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Kalina Varbanova: 10 things you didn’t know about Bulgaria

Bulgaria is celebrated for its beautiful women

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Bulgaria remains one of the less-visited countries in Europe and far down the list for expats. Though Digital Nomads discovered its charms years ago. Dispatches has written a lot about its beaches, mountains and historic sites. Yet, there are lots of interesting and impressive things about Bulgaria that people – even other Europeans – don’t know.

Part of this is because Bulgaria only broke free from the Soviet Union in 1989. Part of it is its location in the eastern Balkans, though neighboring Greece is one of the most visited.


Grandma Valka on her 102nd birthday (photo courtesy of Kalina Varbanova)

At first place on my list is longevity. In nearly every Bulgarian city, town or village there are elderly people 100-plus-years old. 100, 101, 102 and more birthday parties are celebrated all year long. If you ask me for recipe for long living, I don’t dare to give it.

My grandma Valka celebrated her 102nd birthday on 23 January 2024. In Bulgaria there are people who are 102 and more years old, with their ages documented. 


Bulgarian women are famous world-wide for their beauty, brains and grace.

Manita Vartan, Mrs Bulgaria International, is Mrs. Europe 2023.

Manita is from Plovdiv. She is a fourth generation Armenian who holds a degree in philology and who has worked several years as teacher. Nowadays, sheis developing her business in fashion while working in charity. Manita plans to release a cookbook with Armenian recipes. She also takes care for her daughter. who is interested in music.

In interview for Nova television, Mrs Europe 2023 shared that she travelled for the competition in Istanbul with seven suitcases with fancy cloths created by Bulgarian designers.

(Author’s note: Mrs Europe 2024 will be in Plovdiv 24 thru 28 September.)

Elizbeth Kravets, Miss Varna 2023, is Miss Bulgaria 2023.

Elizabeth is from Bulgarian-Ukrainian origin. Her mother is Bulgarian and her father is half Ukrainian, half Jewish. The 17 year-old beauty is four times a champion in sport dance and represents Bulgaria in world sport dance competitions where she is ranked No. 7 in the world.

Nurgyul Salimova


Bulgaria’s women’s national chess team women won the gold prizes in European chess competition in Budva, Montenegro.

Antoaneta Stefanova, Nurgyul Salimova, Victoria Radeva, Gergana Peicheva and Beloslava Krasteva are not only young and beautiful, but they are winners! For first time in history, the Bulgarian national women’s team is the European chess champion.

The Chess Queens next goal is the Chess Olympiad in Budapest this year.


Food in Bulgaria is a colorful mixture of local, Balkan, European and ingredients from all over the world.
Everyone can feel good here about food and a totally healthy way of living – vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free , special diets and everything else.

In addition to Bulgarian national dishes, the most popular ethnic foods are Italian, Arabian, Turkish, Chinese and Balkan. For more discerning tastes there is high quality gourmet by professional chefs. On every street Bulgarian pastry kiosks, or pizza, döners, falafels. Local kitchens are tasty and balanced.

In Bulgaria you will never have to worry about going hungry.

And by the way, one of the most popular restaurant chains in London , Happy, is Bulgarian!


Bulgaria, despite its reputation for backwardness, offers an absolutely modern style of living – pretty American and European in that crazy Balkan way. Fast and pretty cars and bikes … Mercedes, Porsche, BMW, Nissan, electric cars and anything you can imagine along with Harleys and all fancy bikes.

Bicycles are everywhere. Electric scooters for rent on every street. Wide spread fitness culture. Young people look well-trained, many with muscles and tattoos. Any modern styles of dressing is fine.

Bulgarians tend to be well-dressed and good looking. Almost everyone has a pet – dogs or cats. Stray dogs and cats are adopted.

The charity culture is alive and well here, with campaigns helping ill people and various causes. Bikers from motoclans are do frequent charity campaigns in every city and village.


Nearly every city hosts music festivals and rock and metal concerts.

DJs from all over the world come to techno parties. Plenty of Bulgarian DJs play big techno and EDM parties. Classic music is everywhere. In every city is Classic music festivals where symphony music concerts, opera and ballet are played. In every city there is jazz festival.

Theater and music festivals also are wide presented in whole country. Sofia Live Fest is one of the biggest events of the year.


Bulgarian has produced world-famous opera singers.

Sonya Yoncheva is a superstar soprano. The recipient of the 2021 Opus Klassik as Singer of the Year, Yoncheva is an acclaimed fixture on the most important stages of the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, Teatro alla Scala, Bayerische Staatsoper, Berlin Staatsoper, Wiener Staatsoper, and the Opéra de Paris. Yoncheva has performed to critical acclaim from Athens to Tokyo.

Alexandrina Pendatchanska has established herself internationally and performs at the major opera houses in the world: Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Hamburg State Opera, Berlin State Opera, and the German Opera Berlin.

• Ivan Momirov was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. His father was a soccer referee and an opera lover. He was musical from a young age, active at the Varna Opera, then performing at major venues across the globe.


Bulgaria has it all – mountains, forests, green meadows, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, golden beaches, caves and a rich variety of flora and fauna.

Musala is the highest peak in the Rila Mountins., as well as in Bulgaria and the entire Balkan Peninsula at 2,925 metres (9,598 feet). Musala is the sixth-highest peak by topographic prominence in mainland Europe and one of the most isolated major peak in Europe. Musala is in the Rila National Park, noted for its rich flora and fauna.

• Prohodna Cave is one of the most famous and easily accessible caves in Bulgaria. It lies 2 kilometers from Karlukovo Village and 112 kilometers from Sofia.

Atanassovo Lake is a Ramsar wetland in Burgas, on the Black Sea coast, that is of global importance for the ornithology, celebrated as the European Bird Paradise. There are 317 bird species found here, which makes 70 percent of all bird species in Bulgaria. Of these, 14 are globally threatened, 83 species are included in the Red Book of Bulgaria of rare and endangered species, and 170 species are of environmental significance.

• Nearly 2,300 flamingos live on the Atanasovsko Lake. The population has grown considerably over the past two years.


Health and spa tourism is a core economic contributor to Bulgaria’s economy, with spa and wellness resorts attracting tourists all year long.

Velingrad is one of the largest spa resorts in Bulgaria and is known as the “Spa Capital of the Balkans”. There are numerous sanatoriums, resorts, modern spas and hotels

Sapareva Banya is primarily popular for its mineral waters – the hottest mineral water in the whole of Europe with a temperature of 103 °C. The only geyser on the Balkan Peninsula is here too.

Saints Constantine and Helena was the first Bulgarian seaside resort, and it combines rich historical heritage and natural resources with modern complexes and high-class services. Today, it is one of the most attractive seaside and spa resorts in Europe, a place where, while on a holiday, you can also take care of your health.


Fifty years ago during excavation work at Varna Lake, a golden treasure was found in the Varna Necropolis. This treasure turned out to contain the oldest processed gold ever found, for which Varna is famous worldwide.

The gold objects are more than 6,500 years old, meaning they were created only a few centuries after the first migrant farmers moved into Europe. So Bulgaria – and Varna in particular – can rightfully claim to be among the world’s oldest civilizations and the oldest community in Europe.

The Varna Archeological Museum includes three separate museum exposition halls, a must-see when you visit.


See more about Bulgaria here in Dispatches’ archives.

Read more from Kalina here.

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Kalina Varbanova freelance journalist based in Varna, Bulgaria. Kalina’s interests include culture, tourism, archeology and politics. She's been a Dispatches contributor since 2017, and has written some of our best-read posts.

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