Bulgaria - The Charming Coast of the Black Sea
In summer, the Golden Sands promises Mediterranean sunshine and party mood. In winter, the snowy slopes of the Pirin Mountains ensure an exciting skiing season. The magic of the Black Sea allures a great number of tourists into the beautiful country at the coast every year.
Geography - The beautiful country at the Black Sea
Bulgaria lies in the south-east of Europe and borders on Romania in the north, Macedonia and Serbia in the west, Greece and Turkey in the south as well as the Black Sea in the east. The country is divided into 28 provinces. The climate is generally temperate to continental but there are up to four climate zones because of the great differences in altitude. In northern Bulgaria, the climate is distinctly continental. The summers are hot and dry, while the inters are cold and rich in snow. It is considerably more temperate in the Maritsa Plain but there is a lot more precipitation here in the spring and summer months. In the coastal plain of the Black Sea, the climate is maritime. The summers are pleasantly warm and there is a lot of rain in winter. The climate at the south-western border of Turkey and Greece is Mediterranean.
Nature - The four landscape zones
The Balkan Mountains (2,300 m) cross the country from west to east. Bulgaria can be considered a mountainous country. The Strandzha, the Sakar and the Rhodopes only constitute a small part of the rich mountain landscape. Especially the Rila and Pirin Mountains are of interest to tourists. The latter accommodates the country's highest peak Musala (2,925 m). In general, Bulgaria can be divided into four landscape zones. Besides the Balkan Mountains and the Thracian Mountains in the south, there is the central Bulgarian basin and the Danubian Plain south of the Danube. With a length of 500 kilometres, the Danube is the country's longest river. The Iskar is 368 kilometres long. In addition, there is a number of other smaller and greater rivers. About a third of the present-day area of Bulgaria is covered in thick beech and oak forests. Until the Middle Ages, this area was considerably larger. However, Bulgaria is still characterised by a rich flora and fauna with 124 endemic of all the 3,600 different types of plants and over 40,000 animal species. The forests are home to deer, lynxes, wildcats and wolves. Furthermore, there are over 350 types of birds, including falcons and golden eagles.
Natural sights - High mountains, Seven Rila Lakes and the Black Sea
Bulgaria has about 354 kilometres of coast at the Black Sea, which is considered the country's greatest tourist potential by many people. Many holidaymakers do in fact know the Golden Sands and the Sunny Beach. Especially in summer, the white powdery sand and the blue water become a popular location for families and young people. Besides the well-known beaches, you also find a number of smaller bays and beaches, which are not as crowded. The country's three national parks take up an area of 1,920 km² altogether. The Central Balkan National Park is still an insider tip as it is not famous as the Rila and the Pirin National Park. In addition to the national parks, there are ten natural parks and over 50 nature reserves. The lake sceneries are equally beautiful, including Lake Burgas with an area of 27 km², Lake Mandra and the wonderful Seven Rila Lakes. Bulgaria's great waterfalls are also worth a visit. Worth mentioning are the Raysko Praskalo (125 m), the Krushuna Falls and the Skakavitsa (70 m).
Culture - The Bulgarians' heart
The present-day territory of Bulgaria is said to have already been settled in the Neolithic Age but little is known about this. You find far more traces of the Karanovo and the Varna culture. The latter guarded one of the world's most famous treasures of gold. In the Bronze Age, the Germanic Thracians conquered the region and built the ancient cultural site of the oracle of Perperikon. In the 29th century BC, the Romans conquered the country and left numerous buildings in their typically Roman architecture. It was not before 681 that the Bulgarians founded the Bulgarian Empire, which existed until the 14th century. In 1393, the Ottomans invaded Bulgaria. 500 years passed before the country became independent again. Despite this enormous laps of time, the population made a great effort at maintaining its customs and its sense of national identity. To the present day, Bulgaria constitutes the interface between the oriental world of the east and the western modernity. However, they are all united by the love of their country. Their most beautiful building is located in the capital Sofia and their pride and joy is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a magnificent building from the 20th century. The latter is situated on the city's highest point and can accommodate 5,000 people.
