The ultimate trip through Bulgaria in 17 days

The ultimate trip through Bulgaria in 17 days

10 days Itinerary 13 days Itinerary

Bulgaria is a fascinating country in Southeast Europe with a rich history, stunning scenery and a vibrant culture. A trip to this country is a phenomenal experience. It offers historical sites, beautiful nature and charming medieval towns such as Sofia, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo and Nesebar. The diverse mountain ranges, such as the Balkan, Rila and Pirin, are ideal for hiking, skiing and other adventures. The Black Sea coast is popular with beach lovers and has beautiful spots such as Sunny Beach, Golden Sands and Sozopol. Try the delicious Bulgarian cuisine with dishes such as Shopska salad, moussaka and banitsa, and don’t forget the local wines and rakia. Bulgaria welcomes travelers with history, natural beauty and hospitality, for an unforgettable experience.

Transport during your route

Public transportation in Bulgaria is very well organized. There are buses within neighborhoods, cities and regions. You could definitely visit Bulgaria without a car, but this is a slow way of transportation and you won’t be able to get to some mountain villages, so a rental car would be a quicker option. Make sure you have a vignette for the roads if you travel by your own car.

How many days do you need

For this itinerary, we recommend taking 17 days. If you have less time, be sure to check out this 13-day or 10-day itinerary in the future. You can take it easy and stay in Bulgaria for longer, so take more time in Sofia, the Pirin Mountains, Veliko Tarnovo or Varna for one more day. If you want to do less hiking and more culture, you can go directly to Plovdiv from Sofia.

Day 1:  Sofia and the Rila Lakes

As soon as you arrive in Sofia, you have already arranged a rental car. Of course, you have made sure to arrive early, so that you can drive directly to Rila for the Seven Rila Lakes. You take the lift to the top to enjoy the beautiful lakes. A strong start of your road trip through Bulgaria with beautiful views and lovely walks. Make sure you get back to the lift on time, because it closes at the end of the day.
These are the opening hours of the lift:

  • Monday: 12:30 – 18:30
  • Tuesday – Thursday: 08:00 – 18:30
  • Friday – Sunday: 08:00 – 19:30
  • Every last Monday of the month the lift closed!

Of course, you also visit the Rila Monastery and go along the Stob Pyramids to walk through the hermit’s cave. You enjoy stunning views here and, according to legends, you are completely cleansed after the hermit’s cave. After such a wonderful first day, you can relax in your hotel. If you are still planning to stay in Sofia, check out this article about the recommendations in Sofia.

  • Hotel recommendation in Rila: Centaur Family Hotel
    A family guesthouse, with extremely friendly people who treat you as if you are from the good side of the family. The beds here are very comfortable, especially after an intense first day.

Bulgarije Seven Rila Lakes Bulgaria

Day 2:  Melnik

From Rila, you drive to Melnik in good time. You can go rafting or kayaking here, and you should book this well in advance, fortunately you can do that here. An amazing recommendation is to visit the Rozhen Monastery. You can walk towards it in an hour and a half. There is little shade on the way and it is a real monastery and you can’t buy anything there. Therefore, we recommend bringing plenty of water, as it can be nice and warm in the area. When you return to Melnik, you should also definitely take a look at one of the wineries or vineyards. You book these here in advance. After that, driving is no longer wise, so check in at your hotel afterwards.

Hotel recommendation in Melnik: Hotel Bolyarka. This beautiful, authentic hotel, in the center and with great extras and a delicious breakfast.

Rozhen Monastary Klooster Bulgarije Bulgaria

Day 3 + 4:  Bansko

In the morning you drive to the Bears Sanctuary Belitsa. This is not a zoo, but a place where rescued bears now live. By going here, you also help a good cause. Make sure you go early, otherwise you will miss the bears. In the afternoon it is too hot for the bears.
Then you drive to Bansko for the many hiking trails in Pirin National Park. You can find a detailed article about this park later on. There are many routes here, so you will want to walk around here for at least 2 days, because there are at least 20 routes ranging from 30 minutes to 10 hours. There are even hikes where you can go wild camping in the National Park, so think carefully in advance about what you want to do. You can view all the hikes on this site. On the second day, you will definitely want to sleep in a hotel, so book a wonderful room in advance.

Hotel recommendation in Bansko: Banskovilla Zlateva House. In this 700-year-old guesthouse you can relax completely after hiking, thanks to the homely atmosphere and the hospitable and open people.

