Thursday, March 8, 2007

Holidays in Bulgaria

Forget your lingering doubts from Bulgaria´s Communist past and you will be surprised and excited by the modern holiday attractions Bulgaria now has to offer.

Nestling on the banks of the Black Sea, with Romania to the north and Greece and Turkey to the south, and with its ancient historical connections with Russia, Bulgaria comprises an eclectic mix of all these nations, making it a rich and diverse cosmopolitan country with a strong cultural heritage.

Although not yet as visited as its Greek and Turkish neighbours, Bulgaria boasts stunningly untouched landscapes, beautiful, safe sandy beaches and a multitude of tourist attractions ranging from sports to history and culture. This, combined with great value for money and welcoming people, completes the most peoples’ formula for a perfect holiday destination.

Bulgaria has received heavy investment from the World Bank to modernize its entire infrastructure, which has vastly improved tourist facilities here - it is small wonder that tourism in Bulgaria have increased by some 50% in the past four years.

Getting There

Bulgaria is only a short flight from the UK, (2 ½ to 3 hours – great for you and the kids) and has connections from many UK airports.

Flights arrive at one of four international airports: Sofia (SOF), the largest of the airports, Varna (VAR), Ploudiv (PDV) for charter flights to the ski resort of Pomparovo, and Burgas (BOJ) for domestic flights and for summer charter flights to the Black Sea resorts.


If you plan to limit your stay to 30 days within a 6-month period and you are a citizen of the USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Austrialia EU countries visas are unnecessary.


There are no vaccinations required to enter Bulgaria.

Tapwater is safe everywhere in the country.

However, a vaccination for tick born encephalitis is advisable, especially if you will be hiking, biking, or camping. This vaccine is not given in the US, so US citizens should take other precautions against ticks.

Where In Bulgaria?

Beach Resorts

Bulgaria is best known for its budget holiday resorts on the Black Sea.

The major resorts are located at: Albena, Golden Sands (the largest seaside resort where 22 brand new hotels are currently under construction), St. Konstantin, Varna (known as the sea capital and Bulgaria’s third largest city), Elenite, Sunny Beach (the third largest resort) and Bourgas.
These offer all you need for a relaxing and enjoyable holiday: comfortable hotels, sunshine with pleasant temperatures around 26°C in summer, white, non-tidal beaches, water sports and plenty of entertainment as well as historic sites.
For extra entertainment, modern aqua parks can be found in Golden Sands and Sunny Beach.

There are several nudist beaches in Bulgaria. They are located:

- between Albena and Kranevo - after Gergana Hotel in Albena
- Golden Sands resort - past the yacht port, in front of Glarus Hotel
- Kamchia - the widest nudist beach on the Bulgarian Black sea coast and a famous nudist
- Destination.
- Bourgass - north of the town after the Burgas Hotel, direction Nessebur (new town) near the saltpans of Bourgas.
- Sozopol - south of Harmanite beach
Ski Resorts

Did you know Bulgaria is a now a highly desirable ski location, with some of the best value skiing and après-ski available in Europe?

The rugged heights of the Rila and Pirin mountains form a spectacular setting for the ski resorts.
The highest peak is Rila with its Musala peak(2925m).

The season begins in mid-December, extending through to April in many locations. The main ski centres are: at Bansko (the most developed of all the resorts but also retaining a rich history and culture), Borovets (the largest, with 40 km of piste), Pomparovo (highest point is 1,926 m), Chepelare (picturesque and near to the longest Bulgarian ski run, “Mechi Chal (5,200 m) and Vitosha (set in a National Park and overlooking the capital city of Sofia).

Trekking and Local Culture

If you wish to fully experience the true character of the country, you will need to venture away from the resorts to where the locals live.

Crossing the entire country is the Balkan Range, a 435-mile (700km) chain that offers some of the best hiking in Europe. A popular location for easy trekking is Rodopi where you can hike amid beautiful forests. For more strenuous walking, base yourself in the mountain villages of Jeravna or Kotel in the centre of the Eastern Balkan mountains or go to one of the three National Parks at Pirin, Rila or Central Balkan.

The six very different mountain ranges vary from high, snow-covered peaks to gentle green slopes and forests, harbouring thermal springs and mineral spas, and valleys, rich with Balkan flora and fauna.

The mountain dwellers have their own distinctive customs, crafts, colourful folklore, religious beliefs and speech. They welcome guests with typical Bulgarian warm-hearted hospitality, sharing age-old traditions and cooking.

Despite its numerous tourist attractions Bulgaria is a poor country and many, many people live under the poverty line. The villagers mainly live off self-sufficiency and preserve almost everything they produce, even meat.

Festivals and Customs

14 February - Vine Growers’ Day. This ritual originates from the ancient Thracians and is called "Triffon Zarezan". It is connected with the return to work in the vineyards and is officially celebrated by vine-growers, wine makers and vintners alike.

March 1 - Martenitsi. On this day the Bulgarians give to their relatives martenitsi - tasseled red and white thread. White is a symbol of health and strength, red is for longevity with wishes for health and happiness. The festival is connected with the coming of spring.

Late March Mummer’s Celebrations. This is an ancient and popular custom. Dressed in colourful costume, men wearing masks perform ritual dances with which they protect the stockmen and farmers from evil spirits.

