Add Bulgaria to your guided tour through the Balkans and enjoy mountain trails, ancient sites and lots of character. Balkan Tours knows all about this country and you can count on any route that’s tailored to your interests. Relax completely knowing:
Find out what’s good to visit in Bulgaria down below to get ideas for your tour. Balkan Tales can also work your tour within your specific interest.
Rila monastery UNESCO
The complex, on nearly 9,000 square metres, is rectangular. In the inner yard, the main church and a tower rise. The church is newer, since the 19th century, comprising two chapels on the sides, and, too, precious icons. The iconostasus inside is fold plated and with woodcarving. The frescoes were painted by masters from the locality. The museum’s exhibits comprise Rafail’s cross, shaped from a whole wood piece and featuring 104 scenes and 650 figures. The monk who carved it became blind after working on it.
The Rila Monastery, a UNESCO site, brings fame to the mountain too, as an ancient hub of religion and culture. The picturesque localities are numerous; among them, the Seven Lakes is top famed, with lakes situated in a string of terraces. In the Malyovitsa valley, alpinists can practise climbing on steep rocks on either side. Many peaks attract hikers, and chalets welcome with herb tea.
7 Rila Lakes
Each lake has its charm. The Dolnoto, or Lower, lake, gathers the waters of the upper ones and forms the Dzherman river. Small streams connect each lake with the neighboring two ones. By the Ribnoto, or Fish, lake is the old Sedemte Ezera chalet. In autumn, around October, the lakes freeze and stay frozen until June. The ice cover can reach up to 2 metres.
Pirin national park UNESCO
Besides steep peaks, Pirin boasts glacial lakes, 118 in number, among which the deepest is Popovo lake. The mountain has the southernmost European glaciers too. Forests comprise over half of the territory. They are almost entirely coniferous. The oldest tree known in Bulgaria, a pine called Baykusheva Mura, is above Bansko. It is approximately a peer in age to the Bulgarian state, aged around 1,300 years.
Thracian tombs in Kazanlak
In Kazanlak, the Thracian tomb comprises a corridor and a chamber for burials. Its murals are famed; they are well preserved and show a funeral ritual and a Thracian couple. In Kazanlak, the ancient capital of Thracians, Seuthopolis, lay. The tomb itself is not visited; a replica shows the tomb inside to tourists. Inside the Sveshtari tomb, built by Getans, a Thracian tribe, are female figures carved on the stone, in the central chamber. A gold treasure was discovered near the Sveshtari village.
The Rose Valley
In Kazanlak, a special museum is dedicated to the rose. Rose oil and lavender oil are sold, plus rose brandy. Sopot is a picturesque town, with a lift to the upper Balkan slopes. The lift station is on the outskirts, near the small monastery. Kalofer is another inviting town, with an eco path along the Byala Reka, or White River.
Kaliakra is a nature reserve. There, dolphins swim around, and cormorant birds fly about. The territory is on the way of an important bird migration route. The remains of an ancient fortress, the walls, the baths, water mains, still stand. There is a tiny museum with artifacts, and a chapel to Saint Nicholas, the patron of fishermen. On the left, the picturesque Bolata cove is unmissable: the beach and the shallow water are welcoming. Bolata is, too, a nature reserve.
The palace, built for Queen Maria, is a small villa dating from 1926. The architecture blends, uniquely but attractively, local and Islamic styles, and even features a minaret. Inside is a museum. There are, too, a water mill and the Chapel to the Holy Mother. The gardens are beautiful, smothered in greenery and flowers. The Botanical Garden, with hundreds of species, shows off cacti, which are especially impressive.
This site is a natural landmark for Bulgaria, with an impressive area of 50 square kilometres. In the central group, the most interesting and quaintly shaped rocks rise. Be prepared to recognize a lion, a camel, a bear, a horseman, a madonna, and many others. The second group, to the west, borders steep slopes. The third one is to the east, and two more groups join the array.
The local sights and the plethora of family restaurants and taverns will fascinate you. Walk the cobbled streets of the old town, visit the Archeological Museum. Nearby is the Ropotamo river, a nature reserve, with water lilies on the surface. Beach and aquatic activities also attract, for jet skiing, boating, fishing, surfing, etc. The nearby Sveti Ivan, or Saint John, island has the relics of St John the Baptist, announced as the top wonder of Bulgaria for 2011.
Before entering the town, see the old windmill. The old town shows off Revival period houses, picturesque with their wood and stone structures. Visit the churches of St John, St Stephan, Christ Pantokrator, etc. Be certain to taste fish specialties galore in small restaurants dotting the town.
The sandstone pyramids rising around Melnik are impressive, too. They were shaped by nature, like needles, cones, mushrooms, and other shapes. The pyramids rise to 100 m at most. Nearby, by the Rozhen village, there are stone mushrooms, also impressive natural formations. Rozhen is famed for its old monastery as well, dating from medieval times, the 13th century, and featuring old frescoes.
Bachkovo monastery and Asen’s fortress
Rising near Asenovgrad, on the Chepelare river’s bank, Bachkovo Monastery combines several cultures: Byzantine, Georgian, and Bulgarian. Destroyed in the 14th century, it was later restored, and now its refectory boasts precious murals. Nowadays, only the ossuary has remained from the original structure. Especially fascinating is the “Panorama” mural; it is located on the refectory’s outside, and acquaints with the monastery’s history.
