With snow-blanketed mountain ranges, sizzling sandy beaches, cities that ooze Eastern European charm and a mosaic of historic sites all packed into an area half the size of the UK, Bulgaria is fraught with scenic and cultural interest. Away from major resort towns, the country still moves to the same lazy rhythm thatit’s kept for hundreds of years, making a holiday to Bulgaria from Glasgow Airport the perfect opportunity to escape the tourist trail.
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Black Sea pearls
The endless chain of sandy bays that extends along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast is fast taking over from the Spanish costas as Europe’s favourite beach destination. Large, glittering new resorts such as party hub Sunny Beach scatter this sun-soaked coastline, but it’s still possible to discover your own secret cove. Kamchia and Karadere beaches are both undiscovered gems, and the ancient, UNESCO-protected streets of Nessebar infuse the area with cultural charm.
If you can tear yourself away from those brochure-ready beaches, then you’ll discover a country that wears its history on its sleeve. From the majestic Muscovite curves of the Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia to the crumbling Roman remains scattered around Plovdiv’s Old Quarter, Bulgaria is teeming with cultural treasures. Don’t miss the Rila Monastery, high in the Rila Mountains, which is famous for its glorious frescoes and spiritual significance.
A spider web of mountain ranges criss-crosses Bulgaria’s central and southwest areas, and in recent years ski resorts have been mushrooming up around these virgin ranges. Towns such as Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo deliver well-groomed slopes and après-ski entertainment for a fraction of the cost of the Alps. In summer, mountain bikers, climbers and hikers all flock to the Balkan and Rila mountains to soak up the beauty of a landscape still virtually untouched by human hand.