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TOP 10 Places to See in Bulgaria Before You Die

Updated on July 3, 2015

Hidden Treasures of Bulgaria

Bulgaria is amazing country located in the heart of The Balkan Peninsula. Despite its small territory, this country has collect some amazing natural and historical sites. The clam climate allows the country to be visited during all seasons. Summer is a perfect place to visit Bulgaria's summer resorts and if you are a beach fan, this is the place where you can enjoy long sandy beaches and the warm waters of Black Sea. When skiing is your passion, the winter resorts are ideal for you. The months from November to March can offer you over 2 meters snow cover, as well as the tracks have different difficulties for beginners and professional skiers. Autumn and spring are two much beautiful seasons in Bulgaria. They are perfect time for sightseeing. The nature is colorfully decorated and weather is pleasant. If you are enthusiast about hiking and trekking, Bulgaria' mountains can offer you high mountain treks and steep slopes. Religious tourists also will find amazing monasteries and churches. There are so many things which you have to visit besides the great summer and winter resorts. Here are some ideas which attractions to visit during your vacation.

Open Doors To Open Hearts!

#1 Rila Monastery

This is the most visited monastery in Bulgaria. It is situated in Southwestern Bulgaria, 117 km away from Sofia and 40 km away from Blagoevgrad. Rising at 1147 m above sea level, it lies amidst some of the most scenic recesses of the Rila Mountains, to which the monastery owes its name. On either side the swift and clear flowing rivers of Rilska and Drushlyavitsa flank it. The Malyovitsa peak, reaching a height of 2729 m, is within a four hours walking distance and within as many again is the Rila's highest point - Mount Moussala, rearing to 2925 m. The foundation of the monastery is connected with the name of St. John of Rila. This famous hermit spent his life in a cave located half an hour walking from the nowadays monastery. The building of the complex is thought to be started in the 10th century. It suffered several reconstructions during the years. The present-day appearance of the monastery is from the 19th century. The construction of the residential buildings started in 1816. Spread on an area of 8800 square meters in the shape of an irregular quadrangle, they form an enclosed ensemble. Rising in the middle of the courtyard is a high stone fortress tower built by the local feudal Sebastocrator Hrelyu in 1334-1335, and a small church dated to 1343. In 1844 added to the tower was a small belfry. Later on, the monumental building of the monastery's Principal Church of the Nativity of the Virgin was erected where the old Hrelyu Tower had once stood. It was built by master Pavel Ivanovich in 1834-1837, planned as a five-dome church with three altar niches, two side chapels and an open gallery. The richly decorated walls strengthen the impressiveness of the interior, a great diversity of compositions depicting religious scenes, and a unique woodcut iconostasis with azure fretwork.

Rila Monastery Video - World's Greatest Attractions

When you visit the Rila Monastery make sure to try the river trout served in most restaurants nearby! You will be amazed how tasty it is!

belogradchik
belogradchik

#2. Belogradchik Rocks

Belogradchik rocks are located in the northwest part of Bulgaria, near the town having the same name- Belogradchik. They extend around 30 km length, 3 - 5 km width and up to 200 m height. The most magnificent rocks are surrounding Belogradchik : Madonna, The Rider, The Monks, The Student, The Lion, The Bear, Adam and Eva, The Casle. Four kilometers from the town, around Lepenitsa cave, there is another great group of rocks, where the biggest one is called The Dinosaur. Near the village Borovitsa are The Pinestone and The Beestone. From the platform of the famous Stone of Thought you can see an endless view of peaks, rocks, precipices, lush meadows, cool streams and the calm lineaments of old mountain. Upon this view man becomes wordless. The name of each rock formation is given by the folklore. The flora surrounding Belogradchik rocks includes many rare species typical for the Balkans and written in the Red book of Bulgaria. The animals are represented by imperial eagle, owl, small vulture, black stork, wolf, wild boar, royal slag, deer, dormouse and etc. You can take one of the rambling paths from Belogradchik to the rocks, suitable also for cycling. Every stone here has a history and a legend full of suffering and heroism to explain the incredible stone beauty. Centuries ago between the rocks there was a nunnery. Early every morning the nuns went out to pray to God. The youngest among them - Vitinia couldn't hide under the cassock her unbelievable beauty. The rumor about her beauty spread all over the Roman Empire. One day on St.Peter's Day when the monastery could be visited Vita met with the roman Antonio. They hide their love from the nuns a long time but after a year the fruit of their love saw the light of the day. Child voice filled the monastery with crying. Vita was revealed and faced the strict law of the nuns. They decided to curse her and expel her from the monastery with her child. At that moment from the hill came Antonio riding his white horse. He started begging the nuns not to punish his beloved. Then a miracle happened. Suddenly a storm started, a thunder stroke and the earth shook. The monastery laid in ruins and everything turned in stone - The Monks, The Rider, even Vitinia who turned in Madonna caring her child.

