15 Best Places To Visit In Bulgaria [2023 Travel Guide]

Cazzy Magennis
Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
Last Updated:
January 18, 2023
You'll find so many fantastic places to visit in Bulgaria from national parks to historic cities and villages. Here are the places you need to visit....
places to visit in Bulgaria

Discover the very best destinations in Bulgaria with this comprehensive guide...

With a diverse landscape including Black Sea beaches, ski resorts, snow-capped mountains, and thermal spas, this Slavic slice of Eastern Europe is a must visit for any serious traveler.

Other outdoor activities include hiking, camping and biking in some of the wildest parts of Europe.

The country's charming towns and cities also offer plenty in the way of entertainment, dining, history and architecture.

Bulgaria is one of the cheapest countries to visit in Europe so is perfect for those traveling on budget too.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in and discover the very best places to visit in Bulgaria!

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How to Get to Bulgaria

Flying

Getting to Bulgaria from the rest of Europe is a piece of cake as it's served by three of Europe’s biggest budget airlines; Ryanair, Easyjet and Wizz Air.

There are daily flights from most major European cities to airports across Bulgaria from Plovdiv and Sofia to Varna on the Black Sea and more.

If you're visiting from outside Europe then it’s best to fly to a large hub such as Frankfurt or Amsterdam and take a connecting flight for the final leg. 

Bus

There are daily buses to Bulgaria’s capital from neighboring countries. Below are a few of the most popular routes!

In addition to the regional bus companies servicing these routes, Flixbus is one of the most popular bus companies in Europe with routes covering Bulgaria both domestically and internationally. 

  • Skopje (North Macedonia) to Sofia - 4h45m
  • Bucharest (Romania) to Sofia - 6h30m
  • Thessaloniki (Greece) to Sofia - 10h30m

Train

There are international train services between many southeastern European countries and Bulgaria. There are daily direct trains from Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Turkey.

Some of the most popular routes include:

  • Dimitrovgrad (Serbia) to Sofia - 2h10m
  • Bucharest (Romania) to Sofia - 9h50m
  • Istanbul (Turkey) to Sofia - 10h04m

Getting Around Bulgaria

Hiring a Car

Hiring a car is a great way to get around Bulgaria as it gives you more freedom to go where you please. For the best deals check out Rental Cars!

Train

Bulgaria is covered by a comprehensive, if a little slow, train network. However, it’s one of the cheapest (and most pleasant) ways to explore the country if you're not in a rush.

Getting from Sofia to Plovdiv takes around two hours and costs as little as $5.00. There are also trains to the resorts on the Black Sea!

Bus

Bulgaria has a pretty solid bus network covering all the major cities and resorts.

Fares are cheap (usually from about $2.00 per journey), and traveling by bus can often be quicker (though less scenic) than taking the train.

Motorhome/RV

One of the best ways to get around Bulgaria and the Balkans is to hire a motorhome/RV.

This is what we did during our drive around the world (which we're currently on) and we had the most amazing time! 

It's a great way to get around the national parks, mountains and Black Sea coast, and can save you a lot of money on accommodation too! Visit Motorhome Republic for the best deals! 

15 Best Places to Visit in Bulgaria

1. Plovdiv

 Plovdiv

Plovdiv is Bulgaria’s Second largest City and is often touted as the oldest inhabited place in Europe. It's located in the south of the country 90 miles southwest of the capital, Sofia.

The city sits on the banks of the Maritsa River and is surrounded by seven mountains, just like Rome with which it shares much in common.

The history of the city dates back thousands of years and much of its Roman history is still evident, such as the incredible Theater of Philippopolis, which is still used for events today. 

plodiv old town

Plovdiv is considered Bulgaria’s cultural capital, and it was even voted the European Capital of Culture in 2019. It's undeniably one of the best cities in Bulgaria and you'll soon see why! 

The city is packed with interesting things to do from walking its charming cobbled streets to stopping at street side cafes or restaurants for a bite of hearty local fayre. 

Bulgaria’s food is to die for, with the freshest, locally grown produce used by many of the city’s eateries.

One of the best things to do in Bulgaria is to climb one of Plovidiv’s hills for enchanting views of the city. Nebet Tepe and Bunardzhik Tepe are two of the most accessible.

This full day tour from Sofia is a great way to experience Plovdiv and takes in some of the city’s most famous attractions!

If you're looking for things to do in Plovdiv then here's an article that you might find useful...

