Bulgaria’s mountains are an affordable and less crowded alternative to the Alps with cable cars, thermal springs and glacial lakes providing walkers with a wealth of options above and below the pines. Find out what Responsible Travel recommends, including the best time go, in our Bulgaria walking holidays guide.
Family holidays in Bulgaria
School summer holidays for Bulgarian kids mean mountains, farms and extra portions of granny’s deep fried mekitsa and homemade jam – warm welcomes await outdoor loving families.
Although the long sandy stretches along the Black Sea are a natural draw during the summer, some purpose-built resorts, such as Sunny Beach, have become somewhat overrun with tourists. We think families would be much better off following Bulgarian city kids into the countryside for a holiday down on the farm with grandma. Mountain villages like Gorno Pole in the Eastern Rhodopes offer loads of opportunities to experience an authentic side to Bulgaria which is sorely missing from big coastal resorts. Mountain biking, horse riding, kayaking and raptor spotting are all fantastic outdoor activities to keep young travellers thriving in the clean and fresh pine-scented air. Drinking from an alpine stream; helping with hay making and herb picking; keeping an ear out for wolves whilst tucked up in bed; this is a side to Bulgaria that every family deserves to see.
FAMILY ACTIVITIES IN BULGARIA
DOWN ON THE FARM
Roll your sleeves up, grab a shovel and get stuck in. Settling into farm life in the Eastern Rhodopes gives kids, and parents, a real taste of the good life. Mow, sow and hoe your days away against a choral soundtrack provided by the farm’s cows, sheep and bees. Dinners will get wolfed down by hungry helpers with organic ingredients tasting all the more delicious as you know you put them into the basket yourself.
The 290km Arda River is the longest in the Rhodope Mountains. Messing about on the water is what family holidays were made for, and kayaking trips between the villages of Gorno Pole and Borislavtsi are great fun. Certain sections of the Arda have also been known to sparkle more than most; if you fancy getting into the gold rush spirit, try your hand at panning – you never know what’ll turn up.
Horse riding is probably one of the most exciting ways to spot vultures in Bulgaria. The rugged ranges of the Arda Valley often succumb to the shadows of giant wing spans, and local guides will help you ascertain whether it’s an Egyptian or griffon vulture that might swoop down to steal your sandwiches. At dusk, keep your ears open as the howl of a mountain wolf.
If you'd like to chat about Bulgaria or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
BULGARIA TRAVEL ADVICE FOR FAMILIES
Simeon Dimitrov, from our Bulgaria family tour supplier Zig Zag Holidays, shares his insider tips on travelling in Bulgaria with kids:
“Vitosha and Borovets Mountain resorts are both just 70km from Sofia and offer a great many possibilities for families looking to go hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and climbing. Gorno Pole village in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains is where we do our family tour. Activities that could be practised are kayaking, cycling, mountain biking and horseback riding. Furthermore, this is an area where vultures and wolves can be seen in their natural habitat. The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) has developed several projects and has a small museum close to Gorno Pole where a lot of information about the vultures is presented.”
“Rhodope Mountains and the area of the artificial dam Golyam Beglik is a great place for camping in the outdoors as well as learning the basics of living out of the nature. Activities that could be practised there are mountain biking and kayaking. The biggest disadvantage of this area is that in July and August it gets quite hot. The best months to go there are May and June and then September and October. Besides that, families can stay on a lively farm where they can take part in daily farm activities, according to the season of the year.”
“Local food always excels, mostly because the crops are grown in Bulgaria in a natural way and not in greenhouses. The local people are quite hospitable and if you are looking for interaction with locals I'd advise families to stay at a guesthouse in a mountain village. The mountains are still 'quite' virgin and have plenty of wild plants and animals. I'd recommend families go to the Rhodope Mountains where people still live on the land as they did centuries ago.”
More about Bulgaria
If you’re looking for the best time to visit Bulgaria to experience the glacial moraine, alpine meadows and melt water lakes within the mountains of Rila, Rhodope and Pirin National Park then you've come to the right place.
Our Bulgaria travel guide lifts the lid on an intriguing nation that’s bordered by five countries and the Black Sea and features the tallest point within the whole of the Balkans, Mount Musala in Rila National Park.
If you're interested in travelling in Bulgaria then check out our map and highlights page before you go.
Bulgaria has long had a reputation as one of Europe's most affordable winter sport destinations, but this is also a country that boasts more thermal springs than the whole of Hungary.
Once famous for its dancing bears, Bulgaria is now a sanctuary for the gentle giants that like nothing better than to rummage the gothic forests and gorges of the Rhodope Mountains.
Explore Bulgaria's most expansive mountain range, the Rhodope Mountains, as part of a small group or on a tailor made self-guided tour and get ready for a wonderful world of waterfalls, thermal spas and gentle, forested mountain slopes.
Bulgaria boasts the highest peak in the Balkans as well as more thermal springs than Hungary, which is good news for walkers wishing to scale new heights before plunging into the depths of a warm bath for a jolly good soak.
Find out what our friends in Bulgaria rave about.
Bulgaria has just as many positive and negative examples of tourism as anywhere else in Europe.