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Why Visit Bulgaria – 14 Reasons To Travel Bulgaria
Bulgaria’s culture and history are at the heart of all of the reasons why you should visit Bulgaria. You’ll undoubtedly be in awe of the plethora of places of interest in Bulgaria, whether you’re in the city, the mountains, or the coast, and you will fall in love with Bulgaria as I have.
So, why visit Bulgaria? Let me show you why Bulgaria as a holiday destination is where you need to be headed right now and what Bulgaria is famous for.
Bulgaria Is Cheap
I was unsure what to expect the first time I headed to this European Union country regarding how much things cost in Bulgaria. But I guess thanks to the fact that it’s in Eastern Europe, the prices were much lower than in Croatia, where I live – and there was a lot of value for money. In fact, I came to learn that Bulgaria is one of the cheapest places to travel in Europe.
Cost Of Hotels In Bulgaria
Depending on what kind of traveler you are, you can get by on €25-€50 a day in Bulgaria, even when visiting the top Bulgaria travel highlights. Hotels in the capital Sofia in peak season can still be as low as €30 per night; in August, for a 5-star hotel, I only paid €100, including breakfast. I was shocked. A budget hotel would run you anywhere from €15-30, while a hostel will be even cheaper. It also depends on where you are staying in Bulgaria. Spending time in Sofia or the beach resorts will be much more expensive than in the smaller towns.
Cost Of Food In Bulgaria
Traditional Bulgarian food, which is very representative of food in Eastern Europe with stews and hearty spiced meats, is also very affordable – and filling! Expect to pay €10 for a traditional Bulgarian meal, which should be enjoyed with a Bulgarian beer—having dinner in a traditional restaurant is one of the most incredible things to do when visiting Bulgaria.
Cost Of Attractions In Bulgaria
Attractions cost a lot less than you’d expect. The UNESCO-Listed Rila Monastery is free to enter and only costs a few euros to enter the museum. Family passes for attractions in Bulgaria cost around €4-6.
Cost Of Taxis & Car Hire In Bulgaria
Cost Of Public Transport In Bulgaria
The kids wanted to ride the Metro in Sofia; we got an all-day pass for €2 for adults, and the youngest rode for free. Score.
Unlike the country, Bulgarian food has also gone largely undiscovered. Bulgarian cuisine shares characteristics with other Balkan dishes and exhibits similar flavors to its other neighbors, Greece and Turkey. Bulgarian dishes are also unique because the country has such a long history.
Because Bulgaria isn’t an especially large nation, the food in Bulgaria doesn’t vary significantly between the different regions. That said, you will find unique dishes in places like the Rhodope Mountains in Southern Bulgaria and along the Black Sea coast.
We ordered a few dishes repeatedly as we loved them so much. Our favorite foods in Bulgaria are;
- Bulgarian Shopska Salad
- Bob Chorba
- Meatballs – cooked in all manner of ways
Bulgarian food prices are much more reasonable than some of the more heavily visited Western European nations. They are also very filling, so you could easily skip dinner after a big lunch. Bulgaria doesn’t disappoint whether you’re a meat lover or a vegetarian – though many dishes contain dairy products, vegans are warned.
Friendly People In Bulgaria
Sure, you may not find as many people capable of communicating in English, and menus might be more challenging to read (I used Google translate a lot!), but it is all well worth the effort.
After living in Croatia for almost a decade, I love to leave to have new experiences abroad. One of the more refreshing experiences on my last two travels to Bulgaria has been just how much more friendly Bulgarians in the tourism space are than Croatians. Hotel staff were always smiling; servers were always asking if we wanted more to eat or drink – with a smile.
Everywhere we went, we felt welcome, and we came across good-hearted people, who wanted to help, even if they did not speak English. For example, in Veliko Tarnovo, we left the lights on in the hire car overnight – queue a dead battery come morning. We returned and asked the hotel for help after we had checked out and left – but the English-speaking staff had left, and the two cleaning ladies did not speak English. Luckily for us, they understood some of our Croatian, and they spent 30 minutes calling people in their contact list to see who could come to help us – on a Sunday morning, no less. A man on the street also got involved in flagging down cars and asking who had jumper leads. It really struck me how they wanted to help and refused all our offers to take money once we had the issue sorted – we did manage to get them to agree in the end, luckily.
