What are the must-see things and the must-see stops in Bulgaria following a 7 or 10-day itinerary? Advice and tips.
Nestled in the Balkan peninsula, with an ultra-millennial history and a culture that is the result of different influences, theBulgariait is a country that is experiencing an ever increasing tourist development. The variety of landscapes ranging from the snow-capped peaks of Rila to the white beaches of the Black Sea has meant that Bulgaria has become a favorite destination for weekend getaways, summer holidays and longer or shorter itineraries.
I had the opportunity to explore this enchanting country during the realization of the project "Glimpses of Bulgaria" in collaboration withTravel365and in this article I leave you the 7-day itinerary – which can be remodulated into 10 – that I followed myself during my trip, with advice and tips also on how to move between one city and another.
Itinerary of 7 or 10 days in Bulgaria: what to see between Sofia and Varna
To visit wellBulgariaand follow an itinerary that leads to exploring the most beautiful places in the country as well as the "must see things" it is necessary to have 7 or 10 days available. The starting point can only beSofia, the beautiful capital which has an international airport well connected through direct flights to the main Italian airports such asBergamo, Rome, Trieste,Milan or Catania.
Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, can be considered the first stop par excellence on any itinerary in the country. Located at the foot of theVitosha mountain, Sofia has been an important crossroads of different peoples and influences since ancient times. Founded by the Thracians in the 7th century BC, Sardica (as it was originally called) was later conquered by the Romans and became the capital of Dacia.
Inside the historic center there are still numerous testimonies as well as archaeological remains and finds of that time, together with glimpses of modernity that make Sofia a true masterpiece of contrasts.
Between must see things in Sofiastand out the majesticAlexander Nevsky Cathedral, symbol of the city, theSynagogue of Sofia, The Banya Bashi Mosque, The St George's Church, The St. Nicholas Church, The Church of Sveti Sedmochislenitsi, The Bridge of Lions and that of the Eagles, theCentral Market, The old roman wall and the Church of Boyana, located south of the city, since 1979 a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Seven Rila Lakes
About 100 kilometers south of Sofia, in a natural setting of surreal beauty, there are seven lakes of glacial origin which are part of the protected natural area ofRila National Park. It is a group of freshwater mirrors whose altitude varies between 2100 and 2500 meters above sea level.
It is possible to reach theseven lakes of Rilathrough a suggestive trekking route of about 15 kilometers that climbs starting from the lower lake (Lago Inferiore) up to the higher one, the Salzata, famous for its clear waters that resemble "La lacrima" (this is the translation in Italian). The trail begins inRila Lakes Hutwhich can be reached by cable car (about 20 minutes for a cost of 10 LEV return or 12 LEV one way) and can be covered in about 5 hours (including stops).
Note well. The path is clearly visible if the conditions are optimal and there is not too much snow. Absolutely not recommended in the winter season.
Nestled on the top of the Rila mountain, at an altitude of 1147 metres, theRila Monasteryit is the largest and most famous in all of Bulgaria. Its history is linked to that of thehermit Saint John of Rilawho, in the 10th century, founded it making it the place of study for his disciples.
Destroyed during the Ottoman conquest, the Monastery was rebuilt between the 1700s and 1800s thanks to donations from the country's wealthiest families. It has been since 1983UNESCO heritage.
The Rila Monastery complex has the appearance of a fortress surrounded by a moat which can be accessed through two majestic portals. Inside is a building with 300 cells, a large courtyard, a central church and the tower of despot Hrelio. The most important works are kept in the church, such as theiconostasis carved in wood, the walls frescoed by Zograf, period icons and marvelous mosaics.
Located in the center of the country, Plovdiv is an unmissable stop on any 7 or 10 day itinerary in Bulgaria. "The Eternal City" (as it is called) was founded even before Rome, Athens and Constantinople, and boasts a history of over 8000 years. Antiquity and modernity run hand in hand in this place which bears witness to different religions, cultures and architectural styles.
Among the must see things in Plovdiv the picturesque stands outOld Townwhich looks like a paving of small cobbled streets where, to dominate, are ancient houses, pastel-colored facades and a typically Baroque style that never tires. Don't miss theNebet Tepe archaeological complex(from which there is a splendid panorama of the city), theRegional Ethnographic Museum, The Klianty House-Museum, The Ancient Theatre, The Hindliyan House-Museum, lo Roman Stadium and the street of art.
Located on the western shores of the Black Sea,Varnait is considered one of the most touristic and attractive seaside resorts in the whole country. If you are planning a 7 or 10 day itinerary in Bulgaria, this – together with Burgas – could be your final stop.
The third largest city by population after Sofia and Plovdiv, Varna is known as the “pearl of the Black Sea” thanks to its white sandy beaches, equipped lidos and that aura of light-heartedness and fun that seems to hover in every corner.
Its history has its roots in 580 BC when the ancient Greeks called this area Odessos and made it a commercial colony. The city is also known for the Chalcolithic necropolis where the oldest gold treasure in the world was found, the so-calledVarna gold.
Among the must-see things in Varna stand out the old town, theSea Garden(public garden true green lung of the city), leRoman thermal baths, The archaeological Museum, The Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God, the Port and theRetro museum.
Just like Varna, which is just 100 km away, Burgas has a strong seaside and tourist vocation also thanks to the presence of an international airport. The subtropical climate, the low rainfall and the average high temperatures make this area one of the favorites in the summer season, but not only.
Among the best things to see in Burgas stand out theSanta Anastasia Island, the Sea Garden, il Lake Atanasovsko, the Archaeological Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, thePoda Nature Reserve, Sunny Beach and the Church of Saint Cyril and Methodius.
Getting around in Bulgaria
There are different ways to move around the country even if some are decidedly preferable to others. Once landed in Sofia you can decide whether to follow the itinerary in Bulgaria of 7 or 10 by moving between one stage and another in:
- Car: renting a car is certainly the best solution as the prices are not excessive (about 20/30 euros per day) and some inland locations such as the Seven Rila Lakes or the Rila Monastery can only be reached by private vehicle or with excursions private same day;
- Train: the Bulgarian railway line is not developed and the service is low. Traveling takes a lot of time and departure times are limited;
- Bus: they are used very often to move between one city and another but they do not reach all locations in the country. If you decide to travel by bus, know that you will have to organize each departure with extreme precision as the lines are not numerous and you could risk not being able to fit everything together;
- plane: it is the most convenient and fastest way to move from one end of the country to the other, for example between Sofia and Varna. The internal flight, in fact, lasts only 50 minutes compared to 5 hours by car and over 8 hours by train (possibly there is the night flight on which it is also possible to sleep in a couchette).
Wash clothes on the go
During this 7-day itinerary in Bulgaria I needed to carry a very light backpack. To solve the problem of washing clothes and garments in the various lodgings where I stayed, I relied on the very practicalWashing Bag by The Scrubba, the only portable bag that allows, with just a few simple steps, to wash and dry clothes even in non-optimal conditions. I leave you thevideo tutorials… provare per credere!