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Bulgaria (Š‘ŃŠ»Š³Š°Ń€ŠøŃ¸) is a country in the Balkans on the western side of the Black Sea. It is surrounded by Romania to the north, Serbia to the northwest, the Republic of Macedonia to the southwest, Greece to the south, and Turkey to the southeast. Being located close to the Turkish Straits means the key land routes from Europe to Middle East and Asia pass through Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is one of the few exotic nations of Europe, due to the fact that it boasts state-of-the-art beaches, lovely churches, winter sport opportunities, to name a few. Although it is not regularly visited compared to other European nations, it is a beautiful place, with a wide range of activities for a traveller to do.
Five centuries subjugated to Ottoman rule and, more recently, four decades locked very firmly behind the Iron Curtain turned Bulgaria into a distant, enigmatic country in the eyes of much of the rest of the world. Images of cheap wine downed at student house parties, budget ski holidays and umbrella-wielding Cold War assassins were once among the popular stereotypes, but Bulgaria today is a vastly different country from what it was even 10 years ago.
Bulgaria is a beautiful mountainous country, with tourism opportunities being one of its biggest assets. Bulgaria possesses beautiful landscapes and beaches, and is becoming a real resort paradise. For most foreign holidaymakers, Bulgariaā€™s main lure is its long, sandy Black Sea Coast ā€“ which still boasts swaths of stunning beaches and picturesque bays. The Black Sea Coast on its East border is famous for its fine sanded beaches, and perfect temperatures of water and air. The larger seaside resorts draw huge crowds of tourists from Western Europe, who come attracted by the low prices.
Further, Bulgaria has around 600 natural mineral springs, with water temperatures ranging from 20 to 60 degrees Celsius, whose baths and health spas are famous tourist attractions. There has been very little done, however, as far as development and improvement of facilities. Bottled spring water presents wonderful under explored opportunities as well. The spring water is rich in mineral elements and often runs unattended.
By far Bulgariaā€™s biggest city, Sofia (So-fia) is one of Europeā€™s most compact and walkable capital cities, although itā€™s still one of the least known by foreign travellers. Itā€™s usually bypassed by tourists heading to the coast or the ski resorts, but theyā€™re missing out on something special. Sofia has a young and dynamic vibe, like a city waking up after decades of slumber, and is becoming a confident and cosmopolitan European capital. The old east-meets-west feel is still here, with a scattering of onion-domed churches, Ottoman mosques and Red Army monuments topped with air-punching Soviet soldiers, but these days they share the skyline with glitzy shopping malls, five-star hotels and the best bars and clubs the country has to offer.
Although no grand metropolis, Sofia is nevertheless an attractive and cultured city with plenty to keep you busy for several days or more. Museums, art galleries, theatres, fine restaurants, theyā€™re all here. Sofia is also a surprisingly green city, with huge swaths of parkland within the city boundaries and the ski slopes and hiking trails of mighty Mt Vitosha right on the doorstep.
The city has certainly developed quickly over recent years and a new affluence is apparent in the trendy international boutiques, upmarket hotels and less savoury casinos and flashy cars with blacked-out windows.
The evocative capital of the medieval Bulgarian tsars, sublime Veliko TĆ¢rnovo is dramatically set amidst an amphitheatre of forested hills, divided by the ribboning Yantra River. Commanding pride of place is the magisterial, well-restored Tsarevets Fortress, citadel of the Second Bulgarian Empire. It is complemented by scores of churches and other ruins, many of which are still being unearthed. Overgrown Trapezitsa Hill, one time residence of Bulgariaā€™s kings, is especially exciting in this regard, and clambering up to it you will encounter teams of local helpers digging away at numerous church foundations and washing colourful Byzantine ceramic plates. Since thereā€™s much work to be done still, chances are good that Trapezitsa will yield many more treasures.
As the site of Bulgariaā€™s most prestigious university, Veliko TĆ¢rnovo also boasts a revved-up nightlife of which many larger towns would be jealous. Thereā€™s great food and drink, too, with the best places enjoying stunning views of the river and castle. The old-world ambience of the Varosha quarter, with its terracotta rooftops and lounging cats, makes for wonderful leisurely walks in a place where you can feel the spirit of a Ā¬bygone time.
As one of the main stops on the Bucharestā€“Istanbul express train, Veliko TĆ¢rnovo is also a favourite with backpackers, as the ever-increasing number of youth hostels attests. However, itā€™s also popular with weekending Bulgarians drawn by its romantic ambience and European tour groups peering over the sites. Certainly, itā€™s one of the ā€obligatoryā€™ destinations for getting the full Bulgarian experience, but TĆ¢rnovo is well worth it, and will probably draw you in for at least a few days.
Bulgariaā€™s third city and maritime capital, Varna is by far the most interesting and cosmopolitan town on the Black Sea coast, and a definite highlight of the region. A strange yet harmonious combination of port city, naval base and seaside resort, itā€™s an appealing place to while away a few days, packed with history yet thoroughly modern, with an enormous park to amble round and a lengthy beach to lounge on. One of the most dynamic and fast-growing Bulgarian cities, it has experienced a property boom in recent years and thereā€™s a definite air of affluent swagger about the place. In the city centre youā€™ll find Bulgariaā€™s largest Roman baths complex and its best archaeological museum, as well as a lively cultural and restaurant scene
Away from the capitalist crush, Varna has a number of less obvious attractions, including several art galleries, a dolphinarium and Bulgariaā€™s only naval museum, while the city also makes an ideal base for day trips to nearby beach resorts such as Sveti Konstantin and Golden Sands (Zlatni PyasĆ¢tsi), and the charming towns of Balchik and Dobrich.