Iskar River Gorge
Iskar River Gorge is one of the best day trips from Sofia and you don’t even need a car because there is a regular train running through it. Or rather weaving, as the gorge resembles a snake thrown among the hills and the towering cliffs. Stop at Gara Bov and hike the way to the Skaklya Waterfall (spring is the best time to see it, as it has the most powerful fall), a favorite route of one of the Bulgarian classical poets, Ivan Vazov.
The Seven Rila Lakes
The Seven Rila Lakes are one of the most visited natural spots in Bulgaria and you will fully understand why once you reach the so-called Lake Peak from which you can gaze at all the lakes but one, from above. The route is suitable for both beginners and seasoned hikers, with a chair lift taking you to the Lower Lake.
Anywhere where there is a horse base on St Theodore’s Day
Todorovden (the Day of St Theodore) is a movable festival celebrated on the first Saturday during the Easter Lent (Great Lent). It is dedicated to the horses, with massive horse races organized, mainly in the rural areas. What makes the tradition even more charming is that from early morning the horses taking part in the races are beautified – they are combed, their tails are decorated with beads and flowers. Ask at your hotel where the nearest Todorovden races are.
The Rose Valley
Being one of the major rose oil exporters in the world, Bulgaria has a special region called the Rose Valley with its main city Kazanlak and a few villages around it holding the annual Rose Festival. You may wonder if you’ve arrived at the wrong place as in June, Kazanlak is full of hundreds of Japanese who travel more than 6,000 miles to visit the festival and pay homage to the beautiful flower. Everyone is invited to take part in the old-fashioned rose-picking process with picking being organized every weekend in June.
The Rhodope Mountains have a special place in the hearts of Bulgarians – not for their hiking routes but for their time-encapsulated villages, beautiful traditions, and delicious, hearty cuisine. At the beginning of March, usually on its first Saturday, the noisy Kukeri festival takes place in the traditional village of Shiroka Laka, famed for its symmetric houses in black and white. If they are lucky, skiers might enjoy the slopes of Pamporovo Ski Resort up to April, while the impressive caves in the Trigrad area are open year-round.
Shumen and Dobrich
Shumen and Dobrich are two of the main regions in Bulgaria where lavender is grown. Just rent a car and drive between towns and villages to see the endless lavender fields in bloom. Bulgaria is one of the top three lavender oil producers in the world. While you are in this part of the country, you can also get a bird’s eye view of the city of Shumen by going to the top of the Shumen Plateau and flying off with an ultralight trike.