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The country of Bulgaria in Eastern Europe is packed with striking historic elements, breathtaking mountain scenery, pristine golden beaches, and numerous churches, fortresses and ruins. Its exotic landscape offers plenty of activities for the adventurous traveler as well.
Sofia is Bulgaria’s laid-back capital with some great churches and museums. While many visitors tend to skip the city, it is worth visiting for an authentic Bulgarian experience. Sofia is a modern city, but you will find plenty of buildings, churches and mosques from the yesteryear. Built in the early-20th-century, the massive Aleksander Nevski Cathedral is the most recognised landmark of the city. Sofia History Museum, Boyana Church and Sveta Sofia Church are some of the other highlights in the city. The UNESCO listed Rila Monastery, located around 100 km south of Sofia, is the most popular in Bulgaria and has impressive frescos and architecture. A stronghold of Bulgarian culture during the Ottoman rule, Rila Monastery is also the largest in the country and dates back to more than a thousand years.
In the country’s south lies the historic city of Plovdiv. Just like Rome, Plovdiv also sits on seven mountains. Famed for being the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe, Plovdiv shines with its numerous historic relics. While the city’s old centre is the focal point, the stunning Roman Amphitheatre is its must-visit attraction. The restored 2nd-century amphitheatre still hosts concerts and events. Bulgaria’s third city Varna is located on the Black Sea coast. Even though Varna is often referred to as a port and seaside resort city, plenty of historic elements can be seen throughout the city – take the enormous Roman baths complex for an example. The 19th-century Primorski Park and the Varna Archaeological Museum are the other highlights of the city. The Black Sea coast is also home to the towns of Sozopol and Nesebar. With their cobblestone roads and wooden houses, both towns boast an ancient charm, and excellent beaches and accommodation, that goes without saying. More commercialized than Sozopol, Nesebar is a UNESCO world heritage listed city with Byzantine ruins and medieval churches, and a souvenir market which is one of the best in the region.
Bulgaria’s central mountains also houses some of the country’s best historical locations. Veliko Tarnovo in the region is one of the oldest towns in the country and former capital of Bulgarian tsars. The restored Tsarevets Fortress along with the old handicraft market – Samovodska Charshiya are the focal points of Veliko Tarnovo. Veliko Tarnovo also makes a great base for exploring the nearby towns like Tryavna, Kazanlak and Etar. While Tryavna is a historic town with cobbled streets and dotted with National Revival-era houses, multicultural Kazanlak which produces two-thirds of the world’s rose oil is known as Bulgaria’s Valley of Roses, and hosts the annual Rose Festival every June. Kazanlak also offers some amazing historical sites including a 4th-century BC Thracian tomb. In the Pirin Mountains in southwestern Bulgaria lies Melnik – a small town with over 600 years of wine-making traditions. The town’s mountainous landscape and natural rock formations make it one of Bulgaria’s most alluring locations and if you are a wine connoisseur, you must take a sip of its famous Melnik 55 red wine.
Bulgaria is also rich in natural treasures like the uniquely shaped Belogradchik Rocks in the remote northwest – which offers great views, photo and hiking opportunities and the ancient Belogradchik Fortress.
From the beautiful Black Sea coastline to its mountainous interior, Bulgaria is a treat for nature lovers while history buffs will be able to explore some of Europe’s most prestigious historical sites and towns.
Don’t get confused – in Bulgaria, when someone shakes their head side to side, it means yes, while nodding means no.
big, diverse, and largely undiscovered
Black Sea coastline and forested mountains
gold-domed churches and soviet architecture
Greek, Roman and Ottoman heritage
13th-century Treskavec Monastery
hiking and skiing in Mavrovo National Park