Bulgaria's beautiful coastline © Evgord
Half covered in mountains, and home to a sandy, sunny coast, Bulgaria is a small, beautiful destination on the Balkan Penisula that is rich in ancient culture, scenic splendour, friendly people and old-fashioned warmth and hospitality. Hikers will find some of the finest trails in Europe, while sun chasers can delight in something a little more low-key than Greece or Turkey, as the country doesn't draw as many tourists.
Though better known for its reasonably priced Black Sea resorts, the essential character of Bulgaria lies in its spectacular mountainous regions. The seven very different mountain ranges in the country vary from high, snow-covered peaks to gentle green slopes and forests. Some harbour thermal springs and mineral spas and, in others, the valley air bears the fragrance of flowers and herbs. The Valley of Roses is in the heart of the country and is one of the largest producers of rose oil in the world, giving credence to Bulgaria's soubriquet, 'Land of Roses'.
At the foot of the Vitosha Mountains lies the laid back capital city, Sofia, which is home to a great number of architectural monuments and museums. On the other hand, the rugged heights of the Rila and Pirin mountains form a spectacular setting for ski resorts, as well as the famous Rila Monastery and the majestic landscape of the Pirin National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Crossing the entire country is the Balkan Range, a 329-mile (530km) chain that offers some of the best hiking on the continent.
The people who dwell in the different mountain ranges vary just as much, with their distinctive regional customs, crafts, festivals, and folklore adding colour to the Bulgarian landscape. Small, picturesque villages welcome guests with typical, warm-hearted Bulgarian hospitality, sharing traditional cooking and a delight in their pastoral environment.
Bulgaria's history is displayed across the country in its old towns, ancient Thracian relics, decorated churches and monasteries, and in the rustic settlements that have preserved the traditional beliefs of its people. One of the country's biggest assets for visitors is its variety, though whatever aspect visitors choose to explore, there is always the assurance of a warm welcome.
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