“Bulgaria.” A country in Eastern Europe that many people have heard of, but many have no idea where it is on the map. That’s too bad because Bulgaria is amazing to visit for many reasons, and one of them is the great weather during the summer months. While it can sometimes get boiling hot, there is always a way to cool down such as hitting a swimming pool or hiking into the mountains.
One thing is for sure about this country, it is the to-go destination if you’re traveling on a budget and in need of a new experience. As part of the European Union, traveling to Bulgaria is easy, though not as easy as traveling to Italy or Spain because unfortunately, it is not part of the Schengen Area.
That said, it’s worth the trip because visiting Bulgaria is comparatively a bargain and there is something for everyone.
• For the history buffs, there is an abundance of museums, historical artifacts and places that are meaningful and traditional.
• For the food enthusiasts, there is the wonderful Bulgarian cuisine which makes one’s tastebuds go crazy with every bite of delicious banitsa.
• For those seeking outdoor adventure, there are different attractions and things to do such as climbing the mountains by Jeep and visiting the Eagle’s Eye.
This is just a tiny bit of what you can see and do in Bulgaria.
While the most popular places that everyone opts for when going there are Sunny Beach outside Varna and the capital, Sofia, there are many more places worth special attention. This post will introduce you to some notable places that are a must if you ever decide to go to Bulgaria and visit the less popular destinations in the east and center of my home country.
Central Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo and Gabrovo
Though not as celebrated as the rest of our country, Central Bulgaria is beautiful. The regions of Gabrovo and Veliko Tarnovo have some amazing places such as the tiny ethno village Ethar, an open-air museum on the edge of Gabrovo where traditional Balkan society is preserved.
Tsarevets a medieval fortress in Veliko Tarnovo. It may seem a lot to digest at first, but these are the major two destinations you shouldn’t miss.
• The ethno village is a fascinating place to spend a few hours, to walk around and get immerse into the old style of Bulgarian houses and crafts. You can find an old school which offers a glimpse into the educational system from more than 100 years ago and different museums related to food production and the weaving of handmade carpets.
• Tarnovo was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom for more than two centuries and the territory has been inhabited since ancient times. Tsarevets Fortress is located on a hill and there have been excavated the foundation of residential buildings.
• Rhodope Mountains – as Bulgarian people say “the mountains with a heart” Whenever visiting the Rhodope Mountains, pay a visit to the Devil’s throat cave and the Yagodinska cave.
A small disclaimer: it could be rather difficult to reach these following destinations unless you’re travelling with a car. For those who like to be in the Nature, they are definitely something to see and explore. On the way to the Devil’s throat you’ll pass through the Trigrad Gorge.
Just names, right?
But once you see them, that will change. It is important to mention that the Devil’s throat cave is believed to be the way to the underworld and the entrance to Hade’s realm. According to legend, Orpheus descended to the Kingdom of the Dead in this cave to bring back to life his beloved Eurydice.
Devin and Struilitsa-Kaleto-Laka
A good place to stay in the Rhodope Mountain is the tiny city of Devin, which is hidden in the forests but offers access to the most fascinating nature landmarks. While incredibly small, the town has everything you need with an abundance of hotels and amenities. There are pubs and restaurants with local bagels and salads. And there are speciality grilled Bulgarian meats and desserts.
If you happen to have an extra day, it is worth visiting the eco-path Struilitsa-Kaleto-Laka. It is just 2 kilometers away from Devin and it is a pleasant and easy route. If you follow the signs you’ll discover The Fairy Waterfall, which is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve seen so far. It descends about 50 metres. Then you can follow the main path and explore more of this route.
7 Rila Lakes, Melnik, the Rila Monastery and more
This is a big region to cover in just a few sentences but the 7 Rila Lakes are one of the most famous nature landmarks in Bulgaria. While it is certainly an adventure to climb to the top, there’s a million-dollar view once you get there and you’ll certainly never regret doing it. On the way, you can chill nearby the lakes in the preserved town of Melnik and enjoy the nature.
The only thing you need to pay for is the lift that brings you to the lowest point of the path and from there, the adventure begins. Being in the region would be a total loss if you didn’t visit the Rila Monastery. It is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. It is considered historical, cultural, and architectural monument and has some of the most beautiful paintings you’ll ever see.
Last but not least, I would like to introduce you to Bulgaria’s smallest town, Melnik. It may be small, but Melnik it is famous for its 96 preserved Balkan-style houses, its wine production and its pyramids. The local wine is out of this world and is definitely worth trying, especially if you are a wine enthusiast.
While these are some of the popular but less visited destinations for tourists in Bulgaria there is so much more to do and see. And the best part about these places, they do not cost that much. The entrance of the caves, Tsarevets and the Ethar is no more than 5 euro and Melnik is a national reserve.
Polya Plamenova Pencheva is a young Bulgarian journalist based in Groningen, Netherlands. Polya holds a Master's degree in journalism from Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and loves writing and telling the untold stories of interesting people. You can find her dining at cute café, shopping at markets, scouting second-hand shops or just chillin' at home with something great to read.