Bulgaria is a small country in the Balkans which - despite its diminutive size - boasts a hugely diverse countryside and a number of fascinating, historical cities. It has high mountains - which receive heavy annual snowfalls - and wild national parks as well as a beautiful Black Sea coastline. Its geographical location has seen it repeatedly caught at the crossroads of Mediterranean, Asian and Russian culture and its cities display the rich heritage of Greek Orthodox christianity and the ancient Mediterranean civilisations as well as its period behind the iron curtain. Bulgaria offers a great variety of holiday activities and also enjoys the benefit of being a relatively cheap destination compared to western Europe.
Bulgaria boasts a number of fascinating cities - amongst them Sofia, Rousse, Plovdiv and Pleven display stunning baroque and medieval architecture as well as distinctive gold domed Orthodox churches. It also has a gorgeous Black sea coastline with a number of excellent coastal resort towns like Varna offering a selection of water sports and a buzzing nightlife. At the other end of the spectrum, ski resorts like Borovets, Pamporovo and Bansko offer stunning pistes and fantastic winter skiing conditions whilst the vast wildernesses of the Balkan Mountains and the Bulgarka National Park offer a rich flora and fauna and make for great summer holidays of hiking and outdoor pursuits.
When: Bulgaria is lovely in the summer when its continental climate ensures hot, dry days of beautiful sunshine. The late spring months are also very pleasant.
Where: Sofia is Bulgaria's capital and its most populous city. With a centre defined by the twin influences of Orthodoxy and Communism, it is a fascinating place for a single traveller with an interest in history and culture and also boasts lots of pleasant outdoor parks.
Why: There is lots to hold your interest in Sofia. There are some fascinating museums and galleries as well as some gorgeous Orthodox churches - including the stunning St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Culture buffs will relish the opportunity of catching shows at the National Opera and National Ballet.
When: Head to Bulgaria in the Summer to catch the weather at its best and the nightlife at its most vibrant.
Where: Varna has long been regarded as the Summer Capital of Bulgaria and is a lovely seaside resort on the Black Sea. It boasts many excellent beaches and a great number of bars, nightclubs and beach parties. Its hotels cater to all budgets.
Why: In addition to the gorgeous beaches in Varna, there is plenty to see and do. Sights include the naval and archaeological museums as well as a number of gorgeous orthodox churches. There is also a great aquarium and a dolphinarium and there are plenty of interesting day trips to make in the area.
When: Bulgaria is at its most pleasant in the early summer months and is also very nice in the late spring.
Where: There are a number of fascinating and charming little cities and towns in Bulgaria which make for great couples' holiday destinations. Rousse is known as the 'Small Vienna' and is a charming little city on the banks of the Danube.
Why: Rousee boasts an immaculately maintained city centre of baroque architecture and couples will enjoy the many bars and restaurants around the charming Freedom Square. Things to do in the area include going for cruises along the Danube and taking day trips to the beautiful and ancient rock hewn churches of Ivanovo.
When: Bulgaria is a great summer holiday destination for the family though it can also be lovely at easter time too.
Where: The Bulgarka National Park is an excellent destination for a family holiday and provides a wealth of outdoor pursuits that children and parents will enjoy. Located at the foot of the Balkan Mountains, it boasts a stunning, rugged scenery.
Why: The Bulgarka National Park is a great family holiday destination. Outdoor pursuits here include horse riding, rock climbing, fishing, hunting, hiking and camping and there is a rich and diverse fauna including brown bears, deer, jackals and eagles.
For a relatively small country, Bulgaria has a surprisingly diverse climate with the numerous high mountain ranges creating a number of distinct climatic zones. Broadly speaking, the south of the country has a typically Mediterranean climate with long hot summers and mild winters whilst the north is continental with much greater extremes of weather and long, cold, snowy winters. Summer temperatures regularly push above 30ºC whilst the Black Sea Coast is generally more temperate. The mountainous regions of the country have typical alpine climates.
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What to expect
Bulgaria is a fascinating and little visited country. It has a long and chequered history with stretches in the Byzantine, Ottoman and Soviet spheres of influence. As a result, its major cities are fascinating and diverse places displaying fine examples of Ottoman architecture as well as communist monuments and brutalist blocks. The countryside is rugged and mountainous with fertile forests and a diverse flora and fauna whilst the Black Sea coast boasts beautiful sandy beaches and vibrant summer holiday resorts. Bulgarian cuisine derives in large part from the traditions of Turkey and Greece whilst also offering a good selection of indigenous specialities. Bulgaria's fertile soils produce excellent - if not internationally recognised - wines and beers.
Flight InformationFlights available from:
Birmingham, Glasgow, London GatwickAirlines:
Air Canada, Air France, Air Serbia, Alitalia, British Airways, EasyJet, FlyBE, KLM, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Tarom, Turkish Airlines