Bulgaria is a little-known traveler’s gem situated in Southeastern Europe. With its breathtaking natural landscapes and architecture, stunning beaches, and buzzing metropolitan capital city, Bulgaria has something to offer for every traveler.
Bulgaria is perhaps most famous for its strip of beautiful beach resorts, situated on the eastern coast of the country along the Black Sea. Sunny Beach is the largest of the lot, featuring beautiful resorts, temperatures of up to 35 degrees Celsius in the summer months, and an 8 km stretch of fine, golden sand. This beach resort is perfect for the traveler seeking a lively atmosphere, with restaurants, nightclubs and shops galore. Golden Sands is another notable destination; as its name suggests, it boasts golden sands scattered along a long stretch of coastline.
If you’re looking for a family atmosphere, look no further than Harmanite Beach in Sozopol, with its relatively calm and shallow waters. Pomorie beach and SinemoretsVeleka beach also boast a relatively calm family atmosphere. For all you wild souls, be sure to check out the pristine and isolated Kara Dere beach, which is one of the last natural beaches along Bulgaria’s east coast. This beach is perfect for people seeking to get away from the hustle-bustle of everyday life and enjoy some time off the grid. Be sure to get directions from a local – and have a map on hand – as there are no signs indicating where the beach is located. Bulgaria’s east coast offers something for every traveler; whether you wish to unleash your inner party animal, have a nice, quiet vacation with family or friends, or visit one of the last natural beaches in Bulgaria, the east coast is the place to go, especially because it offers vacations that are relatively cheap for the foreign traveler. To get a good helping of sun and surf, visiting the seaside in Bulgaria is an absolute must!
If you go to Bulgaria seeking sport and adventure, you will not leave disappointed. Bulgaria is home to lush vegetation, breathtaking mountain ranges, and varied flora and fauna, making it the perfect destination for skiing, hiking, mountain-biking, mountaineering and nature tours. For an exciting skiing or snowboarding trip, check out Bansko, a top-rated ski resort featuring the longest ski season of all Bulgarian ski resorts (Dec 15-May 15). Situated at the foot of the Pirinmountains, Bansko resort offers breathtaking natural scenery, remarkable cultural relics and luxe and affordable accommodations. Some other resorts are Borovets, located 2 hours from the Sofia airport, and Pamporovo, situated at the heart of the Rhodopimountains in Southern Bulgaria. Generally-speaking, Bulgaria is a great place for the budget-wise skier or snowboarder who is looking for a more low-key experience with smaller crowds.
Bulgaria is also home to incredible cave systems; spelunkers can delight in magnificently-intricate cave systems featuring ancient cave art. The Magura cave, located in Northwestern Bulgaria, is home to bats, cave paintings and – to everyone’s delight - features a unique wine-tasting experience! For a look at some incredible cave formations, look no further than the Ledenika cave, located in Vratsa (Northwestern Bulgaria). Because of the country’s breathtaking scenery and abundance of mountains, Bulgaria is a great place to walk, hike and – for the more adventurous sorts– rock climb. Guided hiking, climbing and mountain-biking tours abound; visiting Hiking Guide Bulgaria (https://bulguides.com) is a great place to start when planning a unique adventure trip, as the organization offers access to experienced guides and tour operators who can make your trip both memorable and safe.
If you find yourself in Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia, you should certainly take the time to take in its unique architectural landmarks. One of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world, the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (shown above), located in central Sofia, was built in the early 20th century to commemorate the Bulgarian, Russian, Ukranian and Belorussian soldiers who lost their lives in the Russo-Turkish war. Built in the Neo-Byzantine style, the Alexander Nevsky cathedral features breathtaking golden domes on the outside, and stunning Italian marble interiors. With its beautiful stained-glass windows and spectacular murals, the St. Alexander Nevsky cathedral is a sight to see. Sofia is home to many such architectural landmarks and historical relics; history buffs can delight in the uncovered ruins of an ancient Roman city, Serdica, located in a covered excavation site situated above the Serdika subway station in Sofia. The relics - which include ruins of ancient streets and baths - date back to the 4th – 6th centuries. For those willing to venture out of the city, the Rila Monastery, located around 100 km south of Sofia, is definitely a must-see; located amidst the stunning Rila mountains, the monastery is a massive complex featuring unique architecture and art. As a major symbol of Bulgaria – and a UNESCO cultural heritage site- the monastery is a must-see for lovers of architecture and culture.
Fans of nightlife need look no further than Sofia; with its many clubs and bars, which often stay open until 5 or 6 am, Sofia offers the ultimate nightlife experience. Clubs feature traditional Bulgarian music, as well as EDM, Raggae, metal, and punk. Most of the nightlife “hotspots” are located in Studentski Grad (Students’ town), a district with most of Sofia’s prominent universities. For a unique experience, be sure to check out one of the city’s posh “chalga” bars; “chalga” music combines modern, Balkan, Gypsy and Middle Eastern beats to create a very distinct sound. For a more chill atmosphere, go to By the Way bar to enjoy a cocktail (or two) with friends.
For all you foodies out there, Bulgaria’s restaurants feature cuisine to satisfy all palates, often at a budget-friendly price for Western travelers. For a taste of traditional Bulgarian cuisine, be sure to check out staples like banitsa, a white-cheese filled filo pastry; tarator, a summer soup featuring watered-down yogurt, dill and garlic; and moussaka, a dish with potatoes, minced pork and eggs. Bulgarian cuisine has many similarities to Russian, Turkish and Greek cuisine, and often features fresh salads, stews and -of course- traditional Bulgarian alcohol like rakia or mastika on the side. You need not stick to traditional Bulgarian cuisine, however; Bulgaria has many restaurants offering a variety of international cuisines. Happy Bar & Grill, a Bulgarian restaurant chain, features both traditional Bulgarian dishes, as well as Japanese and American cuisine, and an assortment of scrumptious desserts- definitely a place to visit when you’re hungry!
Bulgaria is the perfect destination for those seeking a budget-friendly trip abroad. The country boasts beautiful natural landmarks, unique architecture, a bustling capital city and incredible beach resorts. Be sure to add Bulgaria to your travel bucket list!