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Inspiration, Tours and Destinations / October 2, 2015

The 8 things you must see in Bulgaria

Bulgaria is one of those locations that’s just a bit off most traveler’s radars. But, we here at BikeTours.com are on a mission to change that. There’s so much to see while exploring on two wheels there. Here’s a list of 9 can’t-misses.

1. Make a wish at the standing stones

Bulgaria's Standing Stones
The Standing Stones are one of Bulgaria’s many natural wonders. This stone desert is a curious formation of huge stone pillars. The stones here appear to have been nailed into the ground and placed in specific arrangements; however, their arrangement and mere existence happened all on its own. One specific circle-shaped segment of the formation is regarded as “Circle of Wishes” and is nowadays regarded for making wishes inside of the ring.

2. Clamor up Tyulenovo
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This picturesque coastal area is not only breathtakingly gorgeous but is ideal for rock climbers, cliff jumpers and backpackers alike. The area is known mainly for its interesting caves and towering cliffs. Many backpackers camp along the cliff-line, thrill seekers jump from the 50+ foot dives, and climbers gather here during appropriate seasons for its awesome routes.

With nearly 100 routes, the cliffs here are renowned as Bulgaria’s best spot for deep water solo climbing. Not only are the views from the top spectacular, with seagulls at eye-level and a myriad of colorful wildflowers, but the water beneath is crystal clear and perfect for cooling off on a hot day.

I strongly advise you to spend at least a day strolling the cliff lines, exploring off-set caves. If you’re the camping type, plan to pitch a tent in this extraordinarily peaceful setting.

3. Sense the spirits at Kaliakra

Kaliakra is similar to Tyulenov in appearance, with elegant cliffs and a picturesque lookout to the vast Black Sea. This point also features the remnants of fortified walls.

The 100-foot vertical cliffs here lead into crystal clear water. At the cape point, tourists are known to make wishes as they throw coins out to a nearby ledge. Sadly, it took me all the coins I had before I had to give up and call it quits. My paranoia in my attempts for my wish to come true was truly pathetic, yet I’m sure amusing for onlookers.

Legend has it that at this same ledge, many years ago, forty women once threw themselves to the depths. These alleged virgins were rumored to have tied their hair to one another and jump from the cliffs in suicidal desperation, as rebellion against the possibility of becoming slaves to the Ottomans. It’s haunting, yet mesmerizing to see the cliff’s jagged edges, knowing of this rumored tragedy.

4. {Never} Forget the past at Buzludzha Monument

Buzludzha Monument
The Buzludzha Monument was built in 1981 at the top of Buzludzha Mountain in honor of the former ruling Communist party. Buzludzha, originally built as a headquarters for Communist gatherings, is rated among the creepiest places on Earth.

This rings even truer on a foggy day, when clouds are so thick that you can barely make out what stands five feet in front of you. To get inside, you must pull your way up to a ledge and cross over a narrow but steep drop-off. Though the next move sits only about a foot away, the drop between both steps is at least thirty feet.

On a rainy day like when I visited, the slippery ground makes this attempt unsafe and definitely ungraceful.

Outside of this futuristic UFO-shaped monument are spray-painted words “Never Forget Your Past.” It once read “Forget Your Past” but apparently, someone added the word “Never” to the front, to serve as a reminder that history is vital. Today the monument remains controversial, as many Bulgarian people want to destroy any reminder of their Communist past; but others recognize the importance of its presence and are curious about its mysterious and eerie atmosphere.

People still go inside to witness the massive mosaics, incredible views out to the mountains, and hauntingly-stunning dome-shaped ceiling.

5. Stir your spirituality at Sokoloski monastery

Sokoloski Monastery
The Sokoloski Monastery, built in the 1830s, was by far the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen. Perhaps it was due to its serene setting high in the mountains, but this vibrant monastery was absolutely breathtaking. Though the style was similar to all other monasteries I visited of its time, the overlook into the rolling mountains was uniquely tranquil, as was the vibrant baby blue painted background.

Many churches from this time had comparable traditional iconic saints and biblical figures, but the bright blue background to such figures made this church stand out.

Whether you’re religious or not, witnessing this monastery is awe-inspiring and spiritually stirring.

6. Nestle back in time in Nessebar

Nessebar is a small island located on the rocky peninsula of the Black Sea and is regarded as an untouched city-museum, capable of sending you back in time. The cobblestone streets, cozy timber houses, ancient monasteries, traditional craftsman shops, fishing boats lining the shore and pedestrian-only streets of this former Thracian settlement make for an unexpected type of nostalgia.

I spent an entire evening wandering the local shops, tasting Turkish delights, and admiring the preserved ancient churches. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is truly a romantic isthmus, and I was taken aback by the conservation of such authentic history and culture.

7. Trot {or cycle} along the Roman road in Bozhentsi

Bozhentsi is a quaint mountain village located in the Gabrovo municipality. High in the mountains, this UNESCO hotspot is revered for its architectural and historical wonder. Here, you can visit several authentic woodworking shops, toy stores, and rose oil markets.

During my stay, I came across a cobblestone and dirt trail known as the “Roman Road,” on which I went for a run at sunset. Trotting along a 2,000-year-old path was a unique experience, and I can say with honesty that I enjoyed every single step.

8. Revel in Red Mountain

Red Mountain/ Rila
It’s no secret that all mountains in Bulgaria are stunning. From my personal experiences, I recommend making a visit to Red Mountain for a full day of hiking. I started by walking out of a pine forest and made my way to the top of the mountain, greeted by hundreds of grazing sheep and various patches of colorful wildflowers.

From these heights, I could see for miles and miles. There truly are no words for how mesmerizing and picturesque this hike was. Though challenging and steep, the views are worth every step. While I hiked, the sun was on its way to setting, hitting the mountains with a perfect glow and hugging me with intimate warmth.

I’ve never had a complete 360 view with such immense beauty. In every direction, I saw colossal mountains, sheep, dancing butterflies, a brilliant sun, and stunning bouquets popping up from the ground. The views were undoubtedly the most picturesque of my trip. I felt utterly inspired at every turn.

Want to see Bulgaria by bicycle? Be sure to learn more about Bulgaria and see all our Bulgaria tours here.

Blog and photos by Olivia Harlow, a freelance writer and photographer who recently went on tour in Bulgaria and Macedonia. 

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