Top 20 incredible places you MUST visit in Bulgaria – Going beyond Sofia and major cities
Beautiful Bulgaria – a country that I get to call my home for more than 10 years now. Planning a trip to Bulgaria? Asking a question what are the top places to visit in Bulgaria? How much actually do you know about it? From what I’ve seen, some people don’t even know where is Bulgaria located on the map. You get bonus points if you say that Bulgaria is located on the Black Sea, but most likely that’s going to be it. Well, Bulgaria definitely is the most underrated country in Europe. It’s a country of insane natural beauty, ancient history, deep traditions, people diversity, and most delicious cuisine. In this list, I will show you the top 20 places that you have to visit in Bulgaria on your next trip. Most people know only about Sofia, Sunny Beach, and maybe a couple more Bulgarian cities but let me tell you, there are SO MUCH MORE hidden gems in Bulgaria to discover.
For those of you who don’t know I was born and grew up and Russia. We were living there happily until one day my father didn’t decide that we’re moving to Bulgaria. Bulgaria? I thought What? Where is Bulgaria? Why? Please, don’t judge me! Those were the thoughts that my 13-year-old brain was thinking when I heard my father talk about it for the first time. Well, long story short, it brings us to this moment in the future, and I can confidently say to you that that move was one of the best things that have happened in my life. It literally turned my life upside down. Especially during the last year, when most of the international travel has been put on hold, I was so grateful for this opportunity to some of the most famous places in Bulgaria. I was always putting it off, exploring of my own backyard. And it was like God’s way of making me do it.
Disclaimer / Because there is so much to see in Bulgaria, it’s simply not possible to put it all into one list. It will highly depend on what you’re looking for and what you love. Whether you love visiting cities, going to the beach, hiking in the mountains, or maybe just chasing waterfalls. Most of the lists that I have seen online are almost identical, they include major cities in Bulgaria like Varna, Plovdiv, Burgas, etc, so you won’t see them in this particular list. Of course, I also think that those places need to be visited during your trip to Bulgaria but I just don’t want to give you the same information. That’s why I created separate lists for all those topics. Even this list could go so much more beyond 20 places to visit in Bulgaria but I decided to keep at that number, not to overwhelm you right from the start. However, if you need more inspiration for your Bulgarian vacation, definitely don’t miss out on the other lists that I’ve created for you.
So without further ado let’s get to the list of the top 20 incredible places that you must visit in Bulgaria.
1. Kamen Del / Камен Дел
This place is located the closest to Sofia – the capital of Bulgaria. You can visit it even if you have only half a day and in my opinion, it’s the most beautiful place to visit in Sofia.
This place is only a short hike away and will reward you with the amazing view of Sofia at the end.
No matter if you go there during the day or during the night time, to see the whole city light up, the view from the top is mindblowing. I simply could sit there for hours just taking it all in.
Kamen Del is located 6109 feet above sea level (1862 м) and Sofia is only 1952 feet (595 m).
How to get to Kamen Del?
The easiest and fastest option is to go to Aleko hut by car. Park it there and continue on foot.
If you don’t have a car, you have two other options. Either to take a bus number 66 or to take a ski lift – Simeonovo.
The hike is very easy and doesn’t include an intense uphill struggle. It will take you approximately 1,5 hrs / 2,5 miles (4km) to get to the viewpoint.
Also don’t forget to bring water and snacks with you, as Aleko hut will be your last point to do that, there is no water at the top.
I have a lot of blog posts coming about Bulgaria in English, however, my website is also available in Bulgarian. You can see a small Bulgarian flag at the top of the page. There, I share some more beautiful locations in Bulgaria and go more in-depth about each one. So if you need more inspiration and are willing to use Google translate, feel free to check it out as well.
2. Belogradchik Rocks and Belogradchik Fortress / Белоградчик
If you’ve researched anything online you probably have seen this place on some type of “best of Bulgaria” list. I’m sure you will be amazed to find a gem like this in our small country.
