The most beautiful places to visit in Bulgaria

20 of the most beautiful places to visit in Bulgaria

I think it’s quite amazing that Bulgaria is still considered to be off the beaten track for Western tourists, because the country has a bit of everything, and all at very affordable prices. The Mountain slopes of Bansko and Pomporovo attract skiers in the winter and the Black Sea beaches draw the crowds in the summer months.

Sofia – the capital – is probably not the most beautiful city you can visit, but once you get out into the countryside and start exploring the gorgeous coastline, I think you’ll fall captive to Bulgaria’s special charm. Here is my choice for the most beautiful places to visit in Bulgaria…

The Black Sea Beaches – Bulgaria’s most famous coastline

Black Sea Beaches Bulgaria

Black Sea Beach Bulgaria

A good place to start is the country’s famous coastline. Bulgaria is known for its Black Sea coastline which has long stretches of sandy beaches dotted with hotels, traditional fishing villages and historical sites. Tourists flock to the glitzier resorts of Sunny Beach and Golden Sands, but I personally believe the city beaches in Varna and Burgas are just as beautiful.

Our cool and unusual hotel pick for the Black Sea – Long Beach hotel and spa

Cool place to stay in Black Beach, Bulgaria

The beautiful highlights of the Black Sea coast…

Map - where to find Black Sea Beaches in Bulgaria

Nessebar – known as the Pearl of the Black Sea and easily one of the best places to visit in Bulgaria

Nessebar - most beautiful places to visit in Bulgaria

Nessebar in Bulgaria

Often referred to as the Pearl of the Black Sea, the historic town of Nessebar dates back to antiquity when it was founded as a Thracian settlement known as Menebria. Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Bulgarians, Crusaders, and Ottomans all took turns fortifying the ancient town, and the narrow peninsula on which it is located.

Today a stroll on its cobblestone streets will bring you to remnants of some 40 brick churches, dating back as far as the 5th century. The beautiful town is such an important site it’s recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Our cool and unusual hotel pick in Nessebar – Aqua Paradise Resort & Aqua Park

Cool hotels to stay in Nessebar

Maps - where to find Nesebar in Bulgaria

 

Sozopol – a beautiful ancient seaside town

Sozopol - places to visit in Bulgaria

Sozopol in Bulgaria

One of the oldest towns on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coastline, Sozopol is a popular fishermen’s village and seaside resort. Located 35 kilometres south of Burgas, Sozopol was known in the 6th century BC as Apollonia, complete with a temple dedicated to Apollo. The town is small enough for a casual stroll.

You can walk along the quays as the day’s catch is unloaded or through the old town with its wooden houses calling out in desperation for repair. If you find the sea too deep or rough for swimming, you can always sunbathe on the rocks located along the shore.

Our cool and unusual hotel pick for Sozopol – Blu Bay Hotel

Cool hotels to stay in Sozopol

Map - where to find Sozopol

Rila Monastery – the most famous monastery in Bulgaria and a stunning place to explore in Bulgaria

Rila Monastery - best places to visit in Bulgaria

Known as the Jerusalem of Bulgaria, this picturesque Eastern Orthodox monastery in the forested mountains less than two hours south of Sofia is definitely worth a pilgrimage visit. Named for St. Ivan of Rilski, a tenth-century hermit who lived in a nearby cave, the monastery has been built, burnt, and rebuilt over the centuries, with the latest construction dating to the 1800s.

Enter the courtyard and you will be stunned by the perfect harmony of the church, with its graceful arches in bold stripes of black and white set under a row of sculpted gargoyles, tiled roofs, and five domes reaching towards the sky. In the distance are the peaks of the Rila Mountains, complimenting an oasis of serenity perfect for religious hermits and modern visitors alike.

Maps - Rila Monastery in Bulgaria

Varna – one of Bulgaria’s most popular holiday resorts

Varna in Bulgaria

Varna is one of the major tourist destinations in Bulgaria. It is easy to see why — it is a beautiful city that has wonderful beaches, excellent restaurants, and lovely green spaces. Varna is often referred to as the sea capital of Bulgaria, as many Bulgarians flock to the city in the warmer months.

