Aerial view of Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria at sunset
Alexander Nevski Cathedral, Sofia
A dazzling mix of Eastern and Western cultures.

Bulgaria Vacations

A land of Thracian folklore, among holy and ancient religious landmarks.

The churches and monasteries of Bulgaria speak to the religious and spiritual past and present of the country where folklore and traditions are prized. Over many years, freedom and struggle have come to define a people with distinct cultural origins – there are lots of ways to explore these religious sites, some of which have changed hands from one religion to another, over the years.

Bulgaria is tucked away in the southeast corner of Europe on the Balkan Peninsula and is divided north to south by the Balkan Mountains. It shares borders with Romania in the north, the Black Sea in the east, and Greece and Turkey in the south. The country straddles cultures with a Slavic language, Mediterranean food, and Roman and Turkish architecture. In fact, the word ‘bulgar’, is a Turkish word meaning ‘to mix’.

The capital, Sofia, the largest city in the western part of the country on the lower slopes of Mount Vitosha, is named for the Saint Sofia Basilica founded in the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Justinian I. That basilica is named for the Haggia Sofia in Constantinople, in modern day Istanbul. 

Sofia is a modern city with tree-lined boulevards, parks, churches and cathedrals. Lion Bridge (Lvov Most) is an elegant bridge with four bronze lions that adorn its corners. And the nearby Eagle Bridge is decorated with two large eagle statues perched on pillars on either end. This bridge connects the city centre to Borisova Gradina Park.

Across the country there are clear architectural influences from the Roman, medieval and Soviet eras. At the centre of Sofia is a Russian monument to Vasil Levski, a Bulgarian revolutionary hero who gave his life in the struggle to free Bulgaria from the Ottomans in the 19th century. The monument is surrounded by important government buildings, cultural areas, and cultural institutions.

At a Glance
CurrencyBulgarian Lev (BGN)
Places To Go

Handcrafted Journeys to our Most Popular Places in Bulgaria.

Panoramic high angle view above Western city of Sofia, Bulgaria, Eastern Europe during sunset back light into the sky
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Bulgaria: Land of the Rose

Get ready to soak in the sun at a spectacular Black Sea resort or soak in the benefits of a wellness treatment at a thermal spa as wafts of rose oil penetrate the air. Expect a warm welcome from locals across this great country and step back in time to witness its folklore and ancient traditions: fire dancers, icy water cross chasers, and celebrators of local vintners intertwine pagan and Christian beliefs to bring luck and good fortune to Bulgarians throughout the year.

Aerial sunset view of old town of Sozopol, Burgas Region, Bulgaria

The Culture

Bulgarian is the country’s official language, and Turkish and Macedonian are spoken too. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is the main religion in Bulgaria with nearly 70%. Nearly 12% is Muslim, and there are smaller groups of Roman Catholics, Protestants and Jews.

Bulgarian culture was shaped in part by the many struggles, occupations and fights for freedom. The Greeks and the Macedonian military general and king, Alexander the Great came to Bulgaria. By the middle of the 4th century BC the Romans defeated the Macedonian Empire and by 46 AD the Romans had conquered the Balkan Peninsula, dividing modern-day Bulgaria into provinces.

Bulgarian Empires then existed for hundreds of years until the Ottoman Turks arrived in 1362. They stuck around until Western Europe and Russia declared war on the Ottomans, who were defeated and forced to cede 60% of the Balkan Peninsula to Bulgaria in 1878.

Bulgaria declared themselves neutral in WWII but in 1941, German troops moved closer to its borders. Bulgaria refused to declare war on Russia and also refused to send Bulgarian Jews to Hitler.

At the end of WWII, the Fatherland Front, a resistance coalition, created a Communist constitution. The country prospered, but a culture of fear existed into the 1980s when Turks, Pomaks, and Roma were made to assimilate. Many people revolted and others left.

A coup in 1989 forced the resignation of the Communist party. The 1990s saw some instability and changes in government, but by 2004, Bulgaria had gained entry into NATO, and in 2007, the European Union.

Bulgarians are proud of their heritage and folklore which is passed down to the next generation by Bulgaria’s bábas and dyádos (grandmothers and grandfathers). In the lore, mythical creatures bring both joy and sorrow, a common trait to Slavic folklore tales around the world. Most stories revolve around a village and a mountain, probably due to the many mountains in the country, with forests where creatures can hide.

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