Fortress of Belogradchik, Belogradchik Rocks

tsarevets
tsarevets

#3. Tsarevets

Tsarevets is a mediaeval stronghold in the old town of Veliko Turnovo in Central Northern Bulgaria and it is one of the most important historical objects n Bulgaria, and very attractive sightseeing for the tourists. The beautiful city of Veliko Tarnovo has been the capital of Bulgaria during the second Bulgarian kingdom. It served as the Second Bulgarian Kingdom's primary fortress and strongest bulwark from 1185 to 1393, housing the royal and the patriarchal palaces, and is a popular tourist attraction. The whole stronghold is girdled by thick walls and was served by three gates. The main gate was at the hill's westernmost part, on a narrow rock massif, and featured a draw-bridge. The second gate is 18 m away from the first one and the third one, which existed until 1889, is 45 m further. The palace is located on the hill's central and plain part, which was a closed complex encircled by a fortified wall, 2 towers and 2 entrances, a main one from the north and one from the south. It featured a throne room, a palace church and a royal residential part and encompassed 4872 m. On the top of the hill is the patriarchate, a complex with an area of about 3000 m, whose church, built on the grounds of an Early Christian one, was reconstructed in 1981 and painted in 1985. The frescoes inside depict the glorious and tragic moments of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Baldwin's Tower, a modern reconstruction of a medieval tower constructed after the tower in Cherven and built in 1930. It is located in the southeastern part of the fortress. It is located at the place of the original medieval tower where Latin Emperor Baldwin I of Constantinople found his death as a prisoner of Kaloyan of Bulgaria. The Sound and Light audiovisual show is an attraction carried out in the evening that uses three lasers, variegated lights, dramatic music and church bells to tell the story of the fall of Tarnovo to the Ottomans, as well as other key moments of the history of Bulgaria. The large-scale show has been organized at Tsarevets since 1985, when the 800-year anniversary of the Uprising of Asen and Peter was celebrated. It was designed and planned by a Bulgarian-Czechoslovak team led by Valo Radev and Jaromir Hnik.

rilski ezera
rilski ezera

#4. Seven Rila Lakes

The cirque of the Seven Rila Lakes is the largest in all of Rila Mountain. It is located East of Haidyta Peak and South of the steep rock slopes of Razdela Ridge and Otovishka Peak, found to the West of the peak directly above Kidney Lake. The cirque opens to the North and feeds the German River, which is a main source of the Stryma River. The lakes of the cirque are found at differing altitudes and appear like large footprints or steps leading up the mountain. They are the most picturesque and visited group of lakes in Rila Mountain. They all have names according to their shapes and officially numbered from the top to the bottom. The entire area is maintained within the boundaries of Rila National Park. The first lake - '"The Tear '" is the highest of the Rila Lakes. It is found at 2535 meters above sea level and has an area of .7 hectares. It is 4.5 meters at its deepest. The 2nd - '"The Eye'" is found at 2440 meters above sea level and has an area of 6.8 hectares. It is the deepest of the lakes with a depth of 37.5 meters. The 3rd - '"The Kidney'" is at an altitude of 2282 meters above sea level and has an area of 8.5 hectares. It is 28 meters at its deepest. The 4th - '"The Twins'" are actually one lake nearly split into two. It is located at 2243 meters above sea level and is the largest and longest of the lakes. It has an area of 9.1 hectares and a depth of 27.5 meters. The 5th - '"Three-Lobed Lake'" has an irregular shape and steep banks and is found at 2216 meters above sea level. It is 6.5 meters deep and has a total area of 2.6 hectares. The 6th - '"The Fish Lake'" is found at 2184 meters above sea level and has an area of 3.5 hectares. It is the shallowest of the lakes at 2.5 meters. The 7 Lakes Lodge is found at its most Northern bank. The 7th - '"The Low Lake'" is at 2095 meters above sea level, has an area of 5.9 hectares and is 11 meters deep.

