Traveling to Bulgaria: why it’s going to be Europe’s next big thing?

I always define Bulgaria as the European gem many people are looking for but don’t know how to find it yet. Bulgaria is the last stop of the former Soviet Bloc where the Old Balkan Mountains crash into the Black Sea and where the West meets the East. I know it’s a cliché thing to say but in Bulgaria’s case, it’s true. Bulgaria borders Turkey on the east and it’s the starting point in Europe for many Asian immigrants. Traveling to Bulgaria is a different yet still amazing experience and I’ll do my best to show you why I think you should visit.

traveling to Bulgaria

Unlike the other countries on the Balkan, in Bulgaria, you will find big Chinese, Arab, and Indian communities that transferred a significant part of their culture to this lovely country. Bulgaria is also the oldest country in Europe never to change its name. It’s probably the only country where people nod their head when they say no. And the country with the 8th fastest internet speed in the world! So if you’re a traveling hipster that is searching for a different experience, traveling to Bulgaria is definitely something you have to do.

Getting to Bulgaria

Let’s start at the beginning: how to get in Bulgaria? Bulgaria has three international airports. The largest one is in Sofia, the capital and the other two are in coastal cities Varna and Burgas. Bulgaria is also one of the newest members of the EU so it’s well-connected with the rest of Europe via bus or train. And yes, it’s also part of the Euro trail.

For the cheapest flights to Bulgaria, use this special offer by AirFrance.

Traveling to Bulgaria

The transport between cities in Bulgaria is slow as the roads aren’t really good but at least it’s super cheap. You can get from Sofia to the Black Sea Coast on the other side of the country in approximately 8 hours by road. The good part is that most small towns and villages are well-connected via buses or trains so you can explore the whole country without renting a car or hiring a driver. If you want to rent a car and get off the beaten track in Bulgaria, use this link and save up to 30% on your car rental for your upcoming trip.

Best time to visit Bulgaria

The best time to visit depends entirely on what you want to do. Bulgaria has a lot to offer. If you want to relax at some of the exotic beaches at the Black Sea Coast, come between June and August. However, you can avoid the tourist rush and visit in the shoulder season in May and September. The weather will still be pleasant. If you are a winter fan and want to indulge in skiing or other winter activities, visit between December and March.  If you are a nature lover or a fan of bird watching and similar activities, visit in April or May.  With that being said, let me introduce this charming country to you and tell you why it’s going to be the next big thing in Europe.

Related: Should you visit Europe in the winter?

Bulgarian Food

Bulgarian food is not very famous on the old continent but just like all other Balkan countries, Bulgarians have some amazing food. Their food is a beautiful mix of traditional Balkan, Greek, and Turkish food. The first thing that comes to mind when Bulgarian food is mentioned is Banitsa. Banitsa is a must-try greasy ad delicious baked pastry filled with either: egg, potato, onion or meat. It’s the most common breakfast among local people. One thing that goes well with this is the famous Bulgarian yogurt that’s supposedly the best in the world. Also, if you’re a meat lover you will enjoy their oversized chunks of traditionally prepared barbecue.

traveling to Bulgaria

Just like all other Balkan countries, Bulgarians love their meat. Some other amazing dishes you can try are kavarma (a spicy pork stew) and gyuvech (meat and peppers cooked in an earthenware pot). They also have some very good traditional salads, like taratur which is made of cucumbers and garlic dipped in some of their delicious yogurts. Finally, you can wash all that delicious food up with some delicious Bulgarian wine from vineyards reclaimed from the no man’s land that used to separate the Eastern and the Western Bloc in the past century. Alternatively, you can also try their neat traditional hard liquor drink mastika.

Getting lost in the Bulgarian mountains

Bulgaria has a lot of mountains and nearly one-third of its area is covered in lush green forests. The majority of tourists that visit the sunny beaches at the Black Sea coast don’t really know what they are missing. Don’t get me wrong, I like beaches but the Bulgarian mountain experience is truly something amazing. Even though there aren’t too many people visiting the mountains, the infrastructure and the facilities are surprisingly good.

Traveling to Bulgaria

Most of the mountains have a lot of accommodation options and a lot of restaurants. Additionally, you will find a lot of mountain villages built in a 19th century ‘revival’ style so wondering around the Bulgarian mountains can make you feel like you traveled back in time. Getting there also isn’t expensive as pretty much everything is cheap in Bulgaria. With an average salary of around $400 USD, Bulgaria is still one of the poorest countries in Europe. However, Bulgaria isn’t only a cheap destination. It’s much more than that…

Exploring the Bulgarian cities

Traveling to Bulgaria

Just like the mountains, the cities which aren’t on the coastline don’t get the number of visitors they actually deserve. But places like this are always more fun to explore. There isn’t a tourist rush, prices are low and the free walking tours are amazing. Places like Sofia and Plovdiv have free walking tours that normally have between 6 and 10 tourists a day. Just for comparison, most free walking tours in Europe I took had at least 30-40 people. So, if you want to get away from the tourist crowd, this would be a good choice for you.