Top Things to do in Plovdiv

  • Explore Plovdiv Old Town
  • Visit Plovdiv Roman theater
  • Explore Kapana Suburb

Where to Stay in Plovdiv

HillHouse Plovdiv - This gorgeous property offers a variety of rooms and suites that feature an array of amenities including free WiFi, air conditioning, and a TV. You'll also be close to many of Plovdiv's popular attractions.

2. Sofia

sofia bulgaria

One of the best things to do in Bulgaria is to spend some time in the capital city of Sofia. This city’s history is no less impressive and you can witness evidence of its Roman, Medieval, Ottoman and Soviet past.

Sofia has a real east-meets-west feel to it and here you’ll find medieval churches, onion domed cathedrals and Ottoman mosques side by side.

One of Sofia’s most famous landmarks is the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral.

This beautiful church with its blue and gold onion domes is considered one of Bulgaria’s most sacred symbols.

The city sits in the shadow of 2,292 meter (7,520 foot) Mount Vitosha, which makes an excellent day trip from the city. The panoramic views across Sofia’s rooftops are incredible too! 

The National Museum of Military History takes you on a journey from Bulgaria’s ancient history through to its days as part of the Soviet Union.

Sofia has a thriving foodie scene with some excellent restaurants offering a taste of traditional Bulgarian food, which is known for its simple, yet filling ingredients.

And let’s not forget about Bulgarian wine (more on that later). There are lots of great bars from local places full of character to trendy, modern establishments where you can sample some of the country’s drinks.

This three-hour guided city tour includes local food tasting and is a great way to get to grips with Bulgaria’s charming capital. 

Whatever, you choose to do you won't run out of things to do in Sofia

Top Things to do in Sofia

  • Visit St. Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral
  • Climb Vitosha Mountain
  • Visit the Boyana Church

Where to Stay in Sofia

Budapest Hotel (don’t worry, it’s not actually in Budapest) - This hotel is located in the center of Sofia and it's just a 5-minute walk from Central Train Station. All the rooms here are spacious and there's an on-site restaurant that guests can take advantage of.

3. Devils Bridge (Arda River)

The Devils Bridge (Dyavolski Most in Bulgarian) is a beautiful three-arched stone bridge across the Arda River gorge.

It’s located in the Rhodope Mountains near the town of Ardino, and not far from the Greek border.

The bridge was built between 1515 and 1518 by a Bulgarian builder named Dimitar, and it was used to connect Thrace with the Aegean Sea.

The Devils Bridge is certainly one of the hidden gems in Bulgaria, and makes a great day trip from Plovdiv, which is about a two-hour drive.

The picturesque valley and Arda River gorge are well worth exploring, and is one of the best natural places in Bulgaria.

The Devil’s Bridge isn’t easily reachable with public transport so you’ll need your own vehicle to get there. The other option is to take a bus to Ardino and then hire a taxi or Uber to take you the final distance.

Here's some more information about visiting Devils Bridge if you're looking to add this place to your itinerary (which I definitely recommend).

Top Things to do at the Arda River

  • Visit Devils Bridge
  • Go hiking in the Rhodope Mountains
  • Explore nearby Ardino 

Where to Stay in Ardino

Stylish Loft Apartment - You won't find many accommodation options in Ardino but this gorgeous one-bedroom apartment is a real gem. It sleeps up to four people and features a kitchen, spacious living area, and free WiFi.

4. Devin

Devin, Bulgaria

If you’re looking for a bit of pampering, then head to the spa town of Devin in the Vacha River valley in the far south of the country.

Devin is one of the most popular Bulgaria tourist attractions thanks to the hot springs, thermal spas and resorts located here.

The waters of Devin have been known for their healing properties since times of antiquity, and people flock here to treat all sorts of ailments (usually related to the skin). 

One of Bulgaria’s most popular bottled mineral water brands, Devin, is bottled here.

Devin’s location nestled in the mountain means it's one of the most scenic parts of Bulgaria. There is plenty for lovers of the outdoors, from gorges, interesting rock formations, caves, forest, rivers and more.

What better thing to do after hiking in this beautiful region than resting your weary feet in the healing waters of a spa or hot spring?!

Three popular tourist spots include Trigrad gorge, Devil’s Throat Cave and Yagodinska Cave.

There are buses to Devin from Plovdiv (2h40m) and there is one daily service from Sofia (4h0m).

Top Things to do in Devin

  • Relax at one of the hot springs
  • Explore Devin town
  • Go hiking

Where to Stay in Devin

Spa Hotel Ismena - Now, this is one of the most beautiful hotels that you'll come across in Bulgaria! Spa Hotel Ismena is not only set in a gorgeous location but you'll have free use of an indoor thermal pool, hot tub, salt sauna, and steam bath! 

