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Top 10 things to do in Bulgaria

by | Aug 1, 2019

The birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet, that lies in the Balkan Peninsula and was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for 500 years is the picturesque and serene Bulgaria.

Comprising of mountains, beaches, lakes, fortresses, jaw dropping architecture of the Byzantine and the Ottoman era, eclectic cuisine to name a few, this country definitely deserves an accolade in the list of top tourist destinations. It was one of my destinations this summer and here are the top 10 things you must do when here:

1. Spend an entire day in the capital city of Sofia: Amongst the many things to see in this city, a visit to the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an absolute must. Located at the center of the city, this orthodox cathedral was built in the memory of the slain Russian liberators who in 1878 helped free Bulgaria from the Ottoman rule. The sheer beauty of the exterior of the cathedral captivates you like no other.

Take a walk on the Vitosha Boulevard (the name is derived from the Vitosha mountains surrounding Sofia) which is a posh street filled with upscale restaurants, boutiques and stores. Hop onto one of the trams built in the communist era to check out the various neighbourhoods of the city.

While in the city I will recommend a meal at Happy Grill, where the fish salad, the seafood rice, grilled chicken with mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes, and the spicy prawns are to die for. Having said that, the chicken platter and shrimp noodles at Raffys are delectable as well: not to forget the homemade Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread) biscuit cake here is not to be missed at any cost.

St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
A sumptuous meal at Happy Grill
Wandering around in the city of Sofia

2. Bulgaria is best seen by road. While renting, make sure you have an international driving permit to avoid overpaying for insurance at the airport. Please do keep in mind that parking can sometimes be a challenge in Sofia although parking is free on weekends and between 730pm-830am on weekdays. Bulgaria drives on the right hand side.

3. Treat your tastebuds to authentic Bulgarian cuisine at Hajdringer Cellar in Sofia. This is one of the most popular and oldest restaurants. Make sure you reserve a table in advance. Besides the food, their homemade wormwood wine infused with twenty-four different mountain herbs is by far, the best wine I have ever sipped on. You will also be entertained by a Bulgarian orchestra.

The wine with 24 different Herbs
A traditional Bulgarian meal

4. Bulgaria has roses everywhere – the country is known to produce the best quality Damask rose oil in the world. Visit the city garden in Sofia to admire them and you may be lucky enough to catch a street fair. Most importantly don’t leave without buying rose oil.

The city of Roses

5. Visit Belogradchik where the Kaleto fortress will await you in all its magnanimity. This city comprises of the famous Belogradchik Rocks and its various rock formations that are encompassed within the fortress and the Magura caves. These rocks were formed millions of years ago and were once at the bottom of the sea. You can get a magnificent view of these unique rocks right at one end of the fortress, where you can sit on the edge and enjoy the silence (a weekday visit might just ensure it). The Magura caves are lovely too. At one point in the caves you find yourself standing 56m below the Earth’s surface. Please carry something warm as it can get as cold as 6 degrees C (43 degrees F).

The stunning Belogradchik fortress
Walking in the Magura Caves

6. Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria. The Old town in Plovdiv still holds parts of the Roman walls, the medieval ruins of Tsar Ivan Asen II’s fortress and the Bachkovo monastery. We stayed overnight here. The walk around this old town with old stone houses, museums, Roman theatre make this part of the city pretty special. Don’t miss the Kapana art district with its lovely cafes which is one of the most happening places in Plovdiv today. Also don’t miss taking a picture with the old man from the old town.

The old town in Plovdiv
The Old Man in the Old Town

7. Also while in Plovdiv, do eat at the Skaptobara burgers. Although you will find them in Sofia, I landed up on their branch here. The house fries are crunchy and yummmmm to say the least.

This Burger, Fries, Local Bulgarian Beer was to die for

8. Try the Banitsa which consists of a filo pastry, eggs and cheese (I mean what’s not to like) and Perioshka at Kapana district in Plovdiv . In the communist era people would wait in queue for 5-6 hours to have one of these. Guzzle it all down with the Boza – a fermented drink made with wheat or millet.

Perioshka – Must have
All about Banitsa

9. Make a trip to the thermal spas at Sapareva Banya. The one at Kotvata is the best and has good views too. Dip yourself in all their outdoor pools and especially in the hot tub which has really, really hot water. Did you know that, Bulgaria is ranked second after Iceland, in terms of their hot springs existence in all of Europe. Bulgaria is said to have about 500 such mineral springs. In fact there are numerous spots in the city & countryside where drinking mineral water runs from public drinking fountains.

The open air Thermal Spa
The hottest natural spring in this Spa
Public mineral water drinking fountain.

