Regions in Bulgaria
- Northern Bulgaria
Located between the Danube to the north and the Balkans to the south, it is a lowland region. Also called Moesia in Roman times, the region is full of the remains of ancient fortresses in northern Bulgaria, including the large port city of Sexaginta Prista in Rousse and the fortress of Baba Vida in Vidin. The capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, Veliko Tarnovo, is in the north. It is home to Tsarevets, one of the best preserved medieval castles to date. During the Renaissance, the cities of Rousse and Pleven were the centres of Western culture in the region.
- South Dobruja
Known as the “breadbasket of Bulgaria”, the region produces most of the country’s world-class wheat, among other locally grown grains. The first two Bulgarian capitals – Pliska and Veliki Preslav – are located in Dobruja. Veliki Preslav was considered one of the largest cities in the early Middle Ages, comparable only to Constantinople.
- The Bulgarian Black Sea Coast
The Bulgarian coast has one of the best beaches in Europe. With facilities ranging from small, quiet villages to large modern towns and luxurious five-star resorts, the Bulgarian Black Sea coast can satisfy all tastes and during the hot Bulgarian summer days. Most of the towns and villages along the coast date back to ancient Greece – the city of Nessebar, for example, has an ancient central part that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Varna, in the north, is Bulgaria’s third largest city – as an economic and tourist centre, it is known as the country’s maritime capital.
The relatively low mountain Strandzha is known for the specific architecture that can be observed in Malko Tarnovo, Brashlyan and most other villages, the rich folklore and the special rituals, such as nestinarstvo (barefoot dancing on live embers), which preserve many pagan elements. Strandzha is an area with a large concentration of ruins of Thracian sanctuaries and sacrificial altars, dolmens and other archaeological objects. The Strandzha National Park is also located on the mountain.
- Upper Thracian Plain
Some of the most developed cities in Bulgaria, such as Plovdiv and Stara Zagora, are located in the region. Northern Thrace is a lowland region along the Maritsa and Tundzha rivers, which is very fertile and rich in fossil fuels. The region is also rich in historical heritage: the treasure of Panagyurishte, one of the most famous objects of Thracian culture, the Thracian tomb of Kazanluk, dating back to the 4th century BC, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Plovdiv (the second largest city in the country) is probably the oldest city in Europe.
- Rhodope Mountains
Although the Rhodope Mountains are not very high mountains, they are a popular destination for many tourists because of the limited number of roads and the steep hills and deep forests. The winter ski resort of Pamporovo is located in the Rhodopes. “The House of Orpheus” – the poet from Greek mythology who went to hell to save his beloved – is a region with a distinct cultural influence. The music of the Rhodopes is world famous: many foreign musicians are fascinated by the sounds of the Rhodopes and even the song Izlel e Delyu Haydutin, performed by Valya Balkanska, is one of the few performances included in the musical selection of the Voyager golden record, which is part of the Voyager 2 space probe and is expected to be played in space for at least 60,000 years.
- Pirin Macedonia
Named after the Pirin Mountains, the region includes the mountain itself, as well as the valleys of the Struma and Mesta rivers. Attractions in the region include the Pirin National Park and the popular ski resort of Bansko. The city of Blagoevgrad is the largest city in the region. It is known as a student city because two of the largest universities are located there. Pirin Macedonia is also a popular wine region.
- Bulgarian Shopluk
The capital Sofia, as Bulgaria’s largest city, dominates the region’s economy. The Vitosha Mountains, south of Sofia, are a popular tourist destination used as an “escape” from the hustle and bustle of city life. The “roof of the capital”, as Vitosha is sometimes called, is a great place for weekend picnics and sightseeing in summer and skiing and snowboarding in winter. But Shopluka also includes the highest mountain in the Balkans – Rila. Rila is home to the Borovets ski resort, some beautiful glacial lakes and another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rila Monastery.
- Balkan Mountains
The Balkans – the soul of the Bulgarian people. In Bulgarian folklore and culture, the mountains have a special symbolic meaning. It is the home of heroes and victories, the protective fortress of the people, the cradle of everything Bulgarian. The small towns at the foot of the mountain were the revolutionary centres of the Bulgarians during the Ottoman Empire and many of Bulgaria’s greatest cultural heroes and idols were born there. The Central Balkan National Park is located in the mountains and there are many places along the chain suitable for winter sports and tourism.
Cities in Bulgaria
- Sofia – the capital and the newest city in Bulgaria. It has a beautiful city center with both Renaissance and modern influences, many parks, including the “Vitosha” National Park (which is only a few minutes away from the city center), good nightlife, more than 250 historical sites, and architectural monuments and many interesting cultural places. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe.
- Burgas – although the city is known for its commercial port (Port of Burgas) and oil refinery, it has a picturesque waterfront, a nearby city center, and rich commercial areas that make it popular with tourists. In recent years, the city has hosted the popular Spirit of Burgas music festival.
- Gabrovo – A popular tourist destination near the geographical center of the country, offering quick access to other towns such as Veliko Tarnovo and Kazanlak, as well as the Balkan Mountains and the Uzana ski resort. The Etar architectural-ethnographic station is located near the town.
- Pleven – a historical town, famous for its panoramic monument and for its beautiful parks and fountains in the town center.
- Plovdiv – the second largest city in the country, situated on both banks of the Maritsa River, has a beautiful shopping promenade and many parks. It is an ancient city influenced by many eras, including a preserved ancient Greek amphitheater, a Roman stadium, a “Bulgarian Renaissance” style old town and a variety of mosques, Catholic cathedrals, and Orthodox churches throughout the city. Plovdiv is also known in the country for its vibrant nightlife. Although the city has a modern lifestyle, it is one of the oldest cities in the world and undoubtedly the oldest in Europe. Don’t forget to take a trip to the Bashkovo Monastery, about an hour’s drive away.
- Rousse – known as “Little Vienna”, the city center offers an impressive Baroque architectural ensemble that cannot be found anywhere else in Bulgaria. The city has several sights, including the Roman fort of Sexiginta Prista, the Rousse Theatre, the House of Caliopa, and the Pantheon.
- Varna – the third-largest city in the country is a beautiful combination of a seaside resort with famous nightlife and an urban center. Varna’s coastal garden is full of entertainment and can also be enjoyed by art lovers.
- Veliko Tarnovo – a picturesque university town on the Yantra River that was the capital of the medieval Bulgarian Empire and still has one of the best-preserved medieval fortresses.
Other destinations in Bulgaria
- Central Balkans National Park
- Dragoman’s Swamp
- Architectural-ethnographic complex Etar (or simply Etara) – the open-air museum of Bulgarian crafts and culture of the 18th century in the National Nature Park “Bulgarka” near the town of Gabrovo.
- Pirin National Park