A Country of Superb Variations
Backpacking in Bulgaria
A backpacking holiday in Bulgaria is a great way to discover this beautiful country on a budget, and accommodation in Bulgaria is still remarkably cheap compared to Western Europe, helping you to make the most of your holiday money. Backpacker hostels in Bulgaria are a relatively recent phenomenon, but there are now several excellent hostels in Sofia and other major cities, and a bed in a dorm will cost around 10 Euros, and this price often includes a simple breakfast. Outside the big cities, there’s a wide range of budget accommodation across Bulgaria, including atmospheric family-run guesthouses in pretty rural villages and, if you want to go hiking in the stunning Bulgarian mountains, there’s a whole network of very cheap mountain huts – called ‘hizhas’ – along popular walking trails, which can cost as little as 5 Euros per person, though usually you will need your own sleeping bag and provisions, and you may have use of a communal kitchen. Other backpacker hostels can be found in the cities of Plovdiv and Varna, but if you fancy a bit more comfort, some of the older, formerly state-run hotels offer rooms with ensuite bathrooms and TVs at modest rates – expect to pay from about 20 Euros for a single room, including breakfast.
Beach in Bulgaria
Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast is famous for its long sandy beaches, and it’s easy to see why beach holidays in Bulgaria have been so popular for so long. The weather in summer is dependably warm and sunny, and the huge, purpose-built resorts of Sunny Beach, Golden Sands and Albena have everything you could wish for. The beaches are kept immaculately clean, the sea is warm and often shallow, so young children can swim safely, and there’s a wide range of water-sports on offer, all at very reasonable rates compared to Western Europe. Jet-skiing, water-skiing, parasailing, surfing and diving are just some of the available activities, while there are also some modern water-parks to enjoy on land, and numerous other diversions on hand such as tennis, horse-riding and cycling.
Almost everyone coming to these resorts will be on an organised, often all-inclusive, package deals, and most visitors are from overseas, especially Germany, Britain, Scandinavia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, so there’s a cosmopolitan atmosphere and you won’t encounter any language problems – hotel and restaurant staff are multilingual, and there are plenty of British pubs and a variety of international cuisine on offer. On the downside, there’s little authentic character here, and if these big package resorts don’t appeal, there are plenty of smaller resorts all along the coast where you can enjoy a more relaxed beach holiday in Bulgaria. Historic Nesebar, near Sunny Beach, is a fascinating ancient town full of medieval churches and Byzantine ruins, and it also has a superb beach close by, and some cosy harbourside cafes where you can sit back and relax with a coffee or a cold beer.
Varna, on the northern coast, is a great place to combine a beach holiday in Bulgaria with a city break. The city’s beach is particularly popular with younger Bulgarians, who are also attracted by the country’s best summertime nightlife, with a string of nightclubs, restaurants and cocktail bars just off the sands.
However, if you really want to get away from it all, head to the far south, where pretty little seaside towns such as Tsarevo and Ahtopol offer small, uncrowded beaches and a slower pace of life, as well as less expensive accommodation and more traditional restaurants.
Camping in Bulgaria
Sleeping under canvas, listening to early morning birdsong and breathing fresh country air can be a great adventure, and with such varied landscapes to explore, a camping holiday in Bulgaria is an inexpensive and often rewarding experience. However, camping in Bulgaria is not as popular as it once was, and many of the older camping grounds have been neglected and facilities are poor, while many have closed altogether. In recent years there has been some renewed interest, and today there are some newer and very attractive spots to pitch your tent around Bulgaria, either along the coast or in the mountains. These are still few and far between, but are normally well cared for, where you can pitch your tent for around 5 Euros a night, sometimes with onsite electricity and hot showers included, or at a small extra charge. Most camping sites in Bulgaria are in more remote rural areas, and are usually in the grounds of guesthouses or holiday cottages, and some also offer space for caravans for around 9 Euros a night. You will need to bring your own tent and provisions, although there’s usually a nearby village where you can pick up basic essentials. Ideally, if you intend setting out on a camping holiday in Bulgaria, you will need your own transport. In Bulgaria, camping outside recognised campsites is prohibited.
