10 things everyone should do in Bulgaria

When it comes to travel, I’m not one of those people who says stuff like, “You can’t visit Bulgaria without seeing.” I know that everyone’s “must-see” lists are going to be a little different depending on their personal preferences, and trying to impose my idea of what they can’t miss is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

If something on this list doesn’t appeal to you, don’t do it just because it’s on someone else’s list of what you have to do. And that goes for any other “must-do” list you ever see. Ever. Take what you like and leave the rest. And tell them I said you could.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way and you’re all independent and free-thinking travellers, here’s my list of the

1. Take a night ride in Veliko Turnovo

Kaliakra is a long, narrow headland in the Southern Dobruja region of the Northern Bulgarian Black Sea Coast located 30km from Lighthouse Golf & Spa Resort, Bulgaria. The coast is steep with vertical cliffs reaching 70 m down to the sea.

Kaliakra is a nature reserve, where dolphins, cormorants and pinnipeds can be observed. It also features the remnants of the fortified walls, water main, baths and residence of the despot Dobrotitsa from the short-lived principality of Karvuna’s medieval capital. The Bolata Cove, with its small sheltered beach, lies just to the North at the mouth of a picturesque canyon, also a part of the nature reserve.

As one of the oldest cities in Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo is steeped in five thousand years of history. This small, picturesque city is home to one of Europe’s grandest medieval monuments, the Tsaravets Fortress. If you have never been to Bulgaria before, this is certainly one of the country’s must-see destinations. Veliko Tarnovo was built on three hills: Tsaravets, Trapezitsa, and Sveta Gora. Its attractive landscape has the Yantra River running through it. It is fairly easy to get around Veliko Tarnovo; almost everything is within walking distance or a short taxi drive away.

2. Get a Free Sofia Tour

The free English language sightseeing walking tour of Bulgaria capital, organized by a non-profit organization.

The Free Sofia Tour expects its guests twice a day every day. The best attraction in Sofia according to TripAdvisor users. Approved by Tourist Service Municipal Company at Sofia City Municipality. Every tour is both fun and educational, the perfect introduction to the city and its thousands of years of history.

3. Climb to the Seven Rila Lakes

The Seven Rila lakes are best to visit in the summer. In the summer the trails are in their best condition, the lift is working and plenty of hotels, guest houses and restaurants in the area open up for the season. You will need 6 to 8 hours to walk around all the lakes, enjoy the scenery and take pictures. Beware of the dates around 19 August, this is when the White Brotherhood gathers at the Babrek lake to perform their sacred dance, called Paneurhythmy. Thousands of people participate. They make spectacular rings (similar to human crop circles) that harmoniously sway and sing in praise of the sun and planets, brotherly love, healthy lifestyle and harmony with nature. As amazing as this event can be, we strongly recommend you avoid these dates for touring the Seven Rila lakes the whole area gets overcrowded with no place to park or enjoy the scenery in peace and solitude.

4. Drink rakia and eat Shopska salad

The most popular Bulgarian salad is the shopska salad, which is a mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, raw or roasted peppers (preferably roasted), and sirene. It is named after a group of very frugal people called shopi who live in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia. Shopska salad come as starters together with the most popular Bulgarian drink – rakia.

You can order Shopska salad in any restaurant and you best try it as a starter, with Rakia.

Shopska ensalada

5. Go back in time at Thracians

The oldest population, known to have inhabited Bulgarian territories, whose name we know, were the Thracians. They are mentioned for the first time by the Ancient Greek poet Homer (8th c. B.C.). If we can trust hid ,,Iliad, Thracian tribes took part in the Thracian War (c. 1250 B.C.) under the commandment of King Rezos. The name Thracian means ,,brave, ,,courageous people. The Ancient Greeks used it for all tribes living to the north.
The Thracians were numerous people divided into tribes Getae, Dacians, Moesians, Triballi, Satri, Bessoi, Odrysai and others. They formed their ethnic community at the beginning of the Iron Age and it contained about 90 tribal groups.

You can order Shopska salad in any restaurant and you best try it as a starter, with Rakia.

The Ancient Civilizations - the Thracians on the Bulgarian lands

6. Sunbathe on Silistar

Silistar is a protected area, a wild place located in the southern part of the Black Sea coast, which is the home of one of the best-preserved old forest ecosystems. Located near the village Rezovo, it lies 90 km south of Burgas, 15 km south of Ahtopol and 12 km from Sinemorets.

Silistar reserve has rich and diverse fauna. Here you can see deer, wild boars, jackals, ducks, geese, etc. The presence of dozens of bird species is determined by the Via Pontica migration route which passes through this area.

Silistar is located in the sunniest part of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast and offers a unique combination of sea, mountain, river and exotic vegetation. Silistar beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Bulgaria, a place almost still unspoiled and wrapped in that exciting close-to-real-nature feeling.

Playa de Silistar

7. Wander the old town of Plovdiv

You walk along the narrow streets of the Three Hills and find yourselves in the old town of Plovdiv. In the 19th century this tiny oasis, like the long-lived Phoenix arose from the ashes and was regenerated for new life. Rich merchants began to build architecturally unique houses of the size of royal palaces. You contemplate the gorgeous wood-carved ceilings, the colourful mural decorations and around-the-world landscapes; you throw a glance from the so-called gossiping corners at the street so as to feel the rhythm of its life. You imagine the bustling gatherings and charity balls, organized by the wealthy hosts. Style, noblesse, generosity and peace are radiated from this area, surrounded by spacious courtyards with gardens and lush greenery such as the yards of the “royal” House of Kuyumdzhiogly and the houses of  Nikola Nedkovich, Stepan Hindliyan, Veren Stambolyan and Georgi Mavridi, turned today into museum-houses.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria - N°1 Plovdiv Travel Guide Before You Go

8. Visit the city of Nessebar

In 1983 Old Nesebar was included in the List of World Cultural Heritage Sites of UNESCO. Situated on a rocky peninsula on the Black Sea, the more than 3,000-year-old site of Nessebar was originally a Thracian settlement (Menebria). At the beginning of the 6th century BC, the city became a Greek colony. The city’s remains, which date mostly from the Hellenistic period, include the acropolis, a temple of Apollo, an agora and a wall from the Thracian fortifications. Among other monuments, the Stara Mitropolia Basilica and the fortress date from the Middle Ages, when this was one of the most important Byzantine towns on the west coast of the Black Sea. Wooden houses built in the 19th century are typical of the Black Sea architecture of the period.

The city of Nessebar

9. Look up at the beautiful vaulted ceiling inside Rila Monastery

Throughout the centuries Rila Monastery has always been the spiritual, educational and cultural centre of Bulgaria. During the Bulgarian Revival Period (18th – 19th centuries) Rila Monastery set up approximately 50 metochions in the large Bulgarian towns and villages where some of the most well-educated Rila monks performed their religious rites, established schools, and brought pilgrims to the monastery.

UNESCO has 9 declared World Heritage sites in Bulgaria

10. Get lost in the Botanical Garden, Balchik

The palace and the botanical garden in Balchik, joined in an architectural and park complex, are a piece of heaven on earth and a must-see tourist attraction on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.

The visitors to the palace and the botanical garden are especially interested in the chapel “Stella Maris”, the “Alley of wine”, the “Alley of ages”, the “Hanging terraces”, the tomb of Queen Maria, the “Garden of Allah”, the “English courthouse” garden, the “Garden of the cross-shaped water mirror”, the “Palace bridge and the boat garage”, the “Bridge of sighs”, the old mill, the “Silver well” and the numerous archaeological artefacts from antiquity and the Middle Ages.

Balchik Palace