I often ask my tourists why they decided to come to Bulgaria and usually the most common answers are- because it is cheap or because they wanted to go to some not so popular place just out of curiosity. Of course, the price factor is an important one, but here are some more good reasons that will make you think about vising our beautiful country:
It is impossible to describe all that can be seen in Bulgaria with just a few sentences. The Bulgarian lands have preserved heritage from Thracian, Roman, Byzantine, Soviet and of course- Bulgarian times. In the center of Sofia, it is absolutely striking to see remains and buildings from all of these periods so close to each other. There you will also see Saint George Rotunda- one of the oldest churches in Europe, dating back to the 4th century and Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral- the second biggest on the Balkans.
Remarkable historical places can be found all around Bulgaria. The ancient Thracian fortress- temple of Perperikon is one the oldest megalith complexes, carved completely into the rocks. In Plovdiv, the oldest inhabited town in Europe, you will find one of the best preserved Roman Theaters and parts of a Roman Stadium. The capital of the second Bulgarian Kingdom- Veliko Tarnovo- is impressive with its well preserved fortress walls and typical houses.
In many towns, there are old medieval churches and monasteries. The most famous ones are the Boyana Church and the Rila Monastery- UNESCO heritage sites. In Boyana Church, just in the outskirts of Sofia, are completely preserved amazingly old frescoes, dating back to the 13th century.
And these all are just a small part of the many interesting historical places that you will find in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria will capture you with its beautiful and unspoiled nature. Just take a trip to the mountains and you will find big lakes, charming waterfalls, astonishing caves and amazing panoramic views.
Some of the most popular interesting places are: Vitosha Mountain, just next to Sofia, offering a lot of different hiking routes; the Seven Rila Lakes; the Stob Pyramids near the Rila Monastery; the Melnik Pyramids; the Iskar Gorge; the Ledenika Cave; the Belogradchik Rocks.
If you come in May, you will also have the chance to enjoy the Rose Valley, in the region of Kazanlak.
Bulgaria has many hot mineral springs, so it is a great destination for SPA tourism as well.
This is of course part of the historical and cultural heritage, but it definitely needs special attention. The typical Revival houses were built in some places in Bulgaria during the 19th century. These are beautiful colorful houses with specific architecture. You will find them in the mountain town of Koprivshtitsa, the old towns of Plovdiv and Nessebar or if you visit the ethnographic reserve Etara. These places are very pleasant for walking, offering calm and relaxing atmosphere. Nowadays the houses usually work as museums, shops, restaurants or small hotels.
Either you try something typically Bulgarian or something more popular, the food itself here is very good and tasty. The traditional local breakfast is called “banitsa”- pastry delight, prepared from dough and white cheese. Usually it goes well with the local drink “ayran”- salty yogurt. With salty yogurt and cucumbers is made the cold summer soup “tarator”. The most popular local salad is called “shopska salad”- with tomatoes, cucumbers and cheese. The typical barbecue is from pork-called “kufte” (round meat balls) or “kebapche” (the long ones). From pork is also made a very tasty salami- “lukanka”. Also, if you like yogurt- Bulgaria is the place to be since it is its homeland.
Other foods that are more popular and are usually good in the restaurants are: chicken soup, different types of barbecues and throat fish (especially in the mountain regions).
The tradition of red wine production in these region goes back to the ancient Thracians. They worshiped the gods Zagreus and Dionysius and used the wine during their religious rituals. Nowadays, Bulgaria is among the world’s best producers of high quality red wines, some of which are made of unique sorts of vine. Some of the popular wines that you might like to try are Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (these are lighter ones) or Mavrud (which is more heavy).
The climate in Bulgaria is predominantly continental. It is characterized with four typical seasons and every season has its charm. Bulgaria is a great place to visit throughout the whole year- the weather usually is clear, without rains. Of course, you should have in mind that in July and August the temperatures are higher and in the winter sometimes it might snow more intensively.
For the hot summer time of the year the best option is to go for hiking in the nature, relax on the sea side or visit some beautiful mountain villages. Sofia is also ok, since it is situated between several mountains so the temperatures are not extremely high. More intensive rains in the country usually happen in the second half of May. The coldest month typically is January, but if you are well dressed, this is not a big problem and you can still do sightseeing tours.
The unpopularity of Bulgaria as a cultural destination here plays a strong advantage. In many great popular tourists’ places around the world (Barcelona, Prague, Santorini etc.) it is extremely hard to take a good photo of yourself with a tourist attraction because it is overwhelmed with people. Since Bulgaria is yet not so crowded with tourists, you will have the chance to take amazing photos with beautiful historical or natural backgrounds.
Bulgaria is quite safe country. The population is mostly Christian Orthodox and the locals are rather friendly towards tourists. Most of the young people know English on a relatively good level (the older not so much, since they had to study Russian during the socialist period). As we already said that it is not crowded, so the chance of being robbed is almost minimal (contrary to the popular tourist destinations and spots). You can enjoy relaxing walks along the main pedestrian streets of the towns or in their parks, without constantly worrying for your things.
Well, of course we cannot pass by the price factor. The prices in Bulgaria in general are the lowest in the European Union. The exchange rate itself is fixed approximately at 1- 2 (1 euro for 2 levs), so it is very easy for foreigners to have a real estimate of how much they are spending. I would say that prices in hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, museums, taxis, on average are about 2- 3 times lower than those in Western Europe or sometimes even more. So as a whole, even if you have a limited budget for traveling, Bulgaria is rather affordable destination that is worth visiting.
Bulgaria`s capital- Sofia- is its major airport. It is accessible from many European towns and now with the cheap flights and new destinations developed by Wizz Air and Ryanair, it has become even more accessible. Even though the flights are mostly to Sofia, do not worry- from Sofia you will have the opportunity to explore many of the famous Bulgarian cultural and natural places, without changing your accommodation. Rila Monastery, Plovdiv, Koprivshtitsa, the Seven Rila Lakes, the Iskar Gorge- all of these beautiful places can be reached for just an hour and a half by car from Sofia. Other interesting places such as the old capital Veliko Tarnovo, the Belogradchik Rocks, Perperikon, the Rose Valley- could also be visit but the travelling is a little bit more- they can be reached for about 3 hours by car from Sofia. So if you book a visit to our capital, you will also have plenty of options to discover many of the other amazing places in the country as well and make the most of your stay here.
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By Vasil Nachkov