City Breaks in Bulgaria
With an increasing number of airlines, including budget airlines, connecting Bulgaria with the rest of the world, the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, is becoming an easy and attractive city break destination for international travellers. This vibrant, modern city has so much to offer, and luckily, it’s also a fairly compact city, so even if you only have a few days to spare for your city break in Bulgaria, you can still experience the city’s main sights and attractions. You’ll find the country’s finest restaurants and best nightlife here, and a wide range of accommodation to suit all pockets, from backpacker hostels up to the swankiest five-star hotels. Sofia boasts a number of excellent museums and art galleries, theatres, beautifully decorated Orthodox churches, huge green parks and countless shops and lively local markets where you can browse the stalls for some interesting souvenirs to take home. With new international air links developing, other city breaks in Bulgaria worth considering include Varna and Burgas, on the Black Sea coast, although outside summer you will need to take a connecting flight in Sofia. Both cities have some of Bulgaria’s best beaches on their doorsteps, while Varna has the country’s most interesting Archaeological Museum and some impressive Roman remains.
Culture and Arts in Bulgaria
Bulgaria has a long and rich artistic heritage, and with several UNESCO listed World Heritage Sites, visitors interested in culture, arts and history will be truly spoilt for choice. Major cities like Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna all have a vibrant cultural and artistic scene, including some excellent museums and art galleries, as well as well-patronised theatres and concert halls and there are frequent music and arts festivals in towns all over Bulgaria throughout the year, so whenever you visit, you’re bound to catch one of them. If you want to explore the country in depth, you can visit Thracian burial mounds, Roman ruins, medieval fortresses, splendidly decorated Orthodox churches and monasteries and wonderfully preserved villages full of timber-framed houses.
Family Holiday in Bulgaria
Bulgaria is an ideal destination for a family holiday. With miles of long, safe, sandy beaches along the Black Sea coast offering lots of different water-sports, and organised activities and kids’ clubs run by the big resort hotels, a family holiday in Bulgaria can be great fun for kids and adults alike. There are countless activities on hand, including water-skiing, jet-skiing, parasailing and scuba diving, and if you get tired of the beach, you can go on a fishing trip or hop on a tour bus for a day trip to one of the nearby historic towns for some sightseeing and shopping. If the seaside doesn’t appeal, try a family holiday in the Bulgarian countryside, where you can explore nature together, in a tranquil and unspoilt setting, perhaps trying birdwatching, horse-riding or hiking. If you’re looking for a winter family holiday in Bulgaria, the ski resorts at Bansko and Pamparovo are ideal for the whole family, whatever your ability.
Party Holiday - Singles Life in Bulgaria
Not many people think of Bulgaria as a party destination, but in summer, the beach resorts and coastal towns really come alive as thousands of international visitors arrive for some fun in the sun. The main package resorts like Sunny Beach and Golden Sands are filled with British and Irish pubs, lively music venues and lots of night clubs where you can dance till the early hours, and as the hotels are all close by, you won’t have to walk far to get back to your room. The coastal city of Varna is a major draw for young Bulgarians, who come for its strip of beachfront nightclubs and smart cocktail bars. Food and drink here is much cheaper in Western Europe, so your money will certainly go a lot further when you take your party holiday in Bulgaria.
Skiing - Snow Boarding in Bulgaria
As well as its beaches, Bulgaria is also famous for its ski slopes, and an increasing number of foreign visitors are choosing to come for a skiing holiday in Bulgaria, attracted by the relatively low costs and the improved facilities on offer. The major resorts are in the south of the country, and the biggest is Bansko, which has seen huge investment in recent years. Snow cover lasts from December to May, although artificial snow is used in some areas. Cross-country skiing is also well catered for here, and Bansko offers some of the best snowboarding in Bulgaria. Further south, the resorts of Pamparovo and Chepelare are better suited to beginners, but don’t have much character. Mount Vitosha, on the southern outskirts of the capital, Sofia, is a very convenient place to ski if you staying in the city, and there are several smaller ski resorts, more popular with Bulgarians than foreign tourists, offering a range of conditions and facilities, so whatever you’re looking for in your skiing holiday to Bulgaria, you’re sure to find something to your liking.
