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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!