There are many picturesque beaches with fine golden sand and crystal clear water in Varna. There are also a couple of good surf breaks available if you prefer to surf or bodyboard. Rapongi Beach is perhaps the best beach in Varna, as it is well maintained and doesn’t get too crowded.

You can also travel north to the resort of Sunny Day or to Siruius Beach, which are both stunning locations that are popular with tourists. There are plenty of other activities to enjoy in the city, including many excellent clubs, restaurants, and bars along Kraybrezhna Aleya. You will find this part of the city quite charming and beautiful at night.

Maps - where to find Varna in Bulgaria

Plovdiv Old Town – a spectacular architectural and historical reserve

Plovdiv Old Town - Bulgaria

Plovdiv, the second-largest city in Bulgaria, has something that Sofia does not – an old town on a hill. The city was founded some 6,000 years ago and developed on seven hills, but one of them was destroyed at the beginning of the 20th century.

The Old Town towers over the city centre with structures from different eras, including a remarkably well-preserved Roman amphitheater. The Old Town is best known for its Bulgarian Renaissance architectural style, with colourful houses displaying the National Revival’s unique exterior characteristics on every corner. Walking up the hill is a delight, with the many galleries and house museums all worth a visit.

Plovdiv Old Town - places to visit in Bulgaria

Belogradchik – an ancient and important beauty spot and a stunning natural attraction in Bulgaria

Belogradchik Bulgaria

Belogradchik Fortress is a manmade construction set against a stunning outcrop of rocks. The combination is so unique and picturesque, that it seems to have been lifted straight out of a Disney fairytale. What’s even more unique than the fortress is the surrounding countryside.

The Belogradchik Rocks, named in 2009 as Bulgaria’s candidate to be selected as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, are a stunning arrangement of strange-shaped sandstone and conglomerate rock formations.

Maps - Belogradchik in Bulgaria

Lake Atanasovsko – a salt pond and a popular wellness attraction in Bulgaria

Lake Atanasovsko in Bulgaria

Lake Burgas is a beautiful bright pink lake just west of the city of Burgas. Unlike most other pink lakes around the world, the lake’s colour is not solely caused by high salt levels.

Although there is a lot of salt in the lake, it is also influenced by the farming of brine shrimp in the water. The colour of the lake tends to vary depending on where the fishermen and salt miners are currently active. There are multiple basins in the middle of the south side of the lake that are used for salt mining.

These basins often have the most vivid colours, ranging from dark red to a soft pink. Unlike other pink lakes, it is possible to swim in Lake Burgas. In fact, it is encouraged, because the mud that the lake contains is said to have medicinal properties. Some of the locals believe it has anti-ageing properties and can heal certain ailments, because of this it’s a well-known wellness attraction in Bulgaria.

Maps - where to find Lake Atanasovsko in Bulgaria

Koprivshtitsa – another beautiful architectural and historical reserve and a fantastic place to explore in Bulgaria

Koprivshtitsa Bulgaria

Walking the narrow alleyways of the village of Koprivshtitsa, some two hours east of Sofia, you’ll feel that you’re being transported back to the momentous months of 1876, when the Bulgarians valiantly fought against their oppressive Ottoman rulers.

Inside the colourful houses, representatives of Bulgarian National Revival architecture of the 19th century, local patriots plotted their rebellion leading up to the first shot being fired in the ultimately unsuccessful April Uprising. The village is full of memorials and museum houses displaying ethnographical treasures, old weapons and farm implements, national costumes, artwork, and jewellery.

Maps - Koprivshtitsa in Bulgaria

Veliko Tarnovo – one of the oldest cities in Bulgaria

Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria

This was the historic capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire between the 12th and 14th centuries, Veliko Tarnovo is located in central Bulgaria and is a popular tourist attraction.

The reconstructed Tsarevets fortress bears no resemblance to the medieval palaces of the Bulgarian tsars who ruled from the hilltop until their defeat by the Ottomans in 1393. Still, one senses Bulgaria’s former greatness when walking through the gates of this picturesque stronghold.

