Many tourists have yet to discover Bulgaria’s rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and tasty cuisine. The country is easy to traverse, making it possible to catch all of its highlights on a relatively short sojourn. Visiting Bulgaria‘s top five destinations paints an aptly colourful picture of the country for travellers, one that they are sure to enthusiastically share with friends and family back home.
Nestled in the jagged Rila Mountains, Rila Monastery is the heart of the Bulgarian nation. Founded by St. John of Rila in the 10th century, the monastery today is a UNESCO World Heritage site where monks live and practice their Orthodox faith. Its architecture features expansive terraces, supported by bright white columns, and capped by terracotta roofing. Brightly coloured religious frescoes cover exterior walls, and the dramatic peaks of the Rila Mountains encircle the complex. It is possible to stay overnight in the monastery’s sleeping quarters.
A well-preserved, large Roman amphitheatre evinces Plovdiv’s ancient roots, and an old town full of 19th-century Bulgarian Revival architecture speaks to the city’s cultural importance during the founding of the modern Bulgarian state. In addition to viewing diverse architecture, Plovdiv is a good place to sample diverse Bulgarian cuisine. Shopska salad is practically required at every meal, kavarma, a dish of minced meat with tomatoes, makes a fine choice for a main course, and a Bulgarian red wine perfectly complements it all.
The city of Bourgas may not hold a great deal of touristic appeal in and of itself, but it makes a great base from which to explore Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast. The nearby ancient towns of Nesebar and Sozopol feature old churches, an amphitheatre, and cobblestone streets, all against the backdrop of the Black Sea. The Bay of Bourgas also contains numerous beach resorts where visitors can soak up bright sunshine during summer.
Straddling the Yantra River in North-Central Bulgaria, VelikoTurnovo is another cultural gem. It was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, and it features a large fortress looming over the city. Like Plovdiv, the Old Town of VelikoTurnovo is comprised of a jumble of Bulgarian Renaissance buildings. The museums of the town are also of interest to anyone wanting to learn about Bulgarian history.
Those looking for a good helping of Bulgaria’s stunning natural heritage should make a stop in Bansko. The old town in the Pirin Mountains is one of Bulgaria’s premiere ski centres in the winter and a good launching points for high-alpine hikes in the summer. After an active day in the mountains, many visitors to Bansko like to recharge in one of the town’s mehanas. These are traditional Bulgarian taverns featuring tasty food and a rustic interior.
Visiting Bulgaria’s top five destinations gives travellers a great overview of the country, check out the Wikipedia page here for a start. With high mountain peaks, hundreds of kilometres of sandy shore, and loads of cultural attractions in between, there is something to suit everyone’s taste in Bulgaria.