Bulgaria is an up-and-coming summer destination for travelers looking to explore Europe on a budget. It’s no secret that Eastern Europe offers lower prices and attracts fewer people than many Western European countries. However, there is no shortage of things to do and see in Eastern European countries like Bulgaria. Bulgaria is beautiful all year round, but in summer travelers can head to the coast, explore the capital or embark on hiking adventures. Get off the beaten track of Europe by exploring the best of Bulgaria.
ten Visit Rila Monastery
Rila Monastery is named after Saint John of Rila and is a large Eastern Orthodox monastery between the Rilska and Drushlyavitsa rivers. It is possible to drive here from Sofia, and renting a car is the best way to reach this quiet destination. The monastery has stunning 10th century architectural features and represents the consciousness of the Slavic cultural identity. Travelers can spend the night here, sleep in the monastery and enjoy the surrounding nature.
9 Relax in Varna
Heading to the far east coast of Bulgaria, travelers will find themselves on the beaches of Varna. This seaside resort overlooks the Black Sea. Varna is the third largest city in the country and a popular destination for locals who want a vacation close to home. The sandy beaches and blue waters of Varna are a hidden paradise in Eastern Europe that many international travelers are not even aware of.
8 See Tsarevets Fortress
Tsarevets Fortress is an important historical structure in the Bulgarian town of Veliko Tarnovo. The medieval fortress and its castle were an integral part of the Second Empire of Bulgaria, but today they are a tourist attraction with sound and light shows to entertain the public. This beautiful piece of Bulgaria’s past is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily.
seven Dine in a traditional tavern
Taverns are the local style of a traditional restaurant in Bulgaria and are where travelers can find authentic dishes like banitsa, shopska salad, and tarator (a yogurt-based cucumber soup). The best taverns to try in the capital, Sofia, are The Hadjidragana Tavern, Moma Bulgarian Food and Wine and Shtastlivetsa. In Plovdiv, travelers can try Pavaj, Jägerhof, or Hemingway Restaurant to sample local cuisine.
6 Seven Rila Lakes Hike
The Seven Rila Lakes hike is one of the most popular trails in Bulgaria. It’s a 10 km loop it takes 3 hours and 39 minutes to complete with 545 meters of elevation gain. The route is classified as moderate, so it is suitable for intermediate hikers and beginners of a good physical level. Travelers can rent a car in Sofia and drive to the Seven Rila Lakes, which takes 1.5 to 2 hours. They can also take a bus from Sofia for only $3, and the trip takes just over 2 hours.
5 Go spelunking at Devil’s Throat Cave
Devil’s Throat Cave, also called Dyavolsko Garlo, is in the Western Rhodopes, on the Bulgarian border with Greece. This cave is near the Trigrad Gorge and has a 42 meter high waterfall inside. The name of the cave comes from the legend that it is the entrance to the underworld or the gate to hell. Travelers brave enough to enter can embark on an exciting caving adventure as part of an organized tour.
4 Swimming in Sunny Beach
Travelers who wish to spend time at the beach during their stay in Bulgaria can do so without visiting Varna. Instead, they can choose to stay further south at Sunny Beach on the Black Sea. Sunny Beach is a resort town famous for its water sports and vibrant nightlife. Young solo travelers and couples looking for adventure and relaxation will love it here. There is a huge sandy beach where visitors can try paragliding, wakeboarding or jet skiing in the water. Head inland for go-karting, a water park, and paintball.
3 Visit Plovdiv
Plovdiv is often cited as a more interesting city and rich in history than the capital city of Sofia, so travelers should make an effort to visit Plovdiv when exploring Bulgaria. This ancient city is built around seven hills in the south of the country. Plovdiv has old world European charm with colorful buildings and cobbled pedestrian streets in its old town.
Visit the Philippopolis Theater and the Ancient Stadium of Philipopolis for a glimpse of the well-preserved ruins. Plovdiv was named the Cultural Capital of Bulgaria in 2019 and has a history dating back 8000 years. We believe to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe.
2 See St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral is located in the capital, Sofia, and is a magnificent architectural feat, built in a neo-Byzantine style. The cathedral was built in the 20th century to commemorate 200,000 soldiers who died in war between 1877 and 1878. The cross-domed design of the cathedral emphasizes the central dome, which is 45 meters high. The building is massive and is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox structures in the world.
1 Take a wine tour
Bulgaria is usually not a priority when considering destinations with fantastic wineries; most people traveling to Europe for wine will be heading to Bordeaux or Tuscany. But Bulgaria has several wine regions, the largest of which is the Thracian Valley wine region. This area runs along the country’s border with Greece and Turkey and is one of two IGP destinations in Bulgaria that export wine within the EU. There are several grape varieties grown in the Thracian Valley, with both red and white wines produced here. Typical white grape varieties include Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat Ottonel, Vrachanski Misket and Traminer. The red grape varieties of the Thracian Valley include Pamid, Gamza, Cabernet Sauvignon, Traminer and Merlot.