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Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a tourist destination known for its “melting pot” of influences from Greece, the Ottoman Empire, and Persia to name a few. The country sits along the Black Sea which has become a vital land passage between Europe and Asia.
Bulgaria is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and destinations on the Intangible Cultural Heritage List including:

  • Rila Monastery
  • Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak
  • Boyana Church
  • Madara Rider
  • Srebarna Nature Reserve
  • Martenitsa

Bulgaria is also home to many historical sites where visitors can learn about Bulgaria’s past such as:

  • Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral
  • Shipka Memorial
  • Perperikon
  • Baba Vida
  • Balchik Palace
  • Belogradchik Fortress
  • Cherven Fortress
  • Vrana Palace

Bulgaria is also full of naturally beautiful landscapes that draw many tourists to the country. It is a destination home to beautiful national parks such as Central Balkan National Park and Rila National Park. Bulgaria is also home to many ancient monasteries such as the Rila Monastery, The Troya Monastery, the Dryanovo Monastery, and the Zemen Monastery to name a few. Moreover, there are also beautiful art galleries and history museums that span from the ancient days through modern-day Bulgarian history.
All of these attractions make Bulgaria a great place to tour, visit, and learn more about European history as well as the history of the Bulgarian people. Tourists can also enjoy many beautiful landmarks and national parks along with wildlife and nature.

Geography

Bulgaria has varied geographic landscapes and that includes lowlands, plains, hills, mountains, valleys, and deep gorges. Most of the country is divided into four different sections including high and low plains and these sections are divided into what are called geomorphological regions that are called: Danubian Plain, the Balkan Mountains, the Transitional regions, and the Rilo-Rhodope areas.
About two-thirds of the land are rolling plains, small hills, and plateaus. All of this land sits under the 600-meter mark.

Climate

Bulgaria’s climate is quite complex for the size of the country. Bulgaria’s southernmost region is part of the continental climate zone and there are small areas that also fall into the Mediterranean climate zone as well. The continental influences are the strongest in the winter producing and the Mediterranean influences on the weather are stronger in the spring and summer seasons. Bulgaria also has a few alpine zones which are in the mountains and are over 1,000 meters in elevation.
The mountains and valleys of Bulgaria break up any massive temperature swaths that would otherwise settle over the land. This makes the temperature and climate varied throughout the entire country, even though it is contained in a relatively small area of space.

Best Time To Visit

Between the summer and winter seasons are the best times to visit Bulgaria. This means that many tourists visit the area during the other times of the year and the “quietest” times to go are between April and May and again in September and October. These are usually great months to visit Bulgaria, even if a lot of people do not do go during this time. Consider that the weather is the most pleasant during these months far as temperature goes and this is when the prices will be lower.

What To Know Before Visiting

Bulgaria is More Than Its Coast

Bulgaria is more than just the coastline. Sadly, many tourists do not get past the coastlines and the beach resorts near the Black Sea to fully experience all Bulgaria has to offer. There are many more remarkable resorts inland that you can enjoy if you get there to see them.

Getting Around Is Not Very Easy

Bulgaria’s train network is not exactly “a well-oiled machine” so to speak. This means that tourists should expect significant delays when they are trying to use public transportation systems throughout Bulgaria. Leave plenty of extra time to get where you are going in case delays to occur. Same goes with the extensive bus network.

When You Want To Say No, You Nod

That sounds weird, but it’s true. In Bulgaria, when you want to say “no,” nodding is the way to go, which is the opposite gesture used in the U.S. In Bulgaria, body language speaks extensively, so be sure to mean “no” but nod as in “yes.” Confusing, but necessary to communicate with the natives.

Enjoy Delectable Cuisines While Enjoying Nature

Bulgaria is the ideal destination because it allows you to enjoy beautiful views while you dine on a variety of native cuisines. Native dishes include fiery flavors of the Balkan spirit coupled with more mild fragrances of the Mediterranean which sprinkled with a variety of flavors from the Middle East. While you are there, be sure to check out some of Bulgaria’s signature dishes such as their meshana skara (mixed grill) which is made of grilled meats on a skewer and consists of both steak and pork. This is a dish traditionally served with french fries and topped with chopped onions and lyutenitsa usually washed down with several beers before being finished off with rakia. Another dish to try is kebapche which is a meatball made out of minced meat and spices and is shaped like a sausage. It is traditionally grilled and served with shopska salad and french fries all topped with Bulgarian cheeses. These unique dishes make dining in style while enjoying the scenery in Bulgaria a pleasure.

