50-70 F), but be sure to bring a light jacket as mornings can be chilly. The fall colours of Bulgarian forests are splendid, and they are a must-see when visiting Tatul, Perperikon, or Buzludzha, where you’ll have a panoramic view of the mountains. On fall mornings in Bulgaria, the countryside is often covered with a stunning heavy mist. If you’re visiting ancient or mediaeval sites, such as the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire at Pliska village, the mist gives the ruins a mysterious feeling. Finally, if you visit popular coastal destinations, such as Nessebar and Sozopol in October, you’ll completely avoid the summer crowds. When in Nessebar, ask at the Archaeological Museum, and a staff member might be available to give you a private tour of the Old Town’s many churches. ”Dalia Goldberg , Freelance Copywriter & Bulgaria Travel Enthusiast
- Expert Advice
Why You Should Visit Bulgaria
There are so many reasons to visit Bulgaria that if I have to put them in an article, it’ll be thiiiiis long. Wait, you’re already reading it 😉 So, to end this guide of 166 Bulgaria travel tips, here are some more:
- For the love of ancient history. It is one of the oldest nations in Europe and its cultural heritage is among the Top 3 in the world. Thracians, Romans, Byzantines are some of the many ancient nations who have inhabited the lands of modern Bulgaria.
- For the love of great food. If you ask me, eating food should be a ritual-like activity in every country. Thankfully, in Bulgaria that’s the case. Locals enjoy their food and drinks slowly, often with a good company. Bulgaria’s location has contributed to the diversity of its mouth-watering cuisine, which unites the fiery Balkan spirit with the mild fragrance of the Mediterranean, and is generously sprinkled with the spicy love drops of the Middle East.
- For the love of staggering mountains. Craggy rocks, jaw-dropping cliffs, and heart-stopping vistas. Snow caps, superb skiing conditions, and fantastic summer hikes. All within an hour or two from the capital city. Who needs more, really?
- For the love of scintillating beaches. If your only desire is to get enough Vitamin Sea, Bulgaria’s fantastic beaches will meet even your wildest expectations. Just don’t wait as the corrupted officials and shady businessmen are trying to cement them ;-(.
- For the love of fascinating festivals. Fire dancing, rose picking, dressing up in traditional costumes, enthralling bagpipes… I know one thing for certain – your mind will be blown! You might as well pack another one :-))
- For the love of different cultures. Unless you’ve already been to the Balkans, you’ll experience a culture that’s nothing less than peculiar. Different alphabet, nodding of the head, unrivalled hospitality, slow eating and drinking – there’s charm in everything.
- For the love of fast internet. Who can say “NO” to speedy internet? In Bulgaria, you’ll be sure to do some work if needs be. WiFi is widely available in bars, cafés, hotels, and restaurants. Just don’t spend all your day working and venture out to explore its precious beauties.
- For the love of folk dances. Irregular rhythms, enthralling music sounds, and gorgeous costumes. These are some of the many characteristics of Bulgarian folk dances. Your trip to Bulgaria won’t be the same if you don’t experience this spectacle of upbeat music and captivating dancing.
- For the love of rejuvenation. Bulgaria is one of the best places to relax, chill-out, and let every sense of you be pampered. As mentioned, Bulgaria’s diversity of mineral springs takes the second place in the world. So, whether or not you are a spa fan, you will unwind like a regal celebrity.
“Bulgaria is a small country, often not even considered as a possible holiday destination. That said, you have a great chance to shock all your friends and family, announcing your intentions to jet off to there. From gorgeous mountain hikes, golden sun-kissed beaches, lip-smacking dishes, and one of a kind cultural experience, Bulgaria has it all and beyond. Rose picking and bagpipes festivals, evil spirits warding, and celebrating the Day of the Wine instead of St Valentine’s Day is only a fraction of the activities you can immerse yourself in if you opt to visit Bulgaria. Plus, this is a country where people dance in ice-cold waters and walk on burning coals. Now, imagine your friends’ baffled looks as they ask: “You’ve been where?!”. ”Evelina Radoycheva , Bulgaria Travel Blogger & UI/UX Designer
- Expert Advice
Little Big Traveler
Bulgaria abounds in history and culture, and it has been attracting a growing number of tourists, digital nomads, and adventure-craving explorers.
The country boasts a unique combination of breathtaking mountains and a drop-dead gorgeous seaside. If you add the fact that all this comes at reasonable prices and good service, the question isn’t which of the innumerable spots to visit but rather – which first?
I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed reading my ultimate travel guide to Bulgaria.
Now, I’d like to hear from you:
Which tip did you enjoy the most?
Do you want to visit Bulgaria after reading my guide?
Or maybe you’ve already been to Bulgaria before.
Either way, let me know by shooting a quick comment below.PIN NOW, READ LATERDo you think you are ready for Bulgaria? Test your knowledge now:
- Koprivshtitsa Location: South-West Bulgaria Province: Sofia