Enjoy your stay in Bulgaria!
Bulgaria is a piece of heaven that has combined the beauty of azure,the warm sea and the magnificent mountains covered with snow. Although Bulgaria occupies only 2% of the territory of Europe, it is generally gifted with natural landmarks and diversity of landscape, mild moderate climate, suitable for a whole year holiday, rich variety of flora and fauna, and abundance of curative mineral springs.
The mother country of mythical musician Orpheus and legendary Spartak, where the oldest gold was found, impresses with its thirteen-century-old cultural-historical heritage and preserved traditions and customs.
Local people’s hospitality, tranquillity and safety guaranteed, give excellent prerequisites for a nice vacation.
There is a wide variety of offers for family vacations, kids and youth vacations, active outdoors holiday in nature, adventure holiday, trekking, sport and entertainment, cognitive tourism sightseeing, congress tourism, balneological tourism, among others.
The advantages of Bulgarian tourism are the geographical location, the favorable climate, the mineral springs, the seashore, diverse landscape, the unique cultural-historical sites landmarks and preserved ethnographic features and traditions, the holiday camp and the personnel’s potential skills as well as non-occupied virgin territories rich in resources, situated in ecologically-sound areas.
Political and financial stability in the country as well as the good correlation between price and service within tourist products, seem to have decisive significance.
Sofia – the capital of Bulgaria
Sofia is one of the most compact and modern capital city in Europe.The collision of East and West could be still seen in the dome churches, mosques, monuments of the Red Army, glamorous malls,five stars hotels, the best nightclubs and bars, our country can offer.
You will discover various museums, art galleries, theatres, restaurants and many archeological and historical landmarks. Sofia is a surprisingly green city with huge park area, ski slopes and tourist routes in the vigorous Vitosha Mountains.
The cathedral temple “St. Alexander Nevski” is considered a symbol of the Bulgarian capital. It is located in the center of Sofia, at the eponymous square. The reflection of its golden domes attracts attention from miles away. The whole building was lined with white Vratsa stones; the entrance doors were made of Slavonia oak. The domes of the temple are covered with gold. The bell tower is 53 meters high and has 12 bells, the heaviest of them weighing 12 tons, and the smallest one – 10 kg. Their ringing can be heard from a radius of 15 kilometers. The temple interior is unique – it impresses with its magnificent marble decorations, with its mural paintings and 82 icons, made by Bulgarian, Russian and Czech artists. The marble iconostasis, the royal and patriarchal thrones and the pulpit are of greatest interest . The Crypt is located in the basement of the church – it has a collection of icons, where visitors can see many masterpieces of the iconic art paintings. Nowadays, with an area of 3,170 square meters, it is the first largest, fully completed and working Orthodox cathedral on the Balkan peninsula.
The remains of the ancient fortress Serdika are exhibited in downtown areas of the city of Sofia.The city of Serdika or Serdonpolis was founded in the 2nd millenia BCE by a Thracian tribe, called Serdi, who settled near the hot mineral springs. During the reign of Emperor Marcus Ulpius Trajan ( reign 98-117 CE ), in his honor, the city took his name, Ulpia Serdika, and became the administrative center of the region. Serdika was the favorite city of Constantine the Great ( reign 306-337 ), who said: “Serdika is my Rome.”During the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Commodus, around 175 CE,massive fortified walls, with four watchtowers ,pointing the four cardinal directions, were built. A second outer fortified wall was added during the 5th-6th centuries.Two main,stone-paved streets were leading to the forum of the city,which was situated under the today square “Saint Nedelya”. Near the area of underground station “Serdika”, luxurious villas, with water-supply and canalization installations and stone-paved streets, were situated .During the archeological digs around the Eastern Gate, remains of public and private buildings, ceramics, among many others, were discovered.
The city of Sofia is your best destination if you have a real passion for shopping.Shiny shop windows! Lux! Style! Esthetics! Play of the imagination and all this at good price! Everyone could smell the mysterious,”intoxicant” scent of the new thing and get “drunk” in it. The shopping mania could become a real entertainment for you! Huge malls, chic clothing boutiques, department stores with a wide range of consumer goods – this is the city of Sofia! People who like night entertainments can enjoy a various and dynamic one. There are a lot of attractive nightclubs, live music bars and pizza restaurants in Sofia.
