A popular summer destination for tourists of Eastern Bloc countries during Soviet Communism, Bulgaria still attracts many with its sunny beaches along the Black Sea, mountain resorts and historical sites. Surrounded by Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey, various nations have shaped Bulgaria’s culture and empires have left their footprints. Orthodox monasteries and churches, ancient Greek and Roman monuments, as well as remnants of Turkish rule mark the country.
The coastline of Bulgaria is a major attraction for tourists, especially in the two major cities of the seaside, Varna and Borgas. Other smaller resorts on the Black Sea also feature relaxing atmosphere and excellent cuisine in their traditional mehani (taverns), such as those in Sozopol, Nesebar, Zlatni Piasatsi (Golden Sands), Slanchev Bryag (Sunny Beach) and Albena.
The Bulgarian mountains offer a wide range of ski resorts, especially in the Rhodope and Pirin mountains. The most popular resorts are found in the mountain towns of Bansko and Pamporovo, but smaller ones are also frequently visited, such as those of Semkovo, Borovets and Samokov, located in the Rila and Vitosha mountains. The mountainous regions of Bulgaria are picturesque and provide excellent conditions for hiking as well. The country also boasts the beautiful spa resorts at Varshets, Velingrad, Hisarya and Sandanski.
Bulgaria is also rich in historical heritage. Its capital, Sophia, is home to the Orthodox St Alexander Nevski Church, the Roman church of St George, the Byzantine St Sophia’s Church, the Banya Bashi Mosque and the Sofia Synagogue. Other attractions include the Sophia Public Mineral Baths and a wide selection of museums.
Apart from the capital, Bulgaria boasts many other cultural and historical treasures. The Rila, Rozhen and Bachkovo monasteries display unique examples of medieval Orthodox architecture. The Rila Monastery is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Other impressive monasteries include those at Dryanovo, Pomorie, Sokolsky and Troyan. Popular city destinations include Plovdiv, with its Old Town and Roman amphitheatre; the city of Ruse, known for its Vienna-style architecture; Veliko Turnovo, the former Bulgarian capital which showcases the medieval Tsarevets Fortress; Belogradchik is known for its ancient fortress and picturesque rock formations; Nesebar, located on the Black Sea, is another popular tourist attraction, also listed as a World Heritage site; and the Theotokos Cathedral boasts one of the best known landmarks of Varna. International airports in Varna, Borgas, Plovdiv and Sophia provide flights to many European cities.