Discovering Bulgaria: A Road Trip Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

A road trip route in Bulgaria | © Pixabay
A road trip route in Bulgaria | © Pixabay
Photo of Maria Angelova
20 April 2017

Bulgaria is a small country which can easily be traversed from end-to-end by car. It’s always recommended to spend a day or two in Sofia, but be sure to head east and explore more of the country. For this itinerary, a normal city car is suitable as no off-road or heavy mountainous roads are included. Do have in mind, however, that some of the roads in Bulgaria are not in top shape and you should drive carefully.


Total distance (approximate): 563 miles/920 km

Total driving time (approximate): 12.5 hours

Recommended number of days for traveling: 8 days

Best for: Couples or families

Day 1: Sofia – Koprivshtitsa

Distance: 68 miles/110 km

Travel time: 2 hours

Koprivshtitsa is a picturesque Bulgarian National Revival period town nestled at the base of Stara Planina Mountain. You can choose between the highway (40 miles/60 km longer but a better road) and the winding road that runs parallel to the mountain (less traffic and beautiful views along the way!). When in Koprivshtitsa, stroll around the colorful, old houses and visit its museums to better understand part of Bulgaria’s history.

Koprivshtitsa | © Interact-Bulgaria / WikiCommons

Day 2: Koprivshtitsa – Plovdiv

Distance: 55 miles (90 km)

Travel time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Plovdiv is the second biggest city in Bulgaria and, for many, the most beautiful one. It has a lively arts scene in the Kapana Creative District, a colorful old town perched on the top of three hills, with a laid-back atmosphere that you will love. Start your journey at the ancient Roman amphitheatre, where you can watch live performances during the summer. If you are traveling with kids, check out the children’s railway for a ride up another of the city’s hills, or visit the planetarium at the Natural History Museum, Hrysto G. Danov str. 34, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, +359 32 626683.

Day 3: Plovdiv – Stara Zagora

Distance: 60 miles/ 100 km

Travel time: 1 hour

You can conveniently take the highway from Plovdiv to Stara Zagora for a day of history and beer. Visit the hourglass-shaped history museum, walk on the ancient stones of Augusta Trajana Roman theater, and then head to the Zagorka Brewery Museum, Khan Asparuh Street 41, Stara Zagora, Bulgaria for a beer tour (not suitable for kids under 12 , and those under 18 are not allowed to drink beer). Reservations a few days in advance are required. Note: Their website is in Bulgarian, but you can ask someone at your hotel to help you with the reservation. The tour is available in English.

Day 4: Stara Zagora – Nessebar

Distance: 125 miles/200 km

Travel time: 2 hours

If you travel in summer, don’t miss a chance to spend some time at the beach! Nessebar, located on the southern coast of the Black Sea, has both beautiful beaches and rich history to explore. Just a few miles away you can also find seaside camping areas.

The famous windmill in Nessebar | © Pixabay

Day 5: Nessebar – Shumen

Distance: 85 miles/140 km

Travel time: 2 hours

Shumen is a medium-sized Bulgarian city, that is decidedly less “touristy,” which will help you to immerse yourself in local life. The Shumen Plateau is right next to the city, and on top of it you will find the Shumen Fortress and the 1300 Years Bulgaria Monument, featuring some of the most prominent Bulgarian rulers. Don’t miss the opportunity to try hang-gliding, as the plateau is a perfect spot to fly!

View of Shumen from the Shumen Fortress | © Klearchos Kapoutsis/Flickr

Day 6: Shumen – Veliko Tarnovo

Distance: 85 miles/140 km

Travel time: 2 hours

Veliko Tarnovo used to be the capital of Bulgaria almost a thousand years ago, which is why you will see the imposing royal Tsarevets Fortress hanging over the city. At night you can sometimes see the Sound and Light Show at the fortress (ask at the Tourist Center for upcoming dates). Don’t miss the Multimedia Center, ul. “Nikola Pikolo” 6, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, where you can see realistic figures of famous Bulgarian historical men and women. If you are here at the end of March, the city celebrates its holiday and you can see street parades, celebrations and mass bungee jumping expeditions from the Stambolov Bridge.

Day 7: Veliko Tarnovo – Glozhene Monastery

Distance: 85 miles/140 km

Travel time: 2 hours

Glozhene Monastery is not among the biggest monasteries, but it definitely is among the most favorite of Bulgarians. It is almost 700 years old, with a beautiful panoramic view that you are guaranteed to love. It is a tranquil place where you can spend some quiet time reflecting on your incredible journey through Bulgaria!

Glozhene Monastery | © Grozhen/WikiCommons

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