This is Bulgaria?!?

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I'll admit it — I basically knew nothing about Bulgaria before my trip to Eastern Europe.

All I knew was that it had a few pretty monasteries that I wanted to visit.

And that's it.

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

I purposely didn't do too much research into my summer destinations. I did enough to know where I was going, and where those places were located in each country. But I didn't want to over-educate myself, or build up expectations that had no prayer of being met.

So I stayed blissfully ignorant about Bulgaria right up until we crossed the border from Romania.

Well, was I ever in for a surprise!!

Things I loved about Bulgaria

The countryside

Bulgaria has extremely gorgeous countryside, with everything from snow-capped mountains to beaches along the Black Sea coast. I knew Bulgaria was going to be agricultural and all, but I was absolutely not prepared for its stunning landscapes!

Bulgaria

Gorno Draglishte, Bulgaria

Really cool cities

While Sofia may not be much of a looker, other Bulgarian cities really wowed me.

Like Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria's medieval capital) with its narrow cobbled streets and old fortress on the hill. Even though it was almost unbearably hot during the summer months, I couldn't get enough of the views here.

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

And Bansko, a ski city during the winter months, was also fun. It's quiet and charming during the summer months.

Bansko, Bulgaria

And Plovdiv, with its history and colorful buildings.

Plovdiv

And the villages we visited – like Gorno Draglishte – were also beautiful.

Gorno Draglishte, Bulgaria

Gorno Draglishte, Bulgaria

The history

Bulgaria has ties to many different empires, from the Romans to the Ottomans. Plovdiv, for example, has some of the best-preserved Roman ruins I've ever seen!

Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Ancient Roman theater in Plovdiv.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Half-buried ruins of a Roman stadium in Plovdiv.

Rila Monastery

This was the place I was most looking forward to visiting in Bulgaria was Rila Monastery, the largest and most well-known Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. I first heard about this monastery in a book, and had dreamed for years of visiting myself.

It was even more amazing in person than I could have hoped.

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

Friendly locals

Even though I could only communicate with most of them through pantomime, I found the locals in Bulgaria to be incredibly kind and welcoming.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria

Bulgarian pride

And lastly, I loved how much Bulgarians love their country. There's an attitude there that exudes pride for a country that many people have barely even heard of. From guesthouse owners to minibus drivers, I had a sense that everyone we met was really happy to have us there, and to have the chance to show off their country to us.

It was this pride and attitude that helped me forgive Bulgaria it's little failings and fall a little bit in love with it, too.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria definitely isn't on the usual tourist track in Europe. And that's exactly how it should be, really. It's not a place made for mass tourism; it's nowhere near as developed as Romania, even.

But for those curious enough and willing to step off the beaten path, it's a country that's incredibly rewarding to travel through.

Would YOU travel to Bulgaria?

 

 

*Note: I visited Bulgaria as part of a complimentary 18-day “Explore Eastern Europe” tour with Intrepid Travel. But all opinions, as always, are entirely my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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52 Comments on “This is Bulgaria?!?

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  1. OMG, I love this photo essay!!! See… I’m Bulgaria. So I’ve grown up here and as soon as I could leave, I did, lol. But it’s true: we have beautiful history, beautiful nature, and beautiful people. Hope you met some of the more adventurous ones because we’re also guilty of grumps. 😀

    Thanks for this wonderful post! You’ve an eye for beauty. Blog on!!!

      Thanks, Lyn! Bulgaria is definitely a country that surprised me – and one I’m so glad I visited!

    […] Bulgaria may not be on the typical tourist trail in Europe, but it surprised me in many ways. It’s a beautiful country in all senses of the word. Rila Monastery Gorno Draglishte, where I met my […]

    I live in Bulgaria and I truly think that the nature and the old towns here are the most beautiful part of it (now)… There are many people who come in Bulgaria and stay in big cities or in newly-built hotels across the seashore of “Cherno more” (The Black Sea), and I truly don’t understand them. Yes – our tourist places are new and have quite a lot of luxuries and ,what’s more, everything is very cheap to the western Europe customer, but the true charm in Bulgaria is the countryside, the beautiful mountains, rivers, the old and preserved towns and the places where you can learn more about the history of this country… And if you come to Bulgaria, you really should try Bulgarian traditional food, drink Bulgarian wine and “rakia” and see how Bulgarians use to have fun…

      I could not agree more, Christian – it’s the less-visited, older and more natural places in Bulgaria that I liked the best!

