Best of Bulgaria in 10 Days

How to have the best trip to Bulgaria

Bulgaria is hard to describe and even harder for travelers to conquer. Tucked in the South-easternmost corner of the European Union, it will welcome you with vibrancy and authenticity that may take you by surprise. From its Thracian roots and Roman past to its centuries under the Ottoman Empire and the years of Soviet influence, it offers history, art, culture and nature that will seduce you before you can learn how to spell “love” in Cyrillic letters. And let us not for a second forget the food and the wines. Oh, the wines - perhaps the biggest secret that the old continent has somehow managed to keep under lids. For now.

Brave travelers, prepare to be delighted! You are about the explore the best the other side of the former Iron Curtain has to offer. These recommendations are lovingly prepared by a devoted explorer who happens to have been born and raised in Bulgaria. If you need more suggestions and tips, email me at petia@flyingraconteur.com. Now let’s start planning! 

  Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria

Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria

The Fundamentals

So you are planning a trip to Bulgaria! You’ve probably done some research already. And now you are wondering how to put it all together. What to see and what to skip. Let’s get to work and get your plans under way.

First of all, I have prepared several summaries that will help you know what to expect and how to prepare:

Why You Should Visit Bulgaria

Bulgaria Travel Tips

Now that we have gotten the basics out of the way, let’s map out your route. 

Best of Bulgaria in 10 Days

This itinerary will allow you to have a decent size sample of the best Bulgaria has to offer - history, culture, architecture, food and wine. It can be expanded or you can do just one or two of the places if you have time constraints. While I am often an advocate for exploring Bulgaria by car as it allows the most flexibility, this itinerary can quite conveniently be done by public transportation. 

Day 1: Welcome to Bulgaria

You have arrived! Chances are, you first touched ground in Sofia, the capital. On your first day, I suggest you just go for a walk along Vitosha Street and the city center, grab a cup of coffee at one of the hundreds of lovely cafes, take in the eclectic architecture, then sit down for dinner and your first rakia. No need to rush. Just take it all in.  

Day 2: Explore Sofia

Time to conquer the capital! Here's how to spend a great day in Sofia. After you've planned your sightseeing, how to find the best cup of coffeeand the most delicious food for every taste, including vegetarian options. 

Day 3: Rila Monastery

  Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

No one leaves the Rila Monastery, nestled in the southwestern Rila Mountains, without being spellbound by the humble yet majestic influence of its ten centuries of serving as the nation’s most important and revered center of faith and enlightenment. The Rila Lakes, a cluster of high altitude glacial lakes, have long believed to be a place of intense spiritual energy and attract hikers and followers of the Paneurhythmy spiritual tradition.

Day 4: Discover Plovdiv

  Roman Theatre in Plovdiv

Roman Theatre in Plovdiv

Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city, is the third oldest city in Europe and the eight oldest in the world. Its Roman theatre is one of the best preserved in Europe and serves as an open stage for memorable dance and music performances in a setting that will bring you back to the times of Rome’s greatest emperors, including Philip The Macedon (father of Alexander the Great), whose name, Philippopolis, the city bore for centuries. Plovdiv is one of my favorite delights so I have dedicated lots of writing to it. Here are the must sees and here is a little Plovdiv primerif you need a deeper immersion. 

Day 5: Roman Ruins and Wine

Plovdiv often hosts events such as this one at the stunning Roman theater. Check the schedule here to see what may be on view during your visit. Then head out to one of the two best wine bars that offer the best selection of local varietals: Vino Culture  and DeGustoStation, the latter being entirely dedicated only to indigenous Bulgarian wines.

 Plovdiv by night

Plovdiv by night

Day 6: Communist UFOs, Thracian gods and the world's most precious roses

  The communist monument Buzludzha is often compared to an UFO

The communist monument Buzludzha is often compared to an UFO

Bulgaria’s Rose Valley is home to Rosa Damascena, whose precious rose oil is used to make the world’s most exquisite perfumes. If you are lucky to visit in late May, you can partake in the early morning ritual of rose picking. It's also known as the Valley of the Thracian kings at the heart of the once mighty Odrysian Kingdom offers the largest concentration of restored Thracian tombs, open to the public. Delightfully uncrowded by tourists, the intricately built caverns will stun you with sohpistaced frescoes and gold artifacts of remarkable beauty and craftsmanship. And as if this is not enough, on the way from Plovdiv to Rose Valley, you can take the winding roads that lead to Buzludzha - a former communist monument, perched on a mountain peak, that has become world famous due to it's outlandish design.

  Buzludzha Monument

Buzludzha Monument

Day 7: Majestic old capital Veliko Tarnovo

  Veliko Tarnovo and the Tsarevets fortress

Veliko Tarnovo and the Tsarevets fortress

An ancient capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo, often called city of the tsars, is spread over several hills, around which the river Yantra wounds. One of the hills harbors the majestic Tsarevets fortress, which served as the Second Bulgarian Empire's seat from the 12th through the 14th century. 

  Veliko Tarnovo old town

Veliko Tarnovo old town

Day 8: Bulgarian Renaissance - Bozjentsi

The history of Bozhentsi, one of Bulgaria's most picturesque villages, goes back to the 16th century. In the 1960s, during times when rustic was often snubbed as old fashioned, Bozhentsi became the focus of careful state-funded restoration and preservation efforts. The biggest attraction of Bozhentsi are the houses. Bulgaria had its quiet Renaissance centuries after Western Europe basked in hers. One of the treasures the Bulgarian National Revival created is the unmistakable architecture. Read more about it here

  Village square in Bozhentsi

Village square in Bozhentsi

Day 9: Follow the Balkan Range

From Bozhentsi, you will make your way back to the capital, following roads that will take you through the heart of the Balkan, also known as Stara Planina (the Old Mountain). There are opportunities to make stops along the way. Email me if you are looking for suggestions. 

Day 10: One last walk through Sofia

It's always hard to say goodbye to place. But if you are determined to return, here are two ways you can make a wish and up your chances to visit again! During your final walk, you should stop by the Egg of Happiness on Tzar Osvoboditel St,  just across the St. Nicholas Church (commonly known as the Russian Church) . Rumor has it that if you rub it, you will be the recipient of good luck.  The second stop to make is at the crypt of the Russian Church , whose entrance is to the left of the church's main entrance.   There, you can leave a hand-written message in a special box for St. Nicholas The Miracle-maker's consideration.   

Do you like this itinerary? Do you have questions? Would you like more details? Hit the comments or send me an email at petia@flyingraconteur.com. I would love to hear from you!