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Bulgaria

BULGARIA TRAVEL GUIDE

If you are keen on art and culture, Bulgaria is the ideal destination for you. Churches dating back centuries, Greek and Byzantine ruins, mountain villages, seaside resorts of the Black Sea, museums full of priceless treasures, walks in the fragrant Rose Valley and cities with lovely old houses spread out over cliffs - there's more to Bulgaria than words can conjure.

 

Sofia, the capital city, has something for everyone. A vibrant nightlife, the best East European architecture, excellent museums and even a ski resort - little wonder that there are hordes of tourists in the city throughout the year.

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  • Capital: Sofia
  • Currency: lev (BGN)
  • Area: 110,910 sq km
  • Population: 7,000,000 (2009 est.)
  • Language: Bulgarian
  • Religion:Bulgarian Orthodox 83.8%, Muslim 12.1%, Roman Catholic 1.7%, Jewish 0.1%, Protestant, Gregorian-Armenian, and other 2.3%
  • Electricity: 220V/50Hz (European plug)
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BEST TIME TO VISIT BULGARIA

Bulgaria is characterised by two climatic regions: a continental climate in the North and a Mediterranean climate in the south. The continental climate is generally humid and characterised by cool summers. The continental North also tends to have higher variation in temperature and precipitation compared to the coastal regions.

 

The best time to visit Bulgaria is in the summer, around July or August; when it’s least cold and average temperatures hover around 30 degree Celsius. It can be pleasant and rarely gets excessively hot. Spring (April and May) with an average temperature of 23 degree Celsius and autumn (September and October) with an average temperature of 17 degree Celsius is a good time to be in the country if you don’t mind the slightly chilly weather. What’s particularly good about visiting Bulgaria in the spring or autumn is that its off-season and you won’t find yourself being jostled about by crowds of fellow tourists. Winter (December to April) is good only if you like winter sports- especially skiing- and don’t mind the cold.


  • February - Pop your cork at Melnik's Golden Grape Festival.

  • June - Celebrate the sweetest harvest at Kazanlâk's Rose Festival.

  • July to September - Spend lazy days on the Black Sea beaches and nights at Bulgaria’s best clubs.

Best Time To Go

BULGARIA WEATHER SYNOPSIS

Bulgaria is characterised by two climatic regions: a continental climate in the North and a Mediterranean climate in the south. The Balkan Mountains drive differences between the Northern, continental climate and the southern, Mediterranean climate. Continental climate is generally humid and characterised by cool summers. The continental north tends to have higher variation in temperature and precipitation compared to the coastal regions. The country is showing a tendency toward warming.There has also been observed increase in frequency of extreme weather, particularly number of days with high precipitation and a reduction in snow accumulation.

Bulgaria

SEASONS AT A GLANCE

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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BEST TIME FOR

SNOW SPORT IN BULGARIA

The snow sports season in Bulgaria is from December until April when the snow is thick and consistent.

HIKING & CYCLING IN BULGARIA

The best time for outdoor activities in Bulgaria is from April to October, with plenty of options for guided and self-guided hiking routes.

BEACH OPTIONS IN BULGARIA

Bulgaria has some beautiful beaches with a summer beach season stretching from May to October.

SURFING IN BULGARIA

Despite the inconsistency in summer and cold waters in winter, Bulgaria can offer some good surf throughout the year. These are the best surf spots in Bulgaria: Shabla, Kabakum Beach, Harmani, Arkutino and Melnitsa.

KITESURF IN BULGARIA

The best winds for kitesurfing in Bulgaria are usually from March to October, making it a great summer kitesurfing destination for all levels of kiters.

BEST TIME FOR

The snow sports season in Bulgaria is from December until April when the snow is thick and consistent.

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TRAVEL SAFETY IN BULGARIA

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HEALTH RISKS IN BULGARIA

Be aware of possible health risks in 

Bulgaria

Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.

Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.

Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.

Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.

BULGARIA TRAVEL COSTS

For long distance travel across Bulgaria, trains and buses are the cheapest and most extensive choice- they spread over nearly all of the country and fares are quite reasonable. The only problem is that they tend to be unreliable, usually behind schedule and sometimes a bit of a culture shock. If you’re very particular, you might prefer to use your own car , or hire one; a hired car is, anyway, one of the best options within cities, although most have a fairly convenient bus network and taxis .

