Located in Southeast Europe, in the Northeast part of the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria is just a couple of hours away from most European capitals.
Our country offers an incredible voyage through mystical forests, golden shores, snowy peaks, ancient fortresses, heavenly monasteries and astounding natural wonders. It is a place where civilization and nature meet to create the perfect blend between urban life and great outdoors and where everything is at hands. The country offers are varied and exciting attractions: skiing, windsurfing, hiking, spa, golf, etc.
Bulgaria is among the most affordable destinations in Europe where even the most demanding tourists' wishes will be satisfied. And once visited, it will always give you something to come back for.
These advantages together with the growing number of three, four, and five-star hotels in the large city centers along the Black Sea coast and at the mountain resorts make the country more and more attractive for congress tourism.
Sofia is one of the oldest capitals in Europe with history that goes back to 7000 year ago. It is also the only capital in Europe with a mountain above 2000 meters within its territory – the Vitosha mountain. A vibrant city, which combines in itself old and modern architecture, monuments of national and world significance, great restaurants and charming bars, green parks for a perfect rest.
Vitosha mountain (Cherni vrah peak – 2290 m.), Pancharevo lake
Churches:Alexander Nevski Cathedral (the biggest cathedral on the Balkan peninsular) , the Russian Church, the Rotunda St. George (4th century), St. Sofia church, Boyana Church (UNESCO site)
Museums:Archeological, Historical, Natural, Socialist art
Other attractions: the ruins of Serdica, the Parliament, the National Assembly, the National Theatre, the King’s Palace, The Synagogue, The Mosque, Tsar Liberator Monument, St Sofia Monument.
Plovdiv is Bulgaria’s second-largest city, situated only on 150 km away from Sofia. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe - it is a contemporary of Troy and Mycenae, and older than Rome, Carthage or Constantinople. Plovdiv has more than 200 archaeological sites, 30 of which are of national importance.
The Old Plovdiv with the ancient amphitheatre, the Roman Stadium, the Mosque, the St. Constantine and Helena Church; Plovdiv’s Ethnographical Museum, Trakart museum, several mosques; National Revival Houses
Veliko Tarnovo is a city in north central Bulgaria, known as the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The town is an important landmark for Bulgaria, and the statistics show that the city and its region are in the top ten of the most visited tourist destinations in Eastern Europe.
Tsarevets Fortress, Church of St. Demetrius of Thessaloniki and SS. Forty Martyrs Church, Samovodska Charshiya /old craftsman market/, The open museum town of Arbanassi (4 kms away from Veliko Tarnovo), Sound and Light Show, The first wax museum on the Balkans
SANDANSKI & MELNIK
Sandanskiis a town and a recreation center in south-western Bulgaria, part of Blagoevgrad Province. Named after revolutionary Yane Sandanski, it is situated in a valley at the foot of Pirin Mountains, along the banks of Sandanska Bistritsa River. Sandanski is about 20 km away from Bulgaria-Greece border. The town has a convenient location, mild to warm climate (with the highest average annual temperature in the country, +14.1°C) and relatively high concentration of thermal water springs, which all make it a very popular destination for relaxation and recreation.
Thermal springs, Rupite, where the Bulgarian prophet Vanga spent her last years. Many people come here to worship the phenomenon of Vanga, who helped thousands of people and uttered many prophecies come true, Pirin national park
Melnikis an architectural reserve and the smallest town in Bulgaria (334 native people). It is a landmark by itself with the white old houses huddled in the unique formations known as Melnik pyramids. It is also perfect winemaking territory. Almost every house is turned into a family owned hotel, restaurant or wine cellar. It still preserves the unspoiled atmosphere of southern Pirin. The climate is healing and it is good for people with pulmonary, kidneys and rheumatic diseases. Melnik hosts many international folklore festivals.
The unique architecture of Melnik and the nearby Rozhen Monastery (located 6 km southeast of Melnik), The local wine from the varietal Broad Leave Melnik Vine was reportedly a favourite of Winston Churchill's, Interesting architectural landmarks include the Byzantine House, one of the oldest civilian buildings in the Balkans.
Bulgaria is a country with millennium rich history and cultural heritage.
Visitors will find much to interest them in the country’s history, culture, ethnography, religion, architecture and arts. Unique archaeological sites abound throughout the country – ancient settlement mounds from the Neolithic age, Thracian sanctuaries and tombs, remains of Roman cities, Byzantine and Medieval fortresses, architectural reserves, ethnographic complexes, churches and monasteries, Tekkes (mosques), among many others.
Despite the fact that it occupies only 2% of Europe’s territory, about 40,000 historical monuments have been registered in Bulgaria (7 of which are included in the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage sites), 36 cultural reserves, 160 monasteries, and roughly 330 museums and galleries. This includes prehistoric finds, Thracian tombs, sites from the Greek Age, Roman fortresses, historical monuments from the time of the First and the Second Bulgarian Kingdoms, and architectural landmarks from the Age of Revival.
