Bulgaria, located on the northeastern part of the Balkan Peninsula, was under Ottoman rule for 500 years. It emerged in 1878 as a monarchy, and then, after the Second World War, fell (quite happily) under Soviet rule for another 50 years. Now a member of the European Union (since 2007), it is a fascinating country to visit and closer to the UK than you might think; increasingly cheap flights to Bulgaria take only three hours.
Not yet in the eurozone, Bulgaria offers great value for money for those seeking sun on the Black Sea coast, skiers searching for fresh snow in Bansko and second homers hoping to pick up cheap property. There are airports in Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv, Burgas and Gorna Oryahovitsa.
The country has ancient cities with Unesco-listed attractions (including Kazanluk Tomb; the Ivanovo Rock Churches; and Rila Monastery), a slow and laid back way of life, and wild landscapes (Rila, Rhodopes, Balkan and Pirin Mountains), and Sofia, its charming, green and open capital.
One thing to remember before searching for Bulgaria flights, is the locals’ habit of shaking the head for yes and nodding for no.
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Bulgaria has hot, dry summers, much like the rest of the Balkan countries along the Black Sea. Winters can be cold and snowy, especially in the Balkan Mountains, and summers can be very hot.
Peak season at the coast is, naturally, summertime, with most visitors arriving off their flights to Bulgaria between late June and early September. Bulgaria’s ski resorts are emerging as some of the best in Europe. The ski season runs from late December through to Easter. Sofia is a year-round destination, busiest in the summertime and around Christmas.
Low season fares apply at the seaside resorts around Varna for most of the winter. The weather is less good, but the scenery is still appealing.
Buses are faster than trains and the network far more extensive, however, it can be confusing working out where they are going and where you need to get off, as many drivers will only speak Bulgarian. There are two train lines between Sofia and Varna and Sofia and Bourgas. Service is fairly poor.
Bulgaria Air flies between the main destinations of Sofia, Varna and Bourgas.
(prices quoted are from London)