Sites under the Aegis of UNESCO
Bulgaria is a successor of ancient civilizations – Thracians, Romans, Byzantines and proto-Bulgarians have left on these lands exceptionally valuable artistic and architectural evidence of their advanced culture. They are scattered throughout the country and make it one of the most attractive destinations for people, interested in history and culture.
Besides these treasures, Bulgaria is proud of its pristine nature and amazing biodiversity which is preserved in the parks and reserves of the country.
The rich cultural and natural heritage of Bulgaria is highly appreciated by UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The UNESCO List of the Global Cultural and Natural Heritage includes sites, which are of great importance to humanity, therefore their conservation and preservation is a priority. This list includes nine Bulgarian sites – seven cultural and two natural – RILA MONASTERY, MADARA RIDER, BOYANA CHURCH, IVANOVSKI ROCK CHURCHES, KAZANLAK THOMB,THRACIAN TOMB OF SVESHTARI, THE OLD NESSEBAR, NATIONAL PARK PIRIN, SREBARNA.
Rila Monastery was listed as a UNESCO List of Global Cultural Heritage in 1983. It is the largest monastery in Bulgaria. It is located in the heart of the mountain. It was founded in the tenth century and over the centuries of its existence the monastery has been the guardian of the Christian faith and the Bulgarian education and culture.
The Rila Monastery is one of the symbols of Bulgaria. It is one of the most visited attractions.
The monastery complex covers an area of 8,800 square meters; it has nearly 300 rooms, 100 of which are monastic cells. The monastery has a museum where you can learn the remarkable story of the cloister.
The monastery is situated on the territory of the natural park Rila Monastery.
In 1979 the Madara Rider was included in the UNESCO List – a unique rock relief, located in the northeast of the country, 18 kilometers east of the town of Shumen and 10 kilometers south of Pliska.
An unknown artist has carved an impressive image on the cliff at a height of 23 meters. Although more than 1,000 years have passed since its creation, the image of a horseman with a spear, a wounded lion, fallen at the feet of the horse and a hunting dog, is still visible on the stone. The exact year of the relief creation is unknown, and scientists disagree on the personality of the rider depicted.
In 2008, after the nationwide vote, the Madara Horseman was elected a global symbol of Bulgaria. Its full-size copy can be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia.
In 1979 the Boyana Church “St. Nicholas and St. Panteleimon” was included in the UNESCO List. This unique temple is located in the Sofia residential section of Boyana, at the foot of Vitosha mountain. It was built in the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century. Its greatest values are the several layers of frescoes. Among the images on the walls of the church visitors can see various images of Jesus Christ and Holy Mary, Bulgarian kings and queens, saints.The unknown master painters were summarized with a general term Boyana master, although the murals were created by different people in different periods of the Bulgarian history.
Mountain / Ski tourism
About 30% of Bulgaria is mountainous. The country’s mountains are exceptionally diverse in relief and offer abundant options for relaxation, along with sports and entertainment for tourists, since conditions are exceptionally conducive for tourism in both winter and summer.
The ski season in the medium high and the alpine resorts last about 130 days each year, while during the summer months enthusiasts may hike in centuries-old forests.
The numerous hotels and the recreation centers provide accommodations for a wide variety of tastes and preferences.
The mountains Rila and Pirin are alpine, characterized by steep ridges, high peaks, deep valleys, and gorges. The highest peak in Bulgaria and on the Balkan Peninsula is located in the Rila Mountains – Mount Musala (2,925 m). Here is located one of Bulgaria’s landmarks – the seven glacial lakes that are located at an altitude of 2,095 m to 2,535 m. The largest resort in the Rila range is Borovets. It possesses excellent ski runs and mountain hotels. Unique opportunities for combining hiking, skiing and spa tourism are also offered in Panichishte and at Sapareva Banya. The ski centers of Malyovitsa, Semkovo and Govedartsi are also very popular with tourists.
The Rhodope Mountains, known as the home of Orpheus, is divided into the alpine western part and the lower eastern part. The highest resort here is Pamporovo. It is located in a densely forested area, boasting ski slopes that rival other world premier winter resorts. Other options for recreation are to be found in nearby Chepelare, Yundola, Belmeken, Batak and Byala Cherkva. Tourists can enjoy the unique traditional architecture of the Rhodope villages Momchilovtsi, Gela, Dolen, Leshten, Kovachevitsa, Shiroka Laka, among many others, and sample traditional Rhodope dishes. The highest peak in the Rhodopes is Golyam Perelik (2,191 meters above sea level).
More excellent opportunities for mountain and ski tourism are offered in the Pirin Mountains, because of their alpine beauty and resorts like the resort of Bansko, Dobrinishte, and Predela among other destinations. The resort of Bansko has developed into a resort of European and global importance, and during the past few years it has host a number of World Cup competitions in both alpine skiing and biathlon. It offers impressive ski runs, a plethora of hotels and pensions, and the renowned Pirin cuisine. Dobrinishte and the holiday complexes in the locality of Predela also offer opportunities for relaxation and many types of entertainment. The second highest peak in Bulgaria and the third on the Balkan Peninsula is also located in the Pirin range – Mount Vihren (2,914 meters above sea level).
The Bulgarian Black Sea coast is a wonderful place for a summer holiday. The coastline is 378 km long, with 209 beaches that have a total area of 16 square kilometers. Many are wide, while others are small and nested in picturesque marine bays. The beaches and the sea offer excellent conditions for various water sports such as surfing, water skiing, diving, underwater exploration, and fishing ( including underwater fishing ) .The saline content of the Black Sea is low, and the high and low tides are minimal. During the summer, the average water temperature is 22° to 24° С, and in the shallower areas as warm as 26°С, which makes it particularly pleasant for swimming. During the past few years, some the elite marine complexes and resort towns have built yacht ports. Besides the combination of sun, sand and sea, the Black Sea resorts offer hiking, biking and horseback riding, as well as ecotourism, photo safaris, and excursions to natural, cultural, and architectural landmarks.
The resorts located on the Black Sea are preeminently suited to family vacations as well as to individual holidays and entertainment. Younger tourists prefer Sunny Beach, Golden Sands, Primorsko, Kiten, and Lozenets, because of the many clubs and bars, and other entertainment options. Sunny Beach is the largest resort complex in the country, and it often hosts parties that include world- famous DJs and performers. Sozopol and Nessebar ( a UNESCO heritage site ) are famous for their combination of beautiful coastal nature and historical landmarks. These two towns both have thousands of years of history, and attract a stream of summer tourists that love romance. Nessebar – the old town with its millennial history, is built on a small romantic rocky peninsula, connected to the mainland through a narrow isthmus. Valuable monuments of all historical epochs of its millennial history are preserved there: old fortress walls, remained from Roman times and Middle Ages, the old Byzantine and Bulgarian medieval churches, revival houses, built between 18th and 19th centuries. The Old Nessebar is a real historical treasure and in1956 was declared a museum-town reserve.
In the northern part of Black Sea, there are three golf courses, offering first-class playing conditions. BlackSeaRama Golf Course is a high-class golf course, designed by the legendary golf player Gary Prayer. For those who are looking for a first-class holiday resort, BlackSeaRama Golf&Villas offers modern, luxurious villas and breath-taking views. Lots of large sandy beaches, surrounded by cliff bays, are at your disposal just a few minutes drive away.
The Bulgarian Black Sea resorts offer various accommodation options, from luxurious 4 – or 5 – star hotels to small romantic family hotels, all of which are up to global standards. Some of the hotels at the Black Sea resorts work all year long, to host conventions and congresses and to conduct a variety of special events and promotions. Visitors to the Bulgarian Black Sea can enjoy many cultural events, such as the Kavarna Rock Fest, Varna Summer, Apolonia, Spirit of Burgas, the International Folklore Festival in Burgas, demonstrations of fire dancing etc.
