Welcome to Bulgaria


Black Sea Beaches

Long, sandy beaches and fine weather reel holidaymakers into Bulgaria’s Black Sea resorts each summer. Bulgarian inlanders are helplessly drawn to the freshening sea breeze and miles of turquoise water. Foreign visitors, too, are wise to Bulgaria’s coast, thanks to gorgeous seaside resorts such as Primorsko (and prices that compete well with Western Europe). Even the coast's two big cities, Varna and Burgas, have attractive beaches within minutes of their urban hearts. And while Sunny Beach, Sozopol and other favourites are thoroughly developed, there are still plenty of undiscovered coves north and south of the major hubs.

Churches & Religious Art

No visitor to Bulgaria can fail to be impressed by its religious art, from vast gold-domed churches to miniature icon paintings. Sofia’s Aleksander Nevski Church and 10th-century Rila Monastery draw visitors and pilgrims galore, while Tryavna’s wood carvings and Bachkovo’s apocalyptic murals are gathering fame. But Orthodox churches in even the tiniest villages have much to admire: emotive paintings of saints, often set in carved wooden screens (iconostases), appear magical when bathed in flickering candlelight. Almost as spectacular are the settings of many sacred buildings: granite cliffs, thrashing streams and lonely mountain passes.

Mountains & Forests

Bulgaria’s untamed landscapes quicken the pulse of hikers, mountain bikers and skiers. Seven mountain ranges ripple across the country; glacial lakes sparkle between these snow-dusted peaks, and tangles of forest conceal wolves, bears and lynx, a glimpse of Europe’s primeval past. Networks of trails and hizhas (hiking huts) allow access to such raw beauty as mist-cloaked panoramas in the Stara Planina range and sunrise from Bulgaria’s second-highest peak, Mt Vihren (2915m). Between trekking among Rodopi villages, thundering across ski fields in Bansko or birdwatching in Pirin National Park, Bulgaria has much to delight (and exhaust) lovers of the great outdoors.

Ancient History

Whispers of history emanate from Bulgaria’s fortresses and ruins. Caves secreted in Bulgaria’s river-sculpted wilds hold traces of Neolithic settlements. The mysterious Thracians left behind dazzling hauls of gold and silver, and tombs that can be explored to this day. The Romans built cities of breathtaking scale, the bathhouses, walls and amphitheatres of which sit nonchalantly in the midst of modern cities such as Varna and Plovdiv. Successions of tsars strutted along the ramparts of Tsarevets Fortress at former capital Veliko Târnovo. And these histories are no less relevant today, with Thracian art and Bulgaria’s victory over the Ottomans continuing to inspire.


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Bulgaria activities

$34.71 Day Trips & Excursions

Sofia Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Guided Day Trip

Meet your guide near Alexander Nevsky Square in central Sofia and settle into your air-conditioned minivan. Then, relax on your roughly 2-hour journey to UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery, tucked in the pine-forested Rila Mountains in southwest Bulgaria.Enjoy the views over rural Bulgaria as you travel and hear enlightening facts about the monastery. Founded in 927 AD by hermit monk Ivan Rilski or ‘John of Rila,’ Bulgaria’s patron saint; this photogenic walled complex came to symbolize the Bulgarian national identity and is considered a masterpiece of Slav architecture for its arcaded balconies and splendid frescoes.On arrival, enjoy a guided tour of the main courtyard and five-domed church, admiring its vivid, fresco-coated colonnades as you enter. Then, head inside to gaze at the richly gilded wood-carved iconostasis, the largest in the Balkans; and the tomb of Bulgaria’s last monarch, Boris III. If you wish, you may also head inside the monastery museum (own expense) to see its priceless exhibits.After, enjoy free time to look around independently and have lunch (own expense). Perhaps fill up with some delicious mekitsi (Bulgarian donuts served with fresh buffalo yogurt) at a local bakery or visit a restaurant to enjoy specialities such as fresh local trout.Next, return to the minivan and drive back to the fringes of Sofia to visit Boyana Church, a UNESCO-listed Orthodox church famed for its medieval frescoes. After paying your entrance fee, take in the breathtaking cycles of 11th- and 13th-century murals that depict Christ, angels, saints, apostles and other religious figures, and hear how they predate the Renaissance in Florence.Having explored here, return to central Sofia, where your tour concludes with a drop-off at the original departure point.

$52.06 Day Trips & Excursions

From Sofia to Plovdiv and Koprivshtitsa Day Trip with Guide

Start your day with a pickup from central Sofia in the early morning. Hop inside an air-conditioned minivan with your expert driver-guide, and then relax as you travel out of the Bulgarian capital to the city of Plovdiv, one of the oldest towns in the country and Bulgaria’s second largest city.On arrival, after around two hours, stretch your legs on a walking tour of the city’s sights. With your guide leading the way, wander along Plovdiv’s cobbled streets, lined with bohemian cafes and art galleries, and hear about the 7,000-year-old settlement’s history and culture. Stroll amid the many house museums and historical monuments in Plovdiv’s lovely Old Town, and learn how it has been restored to its mid-19th-century appearance. Snap photos of the Thracian, Roman, Byzantine and Bulgarian antiquities, and perhaps see the Plovdiv Regional Ethnographic Museum or wonder at the Roman amphitheater.After touring Plovdiv, break for lunch at a local restaurant (own expense), and then return to your minivan and take in the scenic sights on route to Koprivshtitsa, a charming town with a fascinating history and beautiful 19th-century architecture. Enjoy a guided walking tour and learn how the tranquil town was the site of the Liberation of Bulgaria during the Russo-Turkish War, leading to its release from Ottoman rule. Then, choose to visit the homes of some of Koprivshtitsa’s most-celebrated residents, from rebels to writers.When the time comes, begin the journey back to Sofia, where your day trip concludes with a drop-off at Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.Please note: If you take this tour between May and June, you’ll enjoy an additional stop on the way to Plovdiv to see the picturesque rosa damascene (oil-yielding rose) fields.

