Bulgaria: Itinerary For a 5-Day Road Trip

Bulgaria, along with Romania, is one of the most surprising countries I’ve ever visited. I got the opportunity to travel to both countries on a road trip during last Easter break. The trip, that had a length of 10 days, allowed me to discover these countries in a way that I could have never imagined. The cuisine, the history and the society of Bulgaria, where I spent 5 of my 10 days, impressed me a lot. I liked everything about it and that’s why I can’t do anything else but recommend you to go.

Plus, despite the Balkans region is more and more explored every day, Bulgaria is still quite unknown for most of the travelers. My reasons to convince you to go? It is a safe destination, affordable and full of interesting places.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION TO PLAN YOUR TRIP

Where is Bulgaria?

Bulgaria is a located in a southeastern region known as the Balkans. It is considered that the territory of current Bulgaria has been inhabited by various civilizations since 6.500 BC. The capital of Bulgaria is Sofia and is located in the west side of the country, close to the border with Serbia and Macedonia. The country is also bordered by Romania to the north, Greece, and Turkey to the south and the Black Sea to the east. 

What is the best time to visit Bulgaria?

Because of the snow storms, the cold and the quality of the roads, the best time to visit is from Easter break to October. 

Despite visiting Bulgaria during mid-season might be more magical, some areas are a bit dangerous due to weather and road conditions. In any case, if you bear in mind to drive safely, you will be okay. On the other hand, if you decide to visit the country between May and August – high season months -, you will be able to fully enjoy its natural parks but the country is going to be much more crowded too.

How to get to Bulgaria?

The easiest way to get to Bulgaria is to fly directly to Sofia. Despite there are few airlines connecting Sofia to most European capitals, the ones with more frequency and better prices are WizzAir and Ryanair

In my case, I flew from BCN Terminal 2 to Sofia with Wizzair for 135€ (round trip/with return on Monday night). 

Once in Bulgaria, how to move around?

Since Bulgaria’s main sights are spread across the country and the public transport infrastructure is not developed, I think that the best way to discover this country is by car. 

Seeing the success of the road trip to Lapland, I decided to book again the rental car with a local company: TOP Rent-A-Car. We booked a 5-door Ford Fiesta for 10 days with full protection, border crossing to Romania, Wi-Fi and pay on arrival for only 218,50€! That means we only paid around 11€/person/day. We could have paid even less if we had taken out some of the extras like the Wi-Fi. About gasoline prices in Bulgaria, most of the time it was around 1,15-1,20€/liter. Do you believe me now when I say Bulgaria is affordable?

Regarding the service, we had no issue. They came to pick us up at 2 AM when we arrived at the airport and took us to their facilities. Once there, we managed the payment and the rental deposit and, once we were done, our car was all ready. At the drop off, it was even faster. They had a quick look at the car and we could take the van back to the airport in less than 15 minutes.  

THE ITINERARY

Day 1 – Exploring Sofia

Sofia is a quite small city but full of history. We decided to spend only 1 day in the city, which was enough to cover the main sites, in order to have more time for other places.

During the morning, we explored the main sights on our own. By midday, we stopped at a local canteen, where we enjoyed a typical Bulgarian lunch, and later we continued visiting the city with a free walking tour.

If you have plenty of time, I would recommend you to spend 2 days in Sofia. This way you will be able to understand much more the communist era and which role Communism played in Bulgaria.

If you don’t have 5 days to explore Bulgaria, don’t worry. I recently selected Sofia and its’ nearby UNESCO Heritage monastery as one of the best and more unusual weekend trips in Europe.

Day 2 – Visiting Rila Monastery and Driving to Plovdiv

On the following day, we left our hostel and drove 130km to Rila Monastery. It was built by the students of Saint Ivan of Rila in honor to him, who never lived there but in a cave nearby with no material possessions. The monastery, build back in the 10th century, is the most important of Eastern Europe and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site more than 30 years ago. 

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria (2018)

After we visited the monastery and the museum, we went for lunch before returning to Sofia. From there, we drove 150km more to Plovdiv, where we spent the night. 

Day 3 – Exploring the Gems of the Rhodope Mountains

During our 3rd full day in Bulgaria, we decided to explore the Rhodope mountain range in the south of the country. The highlights of this day were: Trigrad Gorge, Marvelous/Wonderful Bridgesand Devil’s Throat Cave.

ALL of them were amazing plus all the landscapes and villages we saw that day were absolutely beautiful. Definitely, it was one of my favorite days of the trip.

If you have more days, you might want to consider spending the night in this area. The roads are tough so you will probably appreciate having some time to disconnect in the beautiful surroundings. In our case, we had no time to lose so we returned to Plovdiv.

Day 4 – Visiting Plovdiv and Driving to Veliko Tarnovo

Plovdiv is one of the oldest inhabited cities of the history of Europe. The first registers point out that Plovdiv already existed as Eumolpia in the 4th century BC. Since then, many civilizations have inhabited this city and shaped it, leaving important cultural heritage. The most remarkable is the Roman theater of Plovdiv.

Exploring Plovdiv’s Old Town, Bulgaria (2018)

After visiting the main sights of the city, we bought some antiques in one of the many antique shops of the city and headed to Veliko Tarnovo in a 3-hour drive. 

Day 5 – Veliko Tarnovo and Crossing to Romania

Veliko Tarnovo was the capital of Bulgaria during the greatest period of the Bulgarian Empire in the Middle Age. In the evening we arrived, we explored a bit the old town before going for dinner. 

On the following morning, before leaving the country, we visited the Tsarevets Fortress. In it, we could observe the old walls, size that Veliko used to have and the ruins of the Imperial Palace. It was interesting and not so long to visit. We finished in the Patriarchy Chuch at the top of the hill before heading back to the car and leaving for Romania. 

Veliko Tarnovo from the Tsarevets Fortress, Bulgaria (2018)

Soon I will post the itinerary for you to explore Romania too! 🙂

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