Travel Eastern Europe: Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a great place to go if you’re on a budget – and even if you’re not. If you’re planning a trip to Europe and Bulgaria is not on your list I would strongly recommend adding it. Break free from the crowds and the usual places. The country has a lot to offer from stunning mountains and countryside to diverse cities and beautiful beaches. It is surrounded by many other Balkan countries making it easy to visit many different countries during a trip.

When you think of Europe what do you think of? You probably imagine places like Paris, Rome, Barcelona, London, and Berlin. These are the popular kids in Europe. When people tell me they are going to Europe, they almost always tell me they are going to at least one of these places. Western and Central Europe gets most of the attention from tourists.

Which countries make up the Balkans?

The next time you tell someone that you’re going to Europe, tell them that you’re going to Bulgaria. Or Albania. Or Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, or Serbia. Depending on who you’re telling you might get a moment of silence or a puzzled look. You’re going where?

The next time you’re thinking Europe, think Balkans. Those popular kids have gotten enough attention. Be different and grab that Balkan country by the hand, take it for a spin on the dance floor. Give it a chance to show you what it’s made of.

Bulgaria The Balkans
Bulgaria beautiful country in The Balkans

The Balkans have just as much excitement, adventure, history, culture, and attractions as the rest of Europe at half the cost. The countries of the Balkans are not only cheaper than most other parts of Europe, but there are also a lot fewer tourists. Fewer tourist traps and more authentic experiences. Less time spent waiting in lines and more time spent exploring. This makes it a great option for travelers.

My first adventure into the Balkans was when I went to Bulgaria. One of my best friends is from Bulgaria and asked me to come to visit her in her home city of Sofia. I couldn’t resist the chance to discover a new country and a new part of the world!

Bulgaria: More Bang for Your Buck

Sofia is one of the cheapest cities in Europe. Everyone from backpackers to luxury travelers can enjoy the city. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, Bulgaria is a great option. Food, drinks, hotels, public transport, and attractions are all cheap by European standards.

Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria. Priceoftravel.com listed it as the fourth cheapest city in Europe for [y]. Many other Balkan cities top the list as well. Bucharest Romania, Belgrade Serbia, Sarajevo Bosnia, and Herzegovina, and Zagreb Croatia all made the top 10. In the Balkans, you can enjoy the quality as well as quantity.

Discover Bulgaria

Bulgaria has a lot to offer. With a variety of landscapes, possibilities are endless. Enjoy hiking in the mountains, sightseeing in the cities, relaxing in the countryside, and swimming at the sea.

Sofia

Bulgaria’s largest city is its capital Sofia. The city is a unique mixture of its communist past and its modern demotic present. Here you will feel past merge with the present.

The first thing I noticed when arriving in Sofia, was that it looked like something out of the former Soviet Union. Grey, blocky, soviet looking architecture and buildings lined the streets. Remnants of the country’s communist past fill parts of the city. The communist government in Bulgaria was ousted in 1989, not so long ago. The adults living in Bulgaria would have grown up under a communist government. It was interesting to imagine how much different their lives growing up must have been from those of my parents. Intertwined with these reminders of the past are modern shopping malls, five-star hotels, and lush green parks. The city has a modern and efficient underground so it’s easy and cheap to get around the capital city (0.5 Euros for one trip).

7 Rila Lakes

For a stunning day of hiking, the 7 Rila Lakes is a must.  To reach this spot, and start your hike, you need to get to the Panichishte Resort. You can drive, take a taxi, or take a shuttle from Sofia. Once you reach the resort there is a chair lift that you can take to get up the first part of the mountains.

Located in the northwestern Rila Mountains, the Seven Lakes is a bit of a treasure hunt. You walk and hike along various paths and along the way you discover one lake after another. Each special, uniquely formed, and uniquely named. It’s easy to see why this area is popular with locals and tourists. Located one above the other, the glacier lakes are connected by small streams. These streams form tiny waterfalls and cascades, another natural sight to discover.

Each lake is named based on its shape or most prominent characteristic. The highest lake (2500m above sea level) is called the Teardrop. The second highest is the Eye. The other lakes are the Kidney, the Twin, the Trefoil, the Fish Lake, and the Lower Lake (the lowest lake at 2100m above sea level).

Black Sea Sozopol

From the mountains to the sea. There are a variety of small towns located in Bulgaria along the Black Sea. This location is a very popular place for Bulgarians to go vacationing in the summer. You can take a bus direct from Sofia that will bring you to the seaside within a few hours.

My friend used to work as a waitress during the summers along the Black Sea and she suggested we visit the city of Sozopol.

The charming ancient town of Sozopol is located along the Black Sea Coast. It has two beautiful beaches, plenty of restaurants, bars, and nightlife. The city itself is infused with history and culture and is a great place to explore. I really enjoyed the food, which is generally a mix of Balkan and Mediterranean dishes. Many restaurants are located along the water giving you great view of the sea as you enjoy your food.

At night the city comes alive with bars in full swing all along the beaches. One night we walked along one of the beaches, stopping whenever we heard a song we liked, and danced in the sand. It’s great feeling the cool sand between your toes on a warm night as you dance the night away.

The Bulgarian Black Sea Coast offers pretty much everything you could ask for in a beach vacation spot with the added bonus of low prices.

Bulgaria – Why You Should Go

One thing to keep in mind is that, in my experience, not a lot of people speak English well. I was grateful to have local friends around to translate. Since it is a less popular tourist destination than many other European cities, it is not as English-friendly as other parts of Europe. You might have to ask a couple of people before you find someone that speaks English. With a bit of determination, and maybe some hand gestures, I am sure you will manage. It’s all part of the experience of discovering a new country!

So, the next time someone asks you where in Europe you’re going, remember Bulgaria. Remember the Balkans.

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