The Best Destinations in Bulgaria for Summer

Theres something special about pitching a tent in Bulgaria
There's something special about pitching a tent in Bulgaria | © PETAR MLADENOV / Alamy Stock Photo
Maria Angelova

Summer is the perfect season to visit Bulgaria – this is the time when you can climb new summits, bask on the beaches of the Black Sea or take part in the best open-air events taking place all over the country. Here’s our pick of the best destinations to visit during your summer Bulgarian trip. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

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Sozopol for beach and history

Sozopol is just the perfect amount of old houses, artistic atmosphere, and beach life. Take a walk in the old town where many of the houses are more than a century-old and then take the stairs down to the little Old Town Beach, or shop around for works of art. If you prefer wider spaces, head to Kavatsi Beach or Smokinya Beach close to Sozopol (accessible by a shuttle in the summer).

Sozopol, Bulgaria

Smokinya Beach for camping

Aerial view of Smokinya Beach near Sozopol, Burgas Region, Bulgaria

Located not far from Sozopol, Smokinya Beach is one of the best camping spots on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Come in your own camper van or rent one on-site for a few days sleeping by the sound of crashing waves. The area is full of whitewashed wooden beach bars with a laidback crowd where you can hop for your cocktails at sunset.

Smokinya Beach, Bulgaria

The Seven Rila Lakes for the view

The Seven Rila Lakes are probably the most visited natural site in Bulgaria – and for a good reason. They all have names related to their shape or a legend of its origin (The Eye, The Kidney, The Fish, etc.). If you hike the trail in mid-August, you will see the beautiful Paneurhythmy Dance (see the video below) performed by followers of the Universal White Brotherhood, a new-age movement founded by the Bulgarian Peter Deunov (also known as Beinsa Douno).

The Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria

Veliko Tarnovo for the opera festival at the fortress

Veliko Tarnovo used to be the capital of Bulgaria and still has an imposing fortress from these times dominating the skyline above the town. On certain nights, a special sound and light show projected on the fortress can be watched from the town (see the upcoming dates on its official website). What will make your experience even more memorable is the Stage of Centuries Opera Festival held every summer using the fortress for opera performances on stage.

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Sofia for the A to Jazz Festival

Sofia today

A to Jazz Festival is one of the major summer events in Sofia that takes place in a huge open space in the center of Sofia with world-famous and local jazz performers playing for free. The festival lasts three days and gathers thousands of music aficionados with a glass of wine or a beer in hand.

Sofia, Bulgaria

The Rhodope Mountains for the bagpipe festival

Ask Bulgarians for their favorite mountains and many, if not the most, will answer the Rhodopes. These soft-shaped mountains are not crossed by many marked trails but are full of cozy, old-time villages and friendly people. One of those villages, Gela, plays host to the biggest bagpipe festival in the country, taking place on the first weekend of August.

Gela, Bulgaria

Plovdiv for the Singing Fountains and Kapana art district

The Singing Fountains in Plovdiv are photo-friendly both by day and by night. People come to cool off on hot summer days with part of the fountains being accessible for this purpose, while the nights have a magical atmosphere with lights and sprays changing at the rhythm of classical music and Bulgarian songs. After the show is over, head to Kapana art district where you will find many art cafes, wine bars, craft beers and whiskey bars at one place.

Singing Fountains, Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Balgari village for the fire-walking

One of the unique Bulgarian traditions still observed today, is Nestinari, the walking on hot embers. The ritual is performed every year on June 3, in the village of Balgari, close to the border with Turkey. The ritual starts early in the morning but the essence takes place after sunset when the central square of the village is covered in embers and special people called Nestinari perform a traditional dance on them, barefoot.

Balgari, Bulgaria

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