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Bulgaria Weekend Breaks: Small Towns Packed With Fun
Bulgaria, with its healthy blend of small, misty mountain towns and long stretches of golden sand Black Sea beaches, is the perfect country for a short weekend (or extended weekend) road trip. Below, we feature the top destinations for fun-filled Bulgaria weekend breaks.
You will be enthralled by the country’s ability to captivate visitors with its jaw-dropping nature, wicked history, out of control nightlife, and subtle yet booming art scene.
Check out limestone cave bars or spend your time soaking in the sun at a beautiful Black Sea resort or dipping below the sea’s surface on a dive excursion. Ride along streams high up along far-out mountain passes and tour centuries-old monasteries. You can do it all in this country. There are enough Bulgaria attractions to create amazing itineraries for Bulgaria weekend breaks!
Bulgaria is a country in Eastern Europe bordering five other Balkan countries. Turkey to the southeast, Greece in the south, Macedonia and Serbia to the west, and Romania is its great northern neighbor. It is one of the most mountainous countries of the Balkans, and it has one of the best coastlines along the Black Sea.
Below, you will learn all you need to for your weekend road trip in Bulgaria, including a few different itinerary suggestions for trips of varying lengths to the best places to visit in Bulgaria. Bulgaria’s small towns are a part of what makes this country so special, and it would be a shame to miss out on them.
Bulgaria Tourism: Know Before You Go
Check out this useful information before you arrive in Bulgaria, so you are not left in the dark on your weekend getaway to Bulgaria’s best small town highlights.
Transportation In Bulgaria
If you are not driving your own vehicle or renting a car, taxis, and intercity buses are rather inexpensive. However, these methods are generally slower. In the instance of buses, sometimes they don’t leave until the bus is full depending on where you are. City transportation costs less than $1 everywhere in Bulgaria.
If you are flying in, it is also fairly inexpensive in Bulgaria to rent a car for the weekend. You can find a compact vehicle to rent at the Sofia International Airport for around $15-20 per day.
Depending on what kind of traveler you are, you can get by on anywhere from $25-$50 a day very easily in Bulgaria, even when visiting the top Bulgaria travel highlights.
A budget hotel would run you anywhere from $15-30 while a hostel can be as cheap as $5 for a bed with breakfast included. It also depends on where you are staying. Obviously, if you have to spend the night in Sofia, it will be a little bit more expensive than the smaller towns surrounding.
Traditional Bulgarian food, which is very representative of food in Eastern Europe with stews and hearty spiced meats, is very affordable. Expect to pay $10 for an upscale meal which is usually served with a Bulgarian beer. Having a traditional meal if one of the greatest things to do when you visit Bulgaria.
Otherwise, you can eat a lesser meal for $2-5 which can still fill you up to satisfaction.
Bulgaria Weekend Break Itineraries
There are a few different itineraries to have, depending on how much time you have to spend in Bulgaria.
2 or 3-days: Fly into Sofia and drive to Veliko Tarnovo. While there, visit Tryavna and Apriltsi.
4-5 days: Start in Sofia, make your way to Veliko Tarnovo (or Tryavna, Apriltsi), spend 1-2 days there, Go to Rila (or Melnik) spend 1-2 days visiting those towns.
Seven days: Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo for 1-2 days. Drive to the Black Sea to the town of Balchik, spend a few days there before driving back inland. Go to Rila (Melnik) or back to Sofia.
Best Time To Visit Bulgaria
There’s never a bad time to visit Bulgaria. Even in the dead of winter between November and March, the Balkan mountains have some of the best skiing in Europe, and many come specifically for that.
We prefer the cooler spring weather while we are hiking so March through April is a great time for us. There aren’t as many tourists around at this time, and you still get that fresh mountain air.
The peak season for tourism in Bulgaria is between May and September with July and August being the hottest and best for beachside shenanigans along the Black Sea.
There are things to do in Bulgaria in July, but also in September, December and April.
