Things to see and do in Bulgaria
National Tourist Information CentreAddress: , Ploshtad Sveta Nedelya 1, Sofia, 1040
Telephone: (02) 933 5811.
Attractions in Bulgaria
Spectacular Trigrad Gorge is in the Rhodope Mountains close to the town of Trigrad in Southern Bulgaria, and is flanked by walls rising to 250m (820ft). One of the most popular sites at the gorge is Devil's Throat Cave which formed when layers of the mountain collapsed. From here, visitors can travel through a manmade tunnel to see the highest underground waterfalls in Europe which cascade 42m (138ft) into the abyss below. Nearby is the famous Haramiiska Cave where archaeologists discovered evidence of human habitation dating back over 4,000 years. There are over 150 other caves in the region and the area is popular with rock climbers; numerous companies provide guides and tuition. The region is also popular with birdwatchers who come to see Pallid swifts, Crag martins, Rock Partridges and the rare Wallcreeper.
Situated 8km (5 miles) from Plovdiv, the monastery was founded in the 11th century and is home to rare frescoes, icons, manuscripts and coins. Batchkovo lies within the area known in ancient times as Thrace, and many items of archaeological interest have been discovered, including wonderful gold Thracian objects.
Explore the age-old town of Belogradchik, nestled in the foothills of the Balkan Mountains in northwest Bulgaria. The main attractions include the Belogradchik fortress, the ancient Magura Cave on Rabisha Lake, and the Belogradchik Rocks, a wondrous expanse of bizarrely shaped, colourful rock formations, named a Natural Landmark by the Bulgarian government.
Inhale the scent of roses
For centuries Bulgarians have planted roses, and extracted their heavenly essence - attar of roses. The Rose Valley is magically transformed with breathtaking blooms in May and early June each year when The Festival of Roses is celebrated in many towns of the region.
Melnik wine cellars
Enjoy the fruits of the vine in Melnik. The tiny town, with 18th- and 19th-century houses perched on strangely-shaped limestone and sand pyramids, is famous for its wine cellars. At weekends, Bulgarians flock here for its wonderful mehanas for traditional food and the local brew.
Plovdiv's old city
Bulgaria's second-largest city is divided by the Maritsa River. Get lost around the narrow cobbled streets and quaint houses, and visit the Roman Amphitheatre. The hub of the new city is the lively pedestrianised ulitsa Alexander Batemberg, with shops, cafés and galleries.
Be fascinated by the vast collection of murals, woodcarvings, old weapons and bibles written on parchment at Rila Monastery, 121km (75 miles) from Sofia. Fire has destroyed most of the early 10th-century architecture, and the present buildings date from the 19th century, with the exception of the 14th-century Khrelio's Tower.
Roman Thermae in Varna
Located in the territory of the ancient city Odessos, the magnificent roman baths in Varna are a relic of Roman legacy in Bulgaria. Visit the well-preserved baths, the largest Roman public building in Bulgaria, and then wander through the seaside city of Varna for sweeping views of the Black Sea and endless historical landmarks.
Discover the Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Turkish architectural styles of the capital, Sofia, boasting museums, churches, art galleries and opera houses. The stunning gold-leaf domed Nevski Memorial Church is the most famous sight, with the sixth-century St Sofia and the Museum of archaeology nearby. UNESCO wondersDiscover Bulgaria's nine UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites, including the perfectly preserved fourth-century murals in the Thracian Kazanluk Tomb, the Sveshtari Tomb near Razgrad, the 13th-century Boyana Church on the outskirts of Sofia, and the Ivanovo Rock Monasteries near Rouss
Visit the ancient museum town of Veliko Turnovo, capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1187-1393), situated on three hills circled by the River Yantra. It contains extraordinary collections of historic works of art, including church relics.
Relax in one of Bulgaria's many mineral water spas. The curative properties of the Bulgarian mineral waters have been known and used for centuries. Ancient mineral complexes were built near the mineral springs and there are now plenty of top hotels with spas, especially around the Black Sea coast.
For mountain biking enthusiasts, the Rhodopi mountains provide excellent trails, while cycling along the Black Sea coast is a popular family activity.
Climb every mountain
Organised mountaineering and climbing trips can be arranged in the areas of Vratsa, Veliko Tarnovo, Trojan, Maliovitza and Roussenski Lom. The steep rocks of the Pirin, Rhodope, Rila and Stara Planina are popular with expert climbers, and there are numerous caves and spectacular rock formations, many with ancient cave paintings.
Bulgaria has 35,000km (21,749 miles) of waymarked paths and one- or two-week trips through the wild mountains can be arranged. Guides are provided and accommodation is usually in mountain chalets, guest houses or camps.
Get back to nature in Bulgaria's national parks. These include the ancient Bailusheva pine forests and limestone rocks in Pirin National Park, the seven lakes and 10th-century monastery in Rila National Park, and the Raiskoto Praskalo waterfall, the highest in the Balkan peninsula (www.bulgariannationalparks.org).
Horse riding has traditionally been popular in Bulgaria; possible itineraries include the Danube Valley, the Balkan, Rila and Stara Planina mountains and the Valley of Roses.
Sample the folklore
Bulgaria's traditional music festivals are an important part of Bulgarian rural life. Pirin Pee festival features the famous Pirin Folk Ensemble, a major group based in Blagoevgrad.
Ski the slopes
Quaint Bansko (www.banskoski.com) is the newest ski area, set in a historical town at the foot of the Pirin Mountains; Pamporovo (www.pamporovoresort.com), in the Rhodopi range, is Europe's southernmost ski resort; and Borovets (www.borovets-bg.com), in the Rila Mountains, is Bulgaria's oldest and largest mountain resort.
Swim in the Black Sea
Bulgaria has over 370km (232 miles) of glorious coastline with sandy beaches. Try busy resorts Sunny Beach and Golden Sands, picturesque Albena, historical Nesebar, the cultural and historical city of Varna, or the Mediterranean ambience of port city Bourgas.
Valley of the Thracian Kings
Stroll amongst the ancient burial mounds in the valley of Kazanluk. As well as the famous Kazanluk tomb there are interesting tombs at the villages of Krun, Muglizh, the Koprinka Dam and many others.