In your holiday in Bulgaria you will appreciate our dramatic mountains, haven-like monasteries, Roman and Byzantine ruins, and the excellent coffee you'll be offered wherever you go!
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Southern Bulgaria

Sofia

Bansko

Smolyan

Melnik

Plovdiv

Trains heading from Bulgaria to Greece follow the Struma Valley south from Sofia (read more), skirting some of the country’s most grandiose mountains on the way. Formerly noted for their bandits and hermits, the Rila and Pirin Mountains contain Bulgaria’s highest, stormiest peaks, swathed in forests and dotted with alpine lakes awaiting anyone prepared to hike or risk their car’s suspension on the backroads. If time is short, the two spots to select are the most revered of Bulgarian monasteries, Rila (read more), lying some 30km east of the main southbound route, and the village of Melnik (read more), known both for its wine and its vernacular architecture. More traditional architecture is to be found in the village of Bansko (read more)on the eastern side of the Pirin range, a small detour from the main north–south route.

Another much-travelled route heads southeast from Sofia towards Istanbul, through the Plain of Thrace, a fertile region that was the heartland of the ancient Thracians, whose culture began to emerge during the third millennium BC. The main road and rail lines now linking Istanbul and Sofia essentially follow the course of the Roman Serdica–Constantinople road, past towns ruled by the Ottomans for so long that foreigners used to call this “European Turkey”. Of these, the most important is Plovdiv (read more), Bulgaria’s second city, whose old quarter is a wonderful melange of Renaissance mansions, mosques and classical remains, spread over three hills. Thirty kilometres east of Plovdiv is the Bachkovo Monastery (read more), whose churches and courtyards contain some of Bulgaria’s most vivid frescoes.

Cities and towns: