Bulgaria is one of the exquisite nations of Europe that is not overly exposed. But this South-eastern European country is packed with numerous gems such as its magnificent mountainous range, long stretches of golden-sand sun-kissed beaches and big cities with a larger-than-life personality. It may not be as popular a tourist as compared to its other European counterparts but it is most certainly a compelling destination to visit with its numerous attractions - be it its exotic natural wonders or powerful historical reminders.
Kick-start the tour by heading over to Bulgaria's largest and most popular monastery - the majestic and imposing Rila Monastery. Housed amidst the forested valley of the Rila Mountains, 117km south of the capital Sofia, the monastery sports a colorful, almost kitsch exterior with vivacious wall paintings in its eye-catching interior. Since 1983, it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sitting comfortably atop the lofty Pirin mountains and offering stunning panoramic views across the region, the religious shrine is well-known for its stunning wood carvings, stained glass windows and detailed murals.
The Baba Vida Fortress in Vidin is renowned to be the town's iconic landmark. It comprises of two concentric curtain walls and approximately nine towers of which three are retained in their full medieval height, including the original battlements and is said to be the only wholly-preserved medieval castle in the country. Be sure to visit the fascinating and stunning Belogradchik Fortress, perched on the slopes of the Balkan mountains and residing in the midst of a group of bizarre-shaped rocks. The dramatic landscape along with the buildings itself makes it a spectacular site to visit.
UNESCO-Listed Boyana Church, situated on the outskirts of the capital Sofia, is a popular tourist attraction, home to some of the most exquisite medieval frescoes in the planet. Be sure to spend some time at the medieval Rozhen Monastery whose history dates as far back as the 9th century AD. Don't forget to explore the tomb of Kazanlak, near the town of Kazanlak in central Bulgaria is an ancient burial site that is home to some of Bulgaria's best-preserved artistic masterpieces from the Hellenistic period.
Have a great time exploring Pliska, a small town in Bulgaria and the country's original medieval capital. This archaeological site is a big tourist attraction for archaeology buffs. This tiny town is visiting the Great Basilica of Pliska. This architectural complex is home to a cathedral, an archbishop's palace and a monastery. Wild-life enthusiasts can take a trip to Nature Park Bulgarka in Central Northern Bulgaria. It is widely known for its flora and fauna. Explore this national park in a bid to catch a glimpse of some of the many wild animals such as the Eurasian wolf, fox, golden jackal, Eurasian brown bear and birds like the golden eagle, green woodpecker, white wagtail and so forth.
When it comes to shopping, one can be on the look-out for quintessential Bulgarian items, clothes, shoes, handicrafts, wines, spirtis and confectionery. As for cuisine, do go in for local specialities such as Tarator (cold soup prepared from cucumber, walnuts and yoghurt) as well as Kebapche (small, strongly spiced minced meat roll). As for drinks, do go in for sipping white wines such as Evksinograde or Karlouski and heavy red wines such as Mavroud and Trakia.
The stay options in Bulgaria are abundant with the richie-rich opting to be put up at the best luxury hotels and private apartments the country can offer. Similarly, budget tourists and backpackers can choose to be at modest and cheap accommodations.
Bulgaria experiences a continental climate with some Mediterranean influences from the Aegean Sea. The best time to visit the country would be between May and September as there will be loads of sunshine and warm temperatures.