Scuba Diving Activity Holiday in Bulgaria
Scuba diving in Bulgaria is becoming more popular, and there are a growing number of operators in some of the big Black Sea resorts. Although you are unlikely to plan a dedicated scuba diving holiday in Bulgaria, there are some interesting sites to explore, including some World War II shipwrecks off rocky Kaliakra Cape in the north and other points along the coast. Most scuba dive operators are located in resorts such s Sunny Beach and Albena, although smaller towns like Nesebar also have companies offering PADI-certified open water courses, reef dives, wreck dives and a variety of other special interest courses and trips.
Hiking Activity Holiday in Bulgaria
With a remarkable 37,000km of well maintained, signposted walking trails, a hiking holiday in Bulgaria is a great way to discover the countryside. Hiking in Bulgaria has a long history, and is a very popular pastime for many Bulgarians. There’s a whole network of mountain huts along many of these walking trails, often in very remote locations, where you can stay overnight for a very small charge, and there are some very good local agencies offering guided hiking holidays in Bulgaria, and detailed walking maps of the most popular areas are widely available. The Rila, Pirin and Rhodopi Mountain ranges are among the main areas for hikers, with rugged and beautiful alpine landscapes, forests, lakes and abundant wildlife. The major trans-European hiking trails E3, E4 and E8 all pass through Bulgaria if you’re looking for a major hiking trip, but there are plenty of short, gentle walking trails for less experienced hikers in Bulgaria too.
Cycling Activity Holiday in Bulgaria
Ditching the car or public transport and setting off to explore the country by bicycle is an attractive option wherever you go, and a cycling holiday in Bulgaria is no exception. Although not recommended as a way of getting around the busy towns and cities, where traffic can be horrendous and accidents common, cycling is a relaxing and rewarding way to see some of the less populated corners of Bulgaria. Some hostels and guesthouses rent our bicycles to guests for a modest charge but there aren’t many dedicated bicycle rental agencies to be found here. However, the Black Sea resorts have plenty of outlets renting bikes and scooters if you fancy a day out cycling along the coast. Serious cyclists planning a cycling holiday in Bulgaria can of course bring their own bicycles into Bulgaria, and for those looking for an organised trip, there are travel agencies in Sofia and elsewhere who run guided cycling holidays around Bulgaria, visiting monasteries, national parks and pretty villages in remote corners of the countryside that would otherwise be difficult to reach.
Wine Tasting Holiday in Bulgaria
Bulgaria enjoys a warm, dry climate, which is perfect for growing vines, especially in the southern half of the country. There are five distinct wine producing regions in Bulgaria, and a wine tasting holiday in Bulgaria can be a fascinating and rewarding experience, allowing you to sample wines from many different producers, many of whom only sell their wines within Bulgaria. Some of Bulgaria’s best wines come from the Pirin region in the south west, which has a hot, arid climate. A red wine called Melnik, produced around a tiny village of the same name, is the best-known wine here, and was a favourite of Winston Churchill’s. The Danube Plain to the north, produces the biggest share of Bulgaria’s wine, and excellent vineyards can be found near the Black Sea coast and in central Bulgaria. Common international varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are all produced here, along with local varieties which you are unlikely to see abroad. Agencies in Sofia may be able to arrange a wine tasting tour of Bulgaria, though otherwise you will need your own transport, plenty of time, and at least a little knowledge of Bulgarian to really appreciate the diversity of modern Bulgarian winemaking and to visit the relatively small number of vineyards which are open to visitors.