Bulgaria is lucky to have four very distinct seasons. When September arrives, nature’s colors shift from green to yellow and red, the cultural scene wakes up, and nights become cozier by the fireplace. If you plan to visit in fall, here are our picks of the best destinations to make the most of the season.
The Rhodope Mountains and Stara Planina (Balkan) Mountain
Colored foliage in fall is a heartwarming sight on any mountainside, but for the best panoramas, head to Stara Planina Mountain and the Rhodope Mountains any time in October when the rain and cold are not as severe. Even November is good for a photo day out. Pirin and Rila are perfect hiking destinations in the cooler months, though they are more rocky and don’t have as many trees to display those glorious autumnal shades.
Sevlievo, for the Pumpkin Festival
The small town of Sevlievo is the self-proclaimed Capital of Pumpkins, where every year a special festival dedicated to this gourd takes place, usually in October. This is where visitors can have a bite of the biggest tikvenik (baked sweet pastry with pumpkin and walnut filling), try their hand at pumpkin carving, or just join in with the traditional dances.
The forests, to see the cyclamen blooming
From August until October, you can come across wild cyclamen blooming if you go for a stroll in the forest (usually under 600 metres (2,000 feet) altitude). Look carefully in the shady areas for the light violet blossoms of the flower.
The Black Sea Coast, for fewer crowds
The Bulgarian Black Sea coast tends to get overcrowded in summer, but plan a seaside escape in mid-September and you can enjoy the beautiful beaches without the throngs and the fuss. Some of the beach bars will be closed, and the water will be a few degrees colder, but it’s a perfect time for families to enjoy the sights with fewer people around.
Sofia, for the festivals and culture
After the summer, when everybody takes their holidays and swaps the fuss of the capital for a beach view, the end of September marks the new season of the cultural scene in Sofia, when theaters, the Opera House, concerts, and festivals open once more. If you’re a cinema lover, be sure to check out the selection of international movies at the Sofia International Film Festival, or choose a documentary from the Sofia Biting Docs film festival.
Bulgaria’s wineries, for vineyard and wine tasting tours
Grapes are harvested in September (until October in some areas), making this the perfect time to visit a winery and join a vineyard and wine tasting tour. Be sure to try Bulgarian grape varietals as well as taste different wines and learn how to distinguish the difference between scents and flavors.
Kovachevitsa village, for cozy fireside evenings
Kovachevitsa is one of the traditional Bulgarian villages where you can still experience old-world hospitality and where the stone houses have remained untouched for centuries. To walk through the labyrinth of cobbled streets of this village is to take a step back in time, especially when you smell the smoke coming out of the chimneys, which means you just know that there’s a warming log fire waiting for you back at your guesthouse.