nesebar
nesebar

#5. Nessebar

Nessebar is charming town located in the southern Black Sea coast and is one of the most popular Bulgarian Black Sea resorts. It is divided into two parts determined as "The New "and "The Old" city. The Old City is the preferred part, while the new one is more specified in accommodation service. The old Nessebar in fact is located on a small peninsula connected to the mainland by a thin piece of land. The first thing which will welcome you is a big wooden windmill. Soon after, you will meet the stone walls of the ancient city. The old city of Nessebar is quite popular with its historical churches and buildings dating back to ancient times. For this reason this town is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Originally a Thracian settlement, the Nessebar was later a Greek polis, then a Roman colony. The largest number and best known buildings date from 11th to 14th centuries almost all of them churches in the so called "picturesque" style: walls intersected by pilasters and lunettes, with stone, brick and ceramic ornaments and arches along the cornice. According to legends, the churches of Nessebar were no less than 41, which, when compared to the small population of the town, make the latter one of the world's settlements with the highest number of churches per capita. One of the oldest sanctuaries is the Basilica built on the coast most probably around the beginning of 5th century. The Old Bishop's Residence located in the centre of the town is probably the most impressive church in Nessebar. It is more than 25m long and 22m wide while its three naves were decorated with a colonnade and arches. St. Ivan the Baptist Church was built much later, in the 11th century. It is a typical cross-domed church with three naves, and four columns supporting the dome. There you can see fragments of frescoes dating back to the 13th century. The St. Stefan Church or the so-called New Bishop's Residence, situated in the vicinity of the harbor, was built in the 10th century. Its decoration is so picturesque that it marked the beginning of a typical local style, seen in the construction of churches of later times. If you are tired of sightseeing the summer resort of Sunny Beach is only 2km. away.

etara
etara

#6. Etara

Etara, named after the ancient denomination of the Jantra River - Etur, is an ethnographic museum in the open. It is located in the quarter of the same name in the town of Gabrovo on the bank of the Siveck River on the north flanks of the Stara Planina Mountains and it covers an area of 60 decares at an altitude of 400 meters. This open air museum is situated 8 kilometers north of Gabrovo and there you can see displayed traditional Bulgaria architecture, ethnography, folklore, the ancient handicrafts, traditional dishes, interior decoration and design and the traditional clothing of the Bulgarian Renaissance during the 18th and the 19th centuries. To be honest we can say that The Etara represents a small variant of old Gabrovo. In 1835 at this place was opened the first secular New Bulgarian School. The changes, that happened in the Ottoman Empire, helped Gabrovo to became an important economic, educational and trade centre. At the wide territory of the complex, you can see presented 22 crafts and if someone wants, he can take part in a course where he will learn the traditional for Gabrovo handcrafts. You can see "Talpena kyshta" - house, which first floor is made of stones and a workshop is situated there; the second floor is made of whittled plank. There is also a "Craftsman's market" where the traders sell their goods. You will see numerous workshops from where you can buy some traditional products. Rugs prepared from goat hair are one of the most popular items here. The goat's hair articles craft was one of the most developed in the past. It was connected with goat-breeding. In Etara is situated the only collection of water-driven machinery in Bulgaria. It includes 10 objects and they are all working at the same way as they do in the old times. Water has been used in the braid-making and more specifically in the braid knitting. After whole day walking along the charming cobblestone streets you can relax in the restaurant where you can taste the delicious dishes from Bulgarian cuisine.

perperikon
perperikon

#7. Perperikon

This beautiful ancient Thracian city is located in the Eastern Rhodope range, some 10 miles from the town of Kurdzhali. It easily accessible from Sofia via Asenovgrad or Haskovo. It is perched on a high rocky hill, thought to have been a sacred place. The village of Gorna Krepost / Upper Fortress/ is set at the foot of the hill and the gold-bearing Perpereshka River flows near it. Surrounded by amazing views, this complex is considered to be the largest megalith ensemble in the Balkans. A famous sanctuary and oracle shrine dedicated to God Dionysus was situated there. On Perperikon is where it was believed that the relics were exposed to Orpheus or part thereof. The whole archaeological complex consists of four main parts of the Neolithic. The first is one is a massive wall, the second is the Acropolis, built of huge stone blocks, occupying the highest part of the hill. The third section of the Perperikon is the Palace, which was carved into the rocks and covering an area of 10, 000 sq. m. The complex is part of the northern and southern suburbs, which constitute a system of small streets in the rocks, buildings and temples. The whole complex of Perperikon occupies a total area of 12 sq. km. The sanctuary is included in the hundred tourist sites of the Bulgarian Tourist Union. Excavations of Perperikon began in 2000 as work on the discovery led to new evidence and for this important archeological complex the work does not stop today. Legend of the sanctuary of Dionysus tells how the son of Zeus and Semele was born among the other gods. Multiple suites satires of goat hooves and wonderful Menada, Dionysus wandered through the earth and taught people how to grow grapes and make wine. As a result, later appeared in his honor the holidays that are called Orphic Mysteries that are only focused on single men.

