Best time to visit Bulgaria

BEST TIME TO VISIT BULGARIA


TEMPERATURE & RAINFALL

From Dec-Feb, the national parks are white with snow although public transport still runs on time ferrying folk to winter resorts outside Sofia and Plovdiv. Although Sept usually sees temperatures falling, Oct is often considered the best time to visit Bulgaria for autumnal walks and city sightseeing. Spring rains find glacial lakes, mountain streams and waterfalls at their zenith including Skakavitsa in Rila NP, Raysko Praskalo in Central Balkan NP, and the Canyon of Waterfalls in the Rhodope Mountains. Midsummer celebrations find free spirits at the coast enjoying the first sun rise of July and Uriah Heep's hippie epic July Morning.

THINGS TO DO IN BULGARIA


WHAT TO DO IN BULGARIA & WHAT NOT TO

Things to do in Bulgaria…


Bulgaria bridges the gap between Turkey and the rest of Europe and nowhere is this more in evidence than within the ecclesiastical architecture. Eastern Orthodox Christianity meets the Ottoman Empire with Rila, Bachkovo and Troyan monasteries just a few of the historical highlights to be found. The settings for many of Bulgaria's monasteries take you up into the clouds with journeys through Rhodope, Pirin and Balkan mountain ranges promising stunning views and remote, welcoming, guesthouses.
'Dancing’ bears were once commonplace in Bulgaria with animals subjected to years of abuse in the name of entertainment. Since the practice was outlawed in the early 90s, captive bears were sold or turfed out and placed in Belista’s Dancing Bears Park amid the forested foothills of the Rila Mountains. A visit to this excellent sanctuary can be tough with elderly residents still conditioned to sway on two legs. This is not a zoo, it's a sanctuary for animals that need human help and a visit will put funds where they're needed most.
Ceeping along the line flanked by pine covered mountain slopes en-route to UNESCO listed monasteries and 4th century Thracian tombs; train travel is a laid back means of exploring Bulgaria, with evenings spent off the rails in some of the country's best-loved towns and villages. Traveling by train across Bulgaria gets you closer to the people and dramatic landscapes that help to turn a vacation into an extra special experience with chances to practise languages and compare country and city tracks, a real treat for cultural travelers.

Things not to do in Bulgaria…


Forget your hiking boots. There are fantastic hiking trails in Bulgaria, not least within Pirin, Rila and Central Balkan National Parks. Also, as the oldest nature park in the Balkans, Vitosha, is just on the outskirts of Sofia there are no excuses not to strap up the laces and head for them there hills. Ski season cable cars still run outside of winter and offer high altitude hiking routes where panoramic ridges, glacial lakes and the highest peak in the Balkans, Mt Musala, offer exceptional scenes.
Avoid winter. There’s still much to be said for visiting when the snow falls as, from winter walking to snowshoe shuffling, you can't beat Bulgaria for wrapping up warm and enjoying the still of a pine forest covered in a blanket of snow. Some of the best snowshoe trails are to be found within Bulgaria's national parks including Malyovitsa in Rila, Bezbog in Pirin and the Stara Planina Mountains in Central Balkan.
Join the crowds on the coast. There's nothing that Bulgarians like more during the summer than to head to the Black Sea beaches. Although there are several quiet stretches of sand, such as Irakli, Karadere and Krapets, there are also plenty of overcrowded beaches – I’m looking at you, Slanchev Bryag (Sunny Beach). Thankfully, many of Bulgaria's cities have an exceptional assortment of city parks and gardens from where to watch the world go by with the City and Borisova gardens in Sofia and Tsar Simeon’s Garden in Plovdiv both ideal for enjoying the sunshine away from the coast.

BULGARIA TRAVEL ADVICE


TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN BULGARIA

Foodie tips


Simeon Dimitrov, from our supplier Odysseia-In, on food for the winter months: “You can warm up in the winter with a bowl of shkembe chorba (tripe soup) or gyuvetch (a pot of slow-cooked meat and veg stew) or palneni chushki (peppers stuffed with meat and rice).”
Jenny Aitken, from our supplier Tucan Travel: “Bulgarian cuisine is quite meat focused but the salads are a great option as usually fruit and veg is quite fresh. Skopska (tomatoes, cucumber, onions, peppers and parsley with crumbled sheep’s cheese) is a great traditional salad to try. Otherwise there are various pastry dishes which come without meat. A popular one is bantisa which is made of filo pastry layered with cheese. Also very popular in Bulgaria is yoghurt which can be found in most restaurants, either served up straight or in a soup mixed with cucumber, garlic, dill and walnuts.”

Things to do in Sofia


Simeon Dimitrov, from our supplier Odysseia-In: “There are some great nightclubs, and places to go for an evening out in Sofia including Rakia Raketa Bar (famed for Bulgarian brandies) on Yanko Sakazov Boulevard or MOMA restaurant (traditional and contemporary Bulgarian dishes) on Solunska Street. If you’re in Plovdiv during September then check out the Night of Museums and Galleries festival which features many of the city’s major museums and art galleries.”

Things to do in Sofia


Jenny Aitken, from our supplier Tucan Travel: “Sofia’s Central Market is over 100 years old and sells anything and everything; you’ll also find plenty of flea markets, antique markets and even the oddly named Women's Market (Zhenski Pazar) which was originally run solely by women.”

Say what?


Simeon Dimitrov, from our supplier Odysseia-In, offers a few helpful phrases: “Signs in large cities are often written in Cyrillic alphabet and English although not always in more remote rural areas. Here are a few useful words and sayings to use when visiting Bulgaria: zdravei (hello); kak ste? (how are you?); molya (you’re welcome); nazdrave (cheers); planina (mountains); prodavate li...? (do you sell...?); blagodarya (thank you); izvinete (excuse me); dobre sum (I’m fine); mnogo vkusno (very delicious); mnogo krasivo (very beautiful).”

Best time for a hike


Jenny Aitken, from our supplier Tucan Travel, ahreas her advice on the best time to go to Bulgaria: “Generally the best times to hike in Bulgaria are in the shoulder months, June and September, when the weather is not too hot but there is less snow in the mountains. The Pirin Mountain range probably has some of the best scenery in all of Bulgaria so is great for a challenging hike.”

BULGARIA TRAVEL ADVICE


TIPS FROM OUR TRAVELLERS

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Bulgaria travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation.
"If you don't speak Bulgarian, go with a guide! That makes your trip totally more meaningful and interesting." – Haruyo & Neil Abramson
travelled from Manchester to Varna with Balkan Air which suited me but the travel times are restricted from May until the end of September. I understand that there are other airlines which go from Luton and Gatwick which would serve other passengers from the south of England.” – Daphne Kehoe
Lonely Planet guide was invaluable; as well as lots of info on places to visit it contains most of the useful phrases required to get by. A phrase book would be a worthwhile investment too though. Rent a car. The national agencies were cheaper than the big worldwide ones and the service was good. The best day out we had was the botanical gardens at Baclchik.” – Phil Sisson
"Try to become familiar with the Bulgarian (Cyrillic) alphabet. English is very limited among older Bulgarians. It will help you to feel orientated if you can recognise place names, particularly if using public transport. With a little planning I was able to use local buses to explore the area. The buses are very cheap!” – Jenny Lunn
Photo credits: [TempChart image: Boris Dzhingarov] [Foodie tips: Zserghei] [Things to do: Donald Judge] [Hiking: Staryyeyes] [Tip1: Vaskots7] [Tip2: PJM] [Helpdesk: Donald Judge]

Written by: Chris Owen
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