How Safe Bulgaria Is
The best of Bulgaria is waiting to be explored, though how safe is Bulgaria, you may be asking yourself.
I wandered about Sofia day and night, and I did not feel unsafe alone at any time. While we were traveling as a family, we never worried about the car overnight; we just took standard precautions like parking in parking garages or a designated parking space, not in alleyways, and never left valuables in sight.
In Bulgaria, pickpocketing and tourist scams are just as common as in other places in Europe. Do not fall prey to someone handing you a baby or trying to distract you.
While on the Metro, I was on high alert with the children, but after 10 minutes, I realized that everyone was reading a book and staring at the phone, and there were no shady characters looking to commit a crime, and I relaxed.
Without question, the best places to visit Bulgaria are the ancient sites; the problem is that there are just way too many of them to choose from. Far too many to list in this post – but maybe one day, I’ll do a separate post. Here are just a few of my favorite ancient sites in Bulgaria.
- Hisarya Complex, Hisarya: Oldest remains date back to the 4th century BC
- St. George Rotunda, Sofia: Built in the early 4th century as Roman baths, it later turned into a church
- Amphitheatre, Plovdiv: One of the world’s best-preserved ancient Roman theatres, located in the city center of modern Plovdiv
- Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis, Plovdiv: Ancient Roman stadium of Philippopolis was built in the 2nd century AD to seat 30,000 spectators
- Basilica Mosaics, Plovdiv: Known as the Great Basilica from the ancient city of Philippopolis in Plovdiv. It was built in the mid-4th century AD and is the largest late antique early-Christian church discovered in Bulgaria and one of the largest in the Balkans
- Tsarevets, Veliko Tarnovo: 206 meters above sea level; Tsarevets was a medieval stronghold dating to the 12th century
- Serdica Archaeological Complex, Sofia: Discovered during the construction of Sofia’s metro system, these Roman ruins date to the 1st-6th century
- Thracian Tombs: Not all tourist spots in Bulgaria are easy to find – trust me. My boys and I spent a whole day driving the countryside, looking for several Thracian tombs. Several we found along our travels we enjoyed learning about and exploring. Thracian Temple Complex, Starosel, Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak Tomb, Sveshtari Tomb (UNESCO), Tomb of Seuthes
A huge shock to me on my Bulgarian travels was just how many wines Bulgaria produces – how many vineyards there are and how yummy the wines are. Especially the rosé wines. We’ve taken a couple of small wine-tasting classes in Bulgaria and think that a trip back to Bulgaria to explore the wines is on the cards.
During our tasting classes, we learned all about Bulgarians’ very long history of winemaking. The winemaking tradition has now developed and continues to develop into a very serious industry In Bulgaria. The interest in making excellent wines in Bulgaria also expanded to many expats. For example, we drank (and packed some to bring home) bottles of a Sauvignon blanc made by a local and a New Zealander.
The history of winemaking goes back to the times of Romans and Thracians. We know this to be true thanks to many ancient sites with winemaking depictions in mosaics, pottery, and paintings across Bulgaria. If you want to explore Bulgaria with a focus on wine, then you need to look at the five winemaking areas.
- The Thracian Valley – Southern: Plovdiv, Asenovgrad, and Haskovo
- The Struma Valley – Southwestern: Melnik
- The Danubian Plain – Northern: Pleven, Vidin, and Ruse and Pleven
- The Black Sea Coast – Eastern: Varna, Preslav, Pomorie, and Shumen
- The Valley of Roses – Sub-Balkan: Kazanluk
Bulgaria Is Perfect For A Road Trip
Are you still wondering “why visit Bulgaria”?. To see everything there’s to see. The best way to do that is to take a road trip in Bulgaria. We’ve made road trips in a dozen countries because we love to travel to the beat of our own drum. Stop when we want. Go when we want.