Video of Perpericon

koprivshtitsa
koprivshtitsa

#8. Koprivshtica

Koprivshtitsa is one of the centers of the Bulgarian education, literature and culture from the National Revival Period. Having remarkable beauty, the town is a member of the 100 National Tourist Sites of Bulgaria. The town of Koprivshtitsa is the best preserved architectural reserve in Bulgaria. The small town with cobble-paved streets and picturesque colorful houses from the 17-18th century is situated among spacious meadows and quite forests with bracing air in the heart of Sredna Gora Mountain, 110 km southeast of Sofia. Koprivshtitsa straggles along either side of the River Topolnitsa and there is hardly a part of town that is not named after an episode or participant in the April Uprising of 1876 in which the town played a crucial role. This lovely city is surrounded by nine peaks, all of which are named after saints. It was announced for town-museum in 1952, and in 1972 it was announced for architectural and historical reserve. On April 20, 1876 in Koprivshtica started the largest armed expression of the Bulgarian national revolution - The April Uprising. There are around 400 monuments of the Bulgarian National Revival period in the town. As many other preserved towns from the Bulgarian National Revival period, the town is characterized by many old stone houses with high fences, stone bridges, cobblestone roads. The spirit from the Bulgarian Renaissance Period is spread everywhere in this place. There are a lot of churches and museum in the town, most of which were the homes of important historic figures. Some of the greatest Bulgarians are from Koprivshtitsa: Georgi Benkovski, Naiden Gerov, Yoakim Gruev, Dimcho Debelyanov, Todor Kableshkov, Lyuben Karavelov and others. The first class School in Bulgaria started opened doors in 1846 in Koprivshtitsa, the birthplace of many leaders of the education and enlightenment. Nowadays the town is a renowned tourist destination for both Bulgaria and international tourism. Koprivshtitsa also occupies an important place in the Bulgarian folk music calendar with its national music festival of musicians from all over the country taking place every 5 years. Except for the museums it also has two churches, painting gallery and eleven tourist pedestrian paths. The town is a key point for hiking and sightseeing in the highest part of Sredna Gora.

cherven castle
cherven castle

#9. Cherven Fortress

Middle Ages Fortress Cherven is located about 30 km. south of Ruse, at the road to the town of Dve Mogili, in the region of Polomieto, next to a village from Middle Ageas having the same name. Initially this place was populated by the Thracians in the 12th - 6th century BC. Romans settled on these lands in the 1st century AD. Initially the castle was build during the time of the Roman Emperor Justinian, in the 6th century. Later, the town was invaded by the Protobulgarians. Byzantium construction was significantly distinguished by Bulgarian one, with the larger stone blocks. The first written report for Cherven was in Old Bulgarian language dating from the 11th century in the apocrypha "The Story of Isaiah prophet", where it read that "a king with a byname Odelyan, who founded the towns of Cherven, Nesebar, and Shtip". There is one more report in the Boril's Synodic, where the names of three metropolitans of Cherven were listed. Cherven was mentioned in a poem of Manuil Fil about the march of the Byzantine Commander Mihail Glava against Ivailo. The fortress is situated and deeply incised and with sloped rock shores and many meanders of the river Cherni Lom, on a high rock hill, surrounded at its three sides by a river. To some places the rock height is nearly 100 m. , as only in the east, it gradually merges with the surrounding terrain, where is most inaccessible. As an architectural site, it has a significant contribution to study of the Middle Age history, culture and way of life. First excavations were performed in 1910-1911 by Prof. Vasil Zlatarski, who discovered by the request of Sofia Archaeological Association, one of the churches in the town. Regular and systematic excavations were performed from 1961. Archaeological founds in Cherven are preserved in the National History Museum in Sofia and the Regional History Museum in Ruse. Among them, some large coin treasures, jewelries, epigraph monuments, pottery, everyday life artifacts, craft tools, armaments etc. it was announced as National Architectural Reserve in 1965 and it is very popular tourist site with well constructed infrastructure.

