Seeking a summer holiday at a reasonable price? Look no further, says Liz Connor, Bulgaria is the one.
Bulgaria rarely tops peoples’ ultimate bucket list destinations, but if you’ve previously overlooked this European country, you’re missing out on epic scenery, cheap eats and off-the-beaten-track adventure.
It’s a great time to visit too, as the Balkan nation has been added to the green list in the latest review of the UK government’s traffic light system for international travel.
That means you won’t have to quarantine on return from the country, but you will need to follow foreign travel advice and check entry requirements.
If you’re planning a last-minute getaway, allow us to share why Bulgaria should firmly be on your radar…
1. It’s really affordable
Unfathomably so. The average price of a pint in Bulgaria tends to be less than £1, making it one of the cheapest places to enjoy a tipple in Europe. You can enjoy plenty of tourist attractions on a shoestring too, especially if factoring in the cost of private PCR testing has put a dent in your budget.
2. The scenery is epic
One thing Bulgaria is famous for is its mountains. Just 70km south from the capital of Sofia the Rila Range is the country’s highest and most Instagrammed. Its jagged peaks are prime for scenic hikes that overlook glassy lakes.
3. It’s full of lovely villages
The Old Town of Nessebar is on the UNESCO heritage list, and it’s a historic spot to spend an afternoon sightseeing. Known as the ‘Pearl of the Black Sea’, visitors say it’s like stepping back in time, with houses dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.
If you go further into the mainland though, you can find plenty of lesser-visited villages – like Kovachevitsa and Leshten – where you can experience true Bulgarian hospitality.
4. There are stunning cathedrals and monasteries
The Rila Monastery is a particular highlight. It’s hard not to be struck by the incredible frescoes, colourful murals and religious artwork.
5. It’s a great place to try some new culinary delights
Bulgaria is famous for Shopska Salata, a salad dish topped with grated white brine cheese. Trying Bulgarian yogurt is also a must, and if you’re looking to sample the local drinks, make sure to raise a toast with rakia, a type of traditional, homemade fruit brandy.
6. It’s perfect for culture vultures
Thanks to its rich history, Bulgaria is a cultural melting pot with many different influences. Hunt for myriad architectural landmarks that span the Thracian, Roman Byzantine, Greek and Medieval periods.
7. It has great beaches
If you prefer nothing more than relaxing on the beach with a good book, you can find that in Bulgaria too. The Black Sea coastline is stunning and Sunny Beach is the most popular with tourists looking for bars and nightlife.
If you prefer to escape the crowds, head to Karadere, a wild, white sand beach that remains unblighted by hotels.