5. Bansko

Bansko in the Pirin Mountains in southwest Bulgaria is famous for its ski resorts.

Todorka Peak is home to a variety of different ski and snowboard runs and is the perfect place to visit in Bulgaria for winter sports.

But it’s not just about skiing and snowboarding, as Bankso forms part of the beautiful Pirin National Park with many great hiking trails, dramatic ridgelines and glacial lakes.

This is one of the wildest parts of Europe as the Pirin Mountains and valleys are home to wolves and bears among other flora and fauna.

There are buses from both Sofia and Plovdiv to Bansko and the journey time is around three hours from each! 

If you're looking for things to do in Bansko then you might find this article helpful...

Things to do in Bansko

  • Hit the slopes at Bansko Ski Resort
  • Visit Muratovo Lake
  • Hike Vihren Peak

Where to Stay in Bansko

The Hot Springs Medical and Spa Hotel - As the name suggests this hotel features an on-site spa so you'll benefit from an array of fantastic facilities including two swimming pools, a sauna, steam bath, and a Turkish hammam. There's also a tour desk at the hotel where the staff can organize tours for you! 

6. Rila National Park (Seven Rila Lakes Hike)

rila seven lakes

The Rila National Park in northwestern Bulgaria is home to a series of seven glacial lakes. 

These lakes are staggered at intervals between 2,000 and 2,500 meters up in the mountains and are one the most picturesque places to visit in Bulgaria.

The Seven Rila Lakes are all interconnected by streams and waterfalls and are one of Bulgaria’s most famous tourist attractions.

Each lake has its own name based on its unique characteristics, from “the Tear” due its clear waters, to “the Lower Lake”.

The lakes are reachable from the resort town of Panichishte. It’s a 90 minute walk to the lower lakes, and the hike around all of the lakes takes another four to five hours, so a good level of fitness is required.

There's also a chairlift from the resort up to the lakes which is a better way to arrive so you have enough energy for the hike. If you wish to take the chairlift back, ensure you return by 16:30. 

With the above in mind, one of the best ways to experience what is one of the most beautiful places in Bulgaria is to take a day tour with transport direct from Sofia.

Things to do in Rila National Park

  • Hike around Seven Rila Lakes
  • Go skiing
  • Climb Musala Peak (the highest point in the Balkans)

Where to Stay in Rila National Park

Lion Hotel Borovets - This gorgeous hotel is the perfect base for exploring Rila National Park as it offers a free shuttle service to the chairlifts. You'll also have access to plenty of facilities including a lobby bar, fitness center, sauna, and a swimming pool.

7. Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery (Sveti Ivan Rilski) is located inside Rila Monastery Nature Park, one of the largest national parks in Bulgaria. 

The monastery was founded in 927AD by the hermit Ivan of Rila who lived in a cave close to where the monastery is now.

Rila Monastery is one of the best places to visit in Bulgaria thanks to its tranquil location in the mountainous national park.

The building as you see it today dates back to the 15th Century, with some parts older still. The complex includes a church, a residential area for the 60 or so monks that live here, and a museum. 

As it's one of the country's UNESCO World Heritage sites this isn't a place that you want to miss, especially if you want to see the best of Bulgaria! 

This small group tour from Sofia takes in Rila Monastery as well as Sofia’s Boyana Church and is a great way to visit these famous Bulgaria attractions. 

Where to Stay near Rila Monastery

Family Hotel Gorski Kut - This hotel puts you in the perfect location to explore Rila Monastery and many of the rooms offer scenic views of Rila Valley! There's an on-site restaurant, bar, and a terrace area where you can relax and admire the scenery!

8. Velingrad

Another town in the Rhodope Mountains famous for its healing waters is Velingrad. The town was founded as late as 1948 after the unification of several villages in the region.

There are over 90 mineral water springs located around Velingrad and the most well known are Ladzhene, Kamenitsa, Chepino, Rakitovo and Kostandovo.

The mineral waters are used to treat and prevent many diseases and as such the town is popular with people from across the country.

There are 22 different mineral baths and pools here, and they vary in terms of temperature and mineral content levels. 

Due to the town's popularity there are three sanitariums, over 60 hotels and 140 restaurants, so you’ll find everything you could possibly need here.

Although there are many great hotels and spas, camping is a wonderful way to experience Velingrad, and Thermal Camping Velingrad is a camping ground with hot springs and swimming pools. 

Velingrad is honestly one of the best destinations in Bulgaria - especially if you're looking to relax!