Map - where to find Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria

Melnik – a charming and pretty wine town

Melnik Bulgaria

Melnik is known for two reasons. It is the smallest city in Bulgaria and it is home to some of the best wineries in the country. It will take you minutes to walk up the town’s one main street, but you’ll sit for hours at a local tavern, your head spinning under the intoxicating spell of the rich red wines. If you manage to get up from your seat, the nearby pyramidal Melnik Rocks and the Rozhen Monastery are worth a visit. 

Map - where to find Melnik in Bulgaria

Pomorie – a wonderful seaside resort in Bulgaria

Pomorie - great places to visit in Bulgaria

Pomorie is a picturesque seaside resort town located in Burgas Bay, on the eastern seaboard of Bulgaria. Easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Bulgaria, the town sits on a narrow rocky peninsula with spectacular views of the coastline to the north and south. While it attracts many Bulgarian tourists each year, it is something of a well-kept secret that most foreign tourists don’t know about.

The town has two distinct sections — the old town centre to the east and the newer, more touristy section to the west/southwest. The old town centre is a charming location with many small hotels, authentic shops and small restaurants. The eastern tip of the peninsula has a couple of small beaches that are usually less crowded compared to the ones to the north or southwest.

Sunset Resort is located to the southwest of the town. It is a modern resort that is adjacent to South Beach, which is the largest beach in the town. This is a more touristy part of the town, but a fantastic location to stay if you are looking for a resort with modern amenities. Pomorie Lake is one of the “must-see” locations in Pomorie. Located to the north of town, it is a stunning saline coastal lagoon that is home to dozens of bird species. Medicinal mud is produced at the lake and visitors can enjoy a restorative mud bath.

Other attractions in the area include the Museum of Salt, the Pomorie Museum of History, and the street markets in Kableshkovo (held every Thursday). There are also two local wineries worth visiting — Winery Messembria and Stratsin Winery.

Map - where to find Pomorie in Bulgaria

The Evksinograd Residence – a former royal summer palace

Evksinograd Bulgaria

The Evksinograd Residence is one of the most romantic buildings in Bulgaria and one of the best places to visit in Bulgaria. Located 8 kilometres north of Varna, this 19th-century palace was often used as a holiday home for royalty. The building was built after Prince Battenberg visited Varna in 1880 and was so impressed by the local nature that he had to have a property in the area. Construction began two years later adjacent to an old monastery and the building was finished by his success, Bring Ferdinand.

The exterior of the mansion is very similar to French mansions of the 18th century. It is ornate, romantic, and quite beautiful. The interiors are luxurious, with marble fireplaces, French chandeliers, large dining halls, antique furniture, and rare paintings. Expect to see a lot of gold and silk!

The grounds surrounding the park are no less decadent. French park architects were designed to layout the 800-acre park. They planted many rare species of plants, some of which are alive today. At one stage, there were more than 500 species of flowers in the grounds and greenhouses. A winery was added to the palace in 1891 and still produces excellent wines today. It produces Chardonnay, Riesling, Traminer, Muscat Ottone and Vratsa Muscat wines.

Tourists can visit the palace, explore the parks and even sample the wines. It is also possible to stay in the palace complex and there is a restaurant on the grounds. It is a beautiful building that is sure to delight.

Map - where to find Evksinograd Bulgaria

Seven Lakes – a group of stunning glacial lakes

Seven Lakes Bulgaria - beautiful places to explore in Bulgaria

One of Bulgaria’s main tourist attractions is a group of glacial lakes located high in the Rila Mountains. The appropriate time to visit the lakes is in the summer months, as even in June the lakes can be frozen, with the terrain alternating between deep snowdrifts and patches of brilliant wildflowers.

The gorgeous lakes are located one above the other in a mountain valley, interconnected by streams and waterfalls. Access to the lakes is not easy, although riding a ski lift shortens the distance up the steep mountainside. Legends say the lakes were formed by the tears of a female giant, crying for her beloved.

Map - where to find Seven Lakes in Bulgaria

Belogradchik Fortress – a unique ancient fortress

Belogradchik Fortress Bulgaria

Belogradchik Fortress is an ancient fortress built located in northwest Bulgaria on the northern slopes of the Balkan Mountains. One of the best attractions in Bulgaria, it’s close to the Bulgarian town of Belogradchik, which is home to about 5,000 people. The fortress was established as a surveillance post when the region was controlled by the Roman Empire.

