Throughout Western Europe, Bulgaria is mainly known for summer holidays along the coast of Sunny Beach in summer and for trips to the ski slopes in Bansko in winter. Although mass tourism is good for the economy, it has also sparked discussions about sustainability and the impact on nature. Whether hiking, sunbathing, or exploring the cultural scene, consider the following tips to travel consciously in Bulgaria.
As convenient as all-inclusive resorts can be for your beach or ski vacation, they are rarely eco-conscious. Many throw away a lot of food and create tons of waste. Additionally, many of the resorts on the Southern Black Sea Coast lack adequate wastewater treatment, and the wastewater is often poured straight into the sea and close to the beaches. In addition to harming the nature, this has caused cases of stomach problems and other infections every summer. Instead, choose a guest house or a small family hotel with the Green Lodge certificate. The Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism issues these certificates to establishments that consider sustainability, as well as their use of natural resources. They also use local produce as much as possible and support the local communities.
Bulgaria is a small country with a good rail network. Although the trains are often old, and delays are not uncommon, it’s still by far the best way to travel at a slow pace, get to know the life of the locals, and leave the smallest carbon footprint. Additionally, the trains are very inexpensive. Travelers can cross the whole country from Sofia to Burgas in first-class for less than €12 euro ($14 USD). For a truly authentic adventure, take the last narrow-gauge train in Bulgaria.
Riding an ATV is a fun activity that is offered at many places in Bulgaria, especially in mountainous areas. These vehicles, however, are noisy, disturb the wildlife, and pollute the air. Instead, take in all that nature has to offer during a hike. There are trails of varying difficulty, so new hikers and the veterans will all enjoy themselves.
Sofia has an electric car rental app called Spark, which allows users to find and drive the nearest electric car. The rate per day is comparable to a regular car rental, but you can also rent it for a few minutes to use instead of a taxi. Additionally, you can park electric cars for free in Sofia, which means savings on parking fees. However, note that driving in Bulgaria can be a little hectic and nerve wracking, as the drivers are erratic and often break traffic rules.
Motorboats are offered for rent all along the Black Sea Coast, but, in addition to the noise, they are often not well maintained, and they leak oil in the water. Alternatively, rent a kayak and explore the coast. You can even hire a guide, if you so choose. One great trip to take is to kayak or row to the Danube islands.
To have the experts help you optimize a local and eco-friendly trip, contact a travel agent with an expertise in eco-friendly travel. In Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism will help point you in the right direction, as all members are committed to presenting the adventurous side of Bulgaria and protecting the nature and resources.