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 cliche 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. Sounds interesting? Well, If you’re contemplating why visit Bulgaria keep reading and let me give you at least 15 good reasons why this might not be such a bad idea.
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 heads 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 to 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.
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 for traveling to Bulgaria 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 Bulgaria in the shoulder season in May and September. The weather will still be pleasant.
If you prefer winters and want to indulge in skiing or other winter activities, I suggest you visit Bulgaria 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 give you some reasons why visit Bulgaria and tell you why it’s going to be the next big thing in Europe.
Related: Should you visit Europe in the winter?
Rich Cultural Heritage & History
Bulgaria is like the crossroads cafe of Europe, where various civilizations stopped by for a coffee and left their mark. Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans – they all hung out here, leaving behind a mosaic of historical sites. For history buffs wondering why visit Bulgaria, there are a lot of amazing places to visit and historical sites to discover.
The Roman Footprint: Ever walked on an ancient Roman street in Bulgaria? You can in
Plovdiv, where the Roman Stadium and Amphitheater aren’t just relics; they’re part of the city’s living room. It’s like walking your dog where gladiators once fought – casually epic.
Byzantine and Ottoman Influences: Imagine Bulgaria as a canvas painted with Byzantine and Ottoman hues. From the onion domes of churches to the minarets of mosques in cities like Sofia and Nessebar, it’s a blend of east and west, a cappuccino with a side of Turkish delight.
The Bulgarian Empire – A Medieval Powerhouse: Veliko Tarnovo, with its Tsarevets Fortress, is like the Hollywood sign of the Second Bulgarian Empire – bold, historic, and a bit of a show-off. This medieval capital was where Bulgarian tsars called the shots, and it still wears its history like a crown.
Renaissance and Revival: The National Revival period was like Bulgaria’s glow-up moment. Towns like Koprivshtitsa and Tryavna are like architectural catwalks showcasing colorful houses that scream, ‘Look at me!’ It’s where history meets swag.
A Story in Every Stone: From the Rila Monastery’s frescoes to the Belogradchik Rocks’ natural sculptures, Bulgaria’s history isn’t just told; it’s sung, painted, and even carved. It’s like a giant open-air museum where every corner tells a tale.
The Communist Era: The recent chapters in Bulgaria’s history book are filled with socialist realism and Brutalist architecture. It’s not just about the politics; it’s about understanding a period that shaped modern Bulgaria. Think of it as a history lesson, but with cooler buildings.
Many travelers ponder why visit Bulgaria, and the answer often lies in its delicious cuisine, from hearty stews to delectable pastries.Traveling to Bulgaria can’t be complete without trying some hearty, local 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.
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.
Are you a foodie? Then you’ll definitely love this list of the best food destinations in Europe.
Warm Bulgarian Hospitality And People
People often wonder why visit Bulgaria, but once they experience the warmth and hospitality of its people, they understand its appeal. First things first, Bulgarians aren’t just friendly; they’re ‘invite-you-to-their-home-for-coffee-after-just-meeting-you’ friendly. It’s like everyone’s competing to be the best host. Sitting down for coffee in Bulgaria isn’t just a caffeine fix; it’s a social ritual. It’s where friendships are made, news is shared, and time is forgotten. If you’re invited for coffee, clear your schedule – you’re in for the long haul.
And if you are lucky enough to be invited to a Bulgarian home, even for a cup of coffee, go hungry; food will always find its way to the table. Meals are hearty, the table is always full, and refusing a second helping might be considered a crime. Bulgarians also love a good celebration, and they celebrate with gusto. From traditional Kukeri festivals to weddings, it’s a whirlwind of music, dance, and joy.
Relaxing At Bulgaria’s SPAs and Wellness Destinations
If you’re contemplating why visit Bulgaria, its spa and wellness destinations are some of Europe’s finest, cheapest, and less crowded options out there. Here are a few examples.
- The Mineral Spring Mecca: Did you know Bulgaria is practically sitting on a treasure trove of mineral springs? It’s like the country is a giant spa, naturally. From Hisarya to Velingrad, these spots are not just for taking a dip; they’re like nature’s own Jacuzzi, minus the bubbles.
