15 Charming Places in Bulgaria You Haven’t Been to Yet
My home country Bulgaria has seen a lot of interest from tourists in the last few years. However there’re still a lot of people out there who have a somewhat bad association when they hear about Bulgaria. Maybe it’s because they think it’s a poor country, or there isn’t much to see, or it’s unsafe. Luckily Bulgaria is none of these things. In fact it’s 100% worthy of having a place in your bucket list.
It’s probably true that when you hear Bulgaria, you immediately think of what the country was like during the communism. However I can assure you that much has changed since those times. Now Bulgaria is a safe, welcoming, affordable place to visit and most importantly it truly is beautiful. Below I’ve revealed my 15 top places to visit but they surely aren’t everything!
Back in the old days this used to be the capital of Bulgaria but when you go visit Veliko Tyrnovo you’ll see a place that has nothing in common with the large, busy, noisy European capitals that we’ve all probably had a bit too much of already. Instead Veliko Tyrnovo is a small town gloriously standing on top of the hills, charming its visitors with its picturesque architecture, sites such as the historical Tsarevets and shops that still capture the Bulgarian culture and traditions.
Just a short drive from Veliko Tyrnovo, Arbanasi is the perfect place for a nice long walk along the narrow streets of the village. Taking pictures of the traditional houses in Arbanasi is a complete must. It certainly is the place to go to if you really want to get the best views of Veliko Tyrnovo and maybe, just maybe have lunch overlooking the mountains going from one side of the horizon to the other. It goes without saying that the best season to visit Arbanasi is the summer. All the colour, all the buzz and green mountain views come together beautifully on a warm sunny day when all you want to do is wander and have a cold drink.
Ethnographic Complex ”Etar”
The Еtar is one of my most favorite places in Bulgaria as far as transportation back into the history is concerned. This is an ethnographic area which aims to revive the culture, the traditions and the daily life of Bulgarians. The complex charms with it’s cobbled narrow streets, traditional wooden houses, many active workshops and the Balkan hugging the entire area to make up for some fascinating views over the mountains. The place really transports you because I can bet you, you wouldn’t have seen anything like it! Here you can try to knit your own rug, make your own jewelry or why not even shoes. The place really is incredible!
The so called Old mountain range hides another little place where the time seems to have stopped. In Bulgaria a very traditional form of enjoying yourself is what we call ”aylqk”. It’s a form of wandering around but walking super super slowly, just enjoying the views, relaxing in a good company and essentially burning as little calories as possible 😀 Zheravna is a peaceful place ideal for some ”aylqk”. This place has preserved a lot of the history of Bulgaria. It has a total of 330 houses (and all in all … 500 residents) and about 200 of its houses dating back 150-300 years ago are now cultural monuments. Have a wander, enjoy the nature, check out the preserved inns and if you’re lucky to go at the right time, enjoy the festival of the folk costume.
If you’re ever in the north of Bulgaria, this place is a complete must see. I keep going back to this place whenever I can because of its vibe, the scenery, the river casually making its way across the whole town, the many preserved workshops where you can still see craftsmen perfecting their art and you can even give it a try. There’re plenty of historical sites you can visit which show the life of Bulgarians back in the days. My all time favorite is the old church school. It sure makes you appreciate how things have changed! Walk around all streets of Tryavna, have a nice lunch/dinner in one of its traditional inns, visit a few craftsmen shops and take a ton of pictures, that’ll sure make up for a perfect day!
They don’t call it little Vienna for no reason. With no doubt my home town Ruse charms with its incredibly beautiful architecture, peaceful pedestrian city center and the views over the Danube river. A stroll along the central street coupled with a peaceful walk along the river will certainly make up for a perfect day trip. Although Ruse is Bulgaria’s 5th largest city, you won’t see many people rushing around which is one of the things I, and probably you too, would love most about the town. So just take your time, stroll up and down Aleksandrovska street and don’t forget in to pop in ”Happy Bar & Grill” for some lunch. Over the years it’s become a little tradition for me and my family!
