Swathes of sun-kissed beaches lapped by the Black Sea, forested mountains teeming with wildlife, and ancient cities peppered with relics from myriad cultures; these are just a few of the reasons to embark on a luxury holiday in Bulgaria.

Did you know that its patchwork heritage encompasses influences from the Romans, Greeks, Thracians and Persians – and has the vestiges to prove it?

Or that its beautiful mountains are home to brown bears, wolves and lynx?

You may have heard about the affordable beach resorts on the Black Sea coast, or that it’s one of the cheapest places to go skiing in Europe, but it’s not just easy on the wallet; Bulgaria is intriguing, picturesque, and bursting with opportunities for plenty of adventurous and cultural experiences alike.

 

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It has perfectly presented rows of vines, idyllic sunset views over the mountains and impossibly enticing guestrooms often complete with a fireplace, exposed beams and bare stone walls. Yet look a little harder, and the real brilliance of this rural retreat near Sandanski is its authenticity, proud rustic atmosphere and clear connection with the landscape. Indeed, it stretches far beyond the vin...

This Balkan nation is sandwiched between Greece to the south, Romania to the north and with the Black Sea on its eastern frontier, where many luxury Bulgaria holidays are enjoyed thanks to long stretches of honey-hued sand.

As well as beach breaks in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria is also a prized destination for cultural trips. Start by delving into its capital, Sofia, which has roots in the 4th century and is brimming with exquisite architecture such as the domed St Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral. Discover hundreds of monasteries across the country, including the UNESCO-stamped Rila Monastery tucked into the mountains of the same name.

Bulgaria’s heritage is also showcased through numerous castles including the Belogradchik Fortress, Roman archaeological marvels like Plovdiv’s amphitheatre, Neolithic sites such as Devetashka Cave, and Kazanlak Thracian tombs, to name just a few.

Bulgaria holidays then promise plenty of adventure too. Carve your way down the snow-carpeted peaks of Pirin National Park on a skiing trip, or hike along snaking trails through the Rila Mountains, scattered with jewel-like lakes and flower-laden meadows to make for a stunning backdrop indeed. Go on a bear-watching safari or birding tour, try your hand at watersports in the Dead Sea, catch some thrills mountain biking – or anything else that piques your interest! And for something slower-paced, simply take a stroll through rural villages and stop for a rakia, the heady national drink traditionally made from plums. Sip Bulgarian wines on a tasting tour, and savour lip-smacking cuisine at charming little restaurants; we particularly love the Zornitza Family Estate, which flaunts an eco-farm and produces wine too.

There really is so much to love about luxury Bulgaria holidays, that may at first not spring to mind.

  • Discover Plovdiv – Bulgaria’s second city and the European Capital of Culture for 2019. It’s no wonder why, as the charming cobblestone lanes of its Old Town are lined with pretty National Revival buildings, while sites like the Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis and Roman Theatre are not to be missed.
  • There are many mountain ranges in Bulgaria, each with its own appeal. Bansko in Pirin National Parks being the places where some of the best skiing awaits; Rila is home to breathtaking lakes and waterfalls; and Central Mountains shelter the pretty town of Veliko Târnovo, with its mighty fortress, and Kazanlâk’s Valley of the Roses.
  • Luxuriate on the Black Sea beaches to the east. Sunny Beach is the most well-known resort, but there are many other options including Sozopol, a more sophisticated town with restaurants and bars aplenty; it’s the stomping ground for the capital’s hip crowd, so you’re in good company.
  • Encounter some of the hundreds of monasteries that pepper the country. From the 10th century Rila Monastery hidden in the mountains, to Rozhen with its stunning frescoes; Dryanovo, nestled between the cliffs of the Central Mountains, or the ornate Bachkovo, just outside Plovdiv.
  • Book a stay at the Zornitza Family Estate in southwest Bulgaria, where you can sample the wine produced onsite, relish homegrown meals, head out to Sandinski’s Old Town for a dose of history, pop over the border to Greece or go on an adventure through the surrounding mountains, canyons and nature reserves.

Visit Bulgaria in summer for hot, sunny days; you can get temperatures of over 30°C on the Black Sea coast in July and August. Further inland it’s a lot milder, and while spring and autumn can be pleasantly balmy, winters are harsh with plenty of snowfall. This makes Bulgarian mountains prime for skiing between December and March.

Bulgarian cuisine is quite varied, with a range of meats, fish, vegetables and cheeses going into its delicious dishes across the country. There are also certain specialties that you will see on many a restaurant menu. Take Lukanka, a salami sausage that’s a bit like Bulgaria’s answer to Spain’s chorizo, while Tarator is a light soup made from cucumber, yoghurt, garlic, dill and water, a refreshing dish to enjoy on hot summer days. Kebapche – Bulgaria’s take on the kebab – is also much tastier than you would imagine. Here minced meat is combined with mixed herbs and rolled into a sausage shape, served with the country’s signature cheese, Sirene.

Savour stuffed vine leaves – Lozovi Sarmi – or moussaka, both of which are much like the Turkish and Greek specialties. One dish you simply must try is the Gyuvech, a beef stew cooked with paprika, eggs and Kashkaval cheese, in a traditional dish also known as a Gyuvech. For dessert, try a Tikvenik pastry made with pumpkin, cinnamon, walnuts and orange, or finish with a strong glass of rakia, Bulgaria’s national drink which is traditionally made from plums or apricots. However, don’t forget the wine either; Bulgaria has bountiful vineyards, including the Zornitza Family Estate where you can stay in their boutique lodgings, sample homegrown wine and also tuck into farm-fresh fare comprising ingredients plucked from their own gardens.

You can fly to Bulgaria direct from the following UK airports: London, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester, with a flight time of between 3-4 hours. Most flights take you to either Sofia, the capital, or Burgas, on the Black Sea coast. You can also reach southern Bulgaria by flying to Thessaloniki in northern Greece and crossing the border. The time difference in Bulgaria is +2 hours from the UK. Domestic flights only operate between Sofia and the towns of Varna and Burgas, so if looking to travel to other destinations – hiring a car is recommended. In the summer, some boats travel between various destinations on the Black Sea coast, for those seeking to explore the region still further.

 

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