Veliko Trnovo

Traveling to Bulgaria

The Old capital is one of the most interesting places in the Balkan Peninsula. It’s a city with 1000 years of history behind its name and it was the country’s capital between the 12th and 14th century. The town sits on a sharp S-shaped ravine which just adds to its unique charm. With its amazing fortress and tiny streets, it’s easy to see why the Bulgarians chose Veliko Trnovo as their capital: it was almost impossible to conquer!

Plovdiv, the city of seven hills

Traveling to Bulgaria

Plovdiv is the second oldest city in Bulgaria and just like Rome, it’s made of seven hills. The Plovdiv Old Town has some stunning amphitheaters and other remnants from the Roman times which are in a surprisingly good shape. Plovdiv is also a great starting point for exploring the Rodopi Mountains.

Related: all you need to know before traveling to Romania

Sofia, the poor man’s Prague

traveling to Bulgaria

Sofia is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the Balkan Peninsula, where the West meats the East thing feels the most. Here you will find big Chinese, Arab, Turkish, and Indian communities that integrated their cultures into Sofia’s soul. Sofia has a stunning city center and the architecture around this area has a striking resemblance with Prague. Just like Prague, it also transformed most of its socialist-era student dorms in some of the city’s best clubs. A lot of similarities with the main difference being: it’s cheaper. Sofia is also surrounded by two great mountains: Vitosha and Rila and it’s a great starting point for some amazing hiking adventures.  Finally, if you’re into shopping, near the iconic Nevski Cathedral you will find one of the cheapest street markets in Europe where you can get some amazing bargains.

Things to do in Bulgaria

I can really make this list very very long but I’ll just mention some of my favorites that I didn’t cover yet.

The “Lord of the Rings” fort

traveling to Bulgaria

When traveling to Bulgaria, you have to check out the “ Bulgarian Lord of the Rings Fort”, located around 4 hours away of the capital, Sofia. Belogradchik (the White City) is home to the Kaleto, a stunning architectural masterpiece built during the Roman era.

The UFO building

traveling to Bulgaria

During their time, communists built some unorthodox stuff and Bulgaria was no exception. Around an hour and a half away from Veliko Tarnovo, you will find Bulzludzha, a former communist meeting hall that was closed after the fall of socialism in 1991. However, that didn’t stop people from smashing in and trying to take their last memories from the socialism. The building is still in a good shape today it still looks really futuristic and today is known among travelers as the UFO building.

The seven lakes of Rila

Traveling to Bulgaria

The Rila Mountains are simply amazing. They are a home to the Rila Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in the region and a UNESCO heritage site and to the seven lakes of Rila. When looked from above, these lakes look like giant footsteps leading to the mountaintop. I already wrote about the Rila Lakes in the 9 places in the Balkan you must see before you die.

Trigrad Gorge

traveling to Bulgaria

This is one of my favorite hiking spots to visit when traveling to Bulgaria. On the way, you will be completely surrounded by lush green forests and spectacular view. If that’s not enough you will get to see the Trigradska River disappearing inside an enormous cave locally known as Devil’s Throat.

Helpful resources for traveling to Bulgaria

If you’re wondering where to book a car for your Bulgaria trip, use this Sixt coupon to save 15% on your car rental.

For the cheapest flights to Bulgaria, use this special offer by AirFrance. I booked my flight through it a few times and saved at least $50 every single time. If you’re a student traveling to Bulgaria, you can use this STA travel offer to save you up to 15% on all flights to Bulgaria.

For the best travel insurance deals in Bulgaria, check out these World Nomads offers.

If you’re looking for some great tours in Bulgaria, I have to recommend Insight Vacation. This offer will get you 10% off on all of their tours.

Looking for cheap accommodation? Use my Booking discount code to save 10% on all accommodation rentals in Bulgaria.

If you’re looking for something more fancy, this coupon will get you the best deals for all IHG Hotels in Bulgaria.

Does traveling to Bulgaria sound exciting? Would you visit this country? What’s your favorite thing about it? Let me know in the comments!

traveling to bulgaria

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58 thoughts on “Traveling to Bulgaria: why it’s going to be Europe’s next big thing?”

  1. Bulgaria looks amazing! Will definitely be looking into booking a trip. I better get there quick before everyone else hears about it and it gets too busy ?

