Located on the Balkan Peninsula and surrounded by five countries, Bulgaria is one of the most beautiful cultural crossroads in Europe today. It boasts natural wonders, such as the wild forested Balkan mountain range, which hides remote hamlets and mysterious monasteries, sun-drenched beaches on the Black Sea coast, architectural sites revealing a long and turbulent history and trendy urban centres like Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Bulgaria is a land of adventure and a perfect destination for your next holiday.
If you’re in search of some Indiana Jones style adventure, Bulgaria is the place to visit. It is home to the oldest gold treasure in the world. Some three thousand gold artefacts were found at a burial site west of the seaside resort of Varna on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. A vast cemetery with nearly 300 graves proved that a mysterious and incredibly technologically and culturally advanced civilisation inhabited the area around 4560-4450 BC – this was long before the Mesopotamians and Egyptians…
Bulgaria is one of the few places where the bagpipes (Kaba gaida) are still popular and are even considered the national instrument. In May 2012, 333 Bulgarian bagpipe players performed a 9-minute folk song medley, setting the world record for a bagpipe performance. There are numerous folklore festivals, the most exciting being those in Koprivshtitza and Predela. The music, singing and dancing will bring you a touch of this unique Bulgarian folklore art.
Bulgaria is one of the biggest wine exporting countries in the world. Wine production has a long history here, dating back to the ancient Thracians. The sunny hills, fertile soils and geographical latitude, which are similar to central Italy or southern France, provide the perfect conditions for winemaking. There are as many as five major wine regions, where several varieties of wine are produced, including Melnik wine, which was Winston Churchill’s favourite – it is said that he had 500 litres of this wine delivered to him annually!
Bulgaria boasts as many as seven diverse mountain ranges, the highest ones being Rila and Pirin in the central part of the country. Some peaks reach up to 3000 metres – the highest is Mt Musala. With a well-maintained system of hiking trails and huts, Bulgaria is a must for hikers, mountaineers or anyone interested in wildlife and the great outdoors. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the gorgeous scenery and natural wonders, search for bears, lynx and wolves still roaming the area, or go skiing or snowshoeing in the winter and caving or kayaking in the summer.
Apart from the sandy beaches on the Black Sea coast, Bulgaria also boasts numerous ski resorts, with as many as 200 km of slopes. It is thus considered one of the upcoming ski holiday destinations for families. It not only offers great value skiing for beginners and intermediates – the après-ski facilities in the ski resorts are just amazing. Bansko, the biggest ski resort in the country, located at the foot of Vihrin, the highest mountain in the Pirin range, has already hosted several FIS World-Cups. With plenty of restaurants, bars and clubs and a vibrant nightlife, Bulgaria as a winter destination is as appealing as any other of the better-known countries.
A unique blend of Eastern and Western architecture invites you to explore Sofia, Bulgaria’s young, dynamic and fast-moving capital. Apart from being home to many of Bulgaria’s finest museums, galleries, restaurants and numerous beautiful orthodox churches, Sofia is also the only place in Europe where the Christian Orthodox church, a Catholic cathedral, a Synagogue, and a Mosque are located within an area of less than 100 sq metres – the area is called “Small Jerusalem Square”. The main landmarks are the Ivan Vazov National Theatre, Bulgaria’s biggest as well as the oldest theatre, the Presidency building and the iconic St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. On a crystal clear day, head to the Alexander Nevsky cathedral and enjoy the breathtaking views over perhaps still snow-covered Mt Vitosha. Indeed, Sofia is one of the few capitals boasting a developed ski resort – Vitosha Mountain - just a short bus ride from the city centre.
Rila is a picturesque mountain range in southwestern Bulgaria boasting a range of famous landmarks. While wandering among rugged peaks and deep valleys, capture the view of the deep-blue Seven Rila lakes and indulge in the awesome scenery of the area. Another landmark is the captivating Rila Monastery, which emerges abruptly from out of a forested valley. With vivid frescoes and icons, it is considered Bulgaria’s largest and most renowned monastery. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a major attraction for both Bulgarian pilgrims and foreign tourists.
The sun-drenched Black Sea coast is the country's summertime playground. It boasts large purpose-built resorts similar to those in Spain and Greece, as well as sparsely populated sandy beaches, where you can enjoy peace and solitude and observe the magnificent wildlife. Worth visiting are the picturesque ancient towns such as UNESCO-protected Nesebâr with numerous churches and Sozopol, known for the Apollonia art and film festival. The jewel of the coast is Varna, one of Bulgaria’s most vibrant cities, famous for its summer festival and nightlife as well as numerous museums and galleries.
Although often regarded as a stop-over point when traveling from Bulgaria to Greece or Turkey, appealing cobbled streets and charming cafes of Plovdiv invite you to stay longer. The major university town and the second largest city in Bulgaria is one of the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan cities in the country. Packed with atmospheric house museums and art galleries which express its bohemian character, it has attracted a number of eminent artists to reside here. The most impressive landmark is the Roman amphitheatre, which is supposed to be the best preserved in the Balkans.
A bit on a sideline of history this country seems to have kept the life of its own through myths and traditions guarding the eastern frontier of Europe and preserving the language which Romans have brought two millenia ago.
Belgrade - considered one of the safest yet most vivid paryting places and with one of the best values for money. But then again Serbia is so much more then it's capital alone, a country rich in cultural and natural sites and with very welcoming people.