Bulgaria travel guide

Discovering the mountains, lakes and cultural capitals of Bulgaria is like unearthing a secret treasure trove. The UNESCO sites of Rila Monastery, the Thracian tombs of Kazanlak and Sveshtari, and Pirin National Park add to the adventure of exploring in the far reaches of Eastern Europe. The capital, Sofia, has long been renowned for its leafy charms with parks and gardens adding to the enchantment of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and high-end retail therapy along Vitosha Boulevard.
Less an entrance to Asia, more a cul-de-sac to the Black Sea; Bulgaria boasts the Balkans' highest peak, Mt Musala, as well as Europe's most affordable capital city, Sofia.
Escaping to Vitosha Nature Park on the outskirts of the capital is always an option although time spent in the ski resorts of Bansko or Razlog is also worthwhile, especially outside the busy winter season. From the former city of the tsars, Veliko Tarnovo, to Europe's 2019 Capital of Culture, Plovdiv, much of Bulgaria remains off the typical tourist trail but there's no telling for how long.
IS/ISN'T

Bulgaria is...

part of Europe, but not as you know it.

Bulgaria isn’t...

to be rushed. It's not very Bulgarian to rush.

WHAT WE RATE & WHAT WE DON'T IN BULGARIA

UNDERRATED

Bears

Until the early 1990s ‘dancing bears’ were commonplace in Bulgaria. …

Train travel

Slowly creeping along tracks flanked by pine covered mountains en-route …

Traditional crafts

From the workshops and church paintings in the city of …

Family holidays

Take your family on a wild week in Bulgaria and …
RATED

Walking

There are fantastic hiking trails in Bulgaria, not least within …

Winter holidays

You can't beat Bulgaria for wrapping up warm and enjoying …

Monasteries & churches

Bulgaria bridges the gap between Turkey and the rest of …

City sightseeing

Plovdiv – the 2019 European Capital of Culture – is …
OVERRATED

Bottled water

There's no need to purchase plastic bottles of water in …

Beach resorts

There's nothing that Bulgarians like more during the summer than …

Five star service

Despite a sometimes gruff exterior, Bulgarians are generally very warm …

Haggling

Getting a bargain at the flea markets of Sofia or …

FOOD, SHOPPING & PEOPLE

EATING & DRINKING IN BULGARIA
Banitsa (filo pastry layered with goat cheese) and patatnik (baked mashed potatoes with herbs, cheese and eggs), are a couple of Bulgarian classics to try in the mountains.
Bulgarian cuisine is quite meat focused with grilled lamb and pork kebabs and moussaka (beef with potatoes instead of aubergines), mainstays on most restaurant menus.
Vegetarians needn’t despair too much, as fruit, veg and salads are always amazing. Shopska (tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers and parsley with crumbled sheep cheese) is a fine example. Another veggie option is tarator, a cold yoghurt soup with cucumbers, garlic, dill and walnuts.
Melnik is one of Bulgaria’s (and Winston Churchill’s) favourite red wines. The Struma Valley and the vineyards surrounding the tiny town of Melnik are picturesque places for a tasting tour.
PEOPLE & LANGUAGE
Hello – Zdravei
Approximately 85 percent of Bulgaria’s population identify as being Bulgarian, with large Turkish and Roma minorities. The national language stems from southern Slavic with the older generation also speaking Russian and the younger, English. The Cyrillic alphabet originated in Bulgaria and is used on signs – sometimes with English alongside.
You are welcome – Molya
Cheers – Nazdrave
Thank you – Blagodarya
Very delicious – Mnogo vkusno

Our top Bulgaria Holiday

Bulgaria mountains and monasteries Tour

Bulgaria mountains and monasteries Tour

Discover the history, culture and landscapes of Bulgaria

From £1099 10 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2018: 22 Sep
2019: 18 May, 21 Sep
2020: 16 May, 19 Sep
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Bulgaria or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
GIFTS &
SHOPPING
Handmade rose oil and soap are definitely worth adding to the shopping list as are a few bags of mursalski mountain tea and a couple of jars of homemade jam or herbal-infused honey.
Wood carved shepherds’ flutes (duduks), hand woven lace, and pottery items (especially in Troyan) make classic Bulgarian souvenirs – just check labels to ensure local and ethical origins.
Sofia’s Central Market is over 100 years old and sells anything and everything; you’ll also find plenty of flea markets, antique markets and the Women's Market (Zhenski Pazar) which was originally run solely by women.
– Jenny Aitken, from our supplier Tucan Travel
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Litre of petrol: 96p
500ml of Bulgarian beer (Boliyarka, Shumensko, Zagorka, Astika) in a restaurant: £1.50
A meal for two with drinks in a mid-range restaurant in Sofia: £15 - £30
Street food (kebabs, pizza slice, bagels): 50p - £1.00
Bottle of table wine in Melnik: £5.00
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: Detelina Petkova] [Bulgarian traditional dress: Donald Judge] [Brown bear: Richard Lee] [Train travel: Konstantin Planinski] [Icon painting - ceiling: Dennis Jarvis] [Family hike: Borislav Tasev] [Pirin Mountains: Paradox.Photo] [Rila - snow: John Spooner] [Rila Monastery: xiquinhosilva] [Plovdiv - mix of eras: Leon Yaakov] [Water bottles: Klearchos Kapoutsis] [Varna beach resort: Vicki Burton] [Woman - smile: Gatanass] [Sofia Ladies Market: Donald Judge] [Casserole: tak.wing] [Cheesey: tak.wing] [People: Donald Judge] [Lace: Vicki Burton] [Sofia Ladies Market - bread and fruit: Donald Judge] [Bar - Sofia: Klearchos Kapoutsis]
Convert currencies