Bulgaria’s Mountains are Not to be Missed

The mountains in Bulgaria are a great destination to visit during your trip. They are a sight to behold and offer some of the best tourist attractions in the country. Tourists can enjoy the fantastic folklore of Bansko, the traditional tasty foods that are around Kardjali, and the beautiful views looking down over the Bulgarian cities.

Taste Great Bulgarian Wine

Bulgaria is a famous destination for its incredible selections of wines, both traditional and modern. Some of their best wines include Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. There are also more local types of wines including muscat ottonel, red misket, pamid, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot to name a few that people from outside of Bulgaria may not have heard of or tried very often. Give them all a try, you may find something new you enjoy. Go on a wine tour to taste wines straight from Bulgarian wineries.

Handmade Crafts Are Common in Bulgaria

Leave extra room in your suitcase to take home some handmade goodies. Many locals make and sell handmade goods in the local markets for a living. Some of these handmade goods include handmade pottery, woodcarvings, jewelry, leather items, or even certain oil-based cosmetics. There are even amazing paintings and other creations to bid on if that strikes your interest.

Weather In Bulgaria

Temperatures in Bulgaria generally range from 36 to 78 degrees, which represents a fairly mild, moderate climate. Bulgaria gets most of its precipitation between May and August. Bulgaria is not a high-precipitation area as it only averages about 2 – 3 inches of rainfall per month.

Languages

The main language in Bulgaria is Bulgarian which is related to the Western group of languages including Czech and Slovak. Moreover, Bulgaria is a destination where English is spoken in most of the tourist towns and cities as well.  So getting around far as communication is concerned, should not be too much of a challenge.

Electricity

Tourists planning to charge their electronic devices should bring appropriate adapters that work with the 230 V electricity in Bulgaria.

Currency

Unlike many countries in continental Europe, Bulgaria does not use the Euro. Bulgaria still uses their own currency called the Bulgarian lev, which means you will need to exchange some money to use in Bulgaria during your trip.
When you are visiting Bulgaria, be sure to try some of their delicious, signature dishes and couple it with some of their decadent (mostly red) wines for a dining experience you will not soon forget. After a great meal, take a sightseeing trip to visit any of the UNESCO sites that are historic landmarks throughout the country. Also, visit the local shops to find unique, handmade crafts that you will not be able to find anywhere else.
So, come over to Bulgaria and enjoy learning the history behind the historical sites throughout the country and enjoy some great cuisine mixed with some delectable wines on your next trip abroad.

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What to Eat, See and Do in Bulgaria

The country of Bulgaria is one of the largest in the Balkan region and a popular tourist destination. It sometimes gets a bad rep because of protests and pickpockets, but don’t let that put you off, it’s a popular stop for a reason. The delicious food, welcoming locals, and cheap travel are just some of the perks visitors can experience during their time here. History buffs will especially enjoy Bulgaria, as there are countless ancient sites open for tourism.
No matter your reason for wanting to travel, Bulgaria offers a wide selection of activities to keep you busy. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas to get you going.

Places to Visit

Sofia

If you’re traveling to Bulgaria by air, you’ll most likely fly into the city of Sofia. As the country’s capital, it boasts a rich history and idyllic location. Resting between the Black and Adriatic Seas, it sits at the base of Vitosha Mountain and holds lots of hidden gems. It’s an ancient location, first inhabited over 30,000 years ago, making it the second oldest city in Europe. The Celts, Thracians, and Romans have all resided here. With such a lengthy and mixed background, history buffs will find plenty of places to visit.

St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Some of the country’s most interesting locations include its churches and monasteries. The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, built in the early 20th century is a memorial to the soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877 and 1878. It’s a popular spot for tourists because of its ornate paintings of saints and religious scenes. The building is easy to pick out of the city skyline thanks to its gold-plated dome.

