“When the goods distributed by God were running out the turn of Bulgaria came, too, as a smaller country. He gave it a hit of everything: sea, mountains, forests, mineral springs and four seasons.”

Bulgarian Government Bulletin – June 2004

Whoever wrote those words for a government speech couldn’t have been more accurate – a trip to Bulgaria has a little something for everyone, whatever your age, whatever your predilection.

Nature has bestowed bountiful gifts, the most important of which for the modern holidaymaker are superb beaches and warm summer days. Tourists from all across Europe and from Russia, too, flock to the grand strands of the Black Sea coast for simple relaxation and a first-class suntan. In the winter months the appeal of hot sand gives way to the allure of soft snow as skiers and snowboarders head for the mountain slopes. Bulgaria is the number one destination for good-value skiing packages and its snow record is second to none in Europe.

Bulgaria caters admirably to its ‘snow bunnies’ and ‘beach bums’, but there’s so much more to discover about this intriguing place. The countryside invites exploration. Outside the main holiday hotspots, tourists are still few and far between and it is replete with treasures – natural and man-made. UNESCO has recognised nine sites as important enough to be placed on the world heritage list. That’s an impressive number for such a small nation.

The country’s long and complicated history has bequeathed architecture galore, from ancient Neolithic and Thracian times to the present day. Bulgaria is rich in religious art, displayed in over 100 incredible  Orthodox monasteries, many of which are still living religious communities, but these vie with the 19th-century National Revival architecture as the country’s piece de resistance. This physical embodiment of a newborn spirit that flourished in the wake of independence from Ottoman power is uniquely Bulgarian and can be seen at its best in several ‘living museums’, where a thriving contemporary populace breathes life into the protected stones and wood.

Bulgaria is a land of wide-open spaces, panoramic vistas and natural abundance. Farming still moves with the rhythm of the seasons and often at a pace of one horse-power (with real hooves) rather than the many of the internal combustion engine. The tools of yesteryear are still common here; scythes for reaping and wooden pitchforks for turning the hay. Everything operates on a more human scale.

Mountains are a salient feature of the landscape and they entice you to discover their hidden passes and sparkling lakes along numerous forested trails. The country has several eminent national parks and nature reserves protecting rare ecosystems. Bird life abounds all year round and there are still small populations of wolves and bears.

Still in a transition phase following decades of communist rule, Bulgaria has set its sights westward and joined the EU in 2007. Though the pace of change is often too slow for the EU’s liking, things are beginning to become westernised. Visit now and you’ll get to experience the blooming of a fresh, new and captivating destination, and you’ll beat the rush that is starting to follow.

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