It was extended in the 14th century by the Bulgarian tsar Ivan Stratsimir to include fortified garrisons. The fortress was captured by the Ottomans in 1396, who made it even larger to repel the hajduk insurrectionists in the area.

The final set of changes occurred in the 19th century. The size of the fortress was expanded yet again and European elements were added by the French and Italian engineers who were assisting the Ottomans during its redevelopment. The way that the fortress runs between the huge sections of natural rock is quite awe-inspiring and there are some incredibly scenic views from the top of the fortress.

Maps - Belogradchik Fortress in Bulgaria

Tevno Vasilashko Lake – a beautiful natural gem in Bulgaria

Tevno Vasilashko Lake Bulgaria

Tevno Vasilashko Lake is one of the most spectacular locations not just in Bulgaria but in Europe. It is a magnificent glacial lake surrounded by rugged mountain peaks located in Pirin, Bulgaria. The lake has a unique saturated blue colour that reflects the huge mountains nearby. Tevno lake is the largest of a series of glacial lakes in the area called the Vasilashko Lakes.

The other lakes are Fish Vasilashko Lake, Upper Vasilashko Lake, Rainbow-shaped Vasilashko Lake, and Upper Todorino Lake. They are all beautiful lakes, but Tevno Vasilashko Lake is easily the most impressive. There are tour operators who offer one-day trips up the Vasilashki glacial valley, visiting 3 or four of the lakes. It is a magical journey that showcases an incredible part of Bulgaria.

Map - Tevno Vasilashko Lake in Bulgaria

Dolen village – a pretty and charming alpine village

Dolen village - best places to visit in Bulgaria

Dolen Village is an alpine village located in the western Rhode mountains (about 26 kms from Gotse Delchev). It is one of the most romantic villages in Bulgaria, with narrow cobblestone roads, stone walls, and authentic buildings designed in the Bulgarian Revival style.

The village was founded in the 16th century by Bulgarians escaping the Ottomans who had invaded the country. It flourished in the 18th century, as multiple industries in the area became prosperous.

Many of the houses have stone foundations, with timber walls and overhanging top stories. Inside, there are usually ornate ceilings and elaborate carpentry on display. The locals have added wonderful gardens to most homes, so walking the streets is like being a part of a beautiful fairy tale. It is an experience you won’t forget.

Maps - where to find Dolen village

Pirin National Park – impressive nature formations

Pirin National Park Bulgaria

Most travellers don’t realise how picturesque the natural environment is in Bulgaria until they see the Pirin National Park. It is a 403.56 km2 park that in southwestern Bulgaria. It encompasses most of the Pirin Mountains – a vast mountain range covering through the southwestern part of the country.

Pirin National Park has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1983 and the park is a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The park is home to more than 100 glacial lacks, with the largest being Popovo Lake. There are also many stunning glaciers located throughout the mountains.

There are hundreds of different animal species in the park, including the wonderful boreal owl, white-backed woodpecker, fire salamander, agile frog, red deer, and Eurasian three-toed woodpecker. If you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of one of the rarer animals in the park, like the lesser spotted eagle, golden eagle, or peregrine falcon. Visiting the stunning park is a special experience that you will never forget.

Map - where to find Pirin National Park Bulgaria

Kamchia Biosphere Reserve – a protected area of ecological importance

Beautiful Kamchia Biosphere Reserve Bulgaria

There are many beautiful national parks to visit in Bulgaria, however, the Kamchia Biosphere Reserve stands out because of its massive size and pristine natural environment. This reserve is a 1,200 hectare (2,965 acre) UNESCO-listed biosphere located on the northern coastline of Bulgaria. It has a varied landscape ranging from vast floodplains at the mouth of the Kamchia river through to long beaches adjacent to the Black Sea coastline.

Established in 1977, it contains many primeval forests and spectacular natural waterways. The reserve is located 20 km south of Varna and surrounded by the villages of Bliznatsi, Staro Oriahovo, and Shkorpilovtsi. Kamchia is the perfect location for hiking, camping, boating, or relaxing on one of the many vast beaches. It is a peaceful location that gives visitors a chance to feel at one with nature and explore the stunning natural environment of Bulgaria.

