1. Belogradchik Fortress
2. Veliko Tarnovo
3. Rila Monastery
5. Black Sea Coast
The capital of Bulgaria, Sofia is a very pretty city. Relaxed and with all the charm of a typical major European city at a fraction of the cost. Lots of touristy stuff to do and the metro will help you get around easily and cheaply.
An old rock carving of a Madara Rider on a horse. At first glance, this appears to be a place you just drive up to, take your pictures, and then be on your merry way. However, there is more to explore.
Rock Hewn Churches
Several churches carved into the mountains with caves along the trek up.
The first capital and once most populated town in medieval Bulgaria. The grounds are quite large. Nice and quiet when we visited. Of course it was closed, but it’s pretty out there and not really talked about much in guidebooks. So it’s a bit off the beaten path, but may not be too far off your route.
- Flights: $125 (from Poland)
- Lodging: $302 (AirBnB, apartments, hotels)
- Transportation: $268 (rental car, taxi, metro)
- Activities: $30 (monasteries, churches, tombs)
- Food: $240 (estimated $20/day)
Note: A friend joined me so we opted for nicer accommodations. We also rented a car which added cost but was well worth it. Amounts above are for 1 person.
- Peak Season. Specifically along the Black Sea, the most popular time is July/August or summer weekends when the weather is nice. Otherwise it's pretty dead.
- Itinerary. We started in Sofia and stayed during the weekend, then drove east to the sea during the week. In summer, Sofia is populated during the week when people are working and going out, then everyone heads to the coast for the weekend. This is great if you hate crowds, but I would instead start the weekend in Sofia, drive north to sites there and then head east over to the coast to ideally arrive during the weekend or even late in the week. This way you can take advantage of a more exciting nightlife.
- Rental Car. Sixt is a very well run car rental company with cheap rates. I've used them several times now in Europe and they are usually, but not always, the cheapest. Very reliable and great customer service. You can book online and/or at Sofia Airport. Downtown offices no longer exist despite being on Google Maps. Ask for the Wifi device. It costs extra, but may be worth it to you. It's basically a portable hotspot emitting wifi your phone can connect to for Internet connectivity. Good for GPS as well as general Internet access wherever you take it.
- Locals. People seem very serious at first, but if you get to talking to them, most are very friendly. Such is true of many places in Eastern Europe. Bulgarians seem to love Americans though, at least the ones we met.
- Discounts. If you're a student, bring your ID to get 25-75% off!
- Food. Due to the Roman, Greek, and Ottoman influences over the years, there is some of everything in Bulgaria with respect to food and it was all amazing. We didn't have a bad meal ranging from street to food to fine(ish) dining. I especially loved the fresh fish.
- Camping. Noticed many places around the country.
- Hookers. Along the northwest part of route E79. This isn't really a tip, just a funny observation as we were confused why we would occasionally see women all dressed up just standing on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Although, I guess depending on what you fancy, this might be a tip after all.
- Traveling to Romania. You can go by train from Sofia Central Train Station, open from 7am-10:45pm to purchase tickets. There is an 8am De Bahn train to Bucharest that costs about $30. It stops in Veliko Tarnovo and Ruse, so you could take the train from those places as well. Bring food for the long ride from Sofia. There are charging outlets on the train. When you get to the border, stay on train. Passport control will take everyone's passports inside to stamp and check. This happens on the Bulgaria side and then again when you cross the river into Romania.