Bulgaria is a hidden gem in Eastern Europe, situated on the Balkan Peninsula right next to Greece, Turkey, Romania, and Serbia. It has a lot to offer — from mountain hikes to sunny beaches, from city sightseeing to wine tastings. If you want to find out about some of the best places to go in Bulgaria, the ones that aren’t frequented by many tourists, keep on reading.
This location is worth visiting during every season of the year. I personally find it most beautiful in the autumn, when the early morning fog covers the horizon and the leaves have turned orange. Some of Bulgaria’s most beautiful and magical places are to be found here, and over the years, many people crafted folk legends about these mountains.
THE WONDER BRIDGES
To me, this very interesting natural phenomenon (located in the Rhodope Mountains) looks like the chest of an ancient dragon. Basically, the “bridges” were formed by the erosive activity of the river flowing right beneath them. The water formed many holes, caves, and arches as time passed. The bigger bridge measures 49 feet (15 meters) wide and 328 feet (100 meters) long, and the smaller is 197 feet (60 meters) long with a total height of 164 feet (50 meters). On the weekends, you can go zip-lining from one formation to the other. This is quite fun (and it’s actually the biggest zip-line on the Balkan Peninsula).
This unique rock formation is located near the village Sini Vrah. It’s formed out of volcanic rocks, and it’s said that the Thracian people inhabited this area more than 4,000 years ago. It’s believed that Belintash was one of their cult sites, and due to many legends and stories, the place is packed with mystery. Many holes, niches, and trails are carved in the rocks, and some interpret those as a stellar map or petroglyph. Whether you love solving mysteries or just want to see the picturesque view from the top, Belintash must be on your to-do list.
THE DEVIL’S BRIDGE
Near the Greek border on the River Arda, you’ll find a medieval bridge that’s situated in a picturesque valley. It’s about six miles (10 kilometers) northwest of the town of Ardino and near the town of Kurdzhali. As the paved road ends, you can park your car on the side and walk 15-20 minutes to the valley. The place is very picnic-friendly – there is even a barbecue grill that you can use.
Legend says that long ago in the 16th century, the builder of the bridge made a deal with the devil himself. He was told how to build the bridge so that it would endure forever. In exchange, the builder had to put the devil’s image into the bridge so that it is visible and hidden in the same time. It sounded impossible, and the devil already anticipated claiming the man’s soul, when he realized that the builder had succeeded in the task. You only need to rotate a photo of the bridge vertically, and you’re staring into the face reflected in the water. Creepy, right?
This wonderful seaside village — located on the Black Sea — is going to leave you breathless.
All of the tourists go to “Sunny Beach,” a famous resort that’s located about two hours north of Sinemorets on the shores of the Black Sea. Sunny Beach was nice a decade ago, but now it’s famous for its crowds and overpriced meals. If you are a nightlife fan, maybe you’ll like it, but if you want to relax and escape the crowds, Sinemorets is just for you.
Here, you can find a dozen cute guesthouses to stay in and also a lot of places to eat fresh seafood. There’s also a long list of things to explore in the area, starting with the wild beaches near the village.
And if you’re a shutterbug, you’re guaranteed to fall in love with Sinemorets after dark. There’s barely any light pollution in this area, allowing you to capture gorgeous shots of the star-strewn sky.
When writing about all of these beautiful locales, I can’t forget to tell you about my lovely hometown – Plovdiv. It’s the second biggest city in Bulgaria, the European Capital of Culture for 2019, and a place that you just can’t help falling for.
The city is fairly walkable, so you won’t need to rent a car. Just get yourself a hotel or a guesthouse in the center of the city, and you’re good to go. Search for one near the main walking street or the Old Town — these spots are surprisingly affordable, even though they’re near all the top locations.
Start your day with a coffee at one of the dozen cafés on the main street. As you’re taking a sip, you can enjoy the daily routines of the people walking by. After you’ve powered up, you may take a walk or embark on of the many daily guided tours in order to learn very interesting facts about the city and its history.
Later, you should go to Old Town and take a look at the magnificent architecture from the last century. You can have a delicious lunch there as you enjoy the summer breeze. Two of the city’s most famous churches are situated here, so don’t miss visiting those.
In the afternoon, you can make your way to Kapana – a newly renovated neighborhood with a very hip vibe. A lot of young and creative people hang out here, so you can buy lots of hand-made crafts while you’re exploring. Don’t forget to grab an afternoon snack or a light dessert in one of the cute local restaurants and cafés!
For sunset, I recommend going to Nebet Tepe, one of the seven hills we have in town. It’s located right on the top of the Old Town, so the view is incredible.
Last but not least, go to Hemingway (a restaurant) for dinner. It’s one of the best — if not the best — dining places in Plovdiv. It’s very classy — don’t forget to order from their house wine!
I love my country and would be happy to have you visit us here! Acanela shows travelers around Bulgaria (and several of its Eastern European neighbors) on a trip called Croatia & the Balkans. Come see me!
Post and photos by Alexandra Karadzhova