From Sofia to the Coast

  • 10 Days

Explore Bulgaria’s greatest hits, from the capital to the coast. Start in Sofia, stop off at its sassier sister Plovdiv, then wriggle your toes into sandy beaches along the Black Sea coast.

Begin in Bulgaria’s lively capital city, Sofia. Over three days, take in the city’s centrepiece, shimmering Aleksander Nevski Memorial Church, a couple of fascinating museums, and a day trip to the resplendent Rila Monastery.

Board a bus or train east to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second city. Spend two days immersing yourself in the charming old town, Roman ruins, and bohemian nightlife, perhaps with a half-day out at spellbinding Asen’s Fortress and Bachkovo Monastery.

Reach Burgas on the Black Sea coast by bus or train. Stay at least one night in this laid-back city, before hopping on a bus for the short trip south to the ancient town of Sozopol. Spend one or two days amid Sozopol’s quaint cobbled lanes and attractive sandy beaches. If you're here in summer, catch the ferry up to Nesebâr, famed for its numerous medieval churches, and spend the day sightseeing. Return to Burgas to get the bus or train back to Sofia.

Along the Danube to the Sea

  • 1 Week

Mix mountain trails and historic sights on this week-long trip, and reward yourself with beach time at the end. This route winds through Bulgaria’s lesser explored north to the Black Sea’s sun-kissed shores.

From Sofia, head north by bus to the little town of Vratsa, to spend two days walking in the mountains or browsing museums. From here, travel by bus to Pleven where you can pick up another bus to elegant, appealing Ruse, for your first glimpse of the mighty Danube. Spend two nights in Ruse, taking in its grand Viennese-style architecture. On one of the days, head south of the city to Rusenski Lom Nature Park to see remarkable rock churches and caves, and maybe spot rare wildlife.

From Ruse head eastward to Silistra. Over a day or two, admire the Historical Museum’s hoard of Roman gold and make an excursion to the Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari. Continue to the Black Sea coast at Varna for your final one or two days. Relax on the long, sandy city beach, enjoy a show or concert at one of the city's many cultural venues, or go clubbing along the vibrant seafront.

Southern & Central Mountains

  • 2 Weeks

Central Bulgaria overflows with wine, revolutionary history and thrilling mountains. Discover wondrous rock formations, mountain villages, spa towns and the Valley of the Roses, as well as Bulgaria’s famous fortress at Veliko Târnovo.

From Sofia, take a bus south to tranquil Melnik, famous for wine, chalky pyramids and National Revival–era mansions. Steep yourself in local wine for two days, and visit the serene Rozhen Monastery nearby. Continue by bus to Bansko, for two days of summer hikes or winter skiing.

From Bansko, meander by narrow-gauge rail through mountainous forests to Septemvri, then on to Plovdiv. Spend two or three days exploring Plovdiv’s 19th-century house-museums and thrumming Kapana artistic quarter. Take a rest day simmering in the spa waters of Hisar just north, before continuing to atmospheric Karlovo, birth town of Bulgaria’s most famous revolutionary hero.

Board a bus to Kazanlâk, gateway to evocative burial mounds and the fragrant Rose Valley (in bloom each May to June). Cross the mountains at Shipka Pass, stopping first in Shipka to see its dazzling onion-domed church. Finally, unwind in the shadow of an impressive fortress in Veliko Târnovo, Bulgaria’s medieval capital, allowing a day to hike nearby Emen Canyon.