Before heading south, you cannot miss to visit the Krushuna Falls. They’re so well hidden that unless you go look for them, they won’t start screaming for your attention. But once you get to them, you’ll be blown away! It’s a series of falls which you can easily explore by following a tourist trail up and down the river until you get to the end of the trail to indulge in the views of the largest and most astonishing fall called The Spat. Bring in a packed lunch and explore and explore and explore 🙂
7 Rila lakes
If you’re a nature lover, you’ll fall in love with this place. You might even wanna build a tiny house at the top of Rila mountain and never ever leave this place 😀 . They are a stunning group of glacial lakes between 2,100 and 2,500 meters above sea level. What’s absolutely incredible about them is that they’re almost staggered one above the other and they’re all connected with tiny streams making beautiful waterfalls as the water travels down the streams. The lakes all look different which is slightly given away by their names which hint about the lakes’ distinct shapes. Hike for as long as you can and be assured that every step you take will be rewarded with … views!
With a population of a total of 385 people, this place really is one of a kind. Pretty much the entire village is a landmark and both the architecture and the nature are truly one of a kind. Melnik attracts with its beautiful sand pyramids surrounding almost the entire village, its traditional houses and tiny cobbled streets as well as wineries which are seeing more and more wine lovers coming for a taste. It truly is one of these places you gotta go and feel for yourself because a picture will never give it justice.
Plovdiv is the largest place in my list here but trust me it’s made it to the top 15 for a reason. It isn’t your traditional big, noisy, crowded city ful of fancy new buildings and cement all over. It’s a vibrant place that has preserved a lot of the Bulgarian culture which can be tracked when you take a stroll in the Old town. The Trap [aka Kapana] is the place you’ll want to wander around after a whole day of hiking Plovdiv’s breathtaking hills or just exploring its beautiful main streets. A visit would never be compete without a stop to admire the city’s singing fountains!
Like the name suggests, this is a fortress. But what amazed me about this place were the views once you get to the top of the hill and look down and around. The place is right at the heart of the Rhodope Mountains so the views really take your breath away. Yes, there isn’t much else to do once you get to the top but admire the views and just get a fresh perspective so I truly think it’s worth it.
The reservoir was created by the Vacha Dam in a stunning gorge where you’ll see the Vacha river passing through. The Rhodope mountains surrounding the reservoir make up for some pretty spectacular views. The reservoir sure is the perfect spot for some pretty awesome hiking complemented by a chilled out picnic for lunch overlooking the water and the hills. The reservoir is about 18 km long so it’s sure gonna keep you busy for a while if you wanna see it from one end to the other. Follow the hiking trail and get to the top, you definitely won’t regret it!
With no doubt Sozopol is my favorite place on the Bulgarian seaside. Sozopol is the perfect mix of incredible sandy beaches, Old town with beautiful vibe and a newer area for those looking to accommodate for their 21st Century me 😀 . But really Sozopol’s charm is in its Old town! It’s almost hard to explain how peaceful and at the same time buzzing the area really is. It’s full of nice restaurants, authentic shops, traditional wooden houses and stunning sea views. Sozopol truly is the perfect vacation spot which can easily feed the beachy person and the traveler inside of you.
You can’t go to Sozopol and not see this fascinating castle. Opened for visitors just 5 years ago, the castle was built by a Bulgarian architect whose dream was exactly that – to build his own castle one day. Not only did he make his dream come true but he built a whole little fairytale world around it featuring fairy architecture, funky looking cafe, a huge lake, flower garden, cute lamas and various rare species of birds and wait for it .. even a horse farm. It’s a great day trip and you really don’t want to miss it if you get even somewhat close to the area.
Number 2 on my top seaside places goes to Nesebar. The place has a somewhat similar vibe to Sozopol (which is why I probably love it so much) so it’s a great alternative if you can’t get to Sozopol. The go to place in Nesebar sure is its Old town. But no two Old towns are the same so you’ll totally have an amazing time if you’re lucky to visit both Nesebar and Sozopol. Like mentioned above, there’s nothing more relaxing that a bit of ”aylqk” after dinner and Nesebar is the perfect place for that. Not a single person will be rushing for anywhere so you can just stroll along, enjoy the vibe and completely relax.
Next time you’re in Bulgaria, tick off some if not all the places on this list. Only by doing that, can you be pretty sure that you’ve seen some of the real beauty of the country. There’re many many other gorgeous places in Bulgaria but this sure is a great start! Enjoy and never ever stop exploring 🙂
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