Driving the week in Bulgaria, we had an outstanding experience. Most roads between towns and cities are motorways, i.e., dual carriageways with emergency lanes. There are currently around 100’s kilometers of these types of roads, with more construction. The A1 between Burgas and Sofia and the A4 between Chirpan and the border with Turkey are the two that are fully complete, and we had zero problems with either. When driving through the small towns and villages, the roads are much less well-maintained. That said, all we had to do was slow down a little and watch out for potholes. Easy.
Bulgaria is ideal for a road trip, especially if you stay on the highways/main roads and you do not speed. There are speed cameras everywhere! We booked with Discover Cars and highly recommended them. We paid €200 for five days for a 7-seater luxury car, but we could have spent much less for a smaller vehicle.
Once you’ve got your hire car, be sure to pay for a vignette to use the roads – this is not optional, and the fines are very high if you do not have one.
Transport Is Easy
If you are not into driving yourself, never fear; transport in Bulgaria is easy – and oh-so-cheap. Taxis, the Metro, and intercity buses are inexpensive; however, these methods are far slower, so you’ll need to have a good plan in place.
From Sofia Airport, we took a taxi to our accommodation; after we returned the hire car, the line was huge. We felt discouraged that we had not booked a private transfer like we usually do. However, the disappointment didn’t last long. The taxi line moved fast; cab after cab came to pick up travelers. No one line-jumped, and the queue moved cordially – the cost of the ride was €10 for the 15-minute drive to our hotel in Sofia.
The kids wanted to try the Metro in Sofia, and I can say that the experience is top-notch. Safe, clean, and on time! We rode the Metro to several locations costing just €2 each for the day – and my youngest son rode for free!
Along the 378 kilometers of the Black Sea coastline in Bulgaria, magical towns and golden sun-kissed beaches like Sozopol, Golden Sands, or Sunny Beach are to be found. Here are the best beaches that should not be missed when traveling the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast.
- Saxa Beach In Burgas
- Town Beach In Sozopol
- Bolata Beach In Kaliakra Cape
- Varna – Golden Sands
- Balchik’s Central Beach
- Nesebar & Sunny Beach
- Irakli Beach
- Sinemorets Beaches
- Karadere Beach
- Silistar Beach
Communism & Soviet-Era Statues
A little quirky to list, I know. But when you grow up in a place far away from Communism, and the Soviet Union, you find this part of Bulgarian history fascinating.
Three places to stop are:
- The Buzludzha Monument: Opening in 1981, a citizen-funded structure to commemorate the Bulgarian socialist movement. Since the democratizing of Bulgaria, however, it’s now been abandoned for decades. So, it’s easy to see why a place loaded with such heavy Bulgarian history was chosen as the site for a national monument afterward.
- Founders of the Bulgarian State Monument: Often referred to more simply as the Shumen Monument, the Monument to 1,300 Years of Bulgaria is a huge monument located on a plateau above Shumen’s town. It was constructed in 1981 to celebrate and commemorate the First Bulgarian Empire’s 1,300th anniversary.
- Socialist Art Museum: Displaying works of art from the period of Socialist rule in Bulgaria (1944-1989), this museum is definitely worth a short visit. It is home to an extensive sculpture garden featuring at least 70 works throughout the park grounds, including the sizeable five-pointed star that once crowned the former Party House. It’s a great place to escape the city for a quiet art history walk.
Bulgaria Has Great Skiing
One-and-a-half-hour drive south of Sofia, heading towards the Bulgarian-Greek border along the A3, you’ll find Bansko, which is located at the foothills of the Pirin mountains. Here at the Bansko ski resort (one of the best winter resorts in Bulgaria), you can spend the day at the ski run or hit the snowboarding track.
Bansko is a typical Slavic village with ancient roots and is home to incredible traditions. Nestled in the Razlog Valley, it provides an abundant water reserve flow from the Mesta River’s many tributaries and the pristine glacial lakes. Because of the location, you can also find plentiful options to enjoy the many hot springs and day spas in Bansko and the surrounding area.