$11.57 Walking & Biking Tours

Communist Walking Tour of Sofia

During the approximately 3-3.5-hour-long walking Communist Tour you will learn about the 45-year-long communist period of Bulgaria in an objective and informative way. The 365: Communist Tour welcomes its guests every Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 4 pm in front of the Palace of Justice in Sofia. The tour includes the main landmarks of communist history in the city of Sofia: former headquarters of the Bulgarian Communist Party, secret police investigation facility, destroyed mausoleum, monument of the Soviet army, National Palace of Culture, among others. During the 3-3.5-hour-long walking tour you will learn about the theory of communism, what Marxism-Leninism is, the history of communism in Bulgaria, the pros and cons of the period and the relation between the communist government and religion, industry, economy, culture and everyday life of the people.

$40.49 Food, Wine & Nightlife

Sofia Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour

Meet your expert guide and the rest of your small group in central Sofia and set off on your walking tour. Filled with elegant buildings and squares, Sofia is a dream to explore. As you stroll, discover the main landmarks, hear insights about the city’s history and culinary heritage, and enjoy three or four food stops to try delicious local specialities.Walk past the stately National Theater and admire the King’s Palace and the Presidency building. Then, stop at a cozy cafe popular with the locals. Savor some shopska — a salad made from cucumber, tomatoes, peppers and onions — complemented by some frothy, cold ayran.Continue to ‘Small Jerusalem Square,' so-named for its proximity to four religious buildings: the Christian Church of St George, St Nedelya Church, the Banya Bashi Mosque, and the Sofia Synagogue.Walk to your next food stop, the Central Market Hall (Tsentralni Hali). Delve into this covered market and view its century-old architecture as you linger at some enticing food stalls. Sample classic Bulgarian sweets including baklava — filo pastries stuffed with nuts and soaked in syrup — and deep-fried tolumbichki, and perhaps taste some rustic sausages and nuts, depending on what’s available.Finally, ride Sofia’s metro system, the newest in Europe, to your last stop, a popular Bulgarian restaurant set in four converted houses and decorated in distinct 19th-century regional styles.Head inside to sample some fruity Bulgarian wine and mezze of local meats such as lukanka (salami), babek (cured sausage), fillet Elena (dry cured meat) and pastarma (cured beef).Your tour ends at the restaurant, so you can stay on and enjoy more tasty Bulgarian fare before returning on your own.

$93.71 Day Trips & Excursions

Day Trip to Bulgaria from Bucharest

This day trip departs daily at 8am and will pick you up from your hotel in Bucharest and take you to the foothills of the Balkan Mountains where you will spend a great day discovering the impressive medieval settlement of Veliko Tarnovo. Veliko Tarnovo is the medieval capital of Bulgaria and home of the Tsaravets Fortress, the strongest Bulgarian fortification of the Middle Ages. The day trip includes visits to the St. Dimitrie Basarabov Monastery, the only monastery in Bulgaria carved into a cliff that is still inhabited today and Arbanasi Village that will take you a few centuries back in time through its medieval architecture.

$69.41 Day Trips & Excursions

Bulgaria and Macedonia Full-Day Tour from Sofia

Begin with pickup from your Sofia hotel and travel to your first stop of Boyana Church: a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.Located on the outskirts of Sofia, this exquisite church follows the Byzantine architectural pattern of consisting of three parts: a Greek cross ground-plan, dome, and richly decorated facades with ceramic elements. On arrival, head inside to admire the stunning interior. The walls and ceilings are adorned with several layers of paintings dating from the 11th, 13th, 15th to 17th, and 19th centuries,  which together feature 89 scenes and 240 human figures depicted either individually or together.Its main claim to fame are its 13th-century murals, created in 1259, which echo and represent key movements and moments in Bulgarian medieval culture. According to experts, the style of these glorious frescoes resembles, yet predates the Renaissance.Having explored here, continue to the Zemen Monastery of St. John the Evangelist. Founded during the First Bulgarian Empire (681-1018 AD), this splendid complex consists of a church and monastic living quarters, the latter dating from the mid-19th century, together with a bell tower added on the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1878.Learn how the church was built sometime during the 11th or 12th century, and hear how Deyan, the ruler and despot of the Velbazhdosko Empire, donated funds in 1334 to have it restored. Head inside to see some of the church's 12th-century elements and view the portraits of its founders, including the despotic ruler Deyan and his wife Zoya, dating from the 14th century.Afterward, enjoy a roughly 2-hour drive into Macedonia to visit Osogovo, an Orthodox complex established in the 12th century and dedicated to Saint Joachim Osogovski.Perched high in the lush forests of the Osogovo Mountains, this stunning monastery is considered one of Macedonia’s most beautiful and consists of a small 14th-century and larger, 19th-century church, together with old dormitories and other buildings.Admire the churches and their frescoes, and learn how the monastery has withstood an earthquake, Ottoman damage, and the ravages of time.Refuel with a light lunch at a nearby restaurant and then return to Sofia where your tour ends with a hotel drop-off.