The southeastern European country of Bulgaria could be considered a hidden gem in itself. And it’s definitely one of the more looked over countries for tourists in the less travelled Eastern Europe. That’s what makes the country an even more desirable travel destination…especially for those who like a more “road less traveled” type of getaway.
Bulgaria is Europe’s 16th largest country. Romania is at its northern border, while Greece and Turkey lie to the south. At its western borders, you’ll find Macedonia and Serbia, and to the east…the Black Sea. So its location provides access to several other more frequented tourist destination countries of Eastern Europe. Why not stop in Bulgaria and explore a bit too while passing through?
So what exactly is there to do in Bulgaria? There’s probably quite a bit more than you realize. Dramatic mountain ranges, historic towns and villages, and great beaches are just a few reasons to discover Bulgaria. Fans of history will also love exploring the country with its ancient ruins sites, architecture, and beautiful monasteries. Need a bit more inspiration? Here’s a look at a few top things to do while traveling through Bulgaria…
TAKE A WALKING TOUR AROUND SOFIA
Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria and also the country’s largest city. But in terms of size, it’s not your typically huge metropolis. Walking around the city is one of the best ways to explore it. You can either arrange for a guided tour or head out on your own if you feel comfortable roaming around its historic streets.
Sofia has a lot of great churches to check out, including its landmark structure, the Alexander Nevski Cathedral. There’s also the Russian Church of St. George, and the Sveta Sofia Church. Sofia also has plenty of quaint cafes and restaurants and cultural museums too.
EXPLORE PLOVDIV’S OLD TOWN
Plovdiv is Bulgaria’s second largest city. It differs from Sofia in that is has an old town section of the city located on a hill. The city itself was founded some 6,000 years back and originally on seven hills. The area of Old Town is known for its beautiful Bulgarian Renaissance architectural style. Its colorful houses give a unique display of character and history. There’s also a well-preserved Roman amphitheater to check out as well. At the top of Old Town’s hill you’ll find several galleries and house museums to discover.
DISCOVER ONE OF EUROPE’S OLDEST TOWNS
The historic town of Nessebar has quite an extensive history. It’s sometimes referred to as the “Pearl of the Black Sea.” It was originally founded as a Thracian settlement. But the Romans, Greeks, Crusaders, Byzantines, Ottomans, and Bulgarians all took turns occupying the coastal town. Today it’s preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can go back in time as you stroll along the cobblestone streets or explore the remnants of nearly 40 brick churches…with some dating all the way back to the 5th century!
TAKE IN THE MAJESTIC SCENERY OF THE SEVEN RILA LAKES
This area is one of Bulgaria’s most visited attracted. And with the sheer beauty of the Rila Mountains and glacial lakes, it’s no surprise why. Known as the Seven Rila Lakes (located in the town of Rila) the area offers some great hiking opportunities. And there really are seven lakes in the area to discover.
You can find the lakes in a mountain valley located one above the other. They are interconnected by various streams and waterfalls. Some of the trails can be a bit difficult, so it’s a good idea to think about taking a guide along to help you plan a hike best suited for you. No matter which hike you choose though, the views are sure to be amazing!
WALK ACROSS THE WONDERFUL BRIDGES
These “bridges” are actually naturally made. They were formed by erosion at a time when then nearby Erkyupryia River has larger and more powerful. The marble clefts became a deepwater cave. It’s thought that over time the ceilings of these caves collapsed and the two bridge-shaped outcrops remained.
No matter how they formed, the bridges are a cool sight. And it’s quite an experience to cross over them. The largest bridge is about 315 feet (96 meters) long and 50 feet (15 meters) at its widest point. It’s shaped by three vaulted arches. There are also two tourist huts nearby if you want to relax and take in the surroundings while exploring the area.
BECOME KING/QUEEN OF THE MOUNAIN AT ASEN’S FORTRESS
Located outside the town of Asenovgrad, this medieval fortress dates back to the around 1185AD. It was used during the heights of the Second Bulgarian Dynasty and the Asen Dynasty. The fortress was built into a northern slope of the Rhodope Mountains. It’s located on an isolated rock about 985 feet (300 meters) high. It’s quite a climb, but reaching the fortress and taking in the amazing views will definitely be worth it!
EXPLORE THE BLACK SEA BEACHES
It wouldn’t be a complete trip to Bulgaria without exploring its Black sea coastline. There are plenty of long stretches of sandy beaches. You’ll find everything from small fishing villages to historical sites and coastal hotels. For a more touristy experience, check out Sunny Beach and Golden Sands. For a few options a little less travelled, look for the city beaches in Burgas and Varna.
Bulgaria is definitely a great place to discover. Many who have travelled there have gone back again to revisit favorite places or make new discoveries. It may not be the typical tourist destination…but it could very well be one of the most authentic European experiences.