Devil’s Throat Cave

The Devil’s Throat Cave is said to have inspired the Greek myth of Orpheus who searches for his lover Eurydice in Hades. Whether that’s true or not, it’s a popular tourist attraction in western Bulgaria that can stimulate the imagination. The cave seems to lead straight into the depths of hell and features a winding underground river. The interesting part is that nothing that enters the cave by water ever comes through to the other side. Curiosity has led many tourists to test this.

Things to Do

Apollonia Film Festival

If you visit Bulgaria in early September, consider taking a day trip to Sozopol, a seaside town bordering the Black Sea. The Apollonia Art and Film Festival was first held here in 1984 and runs for ten days. During that time, visitors can attend jazz concerts, film showings, open-air concerts, plays, and many other events. The festival also offers master classes for improvisation, singing, acting, and various instruments. There are several activities designed for children as well.

The Rose Museum

The Rose Museum in Kazanlak originally began as a temporary exhibition. It became so popular that it eventually turned into a mini-museum. What makes it unique is that it’s the only museum in the world dedicated to the rose. Its location in Bulgaria is fitting because of the country’s centuries-long export of rose oil. The museum demonstrates various extraction methods and also offers a reproduction of a 1912 rose warehouse. Visitors can look at documents and photos outlining the history of the industry, and the gift shop offers almost anything that can be produced using rose oil.

National Palace of Culture

The Palace was the brainchild of the daughter of a former Communist Bulgarian leader. Construction was finished in 1981, coinciding with the country’s 1300th anniversary. It contains thousands of square meters of conference halls, cinemas, and gallery space. The location even occasionally hosts various concerts. The main event of the year is the New Year’s concert, which features numerous well-known individuals such as Darina Takova and Andrea Bocelli. The Palace is also famous for its cafés, street musicians, and family-friendly atmosphere.

Seven Rila Lakes

For the adventurers out there, hiking the Seven Rila Lakes is a popular activity. It can be a little tricky to get there via public transportation, especially in the winter months, but it’s only an hour and a half drive from Sofia. What makes this hiking trail unique is that visitors start at the first lake and can pass by all seven before the end of the day. These glacial lakes were all given names that reflect their individual characteristics and shapes. Probably the most amusing is the Kidney, which is exactly what it looks like from a bird’s eye view. Hikers can stop at any time to rest alongside the lakes, providing the perfect opportunity for a picnic.

Food and Drink

Maryan Winery

If you love to attend wine tastings, consider stopping at the Maryan Winery. It’s a family-owned business that sits in the foothills of the Stara Planina Mountain in the town of the same name. The winery carries a vast selection of red, white, orange, and of course, rose wines. You can also attend a tour that follows the process of winemaking and details the history of the business. Most days, the winemaker and the winery owners are around to speak to visitors.

Banitza

Regardless of where you may stop to eat during your visit to Bulgaria, you’re sure to find this highly addictive traditional pastry. Banitza is prepared by layering whisked eggs and cheese between layers of filo dough and then baking it in the oven. Served hot or cold, it looks a bit like a cinnamon roll or cheese danish and goes great with coffee.

Khan’s Tent

Located north of Sunny Beach, Khan’s Tent offers more than just traditional Bulgarian cuisine. It sits high above sea level, offering patrons an incredible view of the surrounding area. The restaurant is open every day and well into the late hours of the night, and it caters to most dietary requirements, including vegan and gluten-free. The menu is family-friendly, offering options to children as well as a full bar for the adults. It can be a bit pricey, but the tickets include plenty of food, drink, and even live entertainment in the form of music or dinner theater.

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How to Live like the Locals in Bulgaria

Bulgarian Mountains
Belintash Bulgaria

Because of this, many different tours take visitors to some of the more famous sights, which can be fascinating, but sometimes to truly get a feel for a country, you have to break away from the pack and forge your own adventure. This guide will show you how to live it up like the locals do in Bulgaria.

Sleep Like A Local

Guest houses are everywhere in Bulgaria, are generally less expensive than hotels and are about as close to living locally as crashing on your Bulgarian friend’s couch—without the discomfort of actually crashing on someone’s couch. Most offer traditional home cooked meals along with your room, allowing you to experience contemporary local cuisine.
Hostels are another housing option that allows you to experience the local culture a little more first hand. Many hostels offer both bunks and private rooms, and all offer that one of a kind Bulgarian hospitality that comes with food, laughter, drink, and a smile.

Eat Like A Local

If you’re a foodie, you may want to seek out even more local food than can be found at the local guesthouse. Luckily for you, Bulgaria has no shortage of delicious local foods and many of them can be found freshly made if you do a little looking around.
Generally, breakfast is a lighter meal often consisting of just coffee and a pastry, sometimes with meat or cheese. A typical breakfast might include of banitsa, a delicious pastry that contains cheese and sometimes meat, leeks or onions, and boza, a sweet drink made from fermented wheat or barley. Because it is a fermented drink, boza does contain minute amounts of alcohol, around 1%ABV.

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Bulgarian Lunch

Lunch is a lighter meal as well and is often just a quick snack like lutenitsa, a spicy mix of peppers, tomatoes and a few other ingredients. Most commonly people will spread the spicy mixture onto bread and place cheese on top before devouring, but this mixture is extremely versatile and used in many ways throughout Bulgarian cooking, from sauces for meat to sides for your lunch salad.
Dinner is by far the most important meal in Bulgaria, often consisting of several courses and accompanied by the drinking of much Rakia earlier in the evening, and later wine or beer. Some traditional dinner dishes include gyuvech, a hearty stew named after the pot it is cooked in and meshana skara, or mixed grill.
If you need a remedy for all that Rakia the next morning, shkembe cho rba is a spicy soup that has long been used as a local cure for a hangover. Often served early in the morning with a beer to combat the spiciness, this soup is a tasty pick me up even if one hasn’t been drinking.

Drink Like A Local

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Cheers

If you haven’t already been offered a glass or three at the guest house you are staying in, once you’ve filled up on delicious local treats, you may decide to have a drink or two and if you want to drink like the locals, you’ll definitely come across a strong spirit called Rakia. Most Bulgarians abide by the rule of “liquor before beer, you’re in the clear. Beer before liquor, never been sicker.” As such, the evening is usually started with Rakia, a strong brandy produced from a plethora of different fruits depending on the variety.
While it is not historically proven as of yet, Rakia is thought to have originated in Bulgaria itself, and Bulgaria is currently trying to claim Rakia as its official national drink. However, as with anything steeped in a long history of local lore, there are some customs that should be observed if you want to truly drink like a local.

  1. Never toast with an empty glass, it is considered impolite.
  2. Eye contact is also important, during the first toast maintain eye contact with your toasting partner until you both have taken your first sip of the drink.
  3. Drink slowly, Rakia is incredibly strong. It is often served in shot glasses but it is intended to be sipped.

Beach Like A Local

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Sozopol

While Sunny Beach sounds like the perfect place to enjoy the surf and catch some rays, it is also the most well-known beach in Bulgaria and is very often crowded with tourists. There are many less crowded beaches that will give you a much more serene and authentic experience. If you are looking for a place to lay your towel, the beach in old Sozopol is a lovely place to relax on the Black Sea. The older parts of Sozopol also have great local shops and restaurants that serve fresh seafood.

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Skiing in Bulgaria

Hit the Slopes Like A Local

Since Bulgaria’s sunny beaches get most of the attention, its fantastic ski slopes tend to be a lesser-known secret frequented more by locals than tourists. But there are a few great places to catch some powder if you are visiting Bulgaria in the winter months. Borovets offers a great variety of terrain and a few spots for working on jumps and rails as well.

Celebrate Tradition Like A Local

Nestinarstvo is an ancient fire-dancing ceremony that takes place in the first week of June in Bulgaria. It involves an elaborate barefoot dance on a bed of hot coals. While some hotels and restaurants will recreate this festival, locals insist that most traditional Nestinarstvo ceremony occurs in Bulgaria, although smaller and perhaps less crowded Nestinarstvo ceremonies may take place in small villages around the Strandzha area during that time.
A person’s name day is another incredibly important tradition in Bulgaria, often held in equal reverence as one’s birthday. Children bring chocolates to school, and everyone is welcome at a name day party, no invitation needed! However, if you are planning to attend, gifts of wine or candies are appreciated.
If you are looking for an authentic local experience in Bulgaria, step off the beaten path and enjoy Bulgaria the way the locals do; with good drink, great scenery, delicious foods, and smiling faces.

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The Ultimate Bulgarian Guide for Foodie’s

Bulgarians love to socialize, bond, and catch up with friends and family. Incidentally, most of this “catching up” is done while sitting at the kitchen or dining room table—while it is covered in the delicious cuisine of the country. A staple of any meal in Bulgaria is cheese, or sirene, as the Bulgarians call it, the white brine cheese known as feta in the English-speaking world. The cuisine has a perfect balance of meat, yogurt, cheese, and vegetables, and can be modified to suit any taste without sacrificing flavor. Other staples are salads, pork, and fish. Let’s review the traditions of Bulgarian food and talk about some dishes that need to be on your “Must-Eat” bucket list so you can be fully prepared for a culinary adventure.

Starting the Day

Breakfast in Bulgaria is usually a simple affair during the week. You won’t always find a selection of decadent foods and many Bulgarians choose to have breakfast on the go. Thankfully, there is no shortage of local corner bakeries where you can find something that fits the bill. Along with that all-important cup of coffee, you’ll find a delicious pastry known as Banitza. Made with filo pastry dough—or fini kori as the Bulgarians call it, it is buttery, cheesy, and most of all, incredible. Popular drinks include ayran, a salty yogurt drink, and boza, a sweet, thick brown liquid with a slightly acidic flavor that is made from fermented wheat.
Weekend breakfast in Bulgaria is an experience to remember. On weekdays, Bulgarians do not eat fried foods before lunchtime, but that rule is broken on Saturdays and Sundays. You’ll find a selection of fried bread or French toast served with homemade confiture, pancakes, and doughnuts, along with accompaniments such as homemade jam, honey, and sirene. Don’t miss out on the Mekitsas with sirene and ayran. This simple yet delicious deep fried dough is typically served with jam, honey, cheese, or yogurt, and can be topped with icing sugar. What a way to get your mouth watering.

Midday Meals

You’ll find some great salads on the menu for lunch. Shopska salad is one of the popular choices, made from tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh or baked peppers, and of course, sirene. Tradition states that this salad is what newlyweds eat as their first meal together after saying their vows. Ovcharska salad is similar, with the addition of ham and hard yellow cheese. Soup can always be found at lunchtime, with popular choices being chicken, bean, and the cold summer tarator soup, which is made with cucumbers, yogurt, dill, and walnuts.
Another “must-try” lunchtime food is sarma, made with grape, cabbage, rhubarb, or chard leaves, rolled around minced meat, usually beef, pork, or veal. It can also be made as a sweet dish of filo dough wrapped around a filling of chopped nuts. Don’t miss out on the kyufteta, otherwise known as Bulgarian meatballs. However, these aren’t your typical meatballs! They are flavorful, delightful portions of meat that are like nothing you’ve ever had. Simple, yet tasty, these small meatballs are often served with bread on the side and are a meal in themselves.

Bulgarian Snacks

When the time comes for a snack, there is plenty to choose from! Kebapche, a Bulgarian version of the Kebab, is made of minced meat, spices, and herbs rolled into a long sausage-like roll and topped with, you guessed it, sirene.
Another on the go snack is Lozovi Sarmi, which is grape leaves stuffed with minced meat, rice, herbs, and yogurt. Do like the locals and dip the stuffed leaves in even more creamy yogurt and drink some mineral water after every bite to appreciate the flavor.
Banichka, which is the mini version of the traditional round Banitsa, can be found in just about every local bakery in Bulgaria is great for a quick mid-afternoon snack.

Dinnertime in Bulgaria

Dinner is the main meal of each day, and the portions are generous. Be prepared to spend significant time at the table, talking, eating, laughing, and drinking. The locals usually enjoy plenty of Bulgarian wine, or the national drink, Rakia. Rakia is home-distilled using plums, apricots, pears, grapes, and other fruit.
A classic Bulgarian meal is Meshana Skara or mixed grill. It consists of consists of one kebapche, one kyufte, one pork steak and one skewer of pork meat. Also served with French fries, bean salad with chopped onions and lyutenitsa, you’ll want to drink plenty of beer with this dish.
Another dish that you need to try while in the country is Kavarma. The ingredients and preparation of the dish vary by region; however, the recipe mainly calls marinated cooked meat and vegetables, with herbs and spices being added to taste.
Bulgarians absolutely love stuffed peppers, and for good reason! The recipe is simple and delicious, so add it to your list. Red or green peppers are stuffed with ground beef or pork and rice and then boiled and topped with a seasoned tomato sauce or whisked eggs. The peppers can also be fried and stuffed with whisked eggs and cheese. One bite, and you’ll be hooked.

