Bulgaria's spectacular mountains, golden beaches and vibrant cities have begun attracting hordes of eager-eyed tourists over the past few years, and with them much has been transformed in this crossroads between the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe.
The country's mammoth changes have seen its cities and resorts undergoing construction booms galore, tempting buyers from Western Europe with relatively cheap property and stunning landscapes.
Bulgaria's beautiful beach and ski resorts are expanding quickly as a result and have lured visitors away from more expensive European destinations with low-priced lift passes and accommodation options. The main cities have shrugged off their weary Communist-era image and have become vibrant and attractive, with well-kept boulevards, varied shopping and lively nightlife. In contrast, many towns and villages have preserved the authentic Bulgarian spirit and hospitality and the country is especially proud of its rich folklore traditions.
Hikers will find a variety of mountain ranges covering much of the country, with plenty of extraordinary wildlife to be glimpsed along the way. The walking trails are well mapped, taking hikers through forests, past lakes and waterfalls, with the chance to glimpsing bears, wolves and lynx adding a bit of edge to trails. Those keen on caving and kayaking will also find plenty to entertain them, while skiing and snowshoeing is also popular here.
Of course, the attraction that brings most visitors to Bulgaria is its remarkably unspoiled beaches strewn along the Black Sea coast. Less-visited, less-developed and with lots of facilities for water sports, Bulgaria's sandy beaches are the equal to almost any of the more popular coastal spots in the Mediterranean. What’s more, you’ll find many aged seaside towns complete with cobbled streets and historic buildings. Indeed, those interested in history will find Bulgaria a haven of Byzantine heritage, with a long tradition of Orthodox Christian churches and religious art. There are also a number of intriguing, secluded monasteries that are worth visiting, especially for their detailed murals.