The 15 best places to visit in Bulgaria

 

In 1999 in the countries capital, Sofia, work began on the Snail House, where a mere ten years later it was finished and opened to the public. It quickly became an icon of the city and is now a well known and rather unusual tourist attraction.

15. Snail House

 

Built in 1957 in the southern centre of the country, within the city of Plovdiv stands the Alyosha Monument, an 11 metre (36 ft) tall concrete statue of a Soviet soldier. Constructed to commemorate Soviet casualties incurred during the occupation of Bulgaria in World War II, the monument has been threatened with removal since its installation. Overlooking the city of Plovdiv, it remains the tallest statue in Bulgaria.

14. Alyosha Monument, Plovdiv

 

In the extreme south west of the country within the Pirin Mountains is the city of Melnik, said to be the smallest town in Bulgaria it keeps its status as a city for historical reasons. The city itself is an architectural reserve with many of its buildings now classified as cultural monuments. As well as all the historical Roman and Ottoman buildings, the area is also famed for the natural sand pyramids that form in this region.

13. Melnik

 

Built around 114 AD, in the southern centre of the country within the city of Plovdiv is the ancient Roman Theatre of Plovdiv, discovered in the early seventies after a landslide. Today having undergone restoration it is one of the best preserved ancient Roman theatres in the world.

12. Plovdiv Roman Theatre

 

In the far north west of the country, close to the border with Serbia on the northern slopes of the Balkan Mountains is the ancient Belogradchik Fortress, the primary attraction in the region. Built when Bulgaria was under the control of the Roman Empire, it remains one of the best preserved strongholds in the country and a cultural monument of national importance.

11. Belogradchik Fortress

 

In the extreme east of the country, south of Bulgaria's famous Sunny Beach is the ancient town of Nessebar, one of the countries major tourist hot spots and one of the most visited locations on the Black Sea coast. Previously an island, it is now connected to the mainland by a man made bridge. Often referred to as The Pearl of The Black Sea, Nessebar is full of ancient buildings and monuments spanning three millennia. With such historical importance the town has been classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

10. Nessebar

 

Completed in 1912 in the countries capital, Sofia, is the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the countries biggest and most iconic landmarks. After the Cathedral of Saint Sava in Belgrade, Serbia, it is the second largest cathedral in the Balkans and can hold up to 10,000 people. Standing at 53 metres (174 ft) to the top of the bell tower this huge Neo-Byzantine style building is a beautiful symbol of Sofia, and of Bulgaria as a whole.

9. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

 

Built in 1981 on a high plateau near the town of Shumen in the east of the country, the Founders of Bulgaria State Monument was created to commemorate the 1300th year anniversary of the first Bulgarian Empire. Built in concrete in a Cubist style, this monstrous monument of towering walls is filled with statues of giants that according to Bulgarian mythology were said to have roamed the Earth before us.

8. Founders Of Bulgaria State Monument

 

Founded in 927 AD, directly south from the capital, Sofia, within the Rila Mountains is the Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. This wonderful building with its coloured facade, arched outer corridors and amazingly detailed frescoes is made even more impressive by the surroundings. Located in the Rila Monastery Nature Park in the deep Rilska River Valley it sits at 1,147 metres (3,763 ft) above sea level with panoramic mountain views. Regarded as Bulgaria's most important cultural, historical and architectural monument it has also been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

7. Rila Monastery

 

Built in the 1990's in the extreme south east of the country on the Black Sea coast is Ravadinovo Castle, also known as 'The Castle In Love With The Wind', a fairy tale fortress with a fairy tale name in equally story book surroundings. For around €4 visitors are free to wander the landscaped alleys, the well maintained gardens with fountains, statues, parrots and peacocks and look out across the lake of swans. Though a relatively modern structure, it was built with such expertise and attention to detail it was designed to appear as a real medieval castle. In effect it is a real castle, as new as any other castle would have been at one time.

6. Ravadinovo Castle

 

In almost the exact centre of the country, directly east from the capital, Sofia, in the high regions of the Balkan Mountains is the 716 square kilometre (276 square mile) Central Balkan National Park, one of the largest and most valuable of the protected areas in Europe. It is an area of vast natural beauty with great wild forests and towering snow capped mountains, the tallest of which is Botev Peak reaching an altitude of 2,376 metres (7,795 ft) above sea level. Falling within the Rodope montane mixed forests terrestrial eco-region of the Palearctic Temperate broadleaf and mixed forest, it has been included in the Primeval Beech Forests World Heritage Site.

5. Central Balkan National Park

 

In the far western centre of the country, south from the capital, Sofia, is the 810 square kilometre (313 square mile) Rila National Park, Bulgaria's largest protected area of land, encompassing the Rila Mountain Range. Home to the Musala Mountain, standing at 2,925 metres (9,598 ft) above sea level it is the tallest peak in the Balkan Peninsula. This mountainous and forested park has many lakes and over 120 glaciers hidden among the vast landscape. Amazing for hikers, the most prominent feature of the park is a viewpoint looking out across The Seven Lakes Of Rila. Falling within the Rodope montane mixed forests terrestrial eco-region of the Palearctic Temperate broadleaf and mixed forest, it has been included in the Primeval Beech Forests World Heritage Site.

4. Rila National Park

 

In the northern centre of the country is the Devetashka Cave, a huge karst cave that has gained notoriety for its picturesque quality. With so many rare and protected animals using the cave during the breeding season it is completely closed to all visitors in June and July.

3. Devetàshka Cave

 

Constructed in 1971 in almost the exact centre of the country is the amazing and unique Buzludzha Monument, built to commemorate socialist Communism. By 1989 the site was abandoned and left to ruin. At a height of 1,441 metres (4,728 ft) above sea level this mammoth structure sits entirely alone surrounded by rolling hills. Though the entrance has been sealed to the public, there is a small access point allowing those who dare to enter the structure. Inside there is a huge auditorium covered in murals and more modern graffiti, and a stairwell leads to the top of the tower for amazing views over the surrounding countryside. Built in a brutalist architectural style it is in every sense a spectacular and unusual building.

2. Buzludzha Monument

 

In the far south west of the country, covering some 148 square kilometres (57 sqaure miles) is Pirin National Park, encompassing the Pirin Mountain Range, where at 2,914 metres (9,560 ft) above sea level, Mount Vihren is the third tallest peak in the Balkan Peninsula. Another vast mountainous and forested area, it holds many lakes and over 118 glaciers as well as many rare plant and animal species. A favourite among hikers, the park holds twenty marked trails, with the most challenging trail following the top of the Koncheto ridge at an altitude of approximately 2,810 metres (9,219 ft) above sea level. One of the countries most beautiful and rugged landscapes, Pirin National Park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1. Pirin National Park

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