A Sweet Ending

One of the best parts of any meal in a foreign country is dessert, and Bulgaria is no exception! Baked apples are popular, made from peeled apples, butter, brown sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon. Once heated, the apples are served with ice cream or vanilla syrup and are sure to melt in your mouth.
Look on any dessert menu, and you are sure to find baklava. Consisting of filo dough, and sprinkled cinnamon and finely crushed walnuts, then brushed with oil, baked and topped with chilled sugar syrup, this dish has been a favorite for years.
Kiselo Miyako, or Bulgarian yogurt, is a tradition. One of the best types of yogurts available, it is pure yogurt in its most elegant form. How you eat it is up to you, as it can be enjoyed with fruit, plain, or with any topping you like. The bottom line is, there is no wrong way to eat Bulgarian yogurt.
Bulgarians love to eat, and why not? With all of these wonderful and traditional recipes, the food is simply fantastic. A trip to Bulgaria is the culinary adventure of a lifetime!

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Adventures in Bulgaria: A Thrillseeker’s Guidebook

Bulgaria Adventure Travel

The breathtaking mountains, glacial lakes, and unique geographical features scattered throughout Bulgaria can provide enough eye candy and excitement for a lifetime, making the southeastern European nation an outstanding destination for explorers of all appetites and interests. Before putting together an itinerary for a Bulgarian adventure, consider these options that highlight some of the best places to thrill-seek in Bulgaria.

Finding utopia for rafters and kayakers in Bulgaria.

Not far from Sofia, the Iskar Gorge in western Bulgaria is a terrific place to find some adventure without going overboard. Particularly suitable for beginners, Iskar River rafting is known for having a handful of legitimate thrills but also for a very scenic trip through the heart of the gorge, which is dominated by striking forests and rocky bluffs. From spring to the early part of summer, adrenaline levels tend to be elevated due to the increased speeds of the river, although the rafting remains spectacular all the way through the very colorful fall.
A couple of hours south of Sofia by car, near the southwestern corner of Bulgaria, the Kresna Gorge is where the more experienced rafters congregate for a whirlwind trip down the Struma River. Starting at the Vitosha Mountain and emptying into the Strymonian Gulf in the Aegean Sea, Struma is known for providing some intense rafting experiences through the Kresna Gorge that can be as challenging as they are beautiful to behold. Kresna Gorge also offers some excellent hiking, and the entire area is teeming with plant and animal life that are also major draws in the region.
Back to the more peaceful side of the adventure spectrum, kayaking down the mostly calm Kamchia River can be another exciting way to enjoy the Bulgarian countryside. Kayakers who paddle the Kamchia River Reserve on the way to the Black Sea enjoy thick forests, lush backdrops that seem lifted from a daydream (or painting), and plenty of great stopping points to break out a picnic lunch or camera.

Hiking to the famous Seven Rila Lakes.

Starting more than a mile above sea level, the Seven Rila Lakes are a natural attraction for Bulgarians looking to escape the summer heat and disappear into the lush green and blue landscapes the region is known for. A little more than an hour north of Sofia in western Bulgaria, it’s a hiker’s fantasy of mountain paths leading up to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, with green-coated bluffs hovering over the crystal-clear lakes that each come with unique and unforgettable features. Although swimming in glacial lakes like the Rila is typically only for the brave, the clear waters are a wonder to see once they thaw in June until the weather turns again in October. It also helps that the peak of summer is when the area sees a marked drop in storm activity.
Although it’s effortless to link up with a hiking tour company, it’s just as easy to independently put together a hiking trip from Sofia or one of the well-rated resorts or rentals of Sapareva Banya, a sleepy little town at the base of the mountains. For those who make it to Lake Peak and still aren’t done enjoying the scenic area, a separate trip to the Skakavitsa waterfall—the highest in the mountain range—is a thrill in itself merely due to the astounding power of the water’s plunge.
The Seven Rila Lakes aren’t the only source of terrific hiking in the area either, particularly for those hunting for an experience bordering on harrowing. From Govedartsi, hikers have an assortment of paths to choose from, including one that will take you to the so-called Scary Lake. Not only does the lake itself look like the backdrop of a horror movie but thunderstorms that rip through are naturally amplified by the setting, making for spectacular booms that have turned the lake into a legend (don’t worry, there’s a large and safe shelter right at the waterfront). The nearby Musala trail is also where you can find the highest point in Bulgaria, a stunning peak above the Borovets ski resort that is challenging but very doable for most regular hikers.

