A Country of Superb Variations
For such a small country, Bulgaria certainly packs a lot in. The Bulgarian Black Sea coastline is justly famous for its golden sandy beaches, where you’ll find huge resorts offering all the comforts and facilities you would expect on the Spanish costas, and a Bulgarian beach holiday is still remarkably good value. If you’re looking for a bit more character, though, there are plenty of smaller seaside towns such as historic Nesebar and Sozopol, founded by the ancient Greeks and renowned for their beautiful old churches, timber-framed houses and cobbled lanes.
Away from the coast, much of the Bulgarian countryside remains pleasingly unspoilt, covered in lush forests and dotted with lovely old monasteries and picturesque villages. Koprivshtitsa, in central Bulgaria, is one of the most visited, famous for its remarkably well preserved timber houses, while the sedate carpet-making village of Chiprovtsi, in the north, and tiny Melnik, in the far south, with its ancient wine industry, continue to delight visitors from around the world.
Those looking for more active pursuits can take to the slopes of Bulgaria’s ski resorts at Bansko, Pamporovo or Borovets, which offer excellent value, while Bulgaria is perfect walking country, with 37,000km of signposted hiking trails and magnificent scenery. Wildlife is abundant here too, with more than 400 species of birds, as well as many animals, such as bears and lynx, which are now rare elsewhere in Europe.
Getting around the country is easy. Public transport in Bulgaria is cheap, frequent and for the most part, reasonably efficient, although to explore the country in any depth, it’s useful to have your own vehicle. The main cities, Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna, are the places to head for cultural life, with an abundance of museums, art galleries and theatres, along with some very good restaurants and cafes. Bulgarian food is hearty and meaty, with lots of stews, roasts and grills on the menu, but there are plenty of fresh salads and vegetarian dishes too, and a glass or two of excellent Bulgarian wine over a traditional Bulgarian meal is a perfect way to round off your evening.