BULGARIA

Bulgaria Itinerary: 10 Amazing Days in the Land of Sunflowers

Man contemplating the Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

Bulgaria is one of the oldest countries in Europe, but also one of the least explored. We were completely unaware of all the treasures it holds until we found some affordable flights to Sofia. After five minutes of searching we discovered many of Bulgaria’s wonders! From the golden beaches, to the mountains and the never-ending sunflower-fields! It was easy to click buy and start planning what to do on our ten days in the country. Curious? Here’s our Bulgaria itinerary.

Day 0: Getting to Sofia

It took us quite a lot of hours to travel the 1710 miles that distance Lisbon and Sofia… Thankfully our Lufthansa flights were comfortable, on time and it’s always nice to have some free food on board. Yes, even if it’s just some poorly-filled sandwiches. We used our long layover in Frankfurt to explore the city beyond the airport. e were so tired when we got to Sofia that we took a taxi at the airport. They are quite inexpensive in the country, but make sure to catch the right ones so you aren’t scammed. The first night we didn’t even have dinner, and totally crashed at our hotel. We opted to stay at the St. George Hotel and we recommend it. The location is as central as it gets, and the rooms are comfortable and spacious. Though it may not be considered a budget option in Bulgaria, it is quite affordable.

Day 1: Sofia

Our first proper day in Bulgaria was spent in Sofia, exploring the main sites. There are some landmarks you just can’t miss when you visit Sofia, such as Alexander Nevski Cathedral and the area around Serdika. Vitosha, the main street, is filled with people and wonderful cafes. While walking you can also appreciate a view to the nearby mountain of the same name. The weather app incorrectly forecasted a cold rainy day. The day was mostly sunny except for a few thunderstorms. It was actually really warm, as it would be for the rest of our trip.

The beautiful Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia Bulgaria
Rui walking in the Largo Sofia Bulgaria
Ruins and Mosque near Serdika in Sofia Bulgaria
Ruins and Mosque near Serdika in Sofia Bulgaria

Day 2: To the Black Sea Coast

Day 2 was mostly a travel day. We went back to the airport, this time using the recent and super efficient metro system. Burgas, on the coast of the Black Sea, was our flight destination. At home we struggled a lot whether to go by plane or by bus, and ended up deciding on the first because it was faster. In the end, it was not! Our Bulgaria Air flight was delayed, and we were stopped in Varna for hours before actually flying to Burgas. To make things worse, we spent about an hour in a line for document verification and another on a taxi to our resort in Aheloy. It wasn’t all bad, though. We got some free chocolate on the plane! Plus, we were ready to enjoy somedays by the seaside.

Day 3: Aheloy

Besides exploring, we really needed to rest, so we decided to spend three nights in the Vineyards Hotel. The reality was that we only had a day of proper rest, the Day 3 of our trip. It was spent lounging by the pool and dreaming of parlenka (traditional and delicious Bulgarian flat bread).

The resort had a lot of potential, but it was not the semi-luxurious experience we were expecting. You will probably find better options for when you visit Bulgaria. We found a few problems: it was hard to get information about places nearby, and the Hotel was absolutely in the middle of nowhere. It was also quite expensive as we decided to splurge on the Executive Suite, and considering all the related transportation costs. The Executive Suite was indeed bigger than our house. There were other perks, such as a pool you only shared with the other five suites. However, looking back, we probably should have opted for a more affordable room: the normal hotel pool was quite nice and never full.

View from our room in Aheloy Bulgaria

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Sunset in a Resort in Aheloy Bulgaria

Day 4: Nessebar

One of the reasons we opted to stay in Aheloy was its close proximity to Nessebar, the pearl of the Black Sea. Despite the public transportation hurdles, we visited on the 4th day of our trip. Yes, it is a bit of a tourist trap and (at least) in the Summer the main street is completely filled with tourists. Nonetheless, if you get off the main grid you can have a wonderful side street all to yourself. The town is absolutely lovely and has a lot to explore: its architecture is very unique and the amount of churches seems infinite. Plus the seafood is great, very affordable, and amazing views of the Black Sea are abundant.

Restaurant Terrace by the Black Sea in Nessebar Bulgaria

Charming Side Street in Nessebar Bulgaria
Maria in Nessebar Bulgaria
Sunset over beautiful sunflower fields in Bulgaria

Day 5 and 6: Veliko Tarnovo

Day 5 was all about getting to Veliko Tarnovo. We used Alex Ok to get there and were pretty satisfied with the service. The bus ride was one of the most beautiful we’ve ever been on, with scenic views of mountains and sunflower fields. Once you start getting closer to Veliko Tarnovo the views fill with green and indeed, the city itself is one of the greenest cities we’ve seen, surrounded by hills. We opted to stay two nights at the Hostel Mostel, very famous among backpackers. The hostel was comfortable, well located, and very much what our budget needed after our time in Aheloy.

We only spent a full day in Veliko Tarnovo: it was enough to explore the main sites, but we would have loved to spend more time in the city (it is as beautiful as it is peaceful). I think we could have spent a week exploring the Tsarevets Fortress (mostly pretending we were on Game of Thrones). This is a place you absolutely should add to your Bulgaria itinerary, and one of our favorite parts of the trip.

Rui in the Tsavarets Fortress in Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria
Lush Green Hills in Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria
View to the Martyrs Church in Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria

Day 7 and 8: Sofia

After one full day in the city, we woke up the next morning to catch our bus to Sofia and we enjoyed a sunny afternoon in the capital. We used Biomet, and even though the bus was a bit delayed, it was very comfortable and modern. Day 8 was spent in Sofia, most of it specifically at the Museum of Socialist Art (from our experience it goes by different names). It is an absolute must see for all its weirdness. Surprisingly, we were the only ones there. It is great if you love history and museums, but equally great if you don’t, as it’s certainly not your typical museum. Maybe it’s better described as a gallery of not-so-faraway times.

Rui standing in front of a statue at the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia BulgariaStatue of a young couple of workers at the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia BulgariaVarious Statues at the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia Bulgaria

Day 9: Seven Rila Lakes

Day 9 was certainly the most breathtaking (both literally and figuratively) of our trip. It was all about hiking the Rila mountains to view the amazingly beautiful Seven Rila Lakes. This was the one thing we knew we absolutely didn’t want to miss on our Bulgaria itinerary. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to get there using public transportation, but we were very satisfied with the service provided by the Rila Shuttle: we got a comfortable ride to the beginning of the trek and back to Sofia for a reasonable price. We wanted to hike without a guide, so it was the perfect option for us. This was an experience we’ll certainly never forget! It was the first time we felt the full effects of high altitude and our first proper mountain adventure: we’re aware it was actually not that adventurous but we really had an amazing time and up in the top (where very few people climbed to) we felt like true explorers.

The kidney lake in the Seven Rila Lakes in the mountains of Bulgaria
One of the Seven Rila Lake Lakes in Bulgaria
Vintage Van by the Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
Maria looking over some of the Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

Day 10: Last day in Sofia

Needless to say we woke up completely wiped and sunburnt the next day. However, it was our last one in Bulgaria so we got moving to explore a bit more of the city. We ended up spending most of our day at the National Palace of Culture (NDK) and enjoying the rooftop views from the Sense Hotel Sofia. As our flight the next day was very early in the morning we opted to stay at the Ibis Sofia Airport, which offers free transfers to the airport. Once there we were treated to a magical sunrise over the mountains. The photos don’t do it justice (they never do!).

NDK Building in Sofia Bulgaria
Boy riding his bicycle in Sofia Bulgaria
Garden near the NDK in Sofia Bulgaria
Sunrise over the mountains at Sofia's Airport in Bulgaria

Bulgaria Itinerary: Final Thoughts

It was surprising how easy it actually was to travel around Bulgaria. We planned everything ahead of time, and bought all our tickets online, and had no issues with public transportation. There were some delays, but nothing different from what we are used here in Portugal. If we were to plan a Bulgaria itinerary with all the new information there are only 2 things we would consider changing. To start, we would get to the coast by bus or train. When there, we would probably choose a more central hotel. Being in the middle of nowhere in Aheloy was peaceful, but it was a very expensive part of our trip.

You will notice some famous sites missing from our itinerary: Vitosha Mountain, Plovdiv, Rila Monastery and the Buzludzha monument – just to name a few! Unfortunately we were not able to fit them into our itinerary, but they are certainly on our list of top priorities once we return to Bulgaria. And we are certain we will return!

What about you? Have you ever visited Bulgaria? How did you spend your days there?

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Our Bulgaria Itinerary is filled with breathtaking views and countless adventures you can't miss in one of the least explored countries in Europe.
Our Bulgaria Itinerary is filled with breathtaking views and countless adventures you can't miss in one of the least explored countries in Europe.

 

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8 Comments

  • Liliane Fawzy

    I’m so glad I found this post! I’m trying to plan a month in Europe for the fall and have been looking at adding Sofia to my itinerary. Now I’m seriously debating just doing at least a week in Bulgaria! It looks stunning!

    May 11, 2019 at 2:09 am Reply
    • Two Find a Way

      We’re so glad it was useful! There’s so much to see in Europe, but we’re sure you wouldn’t regret spending a week in Bulgaria – the country is amazing!

      May 11, 2019 at 10:46 pm Reply
  • Smita

    Loved the conversational way in which this was written. Seven Rila lake sounds amazing. I’m going to Europe in autumn and now Bulgaria is on my list as well.

    May 11, 2019 at 2:23 am Reply
    • Two Find a Way

      That’s great to read =) Our day at the Seven Rila Lakes was truly memorable! Bulgaria is a really beautiful country and there’s so much to do.

      May 11, 2019 at 10:47 pm Reply
  • Laura H

    Beautiful photos and great guide! I knew about Alexander Nevski Cathedral of course but not many of the other things. That sunflower field is beautiful! Shame the resort didn’t quite live up to expectations though 🙁

    May 11, 2019 at 9:07 am Reply
    • Two Find a Way

      Thank you! We really loved Bulgaria and looking back now we mostly have only good memories of the resort – even though it was expensive for Bulgaria, it would be hard to find a place with such conditions and so much space elsewhere in Europe! In the end, we were able to rest, enjoy the sun, and explore the nearby area (including the sunflower fields!) so it all worked out.

      May 11, 2019 at 10:49 pm Reply
  • Elizabeth

    This is lovely! My old gymnastics coaches were from Bulgaria and always used to tell us stories- it’s neat to see the place they were talking about here! I would love to visit someday- it looks gorgeous!

    May 11, 2019 at 12:13 pm Reply
    • Two Find a Way

      We are glad we were able to show you a little bit of this stunning country! We’re preparing a photo post fully dedicated to this country because we still have more to share =)

      May 11, 2019 at 10:50 pm Reply

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