A lot of people get excited about Rose Harvest, which lasts 20 days from late May to the middle of June. However, like stated, there is never a bad time for visiting Bulgaria.
Best Places To Go In Bulgaria
Below are six small towns in Bulgaria, which give you a great taste of the country while enjoying a very laid-back, worry-free vacation. Although they aren’t huge Bulgaria cities, they are definitely among the top places to see in Bulgaria.
Sitting two hours south of Sofia in the Kyustendil Province of southwest Bulgaria, Rila is a small town of fewer than 3,000 inhabitants. It lies in the valley of the mountains at 2,000 feet above sea level.
The Rila Mountains are known as a sort of spiritual quest to local Bulgarians. The range is also called the ‘Mountains of Water’ with its 200-some alpine lakes hidden in the hills and steep cliffs of the Rila Mountains.
Rila National Park is a nature-junkie’s dream, one of the absolute best parts of Bulgaria for outdoor activities. A heavily wooded park with plenty of trails surrounding the renowned Rila Seven Lakes.
The tallest peak, Mt. Musala, sits around 9,000-feet tall while there are about 100 other peaks around the park hovering around 6,000-feet in the air.
However, the most popular tourist attraction in the area is the Rila Monastery which is known as the heart of spirit in Bulgaria and a big reason why these mountains are thought of as so sacred. The presence of this amazing historical monastery is one of the main reasons Rila is one of the best towns in Bulgaria to visit.
Rila town center is seriously charming with its hand-cut stone roads and well-preserved architecture. However, there is not much here. Definitely come if you are into hiking, but expect to find your own entertainment if you are not a nature enthusiast.
There are a few very unique hotels about ten miles outside of Rila:
- Yastrebets Hotel Wellness & Spa
- Alpin Hotel
- Club Hotel Yanakiev
At just over 150 miles east of Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, meaning “Great” Tarnovo in Bulgarian, sits in the north-central part of the country and acts as the capital of the region, which goes by the same name.
Often called the “City of Tsars,” the city is situated on the Yantra River and is renowned for being the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.
Its quirky yet beautifully placed city sits on top of three hills (Tsarevets, Trapezitsa, and Sveta Gora) and sees an unproportionate amount of tourism for its unique architecture.
There are less than 70,000 residents in town, but there are always tourists and traveling Bulgarians coming through as the city sits on the main road connecting western Bulgaria to the Black Sea and East Europe with the Middle East. It is at a very strategic spot.
Surrounded by cobbled roads and an ambiance which many find romantic, the picturesque Tsarevets Fortress stands well in-tact as the city’s (one of Bulgaria’s oldest cities) main attraction and point of reference. If you’re looking for simply nice places in Bulgaria for a short break, this is definitely one of them.
Here are three hotels within Veliko Tarnovo (not far from Tsarevets Fortress) which you might be interested in:
- Yantra Grand Hotel
- Agusta Spa Hotel
- Park Hotel Asenevtsi
Not but a half an hour from Veliko Tarnovo in central Bulgaria is another great town to visit, Tryavna. This small town in the Tryavna River valley has only just over 10,000 inhabitants and is a quiet place with a lot to educate yourself on the culture.
With nearly 150 cultural monuments, museums, and expositions, it is hard to imagine a place being better for your overall understanding of the country and its history.
Being right in the middle of Sofia and Varna (about 150 miles from each on opposite sides), this hidden Bulgaria destination is a natural stopping off point for those travelers making the trip in-between and a perfect place to spend an afternoon/ night.
Its Clock Tower, which was built in 1814, still stands as a symbol of the times in the center of town today. In the 19th Century, the city made a name for itself as the cultural and arts center of Bulgaria.
There are a few great boutique hotels scattered among other accommodation options in Tryanva. Here are a good options:
- Art-M Gallery and Hotel
- Hotel Tryanva Lake
- Family Hotel “Compliment”
Located all the way in the northeastern corner of Bulgaria is our only small town along the Black Sea on this itinerary. If you are only visiting the coast, you will be better off to fly into Varna rather than Sofia.
