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Greece to Bulgaria

Hi all. I'm looking at a May trip to Greece with a side trip to Bulgaria. Ideally I would take a train from Thesalonika to Plovdiv Bulgaria. Has anyone taken that train? It looks (from the map) that I could go east, nearly to turkey, then north and back west, or go north to Sofia, then east.

This is a single old guy with a backpack travel. I'm ok with renting a car for day trips.

Posted by
8200 posts

Google Maps indicates that you'd take a 5 hour bus between those cities, and the bus goes through Sofia. It's 240-250 miles on the ground
There are no direct flights, however. Flights from Thesalonika go about everywhere else in Europe and Russia, however.
Plovdiv is just a difficult place to get to.

Posted by
27328 posts

I don't believe there are any trains running between Thessaloniki and Bulgaria. However, I haven't checked the website to see what it says. It would be a good idea to do that.

Plovdiv is a very interesting historic city, as is Veliko Tarnovo.

Posted by
1 posts

I would go north to Sofia then east. From Thessaloniki to Sofia you could either take a bus or rent a car. Bus is more economical and easier if you do not like to drive in Europe. The road from Thessaloniki to Sofia is mostly highway, so driving would not be hard. If you drive, you may want to stop for a night in Melnik (right after the Greek/Bulgarian border). The place is beautiful and there are houses with medieval or older wine cellars dug deep in the sandstone cliffs. The Rozhen monastery is nearby. The countryside is beautiful. You need to try to arrange for someone to take you around or read up on the area and make your own way. On the way from Melnik to Sofia, you could also stop at the Rila Monastery. The monastery is spectacular and very important historically. Plan to spend about 2 hours there at least. It is a small detour from the highway to Sofia. If you decide to take the bus to Sofia, you could book a day trip to the Rila Monastery and another - to Plovdiv. Or you could rent a car from Sofia and drive to Plovdiv and other places in Bulgaria. In Sofia for me must see sights are the largo, Alexander Nevski cathedral, the Thracian gold treasures (in the National Archeological Museum) and in the Museum of History in Boyana. Also - the Boyana church. Other towns/places you could visit in Bulgaria - depending on how much time you want to spend and your interests are - Plovdiv, Bachkovo Monastery, The Valley of Roses (rose picking and festivals are there early June)/ the Valley of the Thracian Kings, Turnovo, Nessebar, Varna (its museum has what is probably the oldest processed gold in the world). Getting a guide with a car is ideal. I would avoid trains or out-of-town buses. Hope this helps.

Posted by
16894 posts

Trains do not currently cross the border between the eastern corner of Greece and either Bulgaria or Turkey. Maps don't show the whole story, since certain tracks and border crossings are in mothballs, under construction, etc. See our small rail maps for the Balkans and Greece which indicate routes that should be open.

Actual train schedules are the second piece of the puzzle. Looking Up Train Schedules and Routes Online gives you the Deutsche Bahn train schedule link and tips for using it. Specifically for Greece, see

Buses run more frequently between Thessaloniki and Sofia (versus the once daily train), and again probably not directly to Plovdiv.

Posted by
27328 posts

Using public transportation in the Eastern Balkans is quite the adventure. I mean that in a good way, but you really need to have a lot of time or at least a reasonably flexible schedule to try it.