    […] in the first place. Even before I had made concrete plans for my summer trip to Europe, I knew that Bulgaria was going to be included, just so I could visit […]

    Wow, breathtaking! I wouldn’t have expected that almost Moorish looking architecture from your photo of the monastery. I love the countryside and yearn for a little break from the city now and again.

      The Bulgarian countryside is truly beautiful! And yeah, there are all sorts of unexpected things to find there!

    I was in Bulgaria this year as well, in March when the spring was slowly blossoming around, and I just loved it there! I was only in Sofia and Plovdiv but just these two places made me keep Bulgaria on the list of places I want to see again. Everyone seems to go to the seaside there but I think the countryside and the mountains are what’s really beautiful in that country! And the food, that’s already the reason itself to consider going there!

      I totally agree that the countryside and mountains are the most beautiful parts of Bulgaria. Glad to hear you really enjoyed it, too!

    Your posts are always interesting and eye-opening 🙂

    This year, I visited Bulgaria also. Not so much like you, just Sofia and Plovdiv. But like you say, it is country which must be seen! 🙂

    I have one suggestion for this post. From Plovdiv, you put just photos of Roman theater. Beside theater, Plovdiv is well known for Old town. The Renaissance town of Old Plovdiv was built during the 19th century. Today it has survived as a unique architectural ensemble on the three hills.
    Here is some photos of those interesting houses.

    ps
    Btw. when you are in Eastern Europe, you should come visit Croatia, too 🙂 It is beautiful country, with clear sea, many islands, and continental part is charming, too!

      Glad you liked the post, Ivan!

      And yes, you’re right about Plovdiv – the Old Town is really nice! I’ll be writing a post all about Plovdiv in the near future, which will include plenty more photos! 🙂

      As for Croatia, I DID visit!

    Bulgaria was never on my radar until I saw these stunning photos!

      Awesome! This is my favorite kind of comment – when I open someone’s eyes to a place they never considered before. Glad you liked the photos!

    That is the BEST way to travel – with no expectations – everything surprises (and usually delights!) We do that ALL the time, but also maybe because we are too lazy to do the research, haha!

      I agree – having no expectations can make travel so much more enjoyable! I approached most of my summer trip that way, and it was definitely a great decision. I loved every bit of it!

    There are so many places even in Europe that I would love to see. This is just part of that list. Great pictures.

      I think you and Ali need to take an Eastern Europe trip soon! Like you said, there’s so much to see.

    Wow – speechless. Can’t wait to read more about that monastery!

      Surprising, right??

      And I should have a post up about Rila next week sometime!

        My first visit to Bulgaria was in 2012 and we were taken by the beauty and history. We have just completed a Villa in St Vlas (the poor man’s Monte Carlo) at a fraction of the cost of the U.S. It is Heaven-very little crime, children play in Parks without concern, the cost of living is unbelievable. The people are very friendly with many speaking very good English. We now spend close to six months a year as a base for short hops to other points in Europe, however auto touring from Sofia to Greece, Budapest and even Vienna is easy. If I were to lose everything I could live very well in Bulgaria on my Social Security. We are packed with guests every summer and many now return on their own. There is still time to discover and afford this beautiful country however it is being discovered. P.S. Don’t rent a car-Taxis are cheap and the Rental companies are sure to charge outrageous prices for normal wear and tear.

    I liked Bulgaria a lot more than I was expecting to… My favourite thing about it was the CHEESE!

      I liked ALL of Eastern Europe more than I was expecting to, I think.

      And YES about the cheese!!! How good was it?!? Greece has nothing on Bulgaria when it comes to cheese, if you ask me.

    Love the details of the Rila Monastery. Very unique, fun, and elegant.

      Rila was amazing – I’ll be doing a whole photo post on it hopefully next week. I’ve never been to such a colorful church before!

    We’re finding the same thing with Slovakia. Gorgeous scenery, and friendly people who wonder why we’re here. Definitely not on the tourist routes, that’s for sure.

      It’s great to travel in places like that, isn’t it? I had hoped to include Slovakia this summer since I still have family living there, but I unfortunately ran out of time. It’s nice to hear good things about it though!

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