Beer in grasveld Bulagrije Pirin bergtop

Day 5:  Shiroko Laka

From Bansko, it is a 2.5-hour drive to Shiroko Laka. You drive through picturesque villages that have stood still in time. Be sure to take some time to stop along the way. In the winter, this area is a major winter sports destination, so there are many amenities to be found. Upon arrival, take a walk to the Yagodina Cave, the Trigrad Gorge, and the Devil’s Throat Cave. These are just a few examples of the many beautiful places in the area, so ask the locals what else you can do.

Hotel recommendation in Pamporovo: Green Life Family Apartments. In the winter, it is very close to the ski resort, but in the summer, it is surrounded by trees and beautiful views.

Bulgarije Grot Shiroko Laka Bulgaria

Day 6:  Plovdiv

Today, you will depart for Plovdiv, one of the oldest cities in Europe. You can find a detailed article about Plovdiv here. Be sure to visit the Bachkovo Monastery, the second-largest monastery in Bulgaria. The Asen’s Fortress is also worth a visit, especially because there is also a beautiful climb beforehand, before you stand on this high fortress. After the beautiful buildings outside Plovdiv, explore the old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its beautiful architecture, cobbled streets, and historical landmarks such as the Roman Theater. Be sure to enjoy the vibrant cafe and nightlife in Plovdiv.

Hotel recommendation in Plovdiv: Boutique Guest House Yes For You. A rustic, well-located, and unique guesthouse next to the old town. From here, you can perfectly explore the city and still relax completely.

Bulgarije Plovdiv overzichtsfoto Bulgaria

Day 7:  Nesebar

From Plovdiv, you will drive to Nesebar, a large and well-known coastal town, just below Sunny Beach. If you are here in May or June, be sure to stop in Kazanlak, where the roses are in bloom. Outside of this season, it is nice to see, but less special. After your arrival in Nesebar, the pearl of the Black Sea coast, you can enjoy the culture and history of this UNESCO city. If you want to know more about how to travel along the coast, be sure to check out our article about the trip along the Black Sea coast. Nesebar is very close to Burgas, so your overnight stay is there as well.

Hotel recommendation Burgas: Family Aparthotel Vintegra. This hotel is slightly further from the hustle and bustle of the beach and the city, so you can relax here and still be within walking distance of all amenities.

Bulgarije Nesebar Bulgaria

Day 8 + 9:  Black Sea Coast

The next day, you will drive along the coast of Bulgaria with beautiful beaches, including Sunny Beach and Golden Beach, where you can sunbathe, but there is also plenty of other things to do. Including Varna, Kavarna and Balchik. You can see the entire route along the Black Sea coast here. You will end your trip along the coast in the beautiful Shabla.

Hotel recommendation Shabla: Guesthouse Mirage. Located in the heart of Shabla, this beautiful guesthouse offers a private pool, excellent amenities, and a wonderful host. You can relax in the beautiful garden and you are only 10 minutes away from the beach. A great place to stay.

Bulgarije 10 Bourgas

Day 10:  Ruse

In the morning you will depart from Shabla to Ruse, a journey towards the Danube. On the way to Ruse you can see the Madara Rider, a 23-meter-high relief, the origins of which are still unknown. After that you will drive past Sveshtari, where a number of ancient Thracian tombs are located, including that of an old royal family. Definitely worth a visit, we think. After you have settled in Ruse, you will see the beautiful rock-hewn churches of Ivanovo, the Cherven Fortress and the Orlova Chuka cave. A day full of culture and history, so in the evening it is nice to eat and sleep by the Danube in your hotel with a river view.

Hotel recommendation Roese (Ruse): Grand Hotel Riga. Due to its magnificent location on the Danube, this hotel is great. From the room, but especially from the restaurant and the roof, there is a magnificent view.

Bulgarije Danube river Tutrakan Bulgaria

Day 11:  Veliko Tarnovo; Nicopolis en Tsarevets

The next two days you will be in Veliko Tarnovo, the old capital of Bulgaria. But before we visit this city completely, we will stop first at Nicopolis Ad Istrum, the largest Roman site in Bulgaria, 400m by 400m. This city, which was destroyed in the 5th century, is a dream for you if you are interested in history and/or archaeology. You will arrive in the historical Veliko Tarnovo and you will be amazed by the splendor and history that this city radiates. You cannot miss a visit to the Tsarevets Fortress and a walk through Samovodska Charshiya street is also a must.

Hotel recommendation Veliko Tarnovo: Guest house Diabora-Veliko Tarnovo. This fantastically detailed guesthouse will remind you of a medieval house, with the techniques of today. The warmth and cosiness created by the plants and the staff make this complete.