- Hisarya – A Dip in History: Picture this: you’re floating in mineral-rich waters, surrounded by Roman ruins. That’s Hisarya for you. It’s not just a spa town; it’s a spa town with an ancient twist. You can almost hear the togas swishing in the background.
- Velingrad – The SPA Capital: Velingrad takes its SPA title seriously. It’s like the town was designed by relaxation gurus. With over 80 mineral springs, you can hop from one thermal bath to another – it’s like a pub crawl, but for SPAs.
- Bansko – Relaxation and Adventure Hand in Hand: After a day of skiing or hiking in the Pirin Mountains, what’s better than a thermal spa? Bansko offers that perfect blend of adrenaline and serenity. It’s like the après-ski was invented here.
- Pomorie – Mud Baths and Salt Lakes: Pomorie isn’t just your average beach town; it’s where you go for a mud bath. Imagine slathering yourself in healing mud and then floating in a salt lake. It’s like being a spa sandwich, and it’s as delightful as it sounds.
- Sandanski – Breathe Easy and Unwind: Known for its clean air and healing climate, Sandanski is the place where you can take a deep breath and actually feel healthier. It’s the kind of town where even the air is therapeutic.
- Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast – Thalassotherapy, Anyone?: Along the coast, you’ll find spa treatments with a marine twist. It’s not just about the mineral water; it’s about the sea, the salt, and the sand. It’s like the whole beach is your wellness center.
Go Skiing Without Spending A Fortune
Bulgaria is one of the cheapest countries to live in on the Old Continent and that comes with its own set of advantages. For example, the living standard is lower which translates to lower prices of goods and services and this applies to skiing destinations as well. Bulgaria is home to some of the most affordable skiing destinations in Europe. In Bulgaria, ski lessons are actually affordable. It’s like having your cake and eating it too, but the cake is learning to ski without taking out a loan. Gear rentals in Bulgaria are surprisingly reasonable. You won’t have to ponder over the existential question of whether to buy new skis or just rent them.
Bansko – The Skiing Hotspot That Doesn’t Burn a Hole in Your Wallet: Bansko is like that all-inclusive resort everyone talks about, minus the hefty price tag. Picture this: pristine slopes, modern lifts, and après-ski fun that doesn’t cost your entire savings. It’s like skiing in the Alps, but your bank account stays as chill as the snow.
Pamporovo – Sun, Snow, and Savings: Ever heard of a ski resort where the sun almost always shines? Welcome to Pamporovo. It’s not just about sunny days and well-groomed slopes; it’s about enjoying skiing without having to sell your kidney for a lift pass.
Borovets – Old School Charm, New School Prices: Borovets is like stepping into a retro skiing poster – it’s got charm and history, with prices stuck in a time loop. Here, you can enjoy night skiing, cozy mountain huts, and maybe even a mulled wine or two, all without the ‘luxury’ price tag.
Bulgarian Wine Culture
Why visit Bulgaria? In my personal opinion, its lesser-known wine regions offer exquisite tastings and vineyard tours for oenophiles. With a winemaking history dating back to Thracian times, it’s like the country was fermenting grapes when the rest of the world was just discovering fire.Briefly, here are a few of the best wine destinations in Bulgaria.
- Melnik – Not Just a Town, But a Wine Lover’s Time Capsule: Melnik is so tiny it could be a secret, but its wines are a loud and proud history lesson. It’s the kind of place where you can taste the richness of the past in every glass, and the local Shiroka Melnishka Loza grape variety is like a celebrity in its own right.
- Plovdiv – Where Wine Meets Urban Chic: Plovdiv isn’t just an ancient city; it’s a hub for modern Bulgarian winemaking. Picture trendy wine bars and rustic cellars where traditional meets contemporary, and the wine is as rich in flavor as the city is in history.
- The Valley of Roses and Wine: Kazanlak isn’t just about roses; it’s also a valley flowing with wine. Here, you can pair your wine tasting with a walk among the roses. It’s like Mother Nature decided to throw a party and invited both the roses and the grapes.
