Hidden Gems of Bulgaria
Smack dab in the middle of the country sitting atop a tall hill is a unique structure. What can only be described as a UFO, the crumbling building of the former Communist Party is a testament to unique and frivolous spending that occurred during much of the Communist Reign. While you can not enter the building, the exterior and setting are worth checking out. The bizarre cement statues that surround the building add to its odd nature. This is a great day trip from either Plovdiv or Veliko Tarnovo.
The Church of St Demetrius of Thessaloniki
It is amazing the type of gems that can sit below unsuspecting tourist noses! In Veliko Tarnovo most tourists stick to the upper city with its famous fortress and museum row. Most people do not wander down the road just a few minutes where a number of churches make up the unique religious history of the town. It may not be the richest in gold or frescoes but the Church of St Demetrius of Thessaloniki is the richest in history. It is the site that brothers Asan and Peter the 2nd announced the beginning of the
second Bulgarian independence. This forever cemented it in the history books but not all the travel guides!
Kazanlak Rose Festival
Bulgaria has some of the most amazing festivals so if you can, try to attend at least one during your stay. One of our favourites was the Rose Festival in the town of Kazanlak. We have never seen another town so rose crazy as Kazanlak with hundreds of vendors, millions of roses- many larger than your head- and more live music than you can imagine. There is even a permanent rose museum that takes you through the careful craft of distilling rose oil. Roughly half of the world's rose oil, often used in perfumes and moisturizers, is produced in the Kazanlak Valley. During late May, when the festival is held, cultivation is at its peak. If you can handle the pre-sunrise wake-up call, you can join in traditional hand picking rituals spread out daily throughout the valley.
It is hard to think that there could be a hidden gem hiding right beside the crazy beach resort of Sunny Beach. With its millions of tourists per year and massive skyscraper hotels, it came as a surprise to find the southern stretch of the beach so quiet. Nestled between Nessebar and the party streets of Sunny Beach is a set of dunes much less visited by the neighboring beach. In the shoulder months, this area is almost completely empty.
With all its history, Plovdiv should be a no-brainer for anyone heading to Bulgaria. While many people stick to the main streets, not far from the historic wooden houses of the old town is a small street with a number of authentic creators. The 6 shops are all dedicated to using traditional methods to create their products. These range from a fantastic woodworker trained in Italian Renaissance style, to an awesome baker, and a seamstress who specializes in small Bulgarian dolls. Each person is passionate about their particular craft and while English may not be their primary language, they are very happy to try to tell you all about the way they create their product!
While it may seem a bit odd to include the entire country onto the list of the hidden gems, it is so under traveled by foreigners that the vast majority of the country can be seen as a hidden gem. This is with the exception of the Black Sea coast which has lots of tourism due to the beautiful beaches and hot weather. Sites like Tsarevets in Veliko Tarnovo, are almost empty allowing you some of the best access to a fort in all of Europe! On average, this magnificent fort gets less than 1,000 daily visitors though it is still one of the top attractions in Bulgaria!