Bulgaria is in southeastern Europe bordering on Romania to the north, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east.
The biggest cities in Bulgaria are Sofia (the capital), Plovdiv, and Varna.
Climate and Geography
For a small country, Bulgaria has surprisingly diverse geography. Bulgaria’s 110,879 km2 (an slightly larger than Iceland or Tennessee) includes topography ranging from 354 km of coastline on the Black Sea in the east to the Rila, Pirin, and Balkan mountain ranges in the western and central regions. In between is everything from plains to hills to mountains to valleys and gorges. Overall, Bulgaria is about 2/3 lowland plains and hills less than 600 m high, while the remaining third consists of mountains taller than 600 m. Bulgaria’s highest peak is Musala at 2,925 m.
Most of Bulgaria’s rivers (except the Danube, which makes up much of Bulgaria’s border with Romania) are short and shallow. The country has more than 2000 lakes, most of which are fairly small, and many mineral springs can be found along faults between mountains in the central and southwestern parts of the country.
Bulgaria sits between the continental and Mediterranean climactic zones. Because these zones often meet in Bulgaria’s mountains great climactic diversity can often be found across short distances. Generally speaking the north of the country is 1°C cooler than the south and receives more rain. Temperatures in Bulgaria peak in July and August with an average daily temperature of 29°C, and bottom-out in January with an average daily temperature of -4.6°C.
In recent years Bulgaria has been focusing on developing its tourism industry, and it’s been working. In 2010 Bulgaria saw a 5% increase in tourism, to a total of about 9 million visitors—40% of which came from Greece, Romania, and Germany. Tourism likely to continue increasing as Bulgaria is being recognized more and more in the media as a top travel destination—most notably Bulgaria was mentioned as one of the top nine destinations for 2011 on CNN and one of the top ten most desirable countries to visit in 2011 by Lonely Planet. The reasons for these great recommendations include diverse geography (from beaches to ski hills), low prices, and safety.
Most tourists take a Bulgarian holiday to either the ski hills or the beach. With world-class skiing and snowboarding in the mountains, and kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and sailing on the coast, who wouldn’t want to? But it’s important not to forget that Bulgaria has much more to offer than just surf and slopes.
Bulgaria is about 1/3 mountains, many of which are small and ideal for outdoors adventure sports like whitewater rafting and kayaking, mountain biking, horseback riding, trekking, rock climbing, paragliding, and hang gliding. The Rila mountains, the tallest in Bulgaria, are said to be the best for rock climbing. Bankso, Bulgaria’s largest ski resort, has been reported to be the best-value ski resort in the world (although the standard for this judgment is unclear) and the Struma River has a great reputation for whitewater rafting and kayaking, especially in the Kresna Gorge.
One thing is certain about Bulgaria. Its proximity to Europe, low prices, temperate climate, and diverse geography are going to make one of the most important and popular adventure travel destinations of the next decade, so it’s probably better to visit sooner rather than later.
- Skiing / Snowboarding
- Scuba diving (cave, reef, wreck)
- Surfing (all levels)
- Hang gliding
- Hot air ballooning
- Whitewater rafting
- Kayaking (river, lake, and sea)
- Hiking/trekking (all levels)
- Rock climbing (all levels)
- Abseiling (rappelling)
- Bungee jumping
- Mountain Biking (novice to expert)
- Horseback Riding
*On a Budget?
- Prices in Bulgaria are very good by European standards. According to Lonely Planet campsites can be found for about $7 USD per night and cheap rooms in private homes can be as cheap as $9 USD per night.
More information about Bulgaria hostels can be found here
- Bulgarian dining can also be very economical. Cheap restaurants serve meals starting at $2.50 USD.
*Sofia tends to be more expensive than other places, so it is wise to budget more when you are staying there.
I like to use World Nomads. It’s not too expensive and signing up is fast and straightforward. They also have pretty good coverage for sports equipment like surf and snowboards, but it varies depending on your country of origin, so be sure double check. You can get a free quote on their website.
- Bulgarian Tourism Board Website
- WikiTravel Guide to Bulgaria
- Skiing and Snowboarding in Bulgaria at BulgariaSki.com
- Bulgaria holidays from Inghams
- Hiking and Trekking Information at Walking Bulgaria
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