Mineral Spa Resorts

Yet another tourist attraction in Bulgaria, and one that people travel to from far and wide to reap their health benefits:

The Black Sea resorts at Sveti Constantine, Pomorie and Albena are famous for their healing mud. The best known Black-Sea spa centers are: Dobroudja Hotel at Albena resort, Ambassador Hotel at Golden Sand resort, Riviera Holiday Club, Sunny Day and Grand Hotel Varna at St.Constantine resort and Pomorie Hotel in the coastal town of Pomorie.
Other treatment spas are located at:

- Hissarya – 22 mineral springs for the treatment of urological and liver diseases
- Sandanski – for bronchial asthma
- Velingrad - for conditions of the respiratory tract and disturbances of the locomotory system, neurological disorders, gynaecological complaints, mild forms of diabetes and obesity
- Kystendil - for conditions of the bones, joints and tendons, disorders of the nervous system, cardiovascular diseases, disturbances of the reproductive system and sterility

Monuments and Museums

The abundance of cultural and historical monuments, including ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman sites, makes Bulgaria the perfect destination for history lovers. Many of the cultural monuments in Bulgaria are listed under the protection of UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Here are some of the many sites to choose from:

Archaeology sites: Nikopolis ad Istrum (early Byzantian town), Tsarevets Fortress (ancient capital of Bulgaria), The Deaf Stones (megalithic stones), The Bukelon Fortress (on the Turkish border), The Thracian tomb (made before Roman times), Sboryanovo reserve and Perperikon (the Sacred City)

Architectural Monuments: Veliko Turnovo (ancient capital), Baba Vida Castle (medieval, with views over the Danube), Pleven Panorama (one of the biggest in the world), Arbanassi (15th century settlement), Tryavna (Renaissance cultural city), Mustafa Pasha bridge (built 1529 and still intact), Guiness Book of Records statue (in Haskoyo), Bojentsi (typical 19th century dwellings) and Staro STefanovo architectural reserve (100 cultural monuments from beginning and mid 19th century)

Churches and Monastries: Aladja Rock Monastry (early middle ages), , Bachkovo Monastry (founded 1083), Cherepishki Monastry (14th century), Saint Dimitar (2 churches in Godech), Balsha Church (semi circular church), Sokolovo Monastery (founded 1832)

Museums: National History Museum (Sofia), National Museum of Military History (est. 1916), Museums in Bourgas, Sliven and Yambol region, Steamship “Radetzky” (floating museum to commemorate the life of revolutionary and poet, Hristo Botey) and the Mausoleum – Tomb of Prince Alexander 1 Battenberg (first prince of Bulgaria)

Getting Around

Road travel has been greatly modernized in anticipation of EU membership in 2007 and in line with development of the country’s infrastructure.

One-way bus passes cost between € 0.80 (£0.57) and € 1.60 (£1.15) depending on the distance travelled. However, the conventions for bus travel vary from city to city. In Sofia, you can purchase intercity tickets in advance which will be punched at the time of boarding. But in other cities, you pay per ride.

If you plan to travel between cities by bus, look for private bus companies, whose buses are newer, cleaner, and faster.

Taxis cost around €.0.20 (15p) for a pickup and roughly € 0.30 (20p) per mile after that. There are no extra charges for additional passengers.

Trains around Bulgaria can be slow. Timetables are difficult to come by, so you may have to go to the train station to plan you trip. Should you need a sleeper car, for example between Varna and Sofia, book in advance to ensure you get one.


Bulgaria's cuisine is influenced by its neighbouring Balkan countries of Yugoslavia, Greece and northern Turkey.

Traditional food includes Bulgarian bread, pickled vegetables, salads, soups, stews, casseroles, stuffed vegetables, kebabs, spicy sausages and cheese dishes. Yoghurt is very popular and eaten most days. In fact, Bulgaria is said to be the home of yoghurt and Bulgarian yoghurt is thought to have curative properties.

Meat, fish and vegetarian dishes are served with rice or bulgar wheat. Vegetables include aubergines, beans, cabbage, carrots, corn, courgettes, cucumbers, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and olives.

Favourite desserts are pancakes, baklava, baked apples and fruit: apricots, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, grapes, melons, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, pears, plums and quinces.

Traditional alcoholic drinks are "rakiya" (a fruit brandy, often made of plum), wine and "boza" (a type of beer made with millet). Non-alcoholic drinks include coffee, tea, juices, buttermilk and mineral water.

As with most activities in Bulgaria, going out to a restaurant is great value for money. A breakfast may set you back € 2.50 (£1.75) and a typical 3 course lunch a mere €5.00 (£3.50)!


If you are looking for a holiday destination where modern attitudes and amenities are still perfectly balanced by quaint traditional values, look no further in your quest for the ideal holiday home than Bulgaria!

Holiday homes in Bulgaria still represent great value. Many investors are jumping onto the band wagon so as not to miss out on an opportunity to enjoy repeated holidays skiing in the winter and sunbathing in the summer, meanwhile watching the value of their investment grow before their very eyes!

What is more, many off-plan purchases are accompanied by guaranteed rental agreements which ensure you make extra money from your investment for the time that you are not using the property. With year-round tourism on the up, your chances of maximum occupancy are high, provided you choose in the right location.

Article Source:

Tina Andlaw lives in Spain and regularly contributes articles to Sunseeker Homes ( the Spanish property information website.