A gate in Sofia with the symbol of the country – the lion
I spent 10 days in Bulgaria and spent an average of $35 per day. I saw three major places: Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, and Nessebar. It would have been nice to spend some more time around the Black Sea, but the huge resorts really don’t appeal to me very much and unfortunately there’s very little virgin land left to explore. Nessebar was a wonderful place, though, and definitely worth the stop!
The highlight in Bulgaria for me was independence day in Veliko Tarnovo and meeting some wonderful people at the camping site where I stayed. Sofia was also a pleasant surprise with its rich history and tolerant culture.
The beachfront at Nessebar on the Black Sea
I spent a very pleasant few days in Nessebar, a 3,000 year old city on the coast of the Black Sea. Tourist season had ended two weeks before I arrived, so I managed to beat the crowds and savor some peaceful moments on the beach. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has Thracian, Greek, Roman, and Ottoman influences and its ancient architecture is very well preserved, so strolling around the town is a great way to spend some time. There are loads of cafes and restaurants as well, with an abundance of fish.
The cliffs outside Veliko Tarnovo
I spent a few days camping in Samovodene, just north of Veliko Tarnovo at the lovely Veliko Tarnovo Camping site. There are loads of hiking and rock climbing spots in the area and I spent a few hours trekking to the Holy Trinity monastery, which was unfortunately closed the day I went, I assume because of independence day celebrations.
Dancers lined up for hundreds of meters to dance during Bulgaria’s independence celebrations
I had the good fortune of stumbling into Veliko Tarnovo during the Bulgarian Independence Day celebration – September 22. There was dancing in the streets, a light show, and a military marching and singing performance. It reminded me the no matter where you are, people are more or less the same! The energy and patriotism felt on the streets in front of the castle were nearly identical to those felt on the Fourth of July in the United States.
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral at night
I was pleasantly surprised at how lovely and livable Sofia, Bulgaria was, especially coming from Bucharest which was very much the opposite. I only spent a couple of days in the city but of course took advantage of a free walking tour to make the most of my time. There are nearly 2,500 years of history visible right in the middle of the city, including 4th century churches, a colorful Ottoman-style mosque, and remnants of communist rule. In addition to the free city tour, I also took the free Balkan Bites food tour, which was a real treat.