Spring is upon us, the days are getting longer and sunnier and you want to use any opportunity to explore Bulgaria off the beaten path. Perhaps you’re looking for a weekend getaway? It’s still cold and partially snowy high up in the mountains and a beach holiday on the Black Sea is not an option yet.
So why not visit a typical Bulgarian village, enjoy some local hospitality and immerse yourself in the historic atmosphere? Here are 8 of the best villages in Bulgaria for a spring holiday!
1. Timber aesthetics: Zheravna
Zheravna (Жеравна) lies scenically in the lower eastern part of the Balkan Mountains, at a place where they’re gradually descending as they approach the Black Sea. Zheravna rose to affluence and importance in the 17th century due to its key position on a trading route. The residents built imposing houses of wood decorated with elaborate woodcarvings and traditional local carpets.
Today, there are around 200 historic houses in Zheravna, some up to 300 years old. Each August, Zheravna is the site of the International Festival of Folk Costume, which gathers tens of thousands of people. Participants are required to wear an authentic folk costume and refrain from using modern technology for the duration of the event.
- How to get there: The biggest city in the vicinity is Sliven, which has regular bus and rail connections to the rest of the country. There are 2-3 regional buses a day from Sliven to Zheravna and back.
2. Antique melting pot: Arbanasi
Reportedly established in the Middle Ages by settlers from what is today Albania, Arbanasi (Арбанаси) is located just 5 kilometres from the charming former Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnovo. In the early Ottoman times, it was a Greek-speaking island populated by rich merchants and craftsmen trading throughout Europe. Its wealthy residents built as many as 5 Orthodox churches, famous for their detailed interior murals. Some of the most eminent families of Wallachia (Romania) also had houses in Arbanasi.
Most of Arbanasi’s cultural heritage from the 16th-18th century is well preserved. The cobblestone streets of the ancient village are a great place for a spring walk and a memorable trip into the past. Make sure you visit the enormous Kostantsaliev House and the oldest church, that of the Nativity of Christ with unique frescoes from 1597.
- How to get there: Arbanasi is very close to Veliko Tarnovo — the distance is almost walkable. There are regular share taxis (marshrutka) between the centre of Veliko Tarnovo (opposite the Court building) and Arbanasi every day.