Stop Calling Bulgaria Cheap Travel Destination!

 

If you have heard of Bulgaria before, there is a great possibility that the only thing you know about this Balkan gem is that it is a cheap travel destination. I even have friends who promote our country as a cheap travel destination and believe that this makes it justice for foreigners to visit.

 

That’s a totally wrong way to make outsiders see and understand what Bulgaria truly is. Bulgaria is everything else but cheap. Here’s why.

 

 

Bansko and Pirin Mountains 


BULGARIA IS ONE OF THE OLDEST COUNTRIES IN EUROPE

 

How a country can be cheap if it has such rich history?! The first Bulgarian Kingdom dates back to 681 AD. Since then, the country has never changed its name. During the reign of Tsar Simeon the Great, Bulgaria covered the lands amid three seas – the Adriatic, the Aegean and the Black Sea. This was the period when the Cyrillic Alphabet was created in the Preslav Literary School.

 

During the 1336 years of its existence, Bulgaria was a home (and it is still to some of these groups) to Bulgarians, Thracians, Slavs, Turks, Greeks, Jews, Gypsies and other smaller ethnic groups. Today, more than ever, the country is becoming a cosmopolitan hub for people from all over the world.

 

Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo

 

In the past 15 years, Brits have been actively investing in properties and spending much of their time in their Bulgarian houses. The same is happening to many Russian people. But they are not the only ones who come to Bulgaria to experience a simpler, less stressful lifestyle and good weather conditions at bargain prices.

 

Detail from the Thracian Tomb in Alexandrovo

 

Bulgaria is a home to the oldest still-inhabited city in Europe. Might you have believed it is either Rome or Athens? Nope, it’s Plovdiv. Plovdiv is one of the most interesting places you can visit in Bulgaria because it is a multicultural city, has a lively nightlife and a perfect location for day-trips. Here are some of the reasons to visit Plovdiv if you haven’t yet.

 

I won’t go deeper into the historical part because history is often a subject of manipulation and preconception. But facts are facts and date of Bulgaria’s formation speaks clearly.

 

Villa Armira, Ivaylovgrad

 

One way to feel the history of Bulgaria is to visit some of its countless monasteries. They are some of the oldest witnesses of the Bulgarian history. The monasteries have been always very important because they were the places where religion, culture and literacy were preserved during the Ottoman Rule. To a large extent, thanks to the monasteries Bulgarian people could preserve their ethnic and Christian identity during these difficult and dark five centuries.

Here are some monasteries around Sofia you can visit on a day trips. 

 

FERTILE SOIL

 

Bulgaria has one of the most fertile soils in Europe. There is a trend in the past years (that no one speaks about officially) of big international joint ventures buying lands and exporting all they can grow here to the foreign markets.

 

Fortunately, a large part of Bulgarians has their small gardens and parents or grandparents who still keep the knowledge of growing their own veggies and fruits. Call me poor because I’m Bulgarian? I don’t think so! If I can eat juicy tomatoes, sweet watermelons and have a stock of potatoes, all produced in my own garden, I believe I’m richer than many of those who have to rely on supermarkets and have to accept to eat tasteless food grown on the other side of the world.

 

 

 

 

In Bulgaria, we grow a large variety of vegetables and fruits (including some citruses due to the climate changes in the past years). Traditionally, Bulgaria is the biggest producer of rose oil used in the perfume industry worldwide. In the past years, Bulgaria is also the top producer of lavender oil. (Nope, it’s not France anymore).

 

But if you come to Bulgaria, don’t think twice and taste some of our best wines, because Bulgaria has a perfect climate and ancient traditions for producing wines of all sorts. There is a wide range of larger and boutique wineries in Bulgaria you can choose from for a visit.

 

 

SIMPLE BUT FLAVORFUL FOOD

 

There are no fancy names and exotic spices in the Bulgarian cuisine. It’s all about luscious veggies, barbecued meat, and a savoury cheese that is much better than the feta you know. (Yeah, you guess it right. All Balkan countries claim to have the best cheese, yoghurt, rakia, or moussaka.)

 

 

As a result of the five centuries of Ottoman Rule, in the Bulgarian cuisine, you will find also some typical for the Turkish traditions dishes, especially pastries like baklava and kadaif. There are also fragrant stuffed peppers, fish or lamb, vegetarian delights like patatnik and kachamak, and a simple but satiating dish with the exotic name Mish Mash.

 

Learn more about the richness of our traditional cuisine in this guide about Bulgarian food.

 

BULGARIAN PEOPLE

 

Bulgarian people (like all Balkan countries) have suffered a lot during the past centuries. Because of its crossroad location, many came to invade, rule and take a piece of it.

 

 

I always tell my foreign friends that people from Eastern Europe may seem unfriendly and hostile at first but this is because of their natural inclination to not trust a person they don’t know. Why?