Belogradchik Rocks is a group of strangely shaped sandstones in the North-west part of Bulgaria.They were formed by natural forces over a period of more than 200 million years. Some of the rocks reach up to 656 feet / 200 m in height and all of them are spread on a very huge area of 18 miles / 30 km
How to get to Belogradchik rocks?
Belogradchik rocks are located 111 miles / 179 km away from Sofia, which will take you approx. 3 hours. You can either rent a car or book a guided tour to get there.
Depending on how much time you have you can also visit three beautiful caves during your day trip. The names of the caves are Magura, Venetsa, and Lepenitsa.
Opening hours for the fortress
1 April – 30 September
every day – 9.00 am – 6.00 pm
1 October – 30 March
every day – 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Opening hours for the rocks:
April: every day – 09:00 – 18:00
May: every day – 09:00 – 19:00
June – August: every day – 09:00 – 20:00
September: every day – 09:00 – 19:00
October: every day – 09:00 – 18:00
November – March: every day – 09:00 – 17:00
BGN 4 for adults
BGN 2 for students and seniors
Guided tours – BGN 5
3. Devil’s bridge / Дяволският мост
Devil’s bridge is considered the most remarkable example of high bridge construction in the Rhodopes – not only on Bulgarian but also on Greek territory. There is no way that you won’t be impressed by its grandeur, amazing architectural elegance, and engineering achievement when you see it for the first time.
The bridge itself is a structure with a length of 183 feet/ 56 meters, three arches, and four openings between them used to read the water level.
How to get to the Devil’s Bridge
You can find the exact location by writing “Dyavolski most” in your GPS.
Drive from Ardino in the direction of the village of Dyadovtsi.
Along the way, you will see many signs that will show you the way to the bridge. The car can be left near the last sign that says 700 meters to the bridge. From there you have a short walk through a shady forest for about 10 minutes to get to the bridge. You will need to pay a fee of BGN 2.
You can also visit: Thracian fortress Kaleto, and Momchilova Fortress on your way there
4. Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria
Now, to all of my beach and sea lovers.
The Black Sea Coast is a very big and stunning part of Bulgaria that is definitely worth visiting and deserves its own list. There is simply no way that I could leave you with only one suggestion of a place to visit.
Yes, you won’t see Bulgaria on the list of “Top 10 Best Beaches in the world” but there are so many beautiful gems and villages to discover I’m sure will make you happy. Don’t skip visiting the east coast of Bulgaria.
I’m preparing a list of the best beaches to visit in Bulgaria, so stay tuned for that as well!
Also, even here I would like to mention one very important thing.
Please go beyond famous Sunny Beach!
It’s my least favorite place on the Black Sea and I’ve been there only once. It’s simply a very touristy area full of drunk tourists, beach bars, and hotels. This is not the authentic experience that you’re looking for.
There are far more beautiful places to visit in Bulgaria in summer, which have to be seen like Sozopol, Bachik, Tylenovo, Nessebar, and Kaliakra, just to name a few.
5. Melnik & Melnik’s Pyramids / Мелник и Мелнишки пирамиди
Melnik is the smallest city in Bulgaria located in the Southern part of the country. This charming place makes a perfect destination for a day trip from busy Sofia and will let you experience the slower pace and enjoy the authentic magic of Bulgaria.
It’s also considered the wine capital of Bulgaria, so make sure to try out several types of local wines while in Melnik.
This cute little town impressed me so much that it even inspired me to write my first post about Bulgaria in English. The blog post goes more in-depth about why you should visit Melnik and what you can do there, so make sure to check it out.
6. Enjoy some of the best nature places in Bulgaria and go hiking
For all the nature and mountain lovers, you are definitely in the right place when it comes to hiking. Mountains take up a significant part of the central and south-western parts of Bulgaria. During your stay, I would highly suggest you find time to go hiking. Even better if you can do it as a 2-day trip and sleep in a hut somewhere in the mountains.
However, even if you are short on time, there are plenty of one-day hikes to choose from.
Of course, I couldn’t leave without mentioning the top hikes and mountains in Bulgaria, so don’t worry, I already created another blog post mentioning everything that you need to know.
Read More: Top hikes in Bulgaria and best nature places to go to on your trip (Coming soon)
The main mountains of Bulgaria that you can explore are:
Rila – the highest mountain range in Bulgaria, the Balkan Peninsula, and Southeastern Europe. Its peak is called Musala Which means “near God” or “place of prayer” – 9,596 feet / 2,925 m – rilanationalpark.bg
Pirin – a mountain range in the southwestern part of Bulgaria, with its peak Vihren which is the third-highest on the Balkan’s – 9,560 feet / 2,914 m
Stara Planina or Balkan Mountains – 346 miles / 557 km mountain chain which runs across the whole country from the west side of Bulgaria, from the Serbian border to the east coast on the Black Sea reaching Cape Emine. The highest peak of Stara Planina is called Botev 7,795 feet / 2,376 m
Rhodopes – probably the best mountain in Bulgaria, in my opinion, and the greenest one of all, with so many natural places to explore. 83% of the mountain is located in Bulgaria and the rest is located in Greece. Its peak is called Golyam Perelik 7,118 feet / 2191 m.
Vitosha – the mountain which became a symbol of Sofia and it’s only a 10 min drive away from the capital which makes it the closest mountain to go hiking or skiing if you’re staying in Sofia. So many Bulgarians go there skiing after work during winter or on weekend trips to escape the hustle of the city and relax. The mountain is easily accessible by bus or cable cart. Its peak is called Cherni Vrah 7,513 feet / 2,290 m
Strandzha – located in the southeastern part of Bulgaria and its peak located in the European part of Turkey
7. Devil’s Ecopath / Дяволската екопътека
If you have time to spend only one day in nature then going exactly on this eco path is something that I would highly recommend.
Located in the heart of Rhodope Mountains in the South part of Bulgaria, this eco path will amaze you with its beauty. Like I already mentioned Rhodopes is my favorite mountain to explore because of the endless amount of unique and mesmerizing places that you can discover there.
It’s located only 67 miles / 109 km away from Plovdiv. The trial is very nice and not that hard, in my opinion. There are two ways to walk this path: the big circle 6,33 miles / 10,2 km and the small circle of 2,36 miles / 3,8 km. Depending on your abilities it will take you approximately 3 hours and a half to hike the small circle.
Keep in mind that it includes climbing up some stairs but the views of the canyon are totally worth it.
Another thing that I love about this path is that you will be constantly hidden from the sun, walking in a shade, which is always a plus in the summer.
If you have time, like a full day to explore, I would also highly suggest you visit Eagles’ Eye – panoramic viewpoint and Yagodinska Cave, located only 9 miles / 15 km away.
8. Lakatnik Rocks / Lakatnishkite skali / Лакатнишките скали
Another idea if you have less time and have only half a day to spend outside of Sofia, then this trail is definitely for you. It’s located only 37 miles / 60 km up North of Sofia, in Stara Planina.
The trail is very pleasant to walk, not very long, and will reward you with breathtaking views from above.
Also, right on the edge of the cliff at the top, you will notice a small alpine hut. The beginning of the Bulgarian mountaineering was set on these rocks in 1925. This is the Eagle’s Nest shelter, made there in 1938 by climbers from the Eagle’s Nest section of the then Bulgarian Alpine Club.
There are also two caves that you can visit: Temnata dypka – one of the longest caves in Bulgaria and Razhishkata cave.
At the top, you will also find a monument that was built in honor of insurgents killed in the battle during the September Uprising in 1923.
I would also highly recommend you to eat at the restaurant “Peshterata” after your hike. The food was very delicious and came out very fast, even though we were a group of 20 people.
Also, now I think that it’s a good time to mention that I can with no doubt create a detailed travel itinerary suitable for your needs. I know how overwhelming it can be to plan a trip. Having to spend hours searching online because you don’t want to miss the most beautiful locations. So, if you want me to help you create that perfect Bulgaria itinerary, make sure to send me a DM on Instagram or Facebook, or you can send me an email from the “contact me” page. I will always be happy to help you.
9. Borovets & the Black Rock
Most people know Borovets as a ski resort in Bulgaria and consider visiting it only during the summer month, but that’s not true.
Of course, its higher season will always be winter but there are plenty of things to do during the warmer months as well.
You can go hiking, biking, or climbing in the mountain of Rila, as there are a lot of beautiful trails to choose from. Spend time in nature, enjoy amazing weather and views or just have a picnic.
There are also plenty of festivals and sports events hosted in Borovets. So, make sure to check the calendar to see if there are any events going on around the time of your visit.
I suggest you check out the official website to learn more about the events and things to do in Borovets: click here
I would also highly recommend you to eat at the restaurant “Peshterata” after your hike. The food was very delicious and came out very fast, even though we were a group of 20 people.
Even if you don’t want to pay for a guided hiking tour, you can simply check out the website for some inspiration, and do it yourself afterward.
I would like to particularly mention visiting a place called the Black Rock / “Chernata Skala”. The path to get there is relatively short and easy. It also goes through the forest, so you will be in shade most of the time. We were there during fall time, so all the trees were covered in gold, which made the whole experience even more beautiful.
Just type in “Hiking trail to the Black Rock” to find a place that marks the start of the trail and a place where you can easily park your car.
The whole trail is nearly 2,5 miles / 4 km long and takes about an hour to walk in one direction.
10. Chilingira ecopath & Vacha reservoir / Чилингира и язовир Въча
This is the place that definitely left me speechless.
Chilingira Eco-Trail is located less than 100 meters from Chilingira Hotel Complex and Restaurant, 50 km from Plovdiv or 170 km from Sofia.
The road was well paved, with not many bends and you can enjoy the many scenic views while driving. When you are approaching Vacha Dam, there are several places where you can stop and take pictures.
You can leave your car at the parking next to the complex. On the opposite side of the road, you will find a big sign marking the start of the trail, near the stairs.
On the map, you will see 5 marked viewpoints, and of course, the last one is the most impressive one.
The length of the trail is less than 1,24 miles / 2 km (1,976 m) and it is not very steep, which makes it suitable for all age groups.
It took us 2 hours to walk the path, and I want to note that we walked very slowly and stopped every 10-15 minutes to take pictures. Of course, it will depend on each person, how fast your pace is, but I don’t think it will take you more than an hour.
11. 7 Rila Lakes & Rila Monastery / Седемте Рилски езера
Of course, I can’t go without mentioning those two important places.
First, let’s start by talking a bit more about the Seven Rila Lakes.
Seven Rila Lakes are a group of glacial lakes located in the northwestern part of the Rila Mountain. They are definitely the most visited natural place in Bulgaria.
Each lake carries its own unique name associated with its feature.
“The Tear” is the highest lake located 8316 feet / 2,535 meters high, directly beneath the Otovishki Peak. Other lakes are called: “The Eye”, “The Kidney”, “The Twin”, ‘The Trefoil”, “The Fish Lake”, and “The Lower Lake”.
The accessibility and natural beauty of this place are what make them so popular among Bulgarians and tourists as well.
The lakes are spread out one after the other, so by continuing walking on the trail, you will discover them one by one. The path is very clear and will take you around 3 to 5 hours to finish.
I highly recommend making it all the way to the highest lake as the view from up there is truly breathtaking. Even if you don’t get to the highest lake, the trip still will be worth it.
You can hop on the chairlift (18 BGN/$10 return) to get to the hut or you can simply start your hike from the parking. You have no idea how long the line was early in the morning when we got there. And it was even longer around 4-5 p.m. when most of the people decided to go back. In my opinion, it’s just not worth it. So, if you have enough physical capability, I would highly recommend you start your hike from the bottom. At the end of the day, that’s what you came for, right?
Another place that you can visit once you’re done with your hike is visiting the Rila Monastery. This is the largest and most popular Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. It dates back to the 10th century. There are also two museums that you can visit inside.
Here goes my most important tip for you though!
Make sure to try “mekitsa” (мекица) while you’re there. It’s simply a MUST! Even though you can try this local fried bread all around Bulgaria, this was the most delicious one that I’ve ever tried and I’m not even kidding.
All of my Bulgarian friends were talking about them on our way there, and I thought they were crazy, as it’s not something very special. However, as you can see, now I became one of them. It’s a must-try food in Bulgaria, and the Rila Monastery is truly the best place to do it, you will thank me later.
You can check out more information about the Rila Monastery on this website
Practical Tips for your visit:
Bring good hiking shoes, sunscreen, food, and enough water.
The best time to visit the lakes is in July and August. I would not encourage you to visit them during the winter month as it will require much better gear.
The 7 Rila Lakes are located only 48 miles / 77 km away from Sofia, which will take you around 2 hours by car.
You can also catch a public bus from the Central Bus Station to Sapareva Banya. From there you will need to hop on a shuttle bus, which departs when it’s full.
If you want to save your time, you can book your transportation, for a self-guided tour to both of the places here.
The one with the most reviews:
12. Prohodna cave & bungee jump / Пещера Проходна / Божиите очи
Prohodna Cave which is better known as “The Eye of God” is another beautiful stop on the list of the most beautiful places to visit in Bulgaria.
This is probably the most famous and the most easily accessible cave in Bulgaria.
Located 72 miles / 116 km away from Sofia, which is a 1 hour and 30-minute drive by car.
Тhe huge size of the cave itself impressed me the most. I could never say that it’s so huge just looking at it in pictures.
The name of the cave, Prohodna (Проходна), comes from the fact that the cave has two huge entrances one its opposite sides. And “Eyes of God” from the fact that on its ceiling you can see two huge eye-shaped holes from which the light comes through.
Just make sure to check online in advance when the jumps are available.
The cave itself is 860 feet / 262 meters long.
Even the smaller entrance is so big 115 ft / 35 m high which makes it an amazing place for bungee jumping!
Yep, you’ve heard this right. You can go bungee jumping from the top of the cave. It’s definitely an experience you will remember forever!
Just make sure to check online in advance when the jumps are available.
13. Karadjov Rock / Караджов камък
Now going back to my favorite part of Bulgaria – Rhodope Mountains. There is another place which I would highly recommend you to visit. It’s called Karadjov Rock.
Just imagine a huge rock stuck in the gutter which was formed between two tall rock formations – that’s what this place is. And you can even go on top of it if you dare.
When you go up the stairs underneath the rock, you will be rewarded with an amazing panoramic view of the widely spread mountains all around you.
The place itself is considered to be one of the three places forming a “magical” triangle on the map. These places are Krastova Gora (Кръстова гора), Belintash (Белинташ) and the Karadjov Rock itself. It is believed that all three places were Thracian sanctuaries. The whole area can be considered as a large complex of places of worship and sanctuaries. A lot of people say that the energy here is just different and you can even feel it in the air.
So I would highly recommend you to visit all of them in one day. First go to Krastova gora. Then it will take you approx. 1 hours and 15 minutes (3 miles / 5 km) by foot to get to the Karadjov rock. From there you can either continue by foot to Belintash or get back to your car at Krastova Gora and continue your journey to Belintash by car.
If you would like to visit only the Karadjov rock, you will have to park your car in the village called Mostovo and start your hike from there.
14. Uhlovitsa cave / Пещера Ухловица
First of all let me start by saying that if you are a cave-lover, then it’s another reason why you should visit Bulgaria now. There are so many beautiful caves to explore for such a small country.
The one that I will mention here is called Uhlovitsa (Ухловица) which is a breed of an owl that used to live here. The cave is one of the oldest ones in the region.
Again, the cave is located in the South Central part of Bulgaria which is full of places to explore.
The length of the cave is 1,509 ft / 460 m but only 1,083 ft /330 m of them are available for visits. The temperature throughout the year is 5°F / 10°-11°C.
You will have to climb 180 steps of stairs to get to the cave, but in my opinion, it’s totally worth it.
The cave is like an underground palace. There are so many beautiful formations, sculpted by water and air, resembling trees and corals. The cave has several floors, so you will constantly be going up and down the stairs.
Probably the most beautiful formation is located at the end of your walk through the cave. There, you will find a large stone waterfall, sparkling in white. Depending on which season you’re visiting the cave, you will also see a mesmerizing turquoise color water lake.
For that reason, I would highly suggest you visiting it during the spring months when there is a lot more water. The cave can be entered only with a tour guide.
Other caves in Bulgaria worth mentioning :
Golubovitsa – water cave and the closest one to Uhlovitsa
Venetsa, Ledenika, Utrobata (Утробата), Saeva Dupka (Съева дупка), Magurata, Devetashka, Lepenitsa, Snejanka.
15. Samodivsko praskalo waterfall / Самодивско пръскало
Of course, I also had to include at least one waterfall in this list.
However, if you love chasing waterfalls, I would highly recommend you to take a look at my other blog post which I created specifically on the top waterfalls to visit in Bulgaria (coming soon).
Don’t forget that the best season for visiting them all is during the spring months because that’s when there is more water from all the rains and snow. So, you will be able to see them in all of their glory.
The waterfall I would like to mention here is called Samodivsko praskalo.
Located near Devin, it’s considered to be the tallest one in Rhodope, with its height of 229 ft / 70 m.
This waterfall is very easy to reach by foot only in 20 minutes. The path is pretty flat and you have only a couple of steps to climb to get to the waterfall itself. It is one of the most impressive waterfalls that I’ve got a chance to visit this year.
The path from the parking ends at the stone house where you need to turn right. From the house, you have maybe only another 10 minutes to get to the waterfall itself.
Read More: Best Travel Tips For Flying Like A Pro
16. Hankrymovski Rock Monastery / Ханкрумовски скален манастир
This is one of the places that I still hadn’t had a chance to visit myself but because of its beauty I had to include it as well so if you have more time, you have to go there for sure.
The Rock Monastery is located near Shumen, in the East part of Bulgaria.
The path from village Troitsa to the monastery takes about 40 minutes. And when you get to see all the incredible views from the top you will for sure see why I included it in this list.
It is believed that in 12 BC monks decided to establish their own monastery in a natural cave, located high in the rocks. it is a holy place full of mystery, so make sure to not skip it, if you’re somewhere in the region.
17. Buzludja / Бузлуджа
And now to a little bit different place to visit – Buzludja – The Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party.
It was built in 1981 on Hadji Dimitar Peak, better known by its old name Buzludzha Peak (until 1942), in honor of the Buzludzha Congress.
Asphalt roads from Shipka peak and from the main road Stara Zagora – Ruse have been laid to the monument, so you won’t have any trouble in finding your way to get there.
18. Bekovi Rocks & Red Rock / Бекови скали
Located in the Rhodope mountains once again, it’s another place that will show you how beautiful Bulgarian natural landscape is.
I recommend visiting this place if you’re looking for an easy and short hike. The path is itself is not that picturesque but when you get to the final viewpoint, for sure it will leave you speechless.
The route which will take you there is about 2.1 miles / 3.4 km which means approx. 1 hour and 10 minutes one way.
This is a very popular place and I’m sure you won’t be the only one there if you decide to visit it during the weekend. There is no shade on the path so make sure to bring some water with you.
19. Ovech Fortress / Крепост Овеч
The Ovech Fortress was built by the Byzantines in the IV century.
Located east of the city of Provadia, 32 miles / 53 km west of Varna, and 254 miles / 410 km east of Sofia.
The fortress has three entrances. The eastern entrance is convenient if you’re coming by car. The western entrance is accessible from the city by an original spiral staircase with 111 steps. However, the main entrance to the fortress is the northern one.
You can visit the Ovech Fortress all year round. There is also a tour guide that you can find on site, if you’re interested in learning more about the fortress.
20. Orlovo oko / Орлово око
Last but not least, to keep this list as diversified as I can, I also included the most famous panoramic spot in Bulgaria.
Located in the heart of Rhodope (like I said most of my favorite places are located in this region), this will be a perfect spot to include on your day trip from the Devil’s throat cave and Yagodinska Cave.
You can either get to the panoramic view by foot from the village Trigrad or village Yagodina or hop on a jeep which will take you there.
By walking it will take you around 1 hour and 30 minutes and the length of the path is around 3.8 miles / 6 km.