Bulgaria is a small country, and a curious traveler can easily explore it from end to end in two weeks. The Danube Region is one of the least visited areas in Bulgaria, and this is exactly what makes it such a gem for those searching for the unusual and genuine in a country. Here’s a quick guide to what to see and where to go around the Danube River in Bulgaria.
One of the poorest regions in Bulgaria
If you want to take a longer trip in the country, plan several stops along the Danube. The river stretches along the northern Romanian border almost all the way except for a small land border to the far east. A great part of the Danube region is an off-the-beaten-path destination not only for foreign tourists, but for Bulgarians as well. This is one of the poorest areas in Bulgaria (Northwestern Bulgaria was officially announced the poorest region in the EU) with many ghost villages and few attractions. This fact affects the locals and their life in a way you probably won’t be able to understand if you only stick to big cities like Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. If you have already seen the Danube in other countries, like Austria or Germany, you may feel that its banks and surroundings are wild and in a way untouched in Bulgaria.
Explore the Bulgarian cities along the Danube
Continuing east, stop in Svishtov, a small riverside town that is livelier than most similar towns in Bulgaria because of its university. On the outskirts of Svishtov, you can visit the remains of the Roman Legion Camp Novae, where excavations have revealed a lot about the life of the Roman soldiers.
Ruse is probably the most vibrant of all the Danube cities in Bulgaria. The bridge connecting it to the capital of Romania, Bucharest, is only 45 miles (75 km) away, and makes it a popular weekend destination with the inhabitants of the Romanian capital. Ruse has preserved much of its architecture from the beginning of the twentieth century, mostly influenced by the Viennese aesthetics of the time. Not far from the city, the impressive Basarbovo Monastery and the UNESCO-protected Ivanovo Rock-Hewn Churches will show you a different side of the Bulgarian Orthodox Christianity.
Explore the Danube islands
The Danube islands are as wild as the rest of the region, which makes them a treat for those who enjoy boating or kayaking in peace with no people around. None of the islands have a regular boat service, so you will have to rent a boat or a kayak from the fishermen in the towns along the coast. Some of the islands, like Mishka or Aleko may surprise you with their white sands and pristine forests, while others have had a darker history. The island of Belene, for example, long served as a concentration camp during the communist era in Bulgaria and still hosts a prison today. At the same time, it is part of a natural reserve and home to many wild animals and birds.
Explore natural sites
Because of the fact that they are not inhabited, many of the Bulgarian Danube islands have turned into natural reserves with bustling bird and fish life. Natural Park Persina protects four islands near the town of Nikopol and 19 more near Belene (including the mentioned Belene Island). Kalimok-Brashlen reserve comprises seven islands accessible from the town of Tutrakan. A hands-down locals’ favorite is Srebarna Nature Reserve with hundreds of rare and endangered birds visiting or nesting there. The reserve has a visitor’s center, where you can learn more about Srebarna Lake and the Danube, take a walk around the lake or peek at birds from the watching towers or live cams.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.