Balchick, unlike bigger seaside towns such as the city mentioned above of Varna, doesn’t see as much tourism. And, the tourism it does see is mostly local tourists from the west side of Bulgaria.
Descending from the Dobruja Plateau are hillside cliffs and ridges which make this city quite a pretty sight for the eyes. This creates hilly terraces which the city is known for; that and the beautiful coastal resorts in Balchik.
This town is a breath of fresh air after the more glitzy seaside towns to the south. Matter of fact, the town itself only has around 20,000 inhabitants and stays pretty quiet at most times. Thanks to this peacefulness, Balchik is one of the best places in Bulgaria for families looking for a quiet getaway, an ideal destination for Bulgaria weekend breaks.
Check out the city’s main attraction which is the eclectic Balchik Palace up the promenade a few kilometers. Queen Marie of Romania built the palace after falling in love with the town when she needed a summer home.
There are several places to stay in Balchik which probably don’t cost as much as the Queen’s palace (as if you were allowed to stay in the palace overnight, anyway).
- White Rock Castle Suite Hotel
- Mistral Hotel
- Antik Resort and Hotel
About 120 miles (or 2.5 hours) straight south of Sofia, Melnik is a green town in the Blagoevgrad Province of southwest Bulgaria. The town, sitting in the Pirin Mountains, was announced as an architectural reserve and nearly 100 buildings within it are cultural monuments.
It also has the honor of being Bulgaria’s smallest town. With only 400 inhabitants, there are nearly more buildings than people. Yet, it’s among the most historical places in Bulgaria, just thanks to those numerous monuments.
Its extraordinary location hidden in the mountains comes second only to the city’s celebrated history. Found in the 9th Century, many empires have had their control of Melnik over the centuries, and it reflects in the culture to this day.
Being so far tucked away in the mountains, tourists don’t usually make the trip, and this quaint little spot could be your oasis. Let it transport you back in time.
Here are a few places to stay in the tiny town of Melnik:
- Elli Greco Hotel
- Guest House Biser
- Melnik Hotel
Our final town, but certainly not the least intriguing, is a town just over 100 miles east of Sofia in the Lovech Province of north-central Bulgaria.
The town of Apriltsi has less than 3,000 residents, many of whom can’t speak English. However, you will absolutely love the views of the surrounding vistas and nature, and locals can tell you where the best ones are even without a handle on English.
Apriltsi has only recently been put on the tourist map with major renovations within town. Now, it is an attractive destination for enthusiasts of fishing, mountaineering, horse-riding, cycling, tennis, and skiing. You can also find several hiking routes, a luxurious hunting center, a bunch of wild picnic sites, and great opportunities for bathing at the river banks in privacy. So, if you’re wondering where to visit in Bulgaria for outdoor adventures, this is a fantastic option.
It is truly a haven for those looking for up-and-coming hot spots to travel in the Balkans. Here are several places to stay for those visiting Apriltsi for a night’s stay:
- Hotel and Tavern Svatovete
- Hotel Balkana
- Vila Verbena
Bulgaria’s culture and history are at the heart of all of its small towns. Sure, you may not find as many people capable of communicating in English, and menus might be more difficult to read, but the environment is well worth those minor sacrifices.
You will be in awe of the secrets which are to be found hidden in these tiny Bulgaria towns, whether it is in the mountains or on the coast. They prove that you don’t need to visit large cities to find some of the Bulgaria sights to see and activities to do. Even more so, some of the most famous places in Bulgaria are within the towns listed above.
If you have any questions regarding a small town road trip in Bulgaria, traveling to Bulgaria (or the Balkans) in general or Bulgaria weekend breaks, do not hesitate to reach out and we will see if we can help. If you’re looking for more suggestions for what to see in Bulgaria, we have many more suggestions!