The Rough Guide to Bulgariaby Rough Guides Publications, Dan Richardson, Jonathan Bousfield
One of Europe's few remaining value destinations, Bulgaria is an undiscovered pleasure. This up-to-the-minute guide brings you the essential and the obscure across the land. From the Danube plains to the Black Sea coast, The Rough Guide is your passport to medieval citadels, Byzantine ruins, secluded fishing villages, local vineyards, and the country's famous rose plantations.
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WHERE TO GO AND WHEN
Bulgaria has a continental climate, with long, hot, dry summers and - in the interior at least - bitterly cold winters. July and August can be oppressively hot in the big cities, and a little crowded on the Black Sea coast - elsewhere, you won't have to worry about being swamped by fellow visitors. Using public transport is reasonably easy throughout the year, although the highest cross-mountain routes will be closed during the coldest months. Those who travel through Bulgaria too far out of season will find many tourist facilities shut.
Bulgaria's most obvious urban attractions are Sofia, a set-piece capital city whose centre was laid out by successive regimes as an expression of political power; and the second city Plovdiv, home to what is arguably the finest collection of nineteenth-century architecture in the Balkans. Both are increasingly cosmopolitan places, offering a range of street cafs and nightlife opportunities in short supply elsewhere in the country. They each form important cultural centres, being well endowed with museums and galleries, and are good bases from which to visit the rest of the interior.
However it's in the countryside rather than the cities that the real rewards of inland travel are to be found. You'll come across some of Europe's finest highland scenery in the Rila, Pirin, Balkan, Sredna Gora and Rhodope mountain ranges, whose valleys harbour the kind of bucolic villages which have all but disappeared in Western Europe. Many of them are time-consuming to reach by public transport, but if traditional architecture and goat-thronged, cobbled alleys appeal, any effort will be rewarded. While the villages of Bansko, Koprivshtitsa - a living memorial to the 1876 April Rising - and Melnik have the best tourist facilities, more rustic out-of-the-way spots such as Brshlyan, Kovachevitsa and Zheravna are also well worth seeking out. In addition, the highland regions display Bulgaria's rich spiritual traditions in the shape of its many monasteries: Bachkovo, Rila, Rozhen and Troyan are the big four, although any number of smaller foundations make worthwhile destinations. Also in the mountains, a burgeoning winter tourist industry is taking shape in resorts such as Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo, although the latter two are purpose-built package resorts which lack the charm of the former. Snow is thick on the ground from late November through to mid-March, and in summer the mountain resorts are taken over by climbers and ramblers.
However, most foreign visitors still make a beeline for the Black Sea, formerly the summer playground of the entire Eastern bloc. That said, big purpose-built resorts like Sunny Beach and Golden Sands tend to be rather characterless and isolating: though package tours based at these resorts present a cheap and easy way of getting to Bulgaria, it's best to steer clear of them once you arrive. The main resort-city of Varna is the liveliest place along the coast, while small peninsula settlements like Nesebr and Sozopol, though crowded in August, provide traditional fishing-village architecture as well as enticing stretches of sand. Indeed, beaches are on the whole magnificent, especially in the south, and private enterprise is more developed here than anywhere else in the country, ensuring a plentiful supply of private rooms and good seafood restaurants. Although the climate remains mild all the year round, the Black Sea becomes deserted outside the main tourist season (July-Sept).
Elsewhere, few places are geared up to cater to Western-style, consumer-oriented tourism, although the rugged highlands that cut across the centre of the country are the best places to explore the heartlands of Bulgarian history and culture. The crafts towns and monasteries of the central Balkan Range were the places where Bulgarian culture recovered during the nineteenth-century National Revival, and are easily explored from the dramatically situated, citadel-encrusted town of Veliko Trnovo, medieval capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. Shumen, main town of the northwest, is dour in comparison, but allows access to the remains of the Bulgarian state's first two capitals, Pliska and Preslav. Between the Balkan Range and the Sredna Gora, with its countless reminders of Bulgaria's nineteenth-century struggles against Turkish oppression, lies the Valley of the Roses, lined by a string of historic market towns and home to Bulgaria's renowned rose harvest in late May.
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i got the book 3 month before i traveled to this amasing country ,i studied it thoroughly.it gave me good ideas and important information which i used later. i took the book with me and traveled for 40 days all around bulgaria .i've been in beautiful places ,3 folklor festivals (i got the dates and places in the basics chapter), i climbed up to the 7 rila lakes a -maz-ing !!! don t miss theme ! and do not miss bansko ,so full with atmospher. i agree; bulgaria is -an hidden pearl ! since then i came back to bulgaria and again i will...
From the pristine city of Sofia to the ancient capital of Veliko Tornovo, Bulgaria is an incredibly beautiful country at currently bargain prices. The ancient Black Sea Riviera town of Nessebar offers a step back into the Greek and Roman empires with beautiful beaches also. Having spent over 4 years in Europe, I am extremely impressed with this American friendly country where a lot of people speak English.