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Beaches, monasteries and mountains

Bulgaria holidays always come with a hint of adventure. Maybe it’s the fact that most of the signs are in Cyrillic. Maybe it’s the natural drama of turquoise seas, thick forests and wild mountains, where bears and lynx can still be found. Or maybe it’s the legacy of the past in a land fought over by Thracians, Romans, Bulgars and Turks. But Bulgaria is also straight-up fun. The Black Sea resorts – easily reached via a flight to Varna – offer warm sun, gentle sea breezes and drinks with a view, and are set up for an easy and well-priced beach holiday. For winter sports fans, Bulgaria’s equally affordable pistes are increasingly popular, and can be reached by a transfer from the capital, Sofia.

Sofia itself has a gentle energy that’s particularly noticeable on sunny days, when everyone seems to be out enjoying themselves. There are some good museums and a stunning cathedral, and it’s a fine base for exploring the rest of the country. The second city, Plovdiv, is the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe with great historic sites ranging from Roman remains to a charming Old Town and 19th-century mansions.

Many of those buildings are now galleries, shops and guesthouses, and a growing calendar of events and festivals is bringing more and more visitors to the city. Away from the coast and the cities, Bulgaria can be wonderfully wild. The Central Mountains boast dramatic peaks and remote monasteries with gorgeous wood carvings and frescoes. To the north you’ll find the Danube, great fortresses and more epic scenery. Head south and strange sandstone pyramids sprout near the border with Greece. Wherever you go, adventures beckon.

All regions in Bulgaria

Three tips for a top trip

Breakfast on banitsaA traditional and delicious start to the day is ‘banitsa’ – a rich local pastry with fillings ranging from cheese and eggs to apple and pumpkin.
Be ready with cashCards are now widely accepted, but it’s definitely worth having some of the local currency (the Lev) with you, in large and small notes.
Boots made for walkingUnless you’re just heading to the beach, take a pair of hard-wearing shoes. Pavements can be rutted and many streets are cobbled – plus the hiking’s great!

Don’t-miss dates in Bulgaria

May

An excellent month to hit the beaches. The weather is good, the festival season is just starting to kick off and the countryside is alive with wildflowers.

February

Usually the most snow-sure month for skiers and boarders. Coincidentally, but happily, it’s also when winemaking festivals take place in towns around the country.

September

The Plovdiv/Night festival sees the city’s museum’s, galleries and venues take over the evenings with international art exhibitions, public installations, parties and movies. Many events are free.

Best things to do in Bulgaria

Bathe in the Black Sea

Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast offers everything from vast, purpose-built resorts to secret hidden coves, and there’s sun, sand and clear blue sea almost everywhere.

Get arty in Plovdiv

Plovdiv’s fine cultural scene takes in art galleries, music and theatre, while simply strolling the streets of its beautiful and historic old centre will raise your spirits.

Head for the hills

Bulgaria’s dramatic mountains and forests are home to ski resorts, hiking trails, rare wildlife and ancient monasteries. Prepare to be awed – there’s inspiring wilderness everywhere you turn.