For travelers and tourists who intend to visit the country, the weather in Bulgaria is perