If you're looking for a country with absolutely everything then Bulgaria should be on your bucket list. It's oozing with tradition, coastline and ancient cities and to add to its appeal it's incredibly cheap making it a perfect destination for anyone on a budget.
But what is there to see? Lots and you'll need much longer than one week to see the sights. I stayed for ten days and it still wasn't enough. Getting around is easier by bus but it does help to have some knowledge of the Cryllic alphabet.
If you heading to Bulgaria here are my top 10 things to do in Bulgaria
1. Spend Time in Plovdiv
Plovdiv has amazing clothes shopping and although the clothes aren't as cheap as you would think in comparison to the cost of living, they are very stylish. Even the lady in the tourist office was wearing hot pants! But if you don't like shopping (or the travel budget doesn't stretch) then you can just sip coffee in the main square and enjoy some people watching over a very cheap lunch. Plovdiv is the oldest living city in Europe and has to be on your itinerary if you visit the country.
2. Food Tour in Sofia
I love my food so when I came across a FREE Sofia food tour (yes, I did say “free!”) I could not turn down the opportunity of experiencing my first ever food tour (not to mention a free lunch). The tour with Balkan Bites takes you to a selection of three different restaurants: Supa Star, Sun Moon and Lubimoto which are all family owned.
The tour is a great way of sampling Bulgarian cuisine and learning about the history of the people and the country. If you're by yourself, you have a ready-made group of friends to go to lunch with! I even met a couple to spend the evening with at the Candlelight Bar (coming up later).
3. Lay on the beach at Sunny Beach
Sunny Beach isn't everyone's cup of tea but if you want to party, get a tan and meet others then it's ideal. It's not very authentic and is completely geared up for tourists but it's a nice break from the culture and is fast becoming the Balkans version of the Costa del Sol.
If you need to cool off pay a visit to the Aquapark, one of the biggest water parks in the country. Embrace your inner child on the longest and highest water slide in Bulgaria.
- Book tickets: Action Aquapark Entrance Ticket
It's only a bus ride away from Sunny Beach but if you're travelling from Burgas it's even cheaper on the bus. This historic UNESCO town sits on a rocky peninsula on the Black Sea and is the remains of an ancient city dating back more than 3,000 years ago.
5. The Church of St George
Hidden away in the capital lies a red-brick 4th century church slap bang in the midst of the Presidency courtyard. This church surrounded by modern buildings each side has the wow factor and can be seen on the Sofia walking tour if you want to see the rest of Sofia on foot.
6. Stone Mushrooms in Melnik
Bulgaria has many unique stone formations and none better than the stone mushrooms in Melnik. The town is a hidden gem and is the smallest town in Bulgaria. Melnik is known for its wine producing region and also for its unusual sand shapes. If you want to get off the beaten track then it's a good place to come as not many tourists come here.
If you can't make it to Melnik, head to Belgradchik Rocks instead. This yellow and red rock formation was apparently nominated for one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. You can take a full-day trip from Sofia to see them.
- Check prices and availability: Belogradchik Rocks Full-Day Trip from Sofia
7. The Seven Rila Lakes
Located in the Rila Mountains (again, hence the name), these seven glacial lakes with their own names including lower lake, fish lake, twin lake, and kidney lake (shaped like a kidney) are scattered at the foot of several peaks and are one of the biggest attractions in Bulgaria. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Rila Monastery whilst you are here.
Rila National Park can be tricky to get to from the capital as you need to take a tram then two buses so it may be worth considering a tour for ease.
- Check prices and availability: 7 Rila Lakes and Rila Monastery from Sofia
8. Wonderful Bridges
This natural phenomenon is in the heart of the Rhodope Mountains at 1,450 metres above sea level. I have no idea why these marble bridges are called wonderful but the area has such a calming energy that I wanted to stay in this peaceful place for hours to the lack of delight from my tour guide! In the summer you can take the 240 metre zip line if you are feeling adventurous.
- Check prices: 7 Rila Lakes and Wonderful Bridges from Sofia
9. Asen's Fortress
Near Assenovgrad is a charming fortress perched high on a hill side. Once home to the ruler of Bulgaria's second Kingdom, the remains of the fortress are great to explore with old paintings inside. Climb to the highest point for fantastic photo opportunities of the Rhodope Mountains and the surrounding area.
The Bachkovo Monastery & Asen's Fortress tour combines Asen's Fortress with the Bachkovo Monastery on a 3 hour tour from Plovdiv. It's ideal if you are short on time and are unsure how to get there.
- Check prices and availability: Asen's Fortress
10. The Candelight Bar
Now this bar is a bit tricky to find and is more like an old stable than a modern bar. Its real name is ‘Hambara' and what makes it different is that it is lit using only candles (hence the name) making it extremely cosy.
You'll probably want some company to come here though as it's more of a romantic place than a bar to meet others. Sofia's Hidden Bars tour is a great idea for solos as you get to learn about life in Sofia and meet other travellers on this 4 hour pub crawl.
Where To Stay in Bulgaria
I stayed at Hostel Old Plovdiv, a boutique hostel in the old town. They staff were so friendly that I decided to stay an extra night and they even help you work out the next trains. The hostel has so much character and is in a perfect location for exploring the old town and the new.
Travelling solo in Bulgaria can be a bit of a challenge due to the Cyrillic alphabet and I wouldn't really recommend it for the first time solo but the locals will always come to your rescue if you need help with directions.
Tours to Bulgaria
I travelled to Bulgaria as a solo female. If you are looking for some company on all or part of your trip, both G Adventures and Intrepid Travel are responsible tour companies and have group tours combining Bulgaria with Hungary and other European countries from 8 days to 24 days with prices starting at £1399.
Is Bulgaria good for solos? Yes. It can take a bit of planning and be a challenging with the language barrier but if you like intrepid travel I definitely recommend it.