Join Atlas Obscura for a unique and memorable introduction to one of Europe’s oldest countries: Bulgaria. Across nine days and eight nights we’ll dive into Europe’s most southeasterly corner, as we explore ancient civilizations and marvel at otherworldly relics of a communist utopia that never came to be. Immerse yourself in the rich and often tragic history of a country that stands on the frontier between Europe and the Middle East—a country that has seen the rise and fall of three historic Bulgarian Kingdoms. We’ll be accompanied throughout by Darmon Richter, a British travel writer and Ph.D. researcher with a particular interest in the ideological architecture of Eastern Europe. And when we’re not learning about Bulgaria’s complex history—or admiring the underrated architectural masterpieces constructed during its communist period—our small group of intrepid explorers will be taking in jaw-dropping natural landscapes, wandering the streets and markets of picturesque old towns, and feasting on hearty local cuisine.
This tour will not be particularly physically demanding. Some walking will be required, and often over uneven ground, but rarely for more than a short distance at a time. Be prepared for between three to five miles of moderate walking over the course of a day. The longest walks will be in Sofia, on the first day, as we intend to explore much of the capital on foot. Do be sure to bring proper walking boots or other outdoor footwear, and be aware that this tour also involves a good amount of driving time, so dress for comfort.
For flights in and out of Sofia Airport (SOF), we suggest you arrive anytime by 4 p.m. on May 9 and depart anytime on May 17. We’ll provide the option of booking extra nights at our Sofia hotel before and/or after the tour, and are more than happy to provide suggestions for things to do and see in the city on your own.
We can cater to vegans quite well in Bulgaria, though it absolutely helps to know in advance. Salads are a major part of local cuisine, and practically every place we go to will serve fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted peppers, eggplant, etc. Most restaurants will have baked vegetable dishes too, vegetables stuffed with other vegetables then roasted, or vegan-friendly combos baked in clay pots. A couple of restaurants we visit even feature comprehensive lists of vegan options—the place in Veliko Turnovo has an excellent range of vegan pizzas, while vegan guests in the past always speak highly of the Turkish restaurant in Varna. Turkish cuisine features very little dairy, and there will be a huge range of hummus, chickpea salads, taboule, vegetable soups, and so on. From time to time—and particularly with lunches, which tend to be chosen more for convenience of location—the vegan options might be limited. The worst case scenario might be the occasional lunch of french fries, bread and salad. But on the whole, the evening meals will be quite satisfying, and there will be a few very vegan-friendly banquets along the way.