Things to do in Velingrad

  • Take a thermal bath
  • Explore the town
  • Visit Lake Kleptuza

Where to Stay in Velingrad

Park Hotel and Spa Vella Hills - Like many of the hotels in Velingrad, this property has an on-site spa where you'll have access to a variety of excellent facilities. The hotel and its outdoor pool also offer stunning views of the surrounding area.

9. Batak Reservoir

Batak Reservoir

Batak Reservoir in the Rhodope Mountains is the third largest in Bulgaria and is hugely popular with tourists and people looking to get into the great outdoors.

This picturesque body of water is one of the best places to visit in Bulgaria thanks to the pristine nature and stunning views.

The Batak Reservoir is surrounded by forested hills and mountains with small settlements on the shore. 

There is plenty to do around the reservoir with hiking, biking, horse riding and fishing all being popular activities. It’s also possible to get out on the water with kayaks or take a boat trip.

This reservoir may not be one of the most 'iconic' things to see in Bulgaria, but it's certainly got a lot to offer! 

The nearest town is Batak, which is just five miles from the shore. 

Things to do at Batak Reservoir

  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Fishing

Where to Stay in Batak

Guest House Batak - This guest house is the perfect place to stay if you're looking to visit Batak Reservoir. Boasting spacious rooms with plenty of amenities and a great location, it's one of the best options in the area!

10. Shipka Pass

Shipka Pass

The Shipka Pass is a 1,150-meter (3,820-foot) pass through the Balkan Mountain Range in central Bulgaria.

The area is famous for the Battle of Shipka Pass between the Russians (with help from Bulgaria) and the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkic War of 1877 to 1878.

The Shipka Monument is a 31.5-metre (98-foot) stone tower erected in 1934 to commemorate the battle.

In addition to the historic nature of the Shipka Pass, it also commands stunning views over the countryside below and is perfect for hiking.

There are daily buses from Sofia to Shipka which take around 3 hours. From Plovdiv the bus takes around two hours!

If you're planning to to drive the Shipka Pass then you'll find this information helpful...

Things to do at the Shipka Pass

  • Hike the Shipka Pass
  • Visit the Monument to the Battle of Shipka
  • See the Shipka canons

Where to Stay in Shipka

Shipka Hotel - Shipka Hotel is one of the more authentic properties in the area yet it's still got plenty of awesome facilities including a fitness center, a restaurant, and garden area. There's also continental breakfast available! 

11. Veliko Tarnovo and Tsarevets Fortress

Tsarevets Fortress

The beautiful old town of Veliko Tarnovo was once the center of the Second Bulgarian Empire and is bursting with history, unique architecture and interesting museums.

The town sits on the Yantra River and is spread across three hills rising above the river. One of these is Tsarevets which houses a large medieval fortress overlooking the town. 

Tsarevets Fortress dates back to 1185 and was once the most important stronghold in Bulgaria.

The complex has been restored to its former glory which took over 50 years and was completed in 1981 to mark the 1300th anniversary of the Bulgarian state.

There is a lot more to Veliko Tarnovo than just the fortress though. Here, you'll find a charming old town with cobbled streets, roman ruins, a monastery and lots of wonderful street side cafes and restaurants. 

Things to do in Veliko Tarnovo

  • Visit Tsarevets Fortress
  • Explore the old town
  • Visit the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration

Where to Stay in Veliko Tarnovo

Tsarevets Design and Spa - This gorgeous hotel is one of the closest accommodation options to Tsarevets Fortress so you'll have easy access to this popular attraction. Not only that but Tsarevets Design and Spa is set in a reconstructed old town house so the architecture is pretty incredible.

12. Saeva Dupka Cave

Saeva Dupka Cave complex, with over 400 meters of natural corridors and halls is one of the best places to visit in Bulgaria, and is even used as a venue for concerts.

The cave is named after the two brothers Seyu and Sae who hid inside during the Ottoman invasion of Bulgaria. 

Inside you can witness an impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over millennia. Saeva Dupka really has to be seen to be believed, and is utterly gorgeous inside. 

The caves have been inhabited since at least Roman times, and now serve as one of Bulgaria’s most popular attractions.

There are five main galleries to explore within the caves, each with its own unique geological formations.

Saeva Dupka is just an hour and a half’s drive from Sofia, but the easiest way to get there is to take a guided tour.

Here's some more information about visiting Saeva Dupka Cave...

13. Belogradchik Fortress

The impressive Belogradchik Fortress is a large rock-walled fortress in the Balkan Mountains in the far northeast of Bulgaria.

Belogradchik Fortress dates back to Roman times and the large, rocky outcrop served as natural defensive walls.

The fortress is one of the best preserved in the whole of Bulgaria and is an important part of the country’s history. If you're looking to learn more about the fortress' history then here's an article that you may want to read...

