by Detelina Palova

Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020

For anyone looking for mesmerizing nature, incredible food and adventure, Bulgaria offers a little bit of everything. There are many things to do an experience, but today I’m going to tell you more about my personal favorite ones. Now, before we jump in, it’s important to note that this list is in no particular order of best to worst or vice versa! Each recommendation has its own qualities that make it worth visiting in our opinion – and hopefully there’s something in here for everyone!

1) See the Seven Rila Lakes

The Seven Rila Lakes are a stunning group of glacial lakes in the Rila Mountain. They are some of the most visited natural monuments in Bulgaria, both by locals and tourists. Each one has a name, that coincides with its characteristics, like the Tear, the Eye, the Kidney and so on. You can read about how to get there and the conditions of the excursion here. Suffice to say, these lakes are a must-see, not only because of their own beauty, but because of how incredible the surrounding nature is as well. There is also a legend about the lakes, which makes them even more enjoyable to visit.

2) Rila Monastery

Next is the Rila Monastery, which occupies an area of 8,800 m². It is a UNESCO site, which has long been cherished by Bulgarians and travelers alike as a thing of immense beauty and fascinating history. It was founded in 927 by Saint Ivan of Rila - an enigmatic figure, the first Bulgarian hermit and a man surrounded in legend and myth. The complex has a museum, as well as century old frescoes, fascinating history and is a obligatory part of the full Bulgarian experience. You can visit the monastery’s website here.

3) Festival of the National Costume

Get a real feeling of what Bulgarian culture used to be like a few hundred years ago, by experiencing this unique festival. You will be able to hear traditional musical instruments like the gaida, learn to dance the horo, have a chance to dive into the national cuisine and Bulgarian century old handicrafts. Everyone will be wearing the traditional costume of Bulgaria, which is the nosia. The festival is traditionally hosted in August, so if you are visiting this time of year, it is something you definitely shouldn’t miss. It will not only allow you to directly experience many of Bulgaria’s beautiful traditions, but also have a very fun time. You can learn more about it here.

4) Rose Festival

Something Bulgaria is very proud of are its roses. That’s why there has been a rose festival every year since 1903. You can attend the rose-picking ritual in the villages near Kazanlak, see the new queen of roses be selected and experience many other interesting rituals. And of course - take some show stopping pictures in the rose fields. This experience is also time specific, so if you are in Bulgaria for the first weekend of June, you shouldn’t miss this one of a kind festival. You can read more about dates, different activities as well as accommodation tips here.

5) See Kukeri

The ‘kukeri’ are one of the oldest and most fascinating Bulgarian traditions. Once a year, people all across the country, in each village, will put on their scary costumes and go out in the streets playing games, dancing and ‘scaring the negative forces away’. This is an incredibly ancient custom, which still carries on to this day and is fascinating to experience. Like the last two, this is also time-specific, so check online to see if the period in which you’re visiting will allow you to see this tradition. A famous festival that you can visit is Surva Festival, which you can check it here. There you can witness the kukeri, as well as other interesting Bulgarian traditions.

6) Tsarevets

In the picturesque town of Veliko Tarnovo, you can find the remains of the Tsarevets fortress. It used to be the Second Bulgarian Empire's primary fort and strongest bulwark before Bulgaria fell into Ottoman rule. The defensive structure was used for housing the royal and the patriarchal palaces, as well as many other things regarding Bulgaria’s political life. It has since been partially restored and can be viewed easily once one enters Veliko Tarnovo. It also hosts an Audiovisual show, that illustrates important moments in Bulgaria’s history. As one of the most important buildings in Bulgaria, this is definitely worth a visit. It will take you back hundreds of years and allow you to experience parts of the everyday life of a Bulgarian in the 12th century.

7) Belogradchik Rocks

These rocks are not only a fascinating piece of nature, but a source of countless legends and myths. Since they are named after things they seem to represent, there have been countless local tales of how they came to be. They are located in the Balkan Mountains, and have varying colors, shapes and sizes. They were even nominated for the “new 7 wonders of nature” in 2009. Going there will not only allow you to see these fascinating rocks, but also allow you to hike and experience all the beautiful nature along the way. One of the most famous legends is that of the Madonna. In this one, a dazzling nun falls in love with a man on a white horse, gets pregnant, and is cast out by the monks. As she is leaving the nunnery, day turns to night and everyone, the Madonna, the monks, as well as the man on the horse are turned to stone.

8) Marvelous Bridges

These incredible natural arches are located in the Rhodope mountains. They are 1,450 metres (4,760 ft) above sea level, but are definitely worth the climb. It offers one of the most beautiful views, and like most things in Bulgaria, is also surrounded by legend. The story goes, that many years ago in the nearby village Zabardo, a dragon was flying over to destroy the pastures and animals. For a long time, the villagers were suffering because of the mythical monster, until one day they figured out how to defeat it. They loaded a donkey up with amadou and sent it to the large creature. The dragon ate the mule, the amadou lit on fire and it burned his stomach, causing him to crash down into the mountains and die. This created the Marvelous bridges in the beautiful Rhodope mountains.

9) Krushuna Falls

These incredible waterfalls are an incredible experience. They are located near Lovech, in the village of Krushuna. They offer picturesque scenery, numerous round-shaped terraces and natural pools filled with mineral water. The main waterfall drops from a height of 20 meters and splits into a sleeve. Naturally, there is a legend about it as well, and it answers the question of where the waterfalls come from.

It is said, that the underground lake which is the waterfall’s source is protected by a large dragon. The mythical creature was once a brave Thracian. But he dared to challenge the gods to a battle, because he believed he was stronger than them. He fought bravely and tirelessly for a long time, but there was no way to defeat the immortal gods. Even so, they were impressed with his strong spirit. Because of this, they gave him immortality and turned him into a dragon, and left him to guard their spring of living water. To this day, the gods drink from this water the legend says. And you will definitely feel like you’re in a fairy tale once you see the waterfalls, because they are incredibly beautiful.

10) Nessebar

Nesebar is an ancient city, as well as one of the major seaside resorts on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. Sometimes called the "Pearl of the Black Sea", Nesebar is a city incredibly rich with history and culture. It is also a part of the UNESCO World heritage sites, because of how old some monuments there are and what incredible culture they carry. Whether you’re a fan of historic sites or modern nightlife, this city combines the two perfectly. It is split into two parts, - old and new, with the ancient monuments in the old part, and many hotels, nightclubs and other experiences in the newer. It has something for everyone, so don’t miss out on this beautiful city!

Closing Thoughts

So these are just 10 things you can do in Bulgaria, but this is in no way an exhaustive list. There are so many more incredible things you can experience! I encourage you to venture out on your own and see what other lovely sights you can find. The locals are also very friendly, and accommodation is very affordable, so however you want to spend your time - you can find what you like. It combines nature, history and city life perfectly, so it will definitely have something you can enjoy.

Want to see more?

  • Sofia, Bulgaria

    Sofia, a city loaded with so much history sitting in one of Europe's oldest countries, Bulgaria. Check out these 11 things to do in Sofia, Bulgaria.

  • Plovdiv, Bulgaria

    This city has been around for 8,000 years, Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Check out these 10 things to do in this amazing city!

  • Porto, Portugal

    Thinking about taking a trip to Porto and looking for what to do there? Well we've put together a list of our recommended 10 (of many) things to do in Porto, Portugal. Check it out!