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  2. A nice post about this beautiful country – this gives me some new Ideas to what places to visit: A friend of mine is from Bulgaria and we decided to visit his home country this summer to mainly go hiking and take milkyway photos (yes, we’re both extremely into astrophotography)

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  3. Wow, I think you are right – Bulgaria is the next big thing. This is one of those countries who receive so little attention, but it looks like an absolutely gem of a country to visit. Will use your post as a guide when I make it there. Can’t wait!!

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  4. Wow, I hope I can go there soon. June and August seems good but also peak time for tourist I guess. Didn’t know that it’s still one of the poorest country in Europe, at least it it cheap and the views are really breathtaking.

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    • Yes, Laurence, June and August is when you’ll find most tourists around but if you want to explore the countryside and mountains don’t worry- most of the tourists will be at the Black Sea Coast

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  5. After reading this i want to visit Bulgaria. When people mention Europe, Bulgaria is usually not on the top but once more people learn about its beauty, it will rise up! Love all your photos

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  6. Wow! I have never been to Bulgaria but I the pictures are just incredible! Definitely will be looking into Bulgaria for an upcoming trip! Thanks for sharing 😀

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  7. Bulgaria is definitely on my list as one of the cheaper European countries not overrun with crowds…yet. It’d ve sun seeing that UFO building and the gorge and any place with castles, forts and the like has my vote. Shoulder season is my time to travel as it’s cheaper.

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  8. Bulgaria seems like a beautiful destination. Heard a lot about Bulgaria’s untouched nature, virgin forests and misty mountains but never got a chance to visit. Your post has certainly inspired me to add it to the list. Rila Lakes look lovely.

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  9. Wow Bulgaria is beautiful and your post surely puts it on my bucket-list. What I would love to visit the most, even more than Sofia is Veliko – 1000 years of history and the impregnable fortress! That’s just my kind of place! The landscape both in the city and outside in the mountains are jaw-dropping gorgeous. thanks for the fine introduction to this great country

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  10. You are definitely right! Bulgaria is the destination I didn’t know I needed. I’ve gained an interest in eastern Europe only recently, but Bulgaria wasn’t even on my radar. Thank you!!

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  11. I travelled around Balkans but missed Bulgaria! My VA has been to this place and she couldn’t stop gushing about it that I’m also planning to visit next year. Will save your article for reference in the future. And your pics are really gorgeous!

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    • I visited Romania too and wrote a blog post about it. Do check it out if you have the time, would love to hear a local’s perspective of my article 🙂

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  12. Bulgaria looks stunningly beautiful! Would definitely love to visit here one day as love the food options, the historical essence and overall feel of the place through these pictures. Was pleasantly surprised to read about Plovdiv, the city of seven hills. There is a pace in Maharashtra, India called Satara getting its name from seven forts – Saat – tara 🙂

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    • Thank you, Kavita. I heard about Saatara and actually visited last year. It was a lovely experience. I hope you make it to Bulgaria someday

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    • A small correction: the Black Sea Coast is popular and very touristy during the summer months. That’s why I barely mentioned that part of Bulgaria in this post 🙂

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  13. As far as I know, Bulgaria already has been a very popular tourist-destination – whereby the emphasis lies on tourist. Now it has to be discovered by travellers – and your pictures – especially those of the lakes – show that it’s totally worth it.

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    • Well, yes and no. Bulgaria gets a solid number of visitors, true. But most of them visit the Black Sea coastal cities during the summer months, while the mountains and forests remain relatively unfrequented.

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  14. Devils Throat…Now that sounds ominous! I’ve never visited Bulgaria but reading about the similarities between Prague old town and Sofia, it makes me wonder why I haven’t visited sooner! Plus, I’m a huge LOTR nerd so I definitely need to see this fort!
    Thanks for sharing,
    Jaz

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  15. Bulgaria is amazing! It’s still somewhat off the beaten path due to misconceptions about its safety – in fact it is one of the safest to travel in, based on our analysis of violent crime (really low victims of intentional homicide), healthcare (good levels but only in cities), natural disasters (last major earthquake was in 1928), road safety (one of the top 50 safest globally based on World Health Organization stats), and presence of tourist targeted scams (main one to watch out is unlicensed/fake taxis).

    Good for us, as it just means it is less touristy for us to enjoy its resplendent churches, glorious beaches and many beautiful hikes and nature 🙂

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    • Absolutely, David! Bulgaria is safe to visit and even travel scams aren’t as common as they used to be in the 1990s’ and early 2000s’. It’s surprising how the number of tourists per year isn’t higher but as you said, the lest touristy-the better for us that want to explore this beautiful country.

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