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Itinerary help for 10 days in Bulgaria

My husband and I plan to visit Bulgaria in May 2020. We will only have 10 days so I know we’ll have to skip seeing some places. (We’ll likely be in London for a few days prior to this). I’ve outlined a rough itinerary below and since there are quite a few experts on Bulgaria on this forum, I’m hoping you can provide some guidance as to whether you think my planning fits the timeline. Few things about our traveling style:

  • We don’t drive when we travel. I want my husband to be able to “veg out” watching the scenery too. So we will be taking buses or hiring a driver. Suggestions for bus companies, drivers, and small tour companies are welcome and appreciated.
  • We like to home base somewhere for 3 or 4 days and take day trips from there rather than stay only 1 night or 2 in a place and moving on. We like to slow our pace every few days so we can regroup and soak in the vibes.
  • We like to walk and hike. We also like history (but not toooo much), and just about everything that’s interesting to most people is likely interesting to us! So here goes:

Day 1. Fly into Sofia. Settle in, take a stroll around the area, maybe pop into a museum, church
Day 2. Day trip to Rila Monastery

Day 3. Plovdiv. Mill around town - No set plan yet.
Day 4. Devils Throat, Yagodinski caves, Trigrad Gorge, hikes
Day 5. Plovdiv. No set plan yet
Day 6. Plovdiv. Another day trip out somewhere? No set plan yet

Day 7. Veliko Tarnovo. No set plan yet.
Day 8. Veliko Tărnovo. Day trip out - hiking, lake, waterfall?
Day 9. Veliko Tărnovo. No set plan yet.

Day 10. Sofia. Key sites/church/museum missed.
Day 11. Early morning flight home.

Your thoughts? Too many or too few days in each location? Fill in the blanks as you wish. Thank you!

Posted by
187 posts

It looks like you have already done a lot of research, but you might want to take a look at the itinerary of the RS Bulgaria trip for ideas of more things to do and see. Better yet, you might want to consider taking this tour! I took it two years ago in May and it really was an excellent experience with a terrific guide. I realize that it doesn’t meet your criteria of 3-4 nights in each location, but it would take care of all the challenges in traveling to Bulgaria - driving, reading the Cyrillic alphabet, hiring a guide, etc. It also gives you experiences that you probably cannot get on your own - overnight at Rila Monastery, lunch with two families (Roma and Muslim) and so on.

Stefan, the RS guide, also runs his own small touring company, along with his friend, Yuri (who I believe has also begun to work for RS). It is Lyuba Tours They may be able to help you arrange private touring in Bulgaria. Both of them are delightful.

I remember my time on Bulgaria fondly. Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
1255 posts

This is probably one of the better Bulgaria itineraries I have seen in a while, I think it is good. You need a car, this trip is not feasible as written without one. I mean there are literally segments of your trip that would take 60-90 minutes in a car and 6-8 hours on public transit.

Day 4 is rushed, no way you are going to make it all the way to Trigrad area with all the other things you want to do, you'd be better off over-nighting somewhere and this area (rodopi mtns) is worth two full days. On my blog look at the four entries between Dolen and Arda/Gorna Arda to see pictures. Actually most of my blog is Bulgaria. If I were you I would go south and the east from Rila on day 2 instead of doubling back through Sofia, maybe even take in Melnik then head east, although that might be a bit much.Then 3,4 in Rhodopis, 5,6 in Plovdiv. In Plovdiv recommend old town area or Kapana neighborhood.

There is a lot of stuff around VT, google (in no order) Etar, Preobrazhenski monastery, Dryanavo monastery, Buzluzhda, Bozhentsi, probably a bunch of places I am forgetting.

Bulgaria is a hikers paradise. The best areas for hiking on your itinerary are going to be near Rila, in the Rhodopis, and around VT. Sofia also has good hiking but you don't have time.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you Renee and Kaeleku for your input! With your feedback, I feel we’re headed in the right general direction. Every trip to Europe (8 under our belts now), we’re fully aware that having a car will give us so much more flexibility and freedom, but my husband drives everyday and he just doesn’t want to deal with the added stresses of driving in a foreign country, signage, language, spotty cellular service for gps in rural areas, etc. and I support his decision. So my half-baked solution is to hire a driver for some segments that public transportation isn’t great or non existent, or book a day tour, which is what we’ve done for previous trips.

Renee, I haven’t ruled out a RS tour completely. I totally agree with you that reviewing their itineraries and descriptions gives me good insights and ideas. I know that we’d get to see and do things we will never be able to do on our own, but just the thought of living out of my carry on every 1-2 days sends shivers down my spine -Lol. I guess I’m not quite ready for that yet - maybe in 8-10 years (We are 57 & 59).

I’m always thinking and planning our next travels so we have time to tweak our itinerary. Kaeleku, I trust your suggestions and give it some serious thought - thank you, especially around Day 4. Thank you including the link to your blog, and I’m very sorry your loss of Yane. 😢

Posted by
1255 posts

Yes, Yane really led a tragic life. He's the only of his siblings that survived, and was extremely skittish - I also think someone either beat him severely or tried to kill him as a puppy so he had zero trust and would never let you touch him no matter how kind you were or how much food you gave him. He was free and roamed where he wanted. We fed him and made him a bed of hay near the house, and for some reason he kind of tolerated us, and for months he would follow us around on our various long hikes from the village. We actually joking called him Yane Sandogski after the revolutionary Yane Sandanski ... maybe that name was too close to the truth.

Posted by
1 posts

I was just there for a baseball tournament. Biomet was a very nice bus line and goes from Sofia to VT. We rode it all the way to the beaches at Varna. I was told the trains are terrible and not to take them. We hired a driver to go to and from Blagoevgrad which was 70 American each way. The Intercontinental in Sofia is amazing and very reasonable. I would book a tour to Rila since it is hard to get to and can get crowded. They have day tours out of Sofia. I know cars have a road tax that has to be paid. Some Americans we met on the beach said they were given a hard time by the police because the road tax was not paid when they rented the car in Serbia. Amazing country, very inexpensive and the people are very kind. The photo app on google translate was a lifesaver with the different letters. Stick to major hotel chains when you can (not an option in some towns like Blagoevgrad). They tend to be lower quality than the rating Our 5 star in Golden Sands was much more like a 3 star in USA. Clean bathrooms everywhere, even in the bus depots.

Posted by
49 posts

It's good. Yet if you have time. Visit varna and golden sands. Amazing city and amazing complex for the summer!

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks finowolf and ppetersen77! After some thought, I think we will add 2 additional days to our itinerary and visit Varna/Golden Sands.

Posted by
1255 posts

Sorry, I will just go ahead and disagree with that. The seaside of Bulgaria is a wasteland. Only the poorest, most low class tourists still go there - think package tourists from UK, Germany and Netherlands who are on all-inclusive package holidays. Anybody with money from Bulgaria goes to Greece or Turkey. There is literally nothing there. Even poor Nessebar, a UNESCO world heritage site near there was nearly placed on the endangered list in 2010 and again in 2019, due to the uncontrolled, ugly, rampant over-construction fueled by mafia money. If you really want to spend two more days in Bulgaria, Varna and Golden sands would not even be on the top 50 places I would recommend.