10. Last but not the least trek to the Seven Rila lakes has to be the highlight of your trip. Start your day early and type “Lift to Seven Rila lakes” on google maps and check the weather in order to plan your day. The chairlift to the lake costs 20 Lev for a round trip and you can pay only in cash. Its a 20 minute ride to the base of the trek. During the trek take multiple stops to admire the stunning views of the lakes. I’d recommend going during July-August because of the weather, but then it will be super crowded then. If you want to experience serenity at its best and sit amidst snow capped Balkan mountains and admire uninterrupted views of the half frozen lakes then definitely early June is fantastic; in which case don’t forget your gloves, warm jackets, raincoats. Also pack some munchies as you may not find much to eat along the way, but once your trek is completed you can eat at the Rila chalet just before you take the chair lift down.

What a wonderful world!
The chair lift ride to the Seven Rila lakes
One of the Frozen Rila Lakes
I could sit here forever!

And that was a wrap up in Bulgaria – for the time being. I hope I can go back someday and walk the trodden path, overwhelmed with beautiful memories and perhaps benumbed with this stunner of a country once again in a different light. It has managed to occupy one of the top positions on my list of favourites.

Happy Globetrotting!

24 Comments

  1. Sj

    Dear Ac

    I read the whole article , and I must tell you that I am impressed.

    How much are you willing to pay if a companion joins you .

    Reply
    • Anindita - TravelChatter

      Hahaha..let’s discuss that offline.LOL

      Reply
  2. Suro

    Fantastic. Loved it. Keep inspiring

    Reply
    • Anindita - TravelChatter

      Thanks a ton!

      Reply
  3. Vivek Chaturvedi

    Anindita, you have summarised the journey very well in this blog and Bulgaria is very much Uncharted Territory for many like me. Keep travelling, keep enjoying and keep enlightening ppl like us with various facets of the is beautiful world.

    Reply
  4. MB

    Thanks. Next on my list.

    Reply
    • Anindita - TravelChatter

      Hii…Yes, you must visit. Its stunning.

      Reply
  5. Vishal

    Brilliant 👏👏👏

    Reply
    • Anindita - TravelChatter

      Thanks a lot.

      Reply
  6. Satyam

    Its a great read. Almost convinces me to start travelling. There is so much in this world see we have seen so little.

    Reply
    • Anindita - TravelChatter

      Thanks a lot Satyam.

      Reply
  7. Jyoti

    Makes me want to travel there as my next holiday

    Reply
    • Anindita - TravelChatter

      Hi Jyoti…you must visit. Its far more gorgeous than what these pictures project.

      Reply
  8. Swagata

    A lovely read! The vivid account of the local attractions and the scrumptious cuisines along with the vibrant pictures brought the place to life. I could experience a bit of the picturesque Bulgaria while being stuck in the Bombay traffic. Looking forward to more of your travel stories!!

    Reply
    • Anindita - TravelChatter

      Thanks a lot Swagata..I am happy I made being stuck in Bombay traffic interesting. LOL. Love your appreciation always!

      Reply
  9. Arjun

    An awesome review
    So-so comprehensive and exceptional planning is visible …
    Thanks a lot my trip to Bulgaria was just ditto ditto n ditto …
    N I tell us it was d most awesome trip ever till date
    Thanks a lot Anindita…

    Reply
    • Anindita - TravelChatter

      Am so glad you liked it Arjun….Am happy to know that the tips were useful.Will give you more details about Romania and Malta when we meet 🙂

      Reply
  10. Ansuya Adlakha

    This was very insightful…on the next blog please tell more about the culture and the history….along with your blog add a few videos that would be like a charm for the blog

    Reply
    • Anindita - TravelChatter

      Sure thing..will do!

      Reply
  11. Miloni

    Amazing capture, AwesuM stuff…. keep at it Anindita…

    Reply
    • Anindita - TravelChatter

      Thanks a ton Miloni 🙂

      Reply
  12. Vivek

    Beautiful description of your experiences Anindita. That along with the splendid pictures really brings the scene to life and mesmerises the reader. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Anindita - TravelChatter

      Thanks a ton Vivek…am so glad you liked it.

      Reply
    • Anindita - TravelChatter

      Hi Vivek..I am so happy you liked it and thanks for the encouraging words.

      Reply

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I am a fearless, unguarded and fun loving traveller. The word ‘cannot’ doesn't often appear in my life’s dictionary. I was bitten by the travel bug a long, long time ago and it has taken me to more than 60 countries and countless destinations ever since. A born networker—I have met and made a gazillion friends across the world and the experiences so far, has more often than not, left me speechless. The more I travel, the more I realise that how much there is left to travel.

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