This fortified stronghold is located 1.5 miles from the town of Belogradchik, itself a popular tourist destination. In addition to the fortress, you can also visit the nearby Belogradchick rock formation.

This tour from Sofia is a great option and includes the fortress and rocks,transport, plus all entrance fees and an English-speaking tour guide.

Things to do in Belogradchik

  • Visit the Fortress
  • See the Belogradchik Rocks
  • Explore the beautiful town

Where to Stay in Belogradchik

Skalite Hotel - Skalite Hotel is one of the best options in Belogradchik because of its spacious rooms, great location, and fantastic facilities. Here, you can play billiards, relax in the indoor pool, and eat in the on-site restaurant.

14. Varna

Varna, Bulgaria

Varna is Bulgaria’s premiere Black Sea resort which is home to six beautiful sandy beaches as well as some excellent bars, restaurants and cafes.

The port city is also home to some incredible museums, not least of which houses a 6,000 year old jewelry collection called the “Gold of Varna”.

Not only that but the city is home to beautiful parks, gardens, orthodox churches and architecture dating back centuries.

The main city beaches offer a host of waterborne activities from swimming and sunbathing to kayaking, boat trips, fishing and more, while the town beaches are lined by bars and restaurants catering to tourists.

If you want to avoid the crowds and go where the locals do, then head to Asparukavo beach, a short bus ride from the center of town.

You'll find tons of things to do in Varna which definitely makes it one of the best cities to visit in Bulgaria! This is especially the case if you're looking for a little bit of relaxation and some excellent food.

Things to do in Varna

  • Enjoy the city beaches
  • See the Varna Gold
  • Sample some of the city’s restaurants

Where to Stay in Varna

Aqua Hotel - Aqua Hotel is a great option if you're staying in Varna as it's just a short walk from the beach and it's right next to a shopping area. You'll also have access to the on-site fitness center, restaurant, and bar.

15. Melnik (Bulgarian Wine Region)

Melnik, Bulgaria

Bulgaria has its very own wine region covering over 150,000 acres, and it was once the fourth-largest wine producer in the world.

Melnik is at the heart of the country’s wine region and the city makes a great base for exploring the nearby vineyards and wineries.

There are lots of great wine-tasting tours which include transport from Sofia.

The city is also home to some interesting churches, a monastery, and some interesting architecture and geological features.

The nearby Melnik Earth Pyramids are well worth checking out too! These sandstone pyramids and obelisks rise out of the foothills and tower 100 meters above the forest. 

As you can see there are plenty of things to do in Melnik...

Things to do in Melnik

  • Go on a wine tasting tour
  • Explore the old town
  • Visit the Melnik Earth Pyramids

Where to Stay in Melnik

Hotel Melnik - Hotel Melnik is located in a scenic area of town and offers guests a variety of facilities including a wellness center, a bar, a restaurant, and a BBQ. There are also plenty of awesome rooms to choose from!

Bulgaria Travel Tips & FAQ

When is a Good Time to Visit Bulgaria?

Bulgaria is a great destination year-round, but the two best seasons for visiting are summer (for the beaches and hiking) and winter (for skiing and winter sports).

The climate is temperate-continental with hot summers, and long, cold winters. Snowfall usually happens between January and March.

Bear in mind that the temperatures will always be lower in the mountains too! 

How Long Should You Spend in Bulgaria?

If you're looking for a beach holiday then one week is perfect, however if you want to explore the cities, towns and mountains then two weeks is better

What is a Good Budget for Bulgaria?

Bulgaria is cheap by European standards. A recommended budget is $70 per person, per day.

This can increase to $100 if you stay at expensive Black Sea or mountain ski resorts. If you stay at hostels then $50 per day is a more realistic budget!

Is Bulgaria Safe to Visit?

Bulgaria is a very safe country with low instances of violent crime. Opportunistic theft and pickpocketing can occur at tourist spots, and if visiting the beach, always keep an eye on your belongings. 

Where To Go After Bulgaria?

There's no denying that Bulgaria is one of the best places to visit in Europe but where do you go from here?

As Bulgaria has great transport links to the rest of the Balkans, exploring this often neglected little corner of Europe is a great idea. 

For the ultimate Balkan road trip, there are plenty of options for onward travel. For starters, there are five countries that border Bulgaria; Serbia, North Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, and Romania.

Any of these countries would make for the ultimate Balkans road trip, but you don't have to end your road trip there.

If you're looking to continue on through Europe then why not head to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, or Croatia?

The road trip options are endless so where will you visit?

Here's some more inspiration for your road trip:

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