Travel in Bulgaria

Segovia, Spain, street scene
Image by FrogMiller via Flickr

Travel in Eastern Europe is somewhat dicey, although the situation is much improved from my trip to Serbia in 2004.

Bulgaria, a country with a historical and cultural heritage, and attractive natural landscapes, is now slowly becoming one of the most visited tourist destinations in Europe. Tourism, as an industry, has been an important source of economic growth. In 2007 Bulgaria was visited by 5.2 million tourists, measured as outlined by the World Tourism Organization. Tourists from the top 3 countries – Greece, Romania and Germany, account for 40% of all visitors. In 2008 Bulgaria is estimated to welcome 6 million visitors. The country has historical cities and towns, summer beaches, and mountain ski resorts. New types of tourism, including cultural, architectural and historic tours, eco-tourism, and adventure tours, expand the range of services available to visitors.

Traditional tourism

Winter tourist centres, such as Borovetz, Bansko, Pamporovo and Vitosha are picturesque and popular ski resorts. The Bulgarian summer resorts along the Black Sea coast, include destinations, such as the summer resorts: Sozopol, Nessebur, Golden Sands, Sunny Beach, Sveti Vlas, Albena and St. St. Constantine & Helena. Some guests, such as the Germans, Russians or Scandinavians favour the summer beach resorts, while winter tourism, and the ski resorts, are the favorites of the British.

Emerging forms of tourism

Emerging types of tourist activities, such as “ethno-tourism” and “architectural-cultural” tourism, are increasingly gaining ground, catering to specialized tastes. These are new types of tours, which involve interaction with and living amongst the local people, in small mountain villages.

For the more adventurous, active recreation, involving mountain hiking and bike tourism, provides a close connection with nature. Climbers scale the granite mountains of Rila, Pirin and the Balkan. Hikers enjoy the mountains of Vitosha and the Rhodopes – the latter being the mythical birthplace of Orpheus. Mountain biking, and bicycle racing are also recreations, and Bulgaria is one of only six countries to annually host the official 1,200 km Randonnees – ultra-marathon bicycle rides patterned after Paris-Brest-Paris.

Cultural and historical tourism

Situated at the crossroads of the East and West, Bulgaria has been home to many civilizations Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs, Proto-Bulgarians, and Ottomans. Although Bulgaria is rich in historical artifacts, many of the museums and monasteries still need to be properly advertised and maintained, and some of the most interesting heritage sites may not be easily accessible, due to poor infrastructure. Yet, some visitors regard such “underdevelopment” as desirable – those who prefer to experience history first-hand rather than look at artefacts behind glass.

Tourism Destinations

  • Summer Resorts
    • Albena Ahtopol Balchik Dyuni Elenite Golden Sands Kiten Lozenets Nessebar Obzor Pomorie Primorsko Riviera Rusalka Sinemorets Sozopol St. Constantine St. Vlas Sunny Beach Tsarevo
  • Winter Resorts
    • Bansko Chepelare Borovetz Pamporovo Uzana Vitosha
  • Rural Tourism
    • Arbanasi Ribaritsa Bozhentsi Kumani Ethnographic museum Etara Shiroka Laka Tryavna Zheravna Orehovo Madzharovo
  • City Tourism
    • Sofia Varna Burgas Plovdiv Rousse Kardzhali Pleven Vidin
  • Hiking
    • Balkan Mountains Pirin Mountains Rila Mountains Rhodopi Mountains Strandzha Mountains Sakar Mountains Vitosha Mountains
  • Paragliding
    • Central Balkan Mountains
  • Monasteries
    • Rila Monastery Rozhen Monastery Bachkovo Monastery
    • Drianovo Monastery Pomorie Monastery
    • Sokolsky Monastery Troyan Monastery The Assumption Monastery in Kardzhali town
  • Most Picturesque Bulgarian Villages (per National Geographic, January 2005)
    • 1. Orehovo
    • 2. Narechen
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