Hunt for a waterfall in a cave.

You can find Devil’s Throat Cave in southern Bulgaria nearly all the way to the Greece border, a scenic region in the Rhodopes mountain range that has all sorts of picturesque forests, blue lakes, and stream-spanning stone bridges. A stone’s throw from Trigrad Gorge, Devil’s Throat Cave isn’t for the claustrophobic, but visitors are typically enchanted with the experience of plunging down a winding, narrow path to the “Hall of Thunder” (or “Booming Hall“), where you can take in the roar of an underground waterfall. The descent is also filled with ominous rock formations that showcase the dark sense of mystery that has forever surrounded the cave.
With its nefarious rock formations and eerie setting, there are plenty of myths that have popped up about the cave, most notably that it’s the place where Orpheus descended into Hades chasing after his lover, Eurydice. Whether you believe any of the legends is up to you, but the journey tends to be one that piques the imagination and gives thrillseekers a memorable jaunt down into one of the unique settings you’ll encounter in Bulgaria.

Adventures along the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast.

The Black Sea Coast is gorgeous enough to make many visitors want to just lounge and chew on the exotic backdrop, yet the adventure-traveler has more than a few options to spice things up a bit. The scuba diving season between April and November has also really started to catch on in recent years as a major draw for divers, mostly thanks to the spread of different shipwrecks that are known to be clinging to the sea floor. Historical artifacts have been found in Bulgarian Black Sea waters from as far back as 3,000 years ago, although a variety of shipwrecks from the 20th century are also natural draws for divers.
One of the most popular spots is just off Varna, where you can spot a Roman port wholly submerged. There are also submarines, Russian destroyer ships, and plenty of other vessels that reached their demise in the Black Sea, with many coming during WWII. While you’ll need to find a certified diving academy to get started no matter your experience level, there are plenty of great dives for beginners not quite ready to head all the way down to the famous shipwrecks. The marine life is also known for being outstanding in the Bulgarian Black Sea, showcasing anything from seahorses and needlefish to all kinds of shellfish that make for an inspiring and colorful dive.

Final thoughts and ideas before the trip.

Anyone who thinks Bulgaria is a place to find a beach without breaking the bank hasn’t considered the country’s many outstanding highlights—particularly for the traveling adventurer. No matter where you go in Bulgaria, the stunning natural backdrops and the long list of activities provide more than enough ways to fill up your itinerary, however long your trip happens to be. While many of the top spots for adventure are best experienced in the spring, summer, and early fall, the fantastic skiing spots (e.g., Borovets, Pamporovo, and Bansko) also give a thrillseeker four seasons of possibilities. Although you may not need as large of a budget as some of Europe’s other top destinations for thrillseekers, Bulgaria more than holds its own and is ideal for letting an adventurous spirit run wild.
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Finding the Best Romantic Getaways in Bulgaria

Romantic Bulgaria Getaways

From colorfully unique summer festivals and outdoor adventures to spa getaways at chic adults-only locales, the options are endless within one of the formerly overlooked gems of southeastern Europe. Here are only a few of the options to consider for anyone targeting Bulgaria as the perfect romantic escape.

A variety of romantically-tinged options along the Black Sea at places like Golden Sands.

The Black Sea coast is where many couples from around the world come to spend nights of romance. In the energetic resort town of Golden Sands, romance-seekers have an assortment of options at their disposal, from secluded getaways lapped in luxury to an exciting nightclub scene that can be a perfect fit for the right couple. There are also miles of beaches featuring locally famous tiki bars, water activities, and world-class restaurants that make Golden Sands one of the most popular destinations in Bulgaria.
The many highly rated hotels and resorts cater to just about any type of couple there is, with the panoramic Black Sea views offering peerless backdrops for romance. Some of the most popular hot spots hold pool parties all summer long, befitting a great place for couples that moonlight as beach partiers. But for those looking for a more subdued experience with a loved one, there are plenty of accommodations that offer a more tranquil and intimate oasis far from the party scene.
With more than 230 miles of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, however, Golden Sands is also far from the only beach town worth considering, as other standouts like Nessebar also have plenty of great opportunities for romance. No matter what a couple considers paradise, the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria is sure to have a place that fits the description.

