Summer may be rapidly nearing its end and the weather in Bulgaria may not be warm enough to hit the beaches or ascend into the unpredictable mountains anymore. However, autumn still promises some pleasant and sunny days and there’s every reason to get excited about a romantic weekend getaway or a diverse day trip to one of the country’s numerous holiday destinations.
From Bulgaria’s only fully preserved medieval castle to the town of roses and Thracian kings, kashkaval tourist sets the mood with 7 authentic Bulgarian towns ideal for an autumn day trip!
1. A hero’s home town: Karlovo
Spectacularly positioned at the foot of the mighty Balkan Mountains, Karlovo (Карлово) is a small but lively town in south central Bulgaria. Its extensive and fascinating old quarter with its brightly painted Ottoman-style buildings will send you back two centuries. And the Vasil Levski National Museum will provide a historical insight into the events of the era by highlighting the biography of perhaps Bulgaria’s greatest and most tragic national hero, Karlovo-born Vasil Levski, the most eminent fighter for an independent Bulgarian state.
Fancy a short hike and a snippet of what’s there to see in the Central Balkan National Park towering above Karlovo? Then follow Vodopad Street – literally Waterfall Street – and at the end of the trail you’ll discover the surging 15-metre Suchurum Waterfall, one of many breathtaking waterfalls in Bulgaria.
2. Bulgaria in a nutshell: Kyustendil
With its remnants of Roman baths, a medieval fortress, an ancient church, an Ottoman mosque, a mysterious tower and a picturesque National Revival quarter, Kyustendil (Кюстендил) is like a microcosm of Bulgaria in itself. Situated in the mountainous southwestern corner of the country close to where the borders of Bulgaria, Serbia and Macedonia meet, Kyustendil is a perfect day trip destination.
In the town centre, check out the impressive Pirgova Tower from the 15th-16th century and enter the vibrant art gallery which features the largest collection of works by one of Bulgaria’s leading artists, Vladimir Dimitrov, titled The Master. A brief walk up to the Hisarlaka hill will reveal a huge medieval fortress – and unforgettable views of the town below.
3. Wine, history and greenery: Pleven
Placed in the middle of the hilly Danubian Plain not far from the Danube, Pleven (Плевен) was a regular feature in the international press… 137 years ago. Then, the critical (and bloody) Siege of Plevna was deciding the outcome of the Russo-Turkish War and the fate of independent Bulgaria.
Today, Pleven is a tranquil and beautiful Bulgarian town which draws tourists with its variety of monuments dedicated to the famous battle. Of these, the most memorable are the immersive Pleven Panorama and the town’s symbol, the awe-inspiring mausoleum and ossuary in the town square. Add the historic pedestrian town centre and the greenery of the Kaylaka Park with its rock formations and Wine Museum and you have a memorable urban day trip!
4. Bulwark of the northwest: Vidin
Vidin (Видин), once a medieval stronghold of Bulgarian imperial power, is today an important commercial and administrative centre of the otherwise underdeveloped Bulgarian northwest. As a port on the Danube located in the vicinity of Serbia and Romania, Vidin has been noticeably influenced by these two countries as well as by Central European trends.
Besides the wealth of Baroque town houses, Islamic monuments from Ottoman times and the abandoned grand Jewish synagogue, Vidin’s greatest claim to fame is undoubtedly the amazing Baba Vida castle – the only fully preserved medieval castle in Bulgaria. Its impenetrable walls have been ruled by Bulgarian, Hungarians, Turks and Austrians and its towers and dungeons are soaked with dramatic history.
5. Of roses and Thracian kings: Kazanlak
When you learn that the valley surrounding Kazanlak (Казанлък) is named both the Rose Valley and the Valley of Thracian Kings, you already have a pretty good impression of what to expect in the town itself. Kazanlak is a charming south Bulgarian town which hosts both a Rose Museum and a captivating historical-museum-meets-art-gallery boasting amazing Thracian artifacts.
However, the main attraction that draws tourists to Kazanlak has to be the vividly painted 2400-year-old Thracian tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While in town, don’t forget to try out the delicious Kazanlak doughnuts, a local specialty. And if you have a car, then by all means extend your trip on to nearby Buzludzha Peak to see the world-famous “Communist flying saucer” – the disused giant memorial of Bulgaria’s socialist movement!
6. Below the peaks of marble: Bansko
Bansko (Банско) may be a bustling winter sports centre in winter, but in autumn you’ll be surprised to discover a quiet and authentic Bulgarian old town. Bansko has a large number of traditional restaurants offering tasty regional treats and a variety of museum houses to check out. Look for the Velyanov House and the Neofit Rilski House for examples of the town’s typical stone architecture and enter the Nikola Vaptsarov House to learn about one of Bulgaria’s most respected poets.
And with the awesome backdrop of the Pirin Mountains visible from any point of Bansko, enjoyment is guaranteed at all times. Who knows, the weather may even be good enough for an entertaining high-altitude hike out of the Vihren or Banderitsa mountain huts above town!
7. Byzantine tranquility: Asenovgrad
Located just south of the future European Capital of Culture Plovdiv, Asenovgrad (Асеновград) is sure to draw your attention with its setting in the foothills of the magical Rhodope Mountains and its Byzantine architectural and cultural heritage. Religious monuments abound in and around Asenovgrad, with sheltered Orthodox monasteries, hundred-year-old chapels above the rocks and the stunning Church of the Holy Mother of God in the medieval Asen’s Fortress.
Asenovgrad has more to offer than history, too! Some of Bulgaria’s best wine is made in and around town, so don’t leave without treating yourself to a bottle of the unique Mavrud or the local variety of sweet Malaga.