Where is Bulgaria? Is probably the first thing that springs to mind followed by: and why would I go to Bulgaria? Answers to both those questions follow along with some practical information to assist you in actually planning and ensuring a great trip to Bulgaria.
Where is Bulgaria?
Bulgaria’s northern border is the Danube River, separating it from Romania. It is bordered by the Black Sea on the east. And 4 other countries: Greece, Turkey, Serbia, and the Republic of Macedonia border Bulgaria on the west and south. It is in what is commonly referred to as Eastern Europe. You can see Bulgaria and its borders on this map.
Why would you go to Bulgaria?
Well if you are like most people you will know very little about Bulgaria. Most people we meet that know anything about Bulgaria have visited it and usually enjoyed their trip to Bulgaria.
We definitely fit this description, we knew little about Bulgaria, but after we visited we recommend to a lot of people they should plan a trip to Bulgaria. So to try and persuade you, read on.
Practical Facts for a Great Trip to Bulgaria
Bulgaria uses the Cyrillic alphabet
In fact the Cyrillic alphabet was developed in Bulgaria in the 9th century AD by two Greek brothers, Cyrill and Methodius. The brothers were Christian missionaries. Both brothers are now Saints.
Today the Cyrillic alphabet is the second most common alphabet in the world. (It is hard to read if you are not familiar with it, but luckily most touristy things and tourist maps use the Roman alphabet. Major highways also have signs using the Roman alphabet.)
Bulgaria is in the European Union (EU)
Bulgaria officially joined the European Union on January 1, 2007. When they joined the Cyrillic alphabet become one of the official alphabets of the EU.
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They continue to use their own currency, the lev. The official language is Bulgarian, although you can usually find someone that speaks English.
Bulgaria is not in the Schengen Visa Zone
Which means as a visitor, depending on where you are from, you can usually stay 90 days in Bulgaria. You can then continue on to a country in Europe (that is in the Schengen zone ) for an additional 90 days.
Bulgaria and The Black Sea is a popular Holiday Destination
People have been going to the Black Sea for holidays for centuries. Many Europeans and Bulgarians spend their summer holidays at the seaside.
Bulgaria, well serviced by both train and air services, is easy to reach. Many international airlines and several budget European airlines offer service to Sofia.
Bulgaria regularly ranks as one of the cheapest destinations in Europe (and it is very affordable.)
Interesting Facts about Bulgaria
These are some of the great reasons to make a trip to Bulgaria. Let’s start with some history and finish it off with some food and wine!
Bulgaria Produces Most of the World Rose Oil
Bulgaria produces between 70-85% of the world’s rose oil, a common ingredient in perfumes and cosmetics. Ladies if you need some good lotions or perfumes, this is the place!
Bulgaria ranks third in the world for the most valuable archaeological sites, after Greece and Italy. The oldest gold treasures in the world, over 6000 years old, are from graves found near Varna and the Black Sea. In addition over 15,000 Thracian tombs have been found. The Thracians are the earliest known people to inhabit what is now Bulgaria. Known for their art, gold smithing, engineering and empire building there are many artifacts from this civilization. This is a good, brief history of Bulgaria covering everything from ancient to modern times
As you can see, there has been civilization in Bulgaria for a long time! In fact, in 1976 UNESCO declared the ancient Bulgarian calendar, the most accurate in the world! Many of us will know of the Mayan calendar from 2012, but this calendar pre-dates the Mayan calendar by centuries.
Bulgaria was founded in 681 AD and is the only country in Europe that hasn’t changed its original name.
Great for Outdoor Activities
- Boasting one of the largest diversities of flora and fauna in Europe, a third of Bulgaria is forest.
- It has three well known mountain ranges: the Rila Mountains, Rodopi Mountains (toward the Greek border) and the Pirin Mountains. Pirin National Park is Bulgaria’s largest, and has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1983.
- With over 600 mineral springs, Bulgaria has more mineral springs than any country on continental Europe.
- Hiking, skiing and wellness activities are all great ways to explore Bulgaria’s great outdoors.
Food and Wine in Bulgaria
While we will of course explore this in more detail, there are two things that are worth a mention here.
Bulgarians love yogurt and Bulgarian yogurt is unique. The bacteria, lactobacillis Bulgaricus, which gives it flavor, is only in Bulgaria. So look for more on Bulgarian yogurt in a future post.
Wine in Bulgaria
Melnik, a town near Bansko, is the center of a large wine producing region in Bulgaria. And Bulgaria is a large wine producer for Europe. Producing wine since the Stone Age, they know a thing or two about wine. The most popular grape in Bulgaria is a red wine variety, mavrud. We will explore other drinks and wine from Bulgaria in more detail.