Cost & Spending

BULGARIA TRAVEL TIPS

Travel Tips


SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF BULGARIA

There is a wide variety of historical, natural, religious and artistic sights around Bulgaria. All across the country, there are remains of different epochs and eras, societies and peoples, spiritual and artistic personae that create a beautiful mix of ethnic culture full of unique traditions and rituals combined with a sense of belonging to the movements that have shaped the world as we know it today. The Bulgarian tourist movement, established more than one hundred years ago, has promoted the acknowledgement of all the sights that form the distinguished Bulgarian identity through its so-called "100 Tourist Sites of Bulgaria" program that covers most of Bulgaria's must-see attractions. Of course, nowadays the program includes more than two hundred and fifty one-of-a-kind places of interest but the name still remains.

Highlights
What To See & Do
Travel Map

Some of the most popular sites include:

  • UNESCO's World Heritage sites - Ancient City of Nessebar, Boyana church, Madara Riderstone carving, Rila Monastery, Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo, Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak, Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari being the historical, and Pirin National Park, Srebarna Nature Reserve being the natural.
  • Monasteries of Bulgaria that have been centres of Bulgarian culture during the Ottoman rule such as Bachkovo Monastery, Troyan Monastery, Dryanovo Monastery, Osenovlag Monastery, etc.
  • Natural creations in the Bulgarian mountains that are a combination of awe to the beautiful natural forms and the exciting feeling of danger in the face of the sharp edges and deep ravines created solely by wind and water. Some of the most popular natural creations are the caves Dyavolsko Garlo (The Devil's Throat), Ledenika (The Ice-Cold), Magurata which has cave paintings on its walls and Snezhanka (Snow White), the canyons of Trigrad and the river Erma, Chudnite Mostove (The Marvellous Bridges) rock phenomena, and the natural pyramids near the town of Melnik and the ones near the village Stob.
  • Fortresses from the Middle Ages such as Tsarevets in Veliko Tarnovo, Baba Vida in Vidin, Tsari Mali Grad near Samokov, the Fort of Samuil near the village of Strumeshnica and the Fort of Asenevtsi near Asenovgrad.
  • Remains from the cities of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire in Sofia, Plovdiv, Nessebar, Sozopol, Razgrad and many many other cities and towns.
  • Architectural historical reserves like the towns of Koprivshtitsa, Bozhentsi, or Daskalolivnitsa in the town of Elena, Plovdiv's Old Town, the Varosha neighbourhood in Blagoevgrad and the neighbourhood of Arbanasi in Veliko Tarnovo.
  • Sacred places of Perperikon and Rupite, the many ancient and medieval churches in the country, and the tombs of the Thracian kings.

 

CITIES

Sofia — the capital and largest city in Bulgaria, one of the oldest in Europe, featuring a nice town centre with Renaissance and modern influences, many parks including the National park "Vitosha" (which is just minutes away from the city centre), a vibrant nightlife, over 250 historic landmarks and architectural monuments, and plenty of cultural places of interest.

Burgas — known for its commercial port (Port of Burgas) and oil refinery, the city has a picturesque waterfront, nearby downtown and rich shopping areas that make it popular with tourists. In recent years the city hosts the popular music festival "Spirit of Burgas".

Gabrovo — A popular tourist destination near the geographic the centre of the country, providing quick access to other cities, such as Veliko Tarnovo and Kazanlak, as well as the Balkan Mountains and the ski-resort of Uzana. The architectural-ethnographic resort Etar is situated near the town.

Pleven — a historical city, famous for its Panorama monument and for its beautiful parks and fountains in the city centre.

Plovdiv — Bulgaria's second-largest city, situated on both banks of the Maritsa river, it boasts a lovely shopping promenade and many parks. It's an ancient city with influences from many epochs including a preserved ancient Greek amphitheatre, a Roman stadium, a "Bulgarian revival" style Old Town, and a variety of mosques, catholic cathedrals and orthodox churches all across the city. Plovdiv is also famous in the country for its hectic nightlife. Though the city has a modern lifestyle it is one of the oldest in the world and debatable - the oldest in Europe. Be sure also to take a side trip to Bachkovo Monastery which is about an hour away.

Rousse — known as the "Small Vienna", the town centre offers an impressive architectural Baroque ensemble that cannot be found anyplace else within Bulgaria. The city boasts various places of interest among which the Sexiginta Prista Roman Castle, Rousse's Theatre, The House of Caliopa, and the Pantheon.

Varna — the nation's third-largest city is a lovely combination of a beach resort with a famous nightlife and an urban centre. Varna's coast garden is filled with entertainments and can also be appreciated by art lovers.

Veliko Tarnovo — picturesque university city near the Yantra river that was the capital of the medieval Bulgarian Empire and still has one of the best-preserved medieval fortresses on its background.

Bulgaria
What To Eat

WHAT TO EAT IN BULGARIA

WHAT TO EAT IN BULGARIA

Bulgaria’s food is a rather rustic fare, wholesome, well balanced and with a good mix of flavours, sometimes surprisingly spicy for European cuisine. The local people consume a large amount of meat and fish - there’s a particularly good fish soup from the Danube region, and Sozopol-style mussels are famous throughout the country and lots of vegetables. Foods are often stewed or grilled and served with a wide range of cheeses, bread rolls and wines.

 

Among Bulgaria’s best-known dishes - many of which are shared with, or influenced by, nearby Greece, are Bansko-style kapama, a meat and vegetable stew, banitsa (cheese pie), stuffed vine leaves, moussaka, baklava, and pancakes with honey and walnuts. Coffee is a speciality of the Bulgarians and is consumed in almost as large quantities as the wines are.

LGBTQ IN BULGARIA

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Bulgaria may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Bulgaria does not recognise any type of same-sex unions and The Constitution of Bulgaria defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, effectively prohibiting the legalisation of same-sex marriage.


Although same-sex sexual activity is legal in Bulgaria and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been banned since 2004, Bulgaria still holds socially conservative attitudes when it comes to such issues as homosexuality and only about 15% of the population is accepting of same-sex relationships.

 

Bulgaria does host an annual Gay Pride Parade in Sofia, which is very slowly gaining public support. However, keep in mind that hate crimes against LGBT people are not uncommon in Bulgaria, and are often ignored and go investigated by authorities.

Bulgaria

WHERE TO STAY IN BULGARIA

For first-time visitors to Bulgaria, choosing the right area or region to stay in is essential for experiencing the country's diverse landscapes, rich history, and cultural heritage. Here are some recommendations along with accommodation suggestions for each category: budget, mid-range, and luxury.


Where to stay in Sofia:

Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria, offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and modernity, with its ancient ruins, Orthodox churches, and vibrant arts scene, making it an ideal base for exploring the country's capital and nearby attractions.

  • Budget: Hostel Mostel Sofia - Affordable hostel located in the city center, offering dormitory and private rooms, free breakfast, and a communal lounge area.

  • Mid-range: Hotel COOP - A comfortable hotel set in a historic building, featuring modern rooms, sauna and fitness centre, and a central location near Sofia's main sights.

  • Luxury: Sense Hotel Sofia - A luxurious hotel offering stylish rooms, gourmet dining options, a rooftop bar with panoramic views of the city, and a spa.

Tips: To find the best value accommodation in Sofia, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons (April to June and September to October) when prices are lower, and there are fewer tourists, but the weather is still pleasant for exploring the city.


Where to stay in Plovdiv:

Plovdiv, one of Europe's oldest cities, is known for its well-preserved Roman ruins, charming Old Town, and vibrant cultural scene, offering visitors a journey through centuries of history and architecture.

  • Budget: Old Plovdiv House Hostel - Affordable hostel located in the heart of Plovdiv's Old Town, offering dormitory and private rooms with traditional Bulgarian decor.

  • Mid-range: Hotel Ego - A boutique hotel featuring stylish rooms, a restaurant serving Bulgarian cuisine, and a central location near Plovdiv's major attractions.

  • Luxury: Belle Ville Hotel - A luxurious hotel offering elegant rooms, gourmet dining options, a spa, and panoramic views of Plovdiv's Old Town from its rooftop terrace.

Tips: For the best value accommodation in Plovdiv, consider visiting during the summer months (June to August) when prices are lower, and you can take advantage of outdoor events and festivals in the city.


Where to stay in Bansko:

Bansko is Bulgaria's premier ski resort town, nestled at the foot of the Pirin Mountains and offering excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities in the winter, as well as hiking and mountain biking in the summer.


  • Budget: Le Retro Hostel & Bar Bansko - Affordable hostel located near Bansko's Old Town, offering dormitory and private rooms, free Wi-Fi, and easy access to the ski lifts.

  • Mid-range: Grand Hotel Bansko - A comfortable hotel featuring modern rooms, a spa, and a central location near Bansko's ski slopes and hiking trails.

  • Luxury: Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena - A luxurious hotel offering luxurious rooms, gourmet dining options, a spa, and ski-in/ski-out access to Bansko's ski area.


Tips: To find the best value accommodation in Bansko, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons (May to June and September to November) when prices are lower, and you can still enjoy outdoor activities without the crowds.


For hassle-free bookings, use platforms like Booking.com for competitive rates or Holiday Swap for unique homes worldwide. Ensure to book in advance, especially during peak seasons, and align your preferences with nearby activities such as surfing, snorkeling, or cultural exploration.

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