A Visitor’s Guide To Bulgaria
The ancient country of Bulgaria is one that has seen its fortunes rise and fall over the centuries, and while it has been the heartland of two major empires in the region, it has also often seen its territory cut over the years. With a coastline on the Black Sea the territory of Bulgaria is quite varied, with a high mountain range inland of the coast. Over recent years Bulgaria has developed a significant amount of heavy industry within the country, while it also has some very good wine producing areas. One of the interesting aspects of the culture of the country is that it uses the reverse of head movements when compared with most other countries, with a shake of the head meaning yes, and a nod of the head meaning no.
While the risk of terrorism in the country remains low, the US State Department does advise visitors to Bulgaria to be cautious, as there are sometimes incidents of bombings or shootings triggered by criminal gangs in the country. There are also regular popular demonstrations in the country, and particularly in the capital these can cause traffic disruption, and have been known to result in violence too.
Top Sights To Visit In Bulgaria
Valley Of The Thracian Kings – This valley is home to several important archaeological sites dating from over two thousand years ago, including the ruins of an old town, tombs and burial mounds that have beautiful art and where a stunning gold burial mask was found.
Tsarevets – This hilltop fortress was the administrative center of the Second Bulgarian Empire, and is still a remarkable site to visit with beautiful towers and a single approach road to the castle which shows why it was successful as a defensive fortification.
The Alexander Nevski Cathedral – This remarkable Cathedral in the capital Sofia is one of the best examples of neo-Byzantine religious architecture in the region, set in a prominent clearing and boasting a beautiful dome and bell tower.
The Churches Of Ivanovo – This series of churches have been carved out of the rocks near the town of Ivanovo, and have some beautiful frescoes and paintings that have led to the site being recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nesebar – This lovely coastal town is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Bulgaria, with beautiful beaches facing on to the Black Sea and also has a long and varied history with several sites from different eras worth exploring.
Central Balkan National Park – This park is located among some of Bulgaria’s highest peaks, including Botev, the highest mountain in the country, and is famous for its huge natural diversity and its popularity for hiking and other outdoor activities.
Rila Monastery – Located in a pleasant mountainous location, this monastery dates from the tenth century and is famous for its superb art and frescoes, which has led to it becoming a Bulgarian icon that has appeared on some of the country’s paper notes.
Stara Zagora Neolithic Site – The museum looking at the neolithic dwellings found on this site shows some of the best preserved artifacts from this era, and is an interesting look at how people lived in this area over six thousand years ago.
Pamporovo Ski Resort – This popular ski resort is one of the largest resorts in the region offering a variety of slopes and cross country skiing routes suitable for a variety of levels of experience, and has a long ski season with over a hundred and fifty days of snowfall every year.
Nature Park Bulgarka – The ancient forests in this park make it an important area for the country’s natural diversity, with wolves, brown bears and golden eagles among the animals found in the park, while it is a popular place for those looking for hiking and other outdoor sports.
Where To Stay In Bulgaria
Sheraton Sofia Balkan Hotel – Located within a stunning historic building at the heart of Sofia, this luxury grand hotel offers visitors sumptuously decorated rooms with lovely deep baths, while the communal areas and the lobby are truly spectacular.
Hotel-Restaurant The House – Right at the heart of Sofia, this small hotel is located above a nice restaurant, and offers visitors competitively priced and spacious rooms that include modern features such as televisions and wi-fi internet throughout.
Marieta Palace Hotel – Enjoying a superb location just yards from the Black Sea, this hotel offers visitors a great place to unwind with comfortable rooms and excellent leisure facilities including an outdoor pool, jacuzzi and a games room.
Sveta Sofia Hotel – A good choice for those looking to get away to the beach on a budget, this hotel has sea views and provides guests with spacious rooms and stylish modern bathrooms, and easy access to the city center.
Interhotel Cherno More – Visitors to the hotel can enjoy leisure facilities including a bowling alley, snooker club and a bar with city views, while the rooms offer large comfortable beds and have been tastefully decorated.
Grand Hotel Dimyat – This large luxury hotel has spacious impressive rooms with attractive bathrooms, and offers visitors leisure facilities such as an indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna.
Complex Sea Wind Hotel – With a location that is just yards from the beach, this lovely hotel offers spacious bedrooms, both indoor and outdoor swimming pools along with a sauna and access to a private part of the beach.
Menada Forum Apartments – A good choice for those looking for a budget hotel near the beach,this hotel offers simple yet attractive accommodation with access to an outdoor swimming pool and is just a short walk from the golden sands of the beach.
Having played an important part in the cultural and political development of the Balkan region Bulgarian cuisine shares many traits with other countries in the area. One of the most distinctive aspects of the food in Bulgaria is that there are rich salads served with almost every meal, with the Shopska salad being a common dish where salad vegetables are diced and served with a dressing and the local Sirene cheese. Another dish that is common in the country is Yahniya Stew, which begins with a browned onion base and is often cooked with chicken or other meats and will usually include tomatoes and any other vegetables that are available.
Currency And Visa
The local currency is the Bulgarian Lev, and visitors from the United States will usually find that they can exchange around 1.45 Lev for every US Dollar. It is particularly worth noting that Bulgaria has a largely cash economy, and only the main tourist attractions and hotels in the city centers will take credit cards. Most cities and towns will however have ATMs, although it is worth carrying some cash when you travel into rural areas.
Bulgaria is a country which has signed up to the Schengen agreement which allows free movement for tourists through many countries in Europe for those who are visiting for less than ninety days. Those who are taking a longer journey through Europe may want to check their itinerary as not all European countries are part to this agreement, and may need to arrange a permission to travel in the region for a longer period of time.