Being one of the largest of the Balkans – Bulgaria is an excellent place for a road trip. Despite recently becoming a member of the EU, enough of the country still remains untouched enough to guarantee a glimpse into the traditional Bulgarian way of life and unspoiled wilderness. You can expect beautiful green countryside, friendly locals and perhaps most importantly on a road trip – fantastic economy car rentals.
It is recommended to start your adventure in the capital city of Sofia. If you have a little time on your hands, take some time to explore the city, soak up the atmosphere and experience the culture. I was there last year in it’s definitely worth sticking around for a day or two as the nightlife is pretty solid. If not, hop in your hire car and brave the slightly hair-raising city traffic out to the open and peaceful roads beyond the city limits.
Head east on the main A1 motorway and enjoy spectacular views of the plush, green forest which so characterize the Bulgarian countryside. Much of Bulgaria is undeveloped, so you can drive for miles and not even see a single home which is kind of nice. Your next port of call should be the historical town of Batak – the site of a famous 19th century uprising against the Ottomans.
After exploring the streets of Batak, hop back behind the wheel and head on to the town of Devin for some rest and relaxation in their naturally therapeutic hot springs. This is just the spot to ease those aches and pains of being behind the wheel. If you like hiking, you’ll find that the hills surrounding the town are surrounded by blissfully empty woodland paths just waiting to be explored.
If action sports are up your street, you can indulge your inner adrenaline junkie in the nearby town of Smolyan, which is a hot spot for fans of caving. If you prefer your escapades to be above ground you should swing by Chepelare. This is a laid-back ski-resort during winter and offers some great mountain biking opportunities when the final patches of snow have melted away. No matter what time of year you are there, the views and scenery are simply stunning.
Next stop on your Bulgarian adventure should be Asenovgrad – an area earning quite the reputation for their wineries. There are some truly delicious varieties born in the area and who doesn’t enjoy a little bit of wine tasting – just make sure that you have accommodation sorted in the town so that you can enjoy a glass, or three, without having to worry!
Plovdiv is Bulgaria’s second largest city and many say the best! It has all of the services and amenities of any heavily populated place but it is the Old Town in Plovdiv which is particularly alluring to visitors. The curving, stone streets lined with museums and galleries cater to the bohemian crowds. This is a truly atmospheric place to hang out and admire the 19th century renaissance style architecture.
When you next hop behind the wheel, you will be crossing the Valley of the Roses, which leads to the base of the Stara Planina Mountain. A few kilometers over the mountains you will reach your final destination of Veliko Tarnovo – better known as The City of the Tsars. Tarnovo is one of Bulgaria’s most visited destinations and this can be attributed to the classic architecture, the ancient churches and the magnificent castle. Be sure to pay a visit to the Dryanovo Monastery, which was founded in the 12th century and can be found tucked away mysteriously in the woods by the base of a cliff.
Bulgaria is rich in history, culture and tradition and as you traverse the varied landscape you will encounter people and places that will create wonderful memories for you and your road trip companions.