A country that played a major part in the Greek, Roman and Ottoman Empires, Bulgaria is a destination where travellers journey into a rich and fascinating past.
Bulgaria is more than a forward-looking, contemporary nation set in a stunning central European landscape, it is a country with a fascinating past, ripe for discovery.
Sandwiched in between Greece and Turkey, and within the extensive reach of the Roman and Russian Empires, much of the story of Bulgaria is built upon the architecture, culture and history of its powerful neighbours. On a Bulgaria tour you’ll see everything from ancient Greek and Roman ruins to Ottoman Mosques and Orthodox Russian churches.
Visiting the Captial
It is not hard to stumble upon history in the nation’s capital Sofia, particularly amongst the churches (some of which were originally built as Ottoman mosques and later converted). No Bulgaria tour would be complete without a visit to the city where the golden dome of the largest Orthodox cathedral in the Balklans, Alexander Nevsky, towers over the skyline. A visit to the cathedral reveals a sumptuous, intricately decorated interior, well worth spending a few hours in.
While you’re in Sofia there are other churches to explore, including the St Sofia, a sixth-century church with ancient catacombs to discover below ground, the Church of St George, the city’s oldest building, and the beautiful Russian St Nicholas.
A Mountain Monastery
A good Bulgaria tour will take in much more than just the city and towns of this beautiful country so make sure any itinerary you may be considering includes a trip to the Rila Mountains, and a visit to the tenth-century Rila Monastery. Built by the students of St Ivan, who lived as a hermit in nearby caves, the monastery has been so beautifully preserved that it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Explore Roman Ruins
Bulgaria is home to a number of important Roman ruins but probably the most atmospheric and impressive are the ruins at Plovdiv. The site holds the remains of the Roman town, including a still intact amphitheatre. Built in around 117AD, the theatre would have played host to gladiator battles as well as plays, with a capacity for a crowd of around 6,000 people. Today the theatre is still used, although you are more likely to see a Vivaldi opera than a battle to the death!
For an authentic view of Bulgaria’s rural past, take time on your Bulgaria tour to visit the historic villages of Leshten and Kovachevitsa in the Rhodope Mountains. Like stepping back in time, the cobblestone streets and historic architecture speak of a past before industrialisation and modern technology, when the way of life here was much simpler and less advanced.
There is so much history to discover in Bulgaria that you might find that one visit is just not enough to take it all in. Step back in time on your first Bulgaria tour and you’ll want to return again and again to discover everything else this nation has to offer, from beautiful beaches to wonderful skiing, hiking and a huge range of modern cultural activities.