Not far from the monastery, the medieval Asen’s Fortress rises on a ridge. It bears traces of Thracian, Roman, and Byzantine times. The best preserved part is the two storey church, built in the 12-13th centuries, with 14th century murals.
Rhodope moutain villages – Kovachevitsa, Leshten
A former educational centre, Kovachevitsa has typical architecture because of which it is an architectural reserve. The houses, which are over two centuries old, have the ground floor for animals and for food storage, and rooms for the family are on the upper floors. The streets, covered with cobblestones, attract for walks around. Nearby, the Siny Vir waterfall is a must see site.
Just 8 km away from Kovachevitsa, Leshten is another gem of a village. Many of the houses are restored and offer accommodation. Their architecture is outstanding, most of them feature big terraces, courtyards, and even have their own taverns.
The Ivanovo Rock monasteries
The first inhabiting monks of the ancient caves in the rocks settled in the 12th century, near Ivanovo. Later they were expanded as a complex of cells and churches. More churches and cells were hewn, in addition to the already inhabited caves, in the 17th century.The murals inside the main church are of special interest, as they date from the 14th century. The rocks where the complex is located rise in the Rusenski Lom river’s valley, near Ruse, a city on the Danube. Besides it, the chapel of St Archangel Michael, one more chapel, a baptistery, and the St Theodore church are comprised.The complex has been UNESCO listed since 1979.
The Neolitic Villages near Varna
The Neolithic Village is a historical complex showing what neolithic homes looked like in 6000 to 4000 BC. In addition, you will see a pile house of the chalcolithic period, and a mural restoration from an ancient tomb. Learning about ancient history is facilitated by the information in the museum.
History is shown in a vivid way, but there are more fascinating activities for tourists. Taking pictures in ancient clothing and with ancient armour is exciting, and in the restaurant, tourists sample foods cooked on the basis of special recipes. Rides in carts and horse riding complement the experiences guaranteed at the Neofit Rilski neolithic villages.
Carved on the rock near Madara, in Shumen area, this monument is a rock relief, showing a rider and a dog behind it, in almost natural size. The rider is driving a spear into a lion. The height of the relief is 23 metres above the ground. The depiction of the rider is thought to be in honour of Thracian horsemen, who were typically represented astride, and with a spear that often stabbed a beast. Below the relief, remains of a complex, probably a pagan shrine, and an ancient inscription were found. Because of its historical value, in 1979 the relief was declared a site on the UNESCO list.
Ancient Thracians’ wines were lauded in the Iliad and the Odyssey. The wine production art has continued till present times. Since the accession to the EU, a host of medium and small wineries have been operating. The wineries in Rousse, Suhindol, Magura, Slavyantsi, Damianitsa, and other wine producing facilities will welcome you and reveal the magic of wines made on Bulgarian land. Red Mavrud, white Dimyat, Pelin – flavored with wormwood, are just a few of the brands. Wine museums are also unmissable, like the museum picturesquely housed in a cave in Pleven, and the Museum of Wine located in Melnik.
Borovets is both the largest mountain spot for winter sports and conveniently located near Sofia. In Pamporovo, snow is abundant throughout the season. Bansko is growing as a modern skiing resort. The Vitosha mountain near Sofia is the highest skiing area in the country. Chepelare in the Rhodopes, with the longest ski run, Malyovitsa and Panichishte in Rila, Uzana in the Balkan Range, near Gabrovo, all offer auspicious skiing and snowboarding conditions.
Mountain reserves will offer splendid experiences in the lap of nature. Discover the captivating charm of lakes, like the Seven Rila Lakes, and waterfalls galore. Quaint rock formations, like the Chudnite Mostove in the Rhodopes, also merit attention. Both easy and moderate walking trails will reveal the charm of mountains, with pine verdure, murmuring streams, glades with aromatic herbs.
Bulgarian Intangible Cultural Heritage
Monuments and churches with ample history abound, like Sveta Nedelya, the Sveti Sedmochislenici, etc. In the centre, the statue to Alexander II of Russia, on horseback, is imposing. For dining, there are a profusion of restaurants and cafes. Nearby, the Vitosha mountain and park is inviting in summer and winter alike. Visit the Dragalevtsi Monastery, too, with fascinating natural landscapes and dining facilities.
Ancient monuments in Plovdiv comprise the Roman Theatre in the centre, the Ancient Stadium, the unique Old Town with the Ethnographic Museum, and more. Nearby are the Bachkovo Monastery founded in the 11th century and the town of Asenovgrad with its ancient fortress. The Rhodopes are verdant and luring, especially in winter. There, Pamporovo is a famed mountain resort.
The Sveti 40 Machenici, or 40 Holy Martyrs, is a restored church, originally built in 1230 and used for burials of royals. On Trapezitsa Hill see how rich nobles, boyars, lived. The wax figures in the exhibition centre near Tsarevets are a must to see. The Preobrazhenski, or Transfiguration, Monastery nearby boasts ancient murals, like the famed Wheel of Life. Around Veliko Tarnovo monasteries and historical sites and monuments abound.
In the centre, the Dormition Cathedral rises. See the most ancient gold treasure in the History Museum. In the surroundings, the Stone Forest shows fascinating stone pillars. The rock monastery called Aladzha is to the north, 5 km away. The Sea Garden park boasts a zoo, the Astronomy Observatory, the Aquarium, the Dolphinarium. Varna already has its Retro Museum, too.
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