Cultural monuments from the Bulgarian Revival period can be found in many cities, towns, and villages, such as Kotel, Koprivshtitsa, Karlovo, Kalofer, Sopot, Elena, Tryavna, Bansko, Melnik. the Old Plovdiv, Gela, Shiroka Laka, Momchilovtsi, Orehovo, Smilyan, Arda, Dolen, Leshten, Kovachevitsa, Pletena, Bozhentsi, Ribaritsa, Zheravna, Oreshak, Medven, Skandalo, Arbanasi, Balgari, Kosti, Brashlyan, and Mladezhko. There are many ethnographic complexes that enable visitors to appreciate Bulgarian crafts such as woodcarving, embroidery, pottery, and knitting. Some of them are the architectural and ethnographic open-air museum at Etara /Gabrovo/, the ethnographic complexes in Dobrich, Chiflika /Albena/, Bansko, Kazanlak, Zlatograd, Varosha – Blagoevgrad, Brashlyan – Malko Tarnovo, and many others.
There are also opportunities to observe traditional economic activities in our lands like oil rose manufacturing and wine production.
For residents of the EU and the USA, no visa is required for up to a 90-day stay in Bulgaria. For information about other countries, see the following site: http://www.mfa.bg/en/pages/109/index.html
At present, only BGN (lev) is accepted. The official currency of the country is the lev, which is equal to 100 stotinki. All banks and licensed exchange offices are suitable for exchanging currency.
Climate & Time for Visit
You can enjoy four lovely seasons in Bulgaria. Beautiful blooming spring, dry and hot summer, long and pleasant autumn, and mild winter with lots of opportunities for skiing. The most appropriate time for a visit depends on the reason for your trip. The most suitable months for skiing are December, January, February and March. If you are interested in visiting the Black Sea coast, do it in June, July, August and September. If you are a hiker or camper, the most appropriate times are the late spring, the beginning of summer and early autumn. Any season is a good time to visit one of Bulgaria’s many spa resorts. For business travelers there are not any climate limitations to visit the country.
Bulgaria is located in the Eastern European Time Zone, which is GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) +2 hours.
Language & Religion
The official national language is Bulgarian. The alphabet is Cyrillic. In tourist resorts and large cities most signs and menus are translated and the service staff speaks foreign languages. The official religion in Bulgaria is Eastern Orthodox.
Credit Cards Usage
In large stores, hotels, catering and entertainment establishments the following credit cards are generally accepted: Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club. In smaller stores and hotels it is necessary to pay cash.
220 V, 50 Hz.
There are international airports in Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. They also serve charter flights and helicopters. Direct charter flights are available to the Black Sea airports in Varna and Burgas during the summer season. Gliders piloted by amateur pilots need special permission, since air corridors are provided solely for them by The Bulgarian Aviation Dispatchers.
Auto Transport & Speed Limits
The road network in the country consists of highways, first-class, second-class and third-class roads. Bus transport is well developed. There are express buses serving most of the large towns and cities in the country. The speed limits are 50 km/h in populated areas, 90 km/h outside populated areas and130 km/h on highways.
Mobile Operators & Internet
Vivacom, Globul and Mtel are the mobile operators, covering the entire territory of the country. They maintain 2G and 3G networks and GSM 900/1800. Bulgaria is in Top 10 of the countries with the fastest Internet speed.
Emergency Telephone Number
The national phone number for emergencies is 112.
Bulgarians greet each other by shaking hands. The Bulgarian gestures for "yes" and "no" often confuse people from other countries. For "Yes," one shakes one's head from side to side. "No" is signaled by one or two nods up and down.
Bulgaria has a diverse calendar that preserves the country’s folk traditions and customs. Many Bulgarian village celebrations and folkways preserve ancient traditions and customs, such as St. Lazar’s Day, Palm Sunday, the mummers, carol singing, fire-dancing and many others.
Here are some of the most attractive national holidays and festivals:
KUKERI (SURVA) - MUMMER’S GAMES - January
Surva, the International Festival of the Masquerade Games takes place the last weekend of January at the town of Pernik and is the biggest event of this type not only in Bulgaria but on the Balkan Peninsula as well. It promotes variations of ancient Bulgarian customs that are still alive today. With its competitive nature, the festival is not only a venue but also a contest for the living vessels of this tradition, called “Kukeri” and “Survakari”. The First Festival in Pernik was held in1966.
Its most attractive feature is its two-day parade for masquerade groups from Bulgaria and abroad. On average, around 5, 000 people or about 90 groups from every folklore region of Bulgaria, as well as companies from Europe, Asia, and Africa take part in the contest.
Masquerade rituals come from old pagan times and are still alive in the Bulgarian folklore tradition.
Bulgarian masquerade games are mainly interwoven in the contexts of the holidays between Christmas and Easter. The people who perform these rituals around New Year are known as Survakari while those who participate in the pre-spring masquerade games are referred to as Kukeri.
The symbolic meaning of the winter and pre-spring rituals performed by single men is related to the end of the old year and the advent of the new and to the upcoming awakening of nature for new life. These rituals represent the wish for a rich harvest, health and fertility for humans and farm animals. They are intended to chase away the evil spirits and prepare people for a new beginning.
