Adventure is out there!

What foreigners and locals alike love about Bulgaria, part 2

Written and photos by Anna Kerezsi, edited by Andrea Vushkova and Lindsay Martin 


I did a survey of the most recommended cities, villages, and sites by locals and foreigners who have lived in Bulgaria for many years. Start your adventure now by discovering these favorites!

- Plovdiv (~133 km from Sofia) is a nice artistic town in the middle of Bulgaria. The tiny, curvy streets, cobblestone roads, and colorful rustic buildings give a special atmosphere. Its oldest intact monuments, like the Roman theater and stadium, date from the Roman era in the second century. The old town is full of fine buildings in the style of the Bulgarian Renaissance. These traditional wooden houses also represent the Bulgarian culture. Its typical 19th-century religious buildings include Orthodox churches, two Turkish mosques, and a synagogue.

Street art and many creative events give this town a special welcoming atmosphere. Not only are the walls painted, but also the electricity cabinets and even some trash cans! Kapana Festival and bazaars are held here during late spring, and Plovdiv Food Park prepares its caravans at the beginning of summer. The perfect place if you are looking for some inspiration in your life.

- Veliko Tarnovo (~222 km from Sofia) was the capital of Bulgaria, between 1185 and 1393 and then again between 1878 and 1879. It is one of the most visited cities in Bulgaria due to its historical role and ancient appearance. On winding streets, between colorful houses, the road leads to Tsarevets Fortress from the bus station, but if you just want a random walk, you won’t be disappointed. This town is gorgeous from any angle. Let my pictures tell you the rest:

- Buzludzha Monument (~252 km from Sofia), the Memorial House of the Bulgarian Communist Party, often called a UFO because of its shape. The renovation of this monument is a divisive topic, with many preferring to demolish it. It is indeed an unusual communist construction, situated on the Buzludzha Peak, high up in the Stara Planina mountains (Gabrovo district). Currently, this monument is under renovation, you can find more about reviving this incredible building.

There is a very nice article from one of our writers if you want to know more about Buzludzha, Veliko Tarnovo, Plovdiv, Bansko, and Rila monastery.

- Melnik (~180 km from Sofia) is situated in the Pirin Mountain of Southern Bulgaria. Melnik developed mostly in the Byzantine style and the ruins of Byzantine buildings can still be seen around the city. Some notable sites from the Ottoman period have also survived, like the beautiful houses at the entrance to the city. Here you can find the Melnik Pyramids, the Kordopulova house, and the Rozhen cloister (among others). Winemaking has been a proud tradition in this region as well. There is even a very dark grape variety named after the town (Melnishka loza). I highly recommend taking some of the wine tours offered in this city.

- Shumen (~362 km from Sofia) located in the northeastern part of the country and is the tenth-largest city. Above Shumen stands a gigantic monument of 1300 years of Bulgarian history which represents the Founders of the Bulgarian State. The 21 sculptures symbolize the establishment, development, and progress of the Bulgarian state between the 7th and 10th centuries. The castle walls, the Tombul Mosque, the military casino, and the Kossuth House are the main tourist attractions in the city. Lajos Kossuth is the most influential Hungarian politician of the 19th century and he spent four months in Shumen. A statue preserves his memory in the main square, and his former residence has been a memorial museum for more than fifty years.

- Perperikon (~207 km from Sofia), this ancient sanctuary city is the largest megalith ensemble site in the Balkans. Ruins tell the history of the Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, and Bulgarians who lived here. The name “Hyperperakion” means huge fire in ancient Greek, referring to the gold mines around here. 

- Geopark Iskar-Panega (~110 km from Sofia) is a well-designed eco-park through the river Zlatna Panega. The path has different stages with wooden bridges and paths right next to the rocks, above the water. A perfect place to enjoy a rest from the big city life.

- Tryavna (~232 km from Sofia) is a small town in the Central Balkan Mountains with old houses, small streets, workshops, and cafes. I have found a very detailed photographic journey of Tryavna, full of stunning pictures. Hopefully, I will be able to visit this beautiful town next summer!

- Kovachevitsa (~120 km from Sofia) and Leshten (~125 km from Sofia) are two villages in the southern part of Bulgaria, in the Blagoevgrad Province. Both villages are tiny with few inhabitants, but during the summer their guesthouses are filled with tourists. The houses have a unique style from the 19th century, most of them with very big terraces, inner courtyards, and their own taverns. Many Bulgarian movies have been filmed in Kovachevitsa. 

- Uzana (~156 km from Sofia) has been the geographic center of Bulgaria since December 1991. It is situated on the Ispolin peak in Stara Planina Mountain. Uzana is a famous winter destination because of the ski resort. The nearest town is Gabrovo (~22 km). 

- Velingrad (~ 93 km from Sofia) is a popular tourist destination with its spa hotels, restaurants, and mineral springs. There are 3 sanatoriums here with plenty of treatment possibilities such as lung and joint diseases, neurological and gynecological problems (including infertility), kidney, liver, gastrointestinal, and many other health issues. Spa treatment is carried out by drinking mineral water, inhalations, baths, and rinses.

Now it’s your turn to go and visit these places! I’m sure I have piqued your interest. I’ll give you an extra challenge if you need something more, check this article written by one of our writers and learn more about Koprivshtitsa, Hisarya, and Kalofer.

This is the second part of a three-part series. You can read part 1 here and part 3 in the coming week