 

Because they were betrayed by their neighbours, brothers, and friends, and as a result of these betrayals sent to forced labour camps and political jails; because they had been surviving in systems that had changed their lives in an instant, without common ground to show them the way.

 

 

So, they had to be careful and adjust quickly to the new circumstances. As much as this made Bulgarian people a bit distant at first, it also made them very welcoming and friendly once they know you are a person they can trust.

 

Many Bulgarians are multilingual. As a small country, our school education has always emphasized learning at least two foreign languages. Now, many people speak English.

 

And when speaking about education, I can tell you, you don’t want to come here ONLY for tourism! You can get so much more done!

 

 

Can’t afford a proper dental care in your country? Bulgaria is the place to get a world-level medical and dental care as well as esthetic procedures.

 

Our doctors and specialists of all kinds are well-educated, specialize in Western countries all the time and are appreciated as experts in top medical centres around the world. (Interested? Send me an email and I will give you the contacts of my dentist.)

 

NATURE IN BULGARIA

 

If you ask any Bulgarian what is the biggest wealth of his/her country, the instant answer will be – the Bulgarian nature.

 

Indeed, Bulgaria is a very wealthy country for its small territory. We like to say that we have it all. There are different mountains ranges that offer different types of activities. For an out of the beaten path hiking in Bulgaria, go to the Rila Mountain; for a more culture-oriented exploration make a visit to the Rhodopes. If you come just for a few days to the capital city, Sofia is built at the foot of the Vitosha Mountain.

 

 

There are several ski resorts and a long coastline, but what I can wholeheartedly recommend is to go north and visit the region of Kavarna. 

 

There are also lakes where you can go fishing, forest paths where you can go hiking, and plenty of space for camping in the woods without having to worry if you are an intruder because most of the lands in Bulgaria are state-owned.

 

Ahtopol Beach, Black Sea, Bulgaria

 

You can even go for off-roading everywhere except the national parks.  If you want to see brown bears in nature, the Dancing Bears Park is a great place to explore.

 

 

The natural environment in Bulgaria offers many options for active holidays and outdoors adventures. Rafting, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking are just some of them.  

 

KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE EAST AND THE WEST

 

But do you know what our biggest advantage is?

 

 We are in the middle. We have always been, since the beginning; a country on a crossroad between the East and the West, the North and the South, Christianity and Islam; a land amid three seas (at one historical moment); a territory that has seen a lot – Crusader Wars, Ottoman Rule, Communist Era …

 

The Russian Church in Sofia

 

This made us develop a deeper knowledge of the world around us. It gave us a chance to know more about the different cultures, political systems and to gain insights into the world we live in.

 

As citizens of a small country, we needed to learn other languages to make connections, to construct careers and live abroad, if we wanted to. All these factors helped us to open our eyes and to see the world from all its sides, with the bad and the good, and to be less subjected to media manipulations and misbeliefs.

 

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

 

This brings us to another very important aspect of the Bulgarian wealth – the tolerance towards different religions.

 

There are several regions in Bulgaria inhabited by Bulgarian Muslims as a result of the five centuries-long rule of the Ottomans here. Many of these people are Bulgarians converted to Islam, others are Turkish people brought to the Bulgarian lands by the Ottomans. In both cases, the Bulgarian Muslims have a strong work ethic, traditions that are still very much alive and live peacefully with their Christian neighbours.

 

The Mosque in Sofia

 

Many Christian Bulgarians have great respect for the Bulgarian Muslims because they are honest, hardworking people, honestly earning their livelihood. How many countries can say that these two religions live together peacefully and respect each other, without fear and suspicion? Not so many.

 

Muslim village in the mountains 

 

And it is not only about the Muslims. Ask the Jews what they know and think of Bulgaria? You will learn that Bulgaria is the only country that didn’t allow its Jews to be transported to the Nazis camps during World War II.

 

 TOURISM IN BULGARIA

 

Why travel to Bulgaria? Isn’t it a dangerous, grey, and sad country? You will be surprised, as many people do when they come here without knowing much about Bulgaria.

 

Plovdiv, The Old Town

 

But I won’t lie to you. Yes, we have plenty of the grey, uniform and built without imagination buildings from the Socialist times. But they are built to last forever (that was the slogan of the Socialists) and now you can see more and more of them refurbished and painted in joyful colours. We also have bad taxi drivers and one of the worst tourist services in the all-inclusive tourism sector (please, don’t go to Sunny Beach, please!).

 

Sofia, National Teater Ivan Vazov 

 

But! If you come to Sofia, you will be surprised by its European, easy going lifestyle, safe environment and very good choices of AirBnb -s. If you want to experience our culture and traditions – go to Plovdiv or Koprivshtitsa! Fancy a bit of luxury? No problem, one of the best places is Riu Pravets, just an hour drive from Sofia.