The dance of the masked men is a mystic unity of rhythm, sound, and color. They move in a special step. Wearing impressive masks and unique costumes they fill the air of the villages with the sounds of hundreds of bells and whispered blessings wishes for prosperity.
The mask, according to folklore beliefs, protects from the harmful influence of impure powers. Bulgarian ritual masks are a rich source of information on the country’s various ethnographic regions. The sounds of the bells hanging from the belts of the dancers are said to reinforce the protective properties of the masks.
Only at the festival at Pernik you will see masks from every ethnographic region of the country. Every spectator who has been touched by the dance and the masks of the participants will feel their rejuvenating effect and will be immersed in this ancient tradition.
BABA MARTA – 1st of March
In Bulgaria on the 1st of March, is celebrated an ancient traditional holiday called Baba Marta (or Grandma Marta in English), which is related to the approaching spring.
On that day, Bulgarians exchange the so-called "Martenitsi" ("Martenitsa" - singular, "Martenitsi" - plural) and tell each other "Chestita Baba Marta!" (Happy Grandma Marta!).
The Martenitsa is made of twined red and white threads - woollen, silk, or cotton. The white is a symbol of strength, purity and happiness. The red is associated with health, blood, conception, and fertility. This custom is essentially to wish health, good luck, and happiness to family and friends.
In Bulgarian folklore Baba Marta is a grumpy old woman who changes her mood very rapidly and it reflects in the changeable March weather. When she is smiling the weather is sunny and warm but if she gets angry the cold will stay for longer and it may even snow.
NESTINARI (FIRE DANCERS) - June
Nestinarstvo or the ritual fire dancing on live coals is an ancient Bulgarian custom, which had both Christian and pagan elements. It is believed to originate from the Thracians, and more accurately from their sun worship. St. Constantine and St. Helena are considered patrons of the fire dancers. The ritual is practiced in the region of Strandzha mountain (the village of Bulgari). The dancers are walking on live coal with bare feet, accompanied by a drummer and a bagpipe. It is believed that the ritual is against evil spirits, negative thoughts and illnesses, and makes the dancers stronger and calmer. The peak time for the Nestinarstvo is 3rd of June when the dancers meet the upcoming summer, asking for health, success and fruitfulness through the year. Throughout the summer, restorations of the custom are made in different villages of Strandzha which attract many Bulgarian and foreign guests.
ROSE FESTIVAL - June
The Rose Festival is one of the most remarkable annual events in Bulgaria, dedicated to beauty and flowers.
This festival of the roses originates from the celebrations held at the beginning of the rose-harvesting period. The first rose festival in Kazanlak took place in 1903. Few years later, a similar fest was organized in the town of Karlovo, situated in the same area.
Bulgaria is one of the biggest producers of rose oil in the world. The reason for this is hidden in the high qualities of the Bulgarian Kazanlak rose ("Kazanlashka roza"), which was cultivated in the country after many years of production and development. The Bulgarian roses are inheritors of the so-called “Damascena” rose that was brought here ages ago.
The rose oil is called "the liquid gold" of Bulgaria because it is a very expensive product, used mainly for the making of perfumes, chocolates, liqueur and jam.
3.5 tons of rose petals go into the making of one kilogram of rose oil.
The rose blooming period lasts only 20 days (end of May – beginning of June).
Each year the Rose Festival in Kazanlak takes place at the beginning of June. Three main events attract many visitors – early morning harvest rituals in the rose fields, the election of the Rose Queen and the parade along the streets held on Sunday.
YOGHURT FAIR AND FESTIVAL OF THE FOLKLORE TRADITIONS AND CRAFTS IN RAZGRAD - July
The festival of the Bulgarian yoghurt, traditions and crafts is held every year in July at the town of Razgrad. It gathers manufacturers and distributers of the emblematic Bulgarian yoghurt. The folk performances include groups from different countries.
Interesting events during the festival are: preparation of yogurt and contest for homemade yoghurt; tasting different kinds of yogurt; demonstrations of traditional crafts (for this region); concert of Bulgarian and foreign folklore and art teams from various countries; fire dancers show.
SUMMER FESTIVAL “STAGE OF THE AGES” – TSAREVETS FORTRESS, VELIKO TARNOVO - July
The summer opera festival is an annual event since 2008 and attracts visitors from all over the world. It is held for 2 weeks (end of July – Beginning of August) in the city of Veliko Tarnovo.
In such magical and majestic environment like the Tsarevets Fortress, the summer Festival combines opera and ballet and offers an unforgettable experience.
During the day, there are reconstructions of medieval times on Tsarevets hill. Guests and residents will have the chance to see interesting initiatives, which depict the life from the middle Ages. There are demonstrations of archery, javelin-throwing, medieval games.
NATIONAL FOLK ART FESTIVAL – KOPRIVSHTICA - August
Since 1965, on every 5 years the picturesque town of Koprivshtitsa hosts the National Folk Art Festival, dedicated to one of the first Bulgarian folklorists – Lyuben Karavelov. The festival gathers more than 15 000 participants, not only from Bulgaria but also all over the world. The next festival will take place in August 2015.