Bulgaria has never really been considered much of a holiday destination other than for skiing, but as tourism has grown in the mainland over the last few years, the country has emerged as a real gem of a place to spend a week or two of the summer.
Still relatively untouched, and unvisited by the masses, Bulgaria has a lot to offer. The north of the country has fantastic weather, great beaches and beautiful scenery, and the south combines all of that with buzzing and vibrant nightlife.
Bulgaria is bordered by five other countries: Romania, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey and Greece. It’s clear, from the very few English voices you will hear in Bulgaria, that currently the majority of tourists are traveling from these neighbouring countries and not from the UK.
If you’re seeking a serene and relaxing holiday destination, the north is probably the area for you. With two main beach resorts, Albena and Golden Sands, and a number of quaint Bulgarian towns such as Balchik and Dobrich, there is a good balance between tourism and the hidden-away beauties of Bulgaria.
The south is home to Sunny Beach, the biggest resort in the country, with the longest and widest beach strip. Sunny Beach is often referred to as “the sunniest resort for the sunniest people”.
Eating out can be an interesting experience. Often, the restaurants try to cater for all nationalities, but more often than not it is the local dishes that they excel at. Be open minded, and you might be pleasantly surprised at what they deliver.
Despite the success of the tourist areas of the country, the echoes of the communist history are obvious on the outskirts of the major towns. As you travel around, buildings in complete disrepair are commonplace. That said though, it is worth renting a car, and taking a look around at the less commercial areas, and exploring the very varied history.
A word of advice: if you do rent a car, try to do it through a local agency, as these are much cheaper than booking through travel agents, and other holiday companies. Admittedly, what you get from local agencies might not be as luxurious as you would expect from a larger company, but for £25 a day, who’s complaining? As long as it goes backwards, forwards, and stops, what else do you need? Who needs air conditioning when the car has windows?
Cape Kaliakra is definitely worth a look. Close to the Romanian border, it offers stunning coastline views. On occasion it is said that dolphins pass by, and a number of stalls line the walk up to the cape, offering a number trinkets and souvenirs to take home from your trip.
The 'Stone Forest' near Dobrich is also an interesting sight. Formed naturally, it is literally as it sounds, a number of stones, that look a bit like a forest. Don’t expect anything to breathtaking here though - it is interesting, but not earth shattering.
Balchik's Botanical Gardens and Palace are a beautiful way to spend a morning, but it is best to go early morning to avoid the midday sun, as otherwise, the visit can be a sticky and exhausting experience.
At the moment, Bulgaria is cheap and remarkable value for money, but should the country enter the Euro-zone and leave behind the Lev as its currency, this could be a thing of the past.
Overall, Bulgaria is affordable, enjoyable and definitely worth making a trip to at least once. It seems that now, or in the near future, would be the best time to visit, as much like a number of other holiday locations, you can envisage that tourism could take over, and that might ruin the experience somewhat, but for now I would recommend it to anyone.
By Alice-May Purkiss
JMU Journalism travel articles
Beautiful view over Balchik YouTube: Bulgaria highlights