 

Rila Monastery

 

Bulgaria also has a good collection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites among which the Rila Monastery is the pearl. Bulgaria might not be a fancy-styling, artsy-trending tourist destination like France, Italy or Spain but it has its unique features that go beyond the facade and far back many centuries. The one thing you need to do – give it a chance, give it a time to get to know it.

 

BULGARIAN CULTURE & TRADITIONS

 

Corresponding to its long history, my country has a rich culture and traditions. The most obvious way to experience it is by going to a traditional restaurant. However, it is much better if you can visit a concert of Bulgarian traditional folklore. The Bulgarian folk dances can be described with two words – upbeat rhythms and dazzling costumes.

 

 

One of the best experiences is to see The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices singing on stage, but if you cannot watch this video to understand what I’m talking about.

 

Thanks to the presence of many civilizations during the centuries, a lot of different sub-cultures and traditions can be found here. Among them, there are some unusual Bulgarian traditions inherited from pagan times.

 

Celebrating Baba Marta on March 1st 

 

 

If you are not into the folklore experience, you might like to visit a ballet or opera performance. Why in Bulgaria? Because we have strong traditions and some of the best opera singers in the world (most of them built their careers in the top opera houses around the world). The most notable are the names of Nikolay Gyaurov and Raina Kabaivanska.

 

 

 

As for the ballet, The National Opera and Ballet of Bulgaria have traditions closely connected with the classic Russian style in these arts. That’s why the beauty of the decors and the performance, the finesse and the magic are still here and you can see it without needing to know a word from the local language. The ballet experience in Sofia is something you should include in your bucket list!

 

DON’T CALL BULGARIA A CHEAP TRAVEL DESTINATION!

 

Bulgaria is not cheap. Bulgaria’s wealth is in its authentic people, simplistic life and social lifestyle. Traditions are still alive here even if they fade away with each generation.

 

Rila Mountains 

 

That’s why, please, don’t call my country cheap.

Call it affordable.

Call it authentic.

Call it true and interesting.

 

Because, if you are curious enough and if you respect the cultures you visit, you will see beyond the popular marketing slogans, and will understand that countries like Bulgaria are the ones that can teach you the most and show you the other way of life; the other face of the world.

 

 

A life where people have a social life and find time to see their friends and family often, share experiences and difficulties, and feel as a part of a community.

 

People without a lot of money to go on cruise trips or buy expensive cars, but people who will share with you the little they have and humbly but proudly tell you the other stories. These are the stories that you will never hear on the news stations and read in the newspapers or magazines in your countries.

 

Don’t call Bulgaria a cheap destination. Come and enjoy its wealth, we will be happy to share it with you!

 


 

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16 Comments on “Stop Calling Bulgaria Cheap Travel Destination!

  1. As a long time resident (in Pernik) I agree with all you have said. Such rich culture and lovely, welcoming people. I have no desire to rush back to UK!

    • I’m overwhelmed by the response my article takes from people like you – foreigners who made Bulgaria their second homeland. Thanks for sharing and appreciating our “wealth”!

  2. Hi Geri,

    Great article and of course, you are absolutely right!

    I have to confess, though, that in one of my many articles about Bulgaria I did use the word ‘cheap’ in the title. The article was based on a media report that stated “Bulgaria is one of Europe’s cheapest tourist destinations”. So basically, I copied their use of the word ‘cheap’.

    But as you stated, Bulgaria is a country so ‘rich’ it could never be considered ‘cheap’.

    Thank you for pointing this out!
    Ellis Shuman recently posted…How My Job Relocation Led to My Writing a Crime Thriller

    • Thank you, Ellis! At the beginning when people and media started to talk how cheap (i.e. affordable) is Bulgaria for travel, it was ok, because it is true. But as the time passed, I saw that this stays the main point of all ‘inspirational’piece written about my country. Which is sad because the country has so much more to give to the people coming here. You know better than me! 🙂 It even inspired you to write books. Cheers!

  3. Thank you so much for this great insight into Bulgaria…we have a lot to discover

    • Sally,

      I’m happy you find it useful and hope you will find many more reasons why Bulgaria is unique while travelling around.

      Happy travels!

  4. Wow, Geri, what an emotional rollercoaster!

    I love the stand you take and how elaborately you prove your points. I completely agree with you that Bulgaria shouldn’t be called cheap and its value must be measured by the richness of its history, natural beauty, and the kindness of its people.

    Cheers and happy travels!
    NTripping recently posted…On Money, Travelling, And Reaching Your Dreams

  5. This is a lovely informative piece to share, highlighting just some of the reasons we love it here too, Thanks.

  6. This was such an emotionally-charged article! I can relate to it not only because I am Bulgarian but also because I embrace what you’ve written.

    Thank you very much for shedding so much light on why our country is a gem. A gem like no other.

    • Thank you, Svetoslav! There are so much more things that make Bulgaria rich but I didn’t want to make this post too long. 🙂 Probably should write a sequel lol 🙂

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