Bulgaria is one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe. Yet, most tourists only spend a few days here, mostly in the capital Sofia and its ski and beach resorts.
Located on the Black Sea, Bulgaria is a Balkan nation with diverse terrain. It's a cultural melting pot with Greek, Slavic, Ottoman, and Persian influences.
1. Rila Monastery
Located in the Rila Mountains, the Eastern Orthodox Rila Monastery is one of Bulgaria’s nine UNESCO World Heritage sites. This evocative monastic complex is over 1,000 years old and remains a working monastery today.
As a result, it is not only a UNESCO site but also the most important spiritual center in Bulgaria. The monastery complex is formed of an outer rectangle of cloisters encircling the main church, which contains the relics of Saint Ivan.
The main church is surrounded by arcaded balconies and bright tempera frescoes by Bulgarian masters portraying religious icons and scenes from heaven and hell. This is a truly stunning building with exemplary architecture.
2. Pobiti Kamani
Pobiti Kamani, also known as The Stone Forest, is an incredible natural landmark located 18 km inland from Varna. It looks like the ruins of an ancient temple, but the broken stone pillars are all natural and formed from Eocene fossils.
The formations of Pobiti Kamani are a unique phenomenon that has no similarity in the world today. Their size, geological formation and biodiversity make them a global asset with a great conservation value.
The formations are believed to have formed in the reefs of a shallow sea during the Eocene epoch. Several theories have been proposed to explain their origin, including coral complexes and lower Eocene natural gas seepages called “bubbling reefs”.
Pliska is an ancient city on the Ludogorie plateau in the northern part of Bulgaria. It was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire from 681-893 and a major cultural center.
During the 9th century, Bulgarian rulers started to accept Christianity and this led to the creation of new buildings at Pliska. Some of these architectural monuments were preserved and now a visitor can visit them as a part of the National Historical and Archaeological Reserve.
The first structures at Pliska were mainly made of wood. However, stone was used in the end of the 7th and beginning of the 8th century. The palaces were surrounded by fortified walls, and villages were also built in the surrounding fields.
Cape Kaliakra (Greek: Kalos kra) is one of the most scenic spots along the Black Sea coastline. It extends two kilometers out into the sea and is known for its incredible cliffs, wild steppes and unpolluted crystal waters.
The cape is dotted with incredible sea caves. Dolphins are also regularly spotted here and there are several rare species of birds that nest on the cliffs.
This is a nature and archeological reserve with 687.5 decares of land and impressive steep cliffs as high as 70 metres. It contains wild steppes, incredible coastal rocks and more than 400 plant species.
5. Belogradchik Rocks
The Belogradchik Rocks are one of Bulgaria's most famous attractions. The bizarre red rocks in awe-inspiring shapes dominate the landscape.
The fantastic rock formations are the country's only entry in the UNESCO list of New 7 Wonders of Nature and are a must-see while in Bulgaria.
They were formed over the course of millions of years by the colliding of limestones with sand, gravel and clay. The reddish hue comes from iron oxides and hydroxides.
6. Veliko Tarnovo
Located in the north of Stara Planina (the Balkan Mountains) and south of the Danube, these hills are covered by lush forests, picturesque villages, and beautiful agricultural fields.
Veliko Tarnovo is one of the most ancient towns in Bulgaria, a town that once was a powerful political, economic and cultural centre of Medieval Bulgaria. The city's historical center - the Old Town, with its Revival-style houses, adds extra charm to this stunning town.
The Old Town has a few sights to offer, including the Tsarevets Fortress and Asen Monument. Other attractions include the Vasil Levski Palace of Culture and Sports, the Ivailo Stadium and a number of museums.
Etara is an architectural and ethnographic complex which presents the Bulgarian customs, culture and craftsmanship from the period of Ottoman Empire. It is located 8 km South of Gabrovo.
- The only collection of the old-times water-driven machinery in Bulgaria – laundry mills, flour mills, a fulling mill, grinding wheel and other installations, are in action at AEK Etar.
- The village offers the opportunity to see and learn about different kinds of local crafts, such as wood-carving, pottery, coppersmith craft, furriery and cutlery making. Visitors can also buy souvenirs and sample local cuisine.