Cultural sights - Bulgaria's rich cultural landscape
Besides the capital Sofia, visitors should not miss out on the coastal city of Varna. As it was part of the Roman Empire in the 2nd and 3rd century, it has many Roman thermal baths and buildings. In addition, you find Bulgaria's Archaeological Museum with over 50,000 exhibits from prehistory to the Middle Ages in Varna. One of the oldest towns is Veliko Tarnovo, which looks back on 5,000 years of history and is probably one of the country's most beautiful towns. It accommodates the famous open-air museum Tsarevets - one of the most frequently visited sights in the whole of Bulgaria. Another famous attraction is Belogradchik Fortress in Vidin Province. This building - half fortress, half rock - was only completed in 1850. Travellers who are interested in authentic, Bulgarian culture will enjoy the open-air museum Arhitekturno-etnogr. kompleks Etar. More than 26 traditional handicrafts are presented on the site. The UNESCO declared the Ivanovo Rock Churches with their medieval art, the rock relief of the Madara Rider from the 8th century and the Boyana Church from the 11th century World Cultural Heritage sites.
Experience - Rakia, rose oil and Ballermann
The way to a Bulgarian's heart is through his or her stomach. Hearty food accompanied by fresh vegetables and juicy fruit fill the table. But before the food is served, locals and visitors enjoy a glass of the Bulgarian national drink rakia. This fruit liqueur made of grapes or plums is high in alcohol and often home-distilled. Actually, the distilling of liqueurs can be considered a kind of Bulgarian national sport as it is not only common but also allowed. Another tradition is that of Bulgarian wines. The heavy red wines with their dry aroma look back on a 5,000-year-old history. If you have the opportunity, you should definitely try the Bulgarian melons, tomatoes or pumpkins, which you can buy at every street corner in the right season. Typical dishes are the banitsa (sheep's cheese in filo pastry), kyufte (grilled meatballs) or skumria (grilled mackerel). Besides the liqueurs, embroidered blouses, dolls in traditional costumes and colourful sweets are popular souvenirs from Bulgaria. A special highlight is the rose oil, which is extracted in the Rose Valley. It is the most important rose-growing area and the main supplier of rose blossoms of the perfume and cosmetics industry. Holidaymakers do not have to go without the typical western shopping experience in Bulgaria. The Bulgarians have shopping centres and Sofia is even equipped with wifi. A truly authentic shopping experience is offered by Varna's pedestrian zone and the colourful bazaars. The country at the Black Sea also has a lot to offer at night. After all, the Golden Sands is known as the "Bulgarian Ballermann" for a reason. Travellers find lively bars, numerous pubs and night clubs in the holiday resorts and in bigger cities like Sofia, Burgas and Varna.
Activities - To the seaside in summer, into the mountains in winter
Besides the Golden Sands and the Sunny Beach, the beaches of Obzor and the Sozopol harbour are excellently suited for long holidays at the seaside. Furthermore, the coast of the Black Sea offers great conditions for different kinds of water sports. Banana boats, Jetskis, water skis, pedaloes and parasailing are offered everywhere during the bathing season. Not only the coast but also the heartland offers a range of leisure activities. Tennis, archery and rafting on the rivers are popular examples. Children and grown-ups also like spending their holidays on the back of a horse. Even beginners can go on rides along the beach or over green meadows. In addition, many riding stables offer riding lessons. The great mountain ranges are equipped with well-developed hiking trails and climbing routes. If you do not dare to climb the mountains on your own, you can join a group. In winter, Bulgaria transforms into a winter wonderland with several great skiing and winter sports resorts. Bansko at the foot of the Pirin Mountains and Aleko on Vitosha Mountain are among the most popular ones.
The best time for travelling Bulgaria is between May and September. It already gets calmer in September, when most tourists have returned home. The late travellers have the country all to themselves now and can still enjoy the warm weather. However, you have to be aware that the water temperature of the Black Sea will drop considerably. It is only 16 °C in October.
Bulgaria is one of the best-known and most beautiful holiday destinations in Europe. Both in summer and winter, the country offers exciting leisure activities and lovers of culture and history can discover many interesting museums, buildings and monuments in Bulgaria.