Rural tourism is the best way to get to know the traditions of Bulgaria. Through their stay in a village house, tourists can come to appreciate traditional Bulgarian lifestyles and the culture of the country. The hospitality of Bulgarians, the unique local cuisine, the well-preserved folkways, customs and crafts, the architectural reserves settlements and the beautiful surroundings all contribute to make rural tourism in Bulgaria a preferable kind of holiday.
Guests are usually accommodated in a house built in the 19th or early 20th century, and a part of the rich experience is the delicious food that hosts prepare with ecologically clean vegetables-tomatoes,cucumbers,peppers, picked fresh from the garden at sunrise time and seasoned with herbs gathered in nearby forests and fields. There are many interesting things to do in the villages – visitors can help the hostess prepare some special dish according to a traditional recipe, take part in farm work, rent a horse to visit nearby landmarks, pick aromatic herbs and a basket of forest berries or mushrooms, or ride a mountain bike along the country roads and trails. Tourists may want to milk a cow, cut hay, prepare yoghurt, help make white and yellow cheese, or put up jam. Almost every family in the villages engages in distilling rakia and making wine.
In the evening, at sunset time, tourists are often invited to have a meal with their hosts. Traditional dishes are served, folksongs are performed, and local legends are shared. In most cases, guests can help prepare the food. Some villages offer lessons in pottery making, icon painting or folksongs and dances, and there are demonstrations of sewing and embroidering. “One day stay in the country” is offered to the tourists.
Throughout the country ,guests can experience a wide range of customs and rituals such as the dancing on live coals, mummers, Bulgarian wedding,singing and dancing on St.Lazar’s day, singing and dancing on Christmas, the holiday of Trifon Zarezan, among others.
Many folklore festivals are also held in the country. Some of the best known are the Plovdiv International Folklore Festival in the city of Plovdiv; the Burgas International Folklore Festival; the National Folklore Gatherings at Rozhen and Koprivshtitsa; the International Festival of Masquerade and Carnival Games and Rituals “Surva” in the town of Pernik; and the National Gathering “Beautiful Thrace Sings and Dances”, among many others.
Balneological, Spa and Wellness
The tradition of using the healing power of mineral springs has been recognized since the ancient time of the Thracians, who were renowned as healers. “The Holy Springs of Thrace” were famous throughout the Roman Empire.
Few countries in Europe can rival Bulgaria’s spa, balneological and wellness tourism. Its abundance and diversity of thermal mineral waters and curative mud deposits ranges the country at one of the head positions. There are more than 550 known sources with 1,600 springs that have a total capacity of 4,900 per second.
The climate in the country is exceptionally favorable compared to that of traditional destinations for balneology tourism in Western Europe and the Mediterranean. Roughly 20% of each year is sunny, which is more than in Northern, Northwestern and Central Europe. There are 30% fewer cloudy days along the Black Sea coast than along the Atlantic coast or in some parts of the Mediterranean. During the spring and summer months, rainfalls are lower in Bulgaria than in most of Europe.
Some of the mineral springs located in the southern part of the country are influenced by the Mediterranean climate; other springs are found in mountain regions with coniferous vegetation and crystal springs; and still others are along the Black Sea coast. This, together with the great diversity of herbs and other flora used for aroma therapy and phytotherapy, provides opportunities for beneficial year-round treatment and prophylaxis of a range of ailments, and it also creates excellent conditions for relaxation.
The Republic of Bulgaria has 48 mountain resorts, 15 marine resorts, and 38 balneological resorts. The country is also known for its highly qualified personnel, excellent accommodations, and diverse programs and services that include massage, baths with mineral water, pearl baths, reflex therapy, traditional needle therapy, medicinal exercises, acupuncture, laser therapy, acupressure, paraffin treatment, apitherapy, phytotherapy, mud treatment, aroma therapy, anti-stress programs, dieting programs and programs for losing weight, balneo-cosmetics, sauna, solarium, fitness, and medical cosmetics. All of this can be combined with various tourism programs, allowing visitors to explore Bulgaria’s cultural heritage, folkways, and traditional cuisine.
For more information visit the official tourism portal of Bulgaria.