Get Lost In The Bulgarian Mountains
Outdoor enthusiasts might ask why visit Bulgaria, only to find the country’s extensive hiking trails and mountain ranges are a paradise for adventure. If you’re thinking of visiting Bulgaria and are looking to get off the beaten track, there are countless opportunities to do so. One of my favorite facts about Bulgaria has a lot of mountains and nearly one-third of its area is covered in lush green forests. The majority of tourists who visit the sunny beaches on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria 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 Bulgarian mountains, the infrastructure and the facilities are surprisingly good.
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 Coastal Bulgarian cities
The cities on the coastline are Bulgaria’s main stars during the summer. Bulgaria’s coast isn’t the largest- it stretches for only 378 kilometers but it’s home to 2 of the largest 4 cities in Bulgaria (Varna and Burgas). In addition to these two beautiful cities (which by the way have a lot more to offer than just beaches), Bulgaria is also home to a few more premier beach destinations like Nessebar, Sozopol, Pomorie, and Golden Sands, all of which are equally beautiful and some of the most affordable beach destinations in Europe.
See A Typical Medieval Capital
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 centuries. 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 Tarnovo as their capital: it was almost impossible to conquer!
Visit One Of Europe’s Oldest Cities
Plovdiv is the 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 surprisingly good shape. Plovdiv is also a great starting point for exploring the Rodopi Mountains.
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See One Of Europe’s Quirkiest Capitals
Sofia is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the Balkan Peninsula, where the West meets 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 to 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 Stara Planina 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.
Explore The “Lord of the Rings” Fortress
When traveling to Bulgaria, you have to check out the Bulgarian Lord of the Rings Fort, located around 4 hours away from the capital, Sofia. Belogradchik (the White City) is home to the Kaleto, a stunning architectural masterpiece built during the Roman era that, with its dramatic rock formations and imposing structure, bears a resemblance to the fortress of Helm’s Deep from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”
See The Melnik Pyramids
Nestled in the southwest of Bulgaria, near the quaint town of Melnik, these natural sandstone formations are a spectacle to behold. The Melnik Pyramids are towering structures, which range from spiky peaks to smoothly curved towers. The pyramids change colors with the day’s light, from warm hues at dawn to golden tones at sunset, making them a photographer’s dream and an Instagrammer’s paradise.
See A UFO Building
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 good shape today it still looks really futuristic and today is known among travelers as the UFO building.
Hike The Seven Lakes Of Rila
The Rila Mountains are simply amazing. They are 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.
Look Into The Eyes Of God
Nestled in the karst landscape of northern Bulgaria, Prohodna Cave isn’t your average cavern. The cave’s claim to fame? Two eerily symmetrical holes in its ceiling, known as the “Eyes of God”. On sunny days, these eyes gaze down at you, and when it rains, it looks like the divine is having a bit of a weep. Walking into Prohodna is like stepping into the pages of a fantasy novel. The cave’s natural light show, courtesy of these eye-like openings, creates a surreal atmosphere that can make even the most skeptical visitor feel like they’ve stumbled into a sacred space.
Discover Trigrad Gorge
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 views. If that’s not enough you will get to see the Trigradska River disappearing inside an enormous cave locally known as Devil’s Throat. Tucked in the Trigrad Gorge, this cave’s got a waterfall inside that sounds like thunder and it’s steeped in myths about Orpheus and the underworld.
A Few More Reasons Why Visit Bulgaria
Lastly, we conclude this list of reasons of why visit Bulgaria with a few more things that will surely convince you to visit this beautiful Balkan country.
Vibrant Festivals and Culture: Experience Bulgaria’s rich cultural heritage through its colorful festivals, traditional music, and dance.
Cheap Flights: If you’re wondering where to book a car for your Bulgaria trip, use this AutoEurope coupon to save 15% on your car rental.
Cheap Car Rentals: For the cheapest flights to Bulgaria, use this special offer by Qatar Airways. I booked my flight through it a few times and saved at least $50 every single time.
Cheap Accommodation: Looking for cheap accommodation? Use my Booking discount code to save 10% on all accommodation rentals in Bulgaria. If you’re looking for something fancier, this coupon will get you the best deals for all IHG Hotels in Bulgaria.
Affordable Tours: 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.
For the best travel insurance deals in Bulgaria, check out these SafetyWing offers.
Does traveling to Bulgaria sound exciting? Would you want to visit Bulgaria? What’s your favorite thing about visiting Bulgaria? Let me know in the comments!
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