With a population of seven million and a land area about equal to that of England it is no wonder that Bulgaria has so much outstanding natural beauty to offer. Its diverse landscape and climatic regions offer something for all tastes, as well as being a haven for many endemic flora and fauna alike. There are indeed built up areas of the country in ski resorts such as Bansko and along the Black Sea coast which offers something in the way of a traditional seaside holiday. Outdoor sports and nature watching are very popular, in addition to more cultural activities such as touring the many magnificent monasteries built over the centuries. There is plenty to do wherever you go and plenty to explore for the adventurous traveller.
Fun fun fun in the sun sun sun?
The Black Sea on the eastern borders of Bulgaria is well known for its stunning beaches and long hot summers, and has over the last several decades become a prime holiday destination. Resorts such as Varna, Sunny Beach and Burgas are familiar to sun-worshippers and family holidayers alike. The Black Sea is in demand during the summer months and so prices for accommodation a stones throw from the beach are proportionately priced. An alternative option is to rent a holiday home further inland and hire a car – you will get much more living space for your money and you have the opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle and experience something of country life in Bulgaria. Another alternative is to do as the Bulgarians do and visit the coastal resorts out of season, when both flights and accommodation are cheaper.
The occurrence of several fault lines has given rise (excuse the pun) to the mountains and gorges of Bulgaria, notably the Balkan mountains across the central belt running from east to west, the Rila and Pirin mountains. These alpine regions have naturally given rise to ski resorts, the most famous being the region of Bansko in Sofia province.
Hiking and climbing
Where to begin? Bulgaria is the land of nature reserves so you could pretty much stick a pin in the map and there would be somewhere gorgeous to hike. There are three national parks: Balkan, Pirin and Rila. Ski resorts in the summer are deserted but you may find cheap accommodation in these regions as well as camp sites and hostels. Needless to say in addition to hiking there is a great deal of climbing – be it alpine, trad or ice – to be done in the mountainous regions and even bouldering on sandstone in the hilly plains of the north. You will find many guides and clubs online, in addition to the equivalent of ordnance survey maps being available for purchase online.
...And if that seems too much like hard work
One of Bulgaria's best kept secrets is its multitudinous spa resorts (thanks again plate tectonics!) dotted about the country. Popular regions include towns such as Bankya (sometimes spelt Bankia – this spa is also the source of the country's most popular mineral water, courtesy of Coca Cola), Blagoevgrad and Dobronishte in the Sofia province, and Banya in Plovdiv region as well as some along the Black Sea coast. Spa culture is a centuries old tradition in Bulgaria that it is well worth experiencing and there are oodles of hotels and spa resorts to choose from.
Rivers and lakes
The northern provinces, where the scenery comprises rolling hills and plateaus, are home to the Danube river, which also forms most of the north of the country's border. All along the river there are beautiful tourist towns offering boating tours and fishing trips, as well as organised bird watching and hunting expeditions. There are many lakes and rivers in the rest of the country be it in the plains and around the Black Sea coast or among the mountains where you can tour the many stunning glacial lakes.
Hopefully you will be getting the idea that there is much to explore in a country such as Bulgaria in all seasons of the year. A good place to go from here is down to your local bookshop to purchase a guidebook, because I haven't really scratched the surface in this article. In order to begin preparing for your trip to Bulgaria, a good idea is to learn the Cyrillic alphabet (although this is not strictly necessary as most signs are printed in Roman characters too) or purchase a phrasebook. Interesting cultural quirks include nodding to mean no and shaking the head to mean yes.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 October 2009 22:03|