boyana church
boyana church

#10. Boyana Church

Boyana Church is a beautiful Medieval Orthodox Church located in Boyana Quarter set in the outskirts of the capital of Bulgaria- Sofia. Originally built in the late 10th to the early 11th century, the Boyana Church was expanded a few times, in the 13th century by Sebastocrator Kaloyan, as well as in the mid 19th century. The Boyana Church houses exquisite frescoes which are one of the most complete and perfectly preserved monuments of east European medieval art. It was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in1979, together with two more Bulgarian sights- Madara Rider and Kazanlak Tomb. The frescoes of Boyana Church were made in 1259. They were in fact the second later, painted over original artwork done in the earlier centuries. There are a total of 89 scenes with 240 human images painted on the frescoes. The name of the artist, as discovered during restoration, was one "zograph Vassilii, from the village of Subonosha, Sersko, and his apprentice Dimitar". As for the 11th-12th century original frescoes, only fragments were preserved, as it is the second later done in 1259 which is the more famous. In addition, the church also houses later work done in the 14th, 16-17th centuries, as well as those from 1882. The oldest section of the Boyana church is the one-apse cross-vaulted chapel built in the late 10th to early 11th century. To this, the ruler Sebastocrator Kaloyan added an annex in the mid 13th century. The annex is a two-floor tomb-church, with the ground floor holding the family sepulchre, and the upper floor the family chapel. The newest section of the church was built in the mid 19th century from funds donated by the surrounding community. This place is one of the most visited by the tourists traveling to Sofia, together with the Historical Museum and the "St. Nevski" Cathedral Church.

Getting Around in Bulgaria

If you arrive in Bulgaria by plane you may wonder what would be the best way to visit every interesting sightseeing. The public transportation is not high quality, especially those going to the more distant locations in rural areas. And if you are not a fan of the idea to join a group of tourists, the best option left is to hire a car. If you want to be prepared about car rental in Bulgaria, here is a very detailed guide which will surely answer every question you may have.

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    • profile image

      RebeccaRubia 3 years ago

      Very nice lens - you may like to stop by my profile and have a look at my website all about Bulgaria :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      This is a very nice list. I am also from Bulgaria and I agree these places are incredible, even though I have yet to see some of them.

    • bisersmbg lm profile image

      bisersmbg lm 4 years ago

      it's a great lens dear my compatriot. I am from Bulgaria too but I work in Czech republic and please visit my lens on www.squidoó.com/biser-in-czech-republik

    • Zhivko Stanev profile image
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      Zhivko Stanev 4 years ago from Bulgaria

      @niels010: You are very welcome =)

    • profile image

      niels010 4 years ago

      Great lens ! I've been in Bulgaria in Sunny Beach, the country is wonderful and love to go another time

    • Zhivko Stanev profile image
      Author

      Zhivko Stanev 4 years ago from Bulgaria

      @WriterJanis2: You really should! If you ever decide to do it, feel free to contact me, I will be able to help a lot with a really nice itinerary! ;)

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      I would love to visit here.

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      CristianStan 4 years ago

      you forgot the small town of Balchik, small beach but a quiet, relaxing little town :) The botanical garden in this town is also amazing

    • SmallBusinessId profile image

      SmallBusinessId 4 years ago

      The crazy old communist monument "Budludzha". It was my favorite place in all Bulgaria!

      http://openbuildings.com/buildings/buzludzha-monum...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Done 7 out of 10 of these!

    • Alenkita1 profile image

      Alenkita1 5 years ago from Slovenia

      Love Bulgaria and Bulgarians, our Slavic brothers. Nice lense!

    • madoc profile image

      madoc 5 years ago

      AT least Plovdiv, and the Valley of the Thracian Kings. But there is so much, and you can't list it all!

    • profile image

      bulgarianexcursions 5 years ago

      I would give some suggestions also to be added. These of you visiting Bulgaria can also book a trip to some of these places.

      1. The Old town of Plovdiv

      2. The Botanical Garden in Balchik

      3. Bachkovo Monastery

      4. Sozopol

      5. The Valley the Thracian Kings

      6. Melnik

      7. Baba Vida Fortress at Vidin

    • SaintFrantic profile image

      SaintFrantic 6 years ago

      How sadly I'm from Bulgaria but never visit some of this places.This will be corrected soon enough