Maps - where to find Kamchia Biosphere Reserve

Zheravna – a beautifully preserved architectural reserve and one of the prettiest places to visit in Bulgaria

Zheravna - attractions in Bulgaria

Located in the rolling hills of Balkan Mountain Range is the magical village of Zheravna. The village is an architectural reserve consisting of more than 200 houses built during the Bulgarian National Revival period in the 18th and 19th century. Walking through the village is like travelling back in time. You will marvel at the wonderful buildings with their detailed carpentry, red ceramic roof tiles, and elaborate timber decorations.

Many of the buildings have been converted into guest houses, so it is possible to stay in the town. The interiors of the guest houses are just as lovely as the exteriors, featuring wooden carvings and ornate carpentry performed by craftsmen hundreds of years ago. There are plenty of nature walks surrounding the village, plus several museums and an art gallery.

Maps - where to find Zheravna in Bulgaria

Accommodation recommendation disclaimer

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Beth was born under a wandering star, with drama in her veins and ink in her pen. After stints studying theatre in Dublin and Utrecht she used her creative streak to see as much of the world as she could on as little money. She toured Italian Schools with a children's theatre troop, lived as an au-pair in both Rome and Washington DC, explored the British countryside, worked her way through much of Europe, Salsa'd in Cuba and road tripped down America's west coast where she discovered her spiritual home; Portland, Oregon. In between adventures she resides peacefully with her cat and ukulele amid the misty valleys and rolling hills of beautiful South Wales.

31 Comments

  • Avatar

    Nilay Sharma

    4 June, 2020 at 7:14 am

    Your post recall my old memories. when I was 17 years old. My father got a Bulgaria family trip from his office. I visit so many places in Bulgaria. Like parks, restaurant and many other. But Back sea beach is very beautiful all over the Bulgaria. Thanks for recall my old memories.

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Slavi Baylov

    14 June, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    Thank you for a wonderful article on Bulgaria my birthplace
    My home now is NYC for a little over 20 years and unfortunately for me I have lost touch with some of Bulgaria unique places to visit that I have never been even close to except the Black Sea;(
    I’m planning a very short 3 day trip to surprise my mom for her birthday in July and after seeing the wonderful pics I have made a decision to spend a day in Melnik with my family;)
    Thank you for sharing with us your experience in BG and I’m glad it’s been a great one ☝️

    Reply
    • Avatar

      LESTER A. MEADE

      21 November, 2017 at 2:28 am

      Im starting to feel that Bulgaria is way misunderstood pertaining to the Engineering and political influence it has had on the world. I think that Ancient Bulgaria could be the birth place of all modern humans and relegious thought. Every ancient discovers in Bulgaria predates all other civilizations! I,m even starting to think that the Dorians , that migrated to the southern Helens in 1200 BC, may have been the Ancient Tracians of Bulgaria. If, my new book is ever puplished, I will definitly spend a lot of ti

      Reply
  • Avatar

    Laura

    29 May, 2017 at 11:58 am

    When you are on the north of the Black Sea Coast you may made some trips around: the mussel farm Daboka, Balchik with his gorgeous Botanical Garden and Queen Maria’s Castle, Varna with the amazing night life.

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  • Avatar

    Stefan Nikolov

    27 December, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    The Bulgarian town Nessebar is one of the oldest settlements in Europe.
    It has a long and rich history and offers excellent conditions for an unforgettable romantic seaside vacation.

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Galina Stoykova

    23 April, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    I’m Bulgarian born and bread and I love my country so much and I never tire of its wonders. These photos are beautiful.

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Guy Jones

    20 February, 2015 at 10:13 am

    I’d disagree about the Sofia not being the most attractive city, I liked it’s variety of architecture, as well as its proximity to Mount Vitosha and theamount of greenery in the city itself.

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    Sophia

    10 February, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    Well done, Ellis! Nice to see you’re still writing about Bulgaria. I still have to check Belogradchik off my list… good reminder, thanks. 🙂

    Reply

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