Go rose-picking in Rose Valley.

One of the classic Bulgarian traditions is on full display each May/June outside the town of Kazanlak in central Bulgaria. Amid the warming weather of late spring, the famed Rose Valley is flush with festivals and activities as locals and visitors alike hit the countryside looking for the perfect rose. While you can link up with groups for a customary rose-picking ritual that involves traditional Bulgarian dancing and music, many couples prefer to head off on their own to hit one of the countless rose fields that dot the area, spending afternoons getting lost in colorful rows of Bulgaria’s national flower. The enormous Rose Festival Parade is also a sight to see, as locals dress up in vintage Bulgarian garb and take onlookers on a trip into the country’s national pastimes.
While nearby Kazanlak has some character of its own and is a fun place to stay during the festival season, heading a little north will take visitors to hike the Shipka Pass for some exquisite views of the mountainous region. History lovers will enjoy learning about the unique Buzludzha monument (better known as “The Spaceship”) and the battles that took place there between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, but it’s also an ideal place for romantics to escape for afternoons of fresh air and sprawling green countryside. 360-degree panoramic views from the top of Freedom Monument are one of the highlights, and couples can cap off a Shipka Pass hike by heading to a rose brewery to try local brews made from rose water.

The treasures of Bulgarian wine country.

The many vineyards of southwestern Bulgaria are a major draw for couples looking for a tranquil romantic excursion. A flourishing region once again on the rise, Bulgarian wine country has a series of great towns and small cities worth visiting, most notably places like Melnik and Plovdiv. A cozy town nearly hidden by the neighboring Pirin Mountains, Melnik is technically the smallest town in Bulgaria by population but also has a variety of great resorts and independent boutique hotels that act as stepping stones for exploring the regional vineyards.
Offering a slightly different experience, Plovdiv in the Thracian Valley is the perfect starting point for a wine tour whether you rent a car and do it all yourself or join a group heading out to the best vineyards. The second most populous city in the country, Plovdiv has a spread of great wine bars exclusively featuring local nectars, letting you enjoy one of Bulgaria’s cultural hubs in between winery visits. Widely acclaimed restaurants like the jazz-infused Vino Culture offer a world-class wine-tasting experience along with an impressive menu that will make you forget you’re in a wine bar. As a city with a true international feel, Plovdiv offers of other luxury dining experiences featuring cuisine from around eastern Europe and beyond, and it’s known for being a great walking city for visitors who prefer to use two feet whenever possible.
The wine in the area also taps directly into the recent history of Bulgaria, a country that faced a major transition at the end of the Cold War. After becoming the fourth biggest wine-producer in the world by the 1980s, Bulgaria wine had a major decline in the 1990s as vineyard ownership was shuffled, but that gave way to a major resurgence over the last two decades that has brought back the romanticism of the area. These days, travelers from around Bulgaria join plenty of international visitors who come to southwestern Bulgaria to peruse nearly 150,000 of pristine vineyard acres.

Final thoughts before planning a romantic trip to Bulgaria.

Bulgaria is definitely a country where weather can be a significant factor, which is why you will want to do your research about what to expect from the region you’re targeting. Inland at places like Melnik, visitors can expect average highs in the low-to-mid 90s (°F) during the peak of the summer, which means that you’ll want to get up and get moving if you’re planning a trip in July or August. Nearby in Plovdiv, you can expect cooler weather and the same goes for the Black Sea coast, where temperatures rarely rise above 85 (°F) even during the hottest parts of the year.
Bulgaria is also well-known for being one of the most affordable European destinations, which it’s particularly attractive to couples looking to splurge a bit on high-end accommodations without the sticker-shock you would expect elsewhere. With an abundance of natural beauty and romantic possibilities all over the country, exploring Bulgaria is simply a great option for anyone looking for a unique romantic holiday.