Bulgaria Is Perfect For A Weekend Break
Traveling Bulgaria could last months; there is so much to see. That said, there are a few ways to see parts of the country that could last just a few days. Here are a few different Bulgaria itineraries:
3 days: Fly into Sofia and drive to Veliko Tarnovo. While there, visit Tryavna and Apriltsi.
5 days: Start in Sofia, make your way to Veliko Tarnovo (or Tryavna, Apriltsi), spend 1-2 days there, Go to Rila (or Melnik), and spend 1-2 days visiting those towns.
7 days: Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo for 1-2 days. Drive to the Black Sea, the town of Balchik, and spend a few days there before driving back inland. Go to Rila (Melnik) or back to Sofia.
Bulgaria Is The Land Of Roses
Bulgaria is famous for its roses. On my last trip, my guides all proudly exclaimed that Bulgaria produces around 80% of the world’s production of rose oil. The Bulgarian “attar” of roses is a significant component in the perfumery business across the globe. One Bulgarian fun fact is that Bulgarian rose oil is used in the space industry, as a greasing component in space equipment, due to its resistance to temperature changes.
The Rose Festival is held in Kazanlak, part of the Rose Valley, and is held every year during the first weekend in June. The festival was first celebrated in 1903; since then, it has been kept going by generations of enterprising people from the valley. Nowadays, this is one of the Bulgaria festivals that has become an international event visited by thousands of locals and tourists.
Hiking In Bulgaria Is World-Class
One of the most popular activities and the best thing to do in Bulgaria is to go hiking. The country has stunning beautiful nature to explore and outdoor activities, and hiking is among the most rewarding.
Hiking in Bulgaria encompasses discovering jaw-dropping scenarios, expansive landscapes, impressive mountains, and a solid network of hiking trails for all levels, some of them very famous, such as the hikes in the Rila National Park (Seven Rila Lakes and Musala Peak) as well as the beautiful Sinanishko Lake in Pirin.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast getting ready to discover the walking paths in Bulgaria, here, you will find detailed information to explore the most beautiful gems in the country. For organization purposes, the guide is divided according to the four remarkable mountains of Rila, Pirin, Vitosha, and Rhodope – choose your trail and enjoy!
Where To Go Hiking In Bulgaria
- Rila National Park
- Musala Peak
- Seven Rila Lakes
- Pirin National Park
- Sinanishko Lake
- Mount Vihren
- Popovo Lake
- Vitosha Natural Park
- Cherni Vrah
- Boyana Waterfall
- Dragalevtsi Monastery
- Rhodope Mountains
- Golyam Perelik
- Orpheus’ Hills
- Devil’s Path Hiking Trail And Trigrad Gorge
Things To Know About Bulgaria
Once you have made your list of what to do in Bulgaria, you may also wish to jot down some of this information;
Best Time To Go To Bulgaria
There’s never a wrong 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 hiking, so March through April is an excellent time. 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, September, December, and April.
Many people get excited about Rose Harvest, which lasts 20 days from late May to the middle of June. However, as stated, there is never a bad time to visit Bulgaria.
What To Wear In Bulgaria
Regarding the obvious question of “what to pack for Bulgaria,” I can only say dress for the weather. This is so easy. Bulgaria is a very laid-back place – even in the big cities, people dress casually. Hello, travel jacket. And, also pack for your activities, and a good pair of comfortable travel shoes.
Start In Sofia
If you arrive by plane, hiring a car or taking an airport taxi is only a 20 minutes drive to Sofia city center. Alternatively, a train service takes just under half an hour. For others looking to save even more money, traveling by bus is the other option.
There’s a lot to see and appreciate in and around the city center, and it is best experienced on foot. However, traveling the subway is also an option and an exciting experience in itself. The metro and train services run frequently; however, there is a lack of signage in the metro/train stations to guide you to the right platform.
If you have any questions regarding traveling to Bulgaria (or the Balkans), 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 tips below!
Now that you know how great Bulgaria is and have more of an idea of the places to go in Bulgaria, we wish you many happy travels.Share