Bulgaria is one of Eastern Europe’s most pleasant surprises. Though it’s a small country, it has a number of attractions like alpine ski resorts, well-preserved medieval villages and stunning beaches along its Black Sea Coast. Whatever you do, don’t get stuck in Sofia, Bulgaria’s bland capital city. Instead venture out to explore what travelers in Europe are only now discovering.
Bansko, situated in the picturesque Pirin Mountains, is Bulgaria’s premier ski resort. It’s located in southern Bulgaria, not too far from the border with Greece, but still only a two-hour drive south of Sofia. The town has an alpine feel that is similar to what one would expect to find in Switzerland or France, as there are charming wooden buildings that have been converted to wine bars and bed and breakfasts. Tourists come from around Europe for the 75 kilometers of ski runs, 1,000 meter vertical drop and comparatively affordable prices. The ski season runs from mid-December to mid-May. In the summer Bansko is a great place for hiking and camping.
Sozopol is a small town on Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast, just a few kilometers south of Burgas. It’s a historic town that dates back almost ten thousand years to the settlements of Ancient Greece. Its old town is a collection of cobbled lanes and stone buildings. Its streets resemble open-air markets and there’s a festive feel throughout the town. Small bars and cafes line the coastline, and the town has several intimate beaches perfect for swimming. At night an open-air cinema entertains with screenings of English-language movies.
Veliko Turnovo is one of Europe’s best preserved medieval-era cities. This small city is situated on a hilltop, surrounded by forested mountains, and much of the city stretches out along the cliffside overlooking the river. The main attraction is the Tsarevets Castle, which was an imperial residence during the time of the Bulgarian Empire. From the castle there are excellent views of the surrounding countryside and the town stretched out on the hill below. In the town take the time to enjoy the many sidewalk cafes, bars and friendliness of the Bulgarian people.