From the capital Sofia, through the vast nature of the Rila Mountains with a breathtakingly beautiful church, to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria – this Balkan country offers you an incredible variety. Here you will find everything from food to casinos and nature to city life.
1. Bulgaria’s capital Sofia
The beginning of my top 12 most beautiful sights in Bulgaria is Sofia, the city with the melodic name. Stroll along Vitosha Boulevard and take a look into the many small alleys of the old town. It’s best to just run after your nose. No matter where you land, it’s worth it! Sofia’s streets are full of charm and you keep discovering something new – maybe your new favorite café is already waiting on the next street corner?
On your tour of Sofia you should make a detour to the most famous churches of Sofia. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the largest church in Bulgaria and deserves its place in the impressive sights of Bulgaria. The church was completed in 1912 and is intended to commemorate the soldiers who died in the fight against Ottoman oppression. The Sophienkirche, on the other hand, is the namesake of the city and the second oldest church in Sofia. This historical place existed even when Sofia was under Roman rule and was known as Serdica. Less known, but just as worth seeing, is the Boyana Church in Sofia, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 thanks to its unique frescoes.
2. The Thracian tombs in Sboryanovo
Thracian … That doesn’t mean anything to you? No problem, I’ll explain it to you: The Thracians were a very large ethnic group that lived in ancient times at the time of the ancient Greeks and colonized the entire Balkans. Even among the ancient Greeks, the Thracians were considered an ancient people that existed long before them. All the more valuable are the almost 40 graves, which were only found by archaeologists in northeastern Bulgaria in 1982 and which together with another 100 uncovered sunken settlements and sanctuaries form the historical-archaeological reserve Sboryanovo.
By the way, a gold treasure was found in the up to 5 meter high burial chambers – it is hard to believe that all of this could have remained undiscovered for so long! The tomb of Sveshtari is one of the most significant as it is the fully intact and incredibly impressive tomb of a Thracian king and has rightly been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Thracian tombs are rightly one of the top sights in Bulgaria, don’t you think? In the burial chambers there are not only the king but also his wife and numerous gifts, including some horses. You can always visit this mystical place from Wednesday to Sunday.
3. Rila Monastery
When sightseeing in Bulgaria, there is one thing you cannot avoid: monasteries. The wonderful buildings are scattered all over the country, but the most beautiful monastery is located in a valley on the west side of the Rila Mountains. In the Middle Ages, the Rila Monastery was a center for intellectuals, artists and writers. From the outside it looks like a fortress. And the impression is not deceptive, because at the time of the oppression by the Ottoman Empire, the Rila Monastery was considered a place of refuge.
In the middle of the 15th century, the holy place was looted and set on fire. But since the monastery was rebuilt, it shines even more than before. The monastery church in the inner courtyard is particularly worth seeing for tourists today: Inside and outside you can find numerous artistic frescoes that I have never seen in any other monastery. It is therefore not surprising that the Rila Monastery has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and should not be missing on any sightseeing program on vacation in Bulgaria.
4. Pirin Mountains, Rila Mountains and Rhodope Mountains
If you are already in the Rila Monastery, then you have probably noticed the wonderful nature that surrounds the monastery and can rightly be counted among the highlights in Bulgaria. The Rila Mountains with the highest mountain on the Balkan island at 2,925 meters, the Musala, offer you incredibly beautiful hiking trails and untouched nature. My tip: a hike to the Seven Rila Lakes. On your way there you will pass small sleepy villages. Here you still milk your cows by hand and nobody cares if the neighbors’ chickens stroll through your garden. Time seems to have stood still in these beautiful places. By the way, you can stay overnight in the village of Borovets, the oldest mountain resort in Bulgaria.
Another mountain range that houses the national park of the same name will surely amaze you: The Pirin Mountains, which are located in the Pirin National Park. While you can unwind here in spring and summer with walks or horse rides, the place Bansko turns into a paradise for winter sports enthusiasts in the cold months. From mid-December to mid-April you can hit the slopes or build your snowman here. Would you have thought that
The Rhodope Mountains, a mountain range east of the Rila Mountains, also offer wonderful natural spectacles: high mountain lakes, caves and waterfalls form an idyllic picture and with its eleven two-thousand-meter peaks, the Rhodope Mountains are a sight in Bulgaria that could not be more natural and beautiful. First of all: three more of the most beautiful sights in Bulgaria are also in the Rhodope Mountains, but more on that later.
5. The city of Plovdiv
Everyone has heard of the Bulgarian cities of Sofia and Nessebar. But do you also know the city of Plovdiv – also spelled Plovdiv – the second largest in Bulgaria? The charming city, which is located in the center of the country, is one of the European Capitals of Culture 2019 and therefore offers you numerous highlights that should not be missing on the list of Bulgarian sights. In addition to numerous sights such as the theater and the Roman stadium, which were built in ancient times, the historic old town of Plovdiv with its narrow streets and typical houses with richly decorated facades is particularly attractive. Further highlights are the numerous sacred buildings, including Orthodox churches, a synagogue and the Byzantine mosques, the minarets of which tower over the city. Yes, Plovdiv is a sight in Bulgaria not to be missed!