Bulgaria offers everything from lively coastal and ski resorts to an untouched mountainous interior. Here are six of the best places to visit.
Hike Vitosha mountain
Most of the mountain is protected as a natural park but organised tours and miles of marked paths make it easy to explore the waterfalls, charming villages and panoramic view points. Walking to the top takes about five hours or you can take the chair lift to conserve energy and walk along the plateau. It’s a perfect picnic spot away from the heat in summer and there’s skiing in winter.
Be charmed by Plovdiv
Plovdiv is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe, dating back to 6000BC. The compact, mostly car-free old town is built around seven hills, with Roman buildings including a stadium and amphitheatre, Ottoman mosques, Bulgarian, Greek and Armenian merchants’ houses, Bauhaus architecture and communist-era street mosaics. The Kapana creative quarter has a pretty park and trendy bars and cafes.
Discover Communist Sofia
As well as visiting a host of churches, museums and cultural attractions in Bulgaria’s capital, you can jump in a traditional Trabant car for a tour learning about life during the communist era. It covers landmarks such as the former Communist Party HQ and the Central Department Store. There are also walking tours and a pub crawl of the city’s hidden bars, unearthing the stories behind them.
Explore Rila’s seven lakes
Rila National Park has seven lakes at altitudes of 2,100 to 2,500 metres. You can climb from one to the next by foot, chair lift or SUV/4WD car. This unique, beautiful hike increases in difficulty but when you reach the last one you can see all seven lakes in harmony with the mountain. Rila also has one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural and architectural monuments, the 10th century Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila.
Visit a Thracian tomb
The ancient Thracians – including Gladiator Spartacus – lived in Bulgaria and their tombs are still there. One of the best to visit is a replica of the 4th century BC Kazanlak tomb, containing impressive frescoes depicting feasting and hunting. There are lesser-known, original tombs in the vicinity and Kazanlak sits at the centre of the Bulgarian Rose Valley, home of huge rose plantations and rose-oil processing facilities.
Get a seaside fix in Sozopol
You don’t have to choose between beach and culture at the ancient Black Sea resort of Sozopol. It boasts superb beaches with plenty of leisure activity options, such as renting a yacht, diving and boat cruises. But for contrast you can also hit the old town and its cobbled streets, attractive wooden houses, churches and museums. In summer there are numerous events including free concerts.