Bulgaria Veliko Tarnovo 01

Day 12:  Dryanovo Monastery en Arbanassi

On the second day in Veliko Tarnovo, you will start with a visit to the Dryanovo Monastery. After this visit, you can take a beautiful hike behind the monastery. Here you will see a beautiful cave and a beautiful waterfall. Afterwards, you can visit Arbanassi, which is located on a plateau near the city. This is an open-air museum, but it is inhabited. You can buy a combination ticket at the entrance and then visit different houses.

Hotel recommendation Veliko Tarnovo: Bridges Residence. This hotel is especially popular because the owner and staff are very involved. In addition, it is an allergy-free hotel with comfortable beds, aromatherapy, and the option of massages. A perfect combo of friendliness and service.

Bulgarije Veliko Tarnovo 02

Day 13:  Vratsa; Krushuna and Devetashka

A place that is often overlooked is Vratsa, our recommendation in Bulgaria because of the unspoiled nature and the many hiking opportunities in this undiscovered region. Before you arrive, you will first drive past the Krushuna waterfalls. A place to dream away, but don’t forget the Devetashka cave, this is also a must-see. Afterwards, you drive on to Vratsa and enjoy the surroundings. You van also take a small hike, because there are plenty! Then you’ll stay overnight in one of the beautiful hotels that the winter sports resort has in store.

Hotel recommendation Vratsa: Hotel Complex Chayka. A hotel with a great view of the mountains and nature, which gives you a feeling of serenity. A hotel with an environment that is perfect for your mental peace.

Bulgarije Krushuna Waterfall Bulgarije Devetashka Cave

Day 14:  Skaklya, Ledenika and Borov Kamak

In the morning you will do 3 different hikes. You start at the Skaklya waterfall, one of the highest in Bulgaria. From here you walk to the Ledenika cave, a bit to the west. From there, you take a beautiful walk to the Borov Kamak waterfall. After this exciting and tiring day you can rest in your hotel again and enjoy the views on the mountain from the terrace.

Hotel recommendation Vratsa: Hotel Complex Chayka. A hotel with a great view of the mountains and nature, which gives you a feeling of serenity. A hotel with an environment that is perfect for your mental peace.

Bulgarije Vratsa mountains Bulgaria

Day 15:  Koprivshtitsa

In the morning you drive to the Saeva Dupka cave, a fairytale cave where you can look in 5 different cave rooms where people used to live or hide. Nearby is, for the real adventurer, the Via Ferrata Lednitsa. This means “steel road”, and that is also how you can climb up there. With safety equipment that you can rent on the spot, of course. After the climb, you drive on to the open-air town of Koprivshtitsa. Here you can see the houses of the residents, which have been standing since 1820. That sounds very strange, but that is the most common thing for the people there.

Hotel recommendation Koprivshtitsa: Once upon a time. This stone and wooden guesthouse gives you the feeling of home, thanks to the hospitality of the owners. The spirit of the past gives a relaxed feeling during your stay.

Bulgarije Koprivshtitsa

Day 16:  Sofia

The last trip on the road is to Sofia, where you return the car and, by public transport or a scooter, visit the wonders of the capital. Visit the National Historical Museum and take a relaxing walk through Borisova Gradina Park. Visit the Sveti Georgi Rotunda: a small 10th-century church with medieval and Ottoman elements. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a must-see. Afterwards, you can eat in the center of Sofia and in the evening relax in a spa or in your hotel.

Hotel recommendation Sofia: Central Club Sofia. This hotel offers a relaxation room, so you don’t have to leave the hotel for some relaxation. Thanks to the location you can also perfectly into Sofia, without having to carry all your luggage. Book quickly, because rooms in good hotels in Sofia go pretty fast.

Bulgarije Sofia Alexander Nevski

Day 17:  Sofia

Start the day with a visit to the Sveta Petka: an old church dedicated to Saint Petka of the Saddlers. This church from the (probably) 16th century is partly underground. A complete difference from the surroundings, very special. Another interesting place is the archaeological museum, where you have prehistoric finds, treasures, medieval finds and temporary exhibitions. A unique feature is that the building is housed in a former mosque. Afterwards, you can go to the National Art Gallery, the National Natural History Museum and some city parks, before taking a taxi to the airport. You can check out our article about Sofia for more inspiration.

Bulgarije Sofia Overzicht

Bulgaria offers you a lot of nature, culture and history, but also a lot of relaxation and entertainment. A country with many possibilities where you can hike, soak up the culture, visit historical squares and churches, but also sunbathe and swim. We hope that you can make your trip based on our report and would love to hear from you how it went!

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