Bulgaria may be the most underrated country to visit in the EU. That's a mistake. It's a beautiful country, with warm people, and food that was born from the crossroads of Turkish, European, and Russian. The country is diverse in landscape with mountains, seas, and vineyards. Look past Sofia and don't miss out on some of the best the country has to offer.
The capital may not be the best of the country, but it still offers beautiful architecture, remnants of Communist statues, and a fun nightlife.
The monastery is located in the Rila Mountains, south of Sofia. It is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. It's named after its founder, the hermit Ivan of Rila (876-946 AD) and is regarded as one of Bulgaria's most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments.
There is one part of Bulgaria that is starting to reach the lists of Western travelerers: Plovdiv. The second-largest city in Bulgaria, the city shows its history in its architecture bearing the influences of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman rules.
Just outside Plovdiv are the Rodopi Mountains. Rent a car and take a day trip through the mountains, stopping to hike and get a road side snack.
DEVIL'S BRIDGE IN ARDINO
Near the Turkish border lies an arch bridge that crosses over the Arda Bridge. Built by the Ottomans in the 14th Century, the bridge connected the lowlands of Thrace to the northern Aegean Sea.
Located in the North, Pleven is the seventh largest city in Bulgaria. Nearby are hot springs that are worth the stay.
Located in the North, Veliko Tarnovo may be one of the prettiest cities in Bulgaria. Known as the "City of the Tsars," Veliko Tarnovo was the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire.
THE BLACK SEA
Bulgaria is one of the countries that shares a coastline on the Black Sea. Lining the coast line are monstrosities of overbuilt resorts but there are also many small coastal villages that are charming and aren't filled with tourists. We stayed in Ahtopol near the border of Turkey and Sozopol, an ancient seaside resort that is more popular among tourists.
The first time I went to Bulgaria, I took a 20 hour train from Budapest to Sofia. The trip itself was romantic and showed off the beautiful countryside of not just Bulgaria but all of the Balkans. It isn't for everyone, which is why there are plenty of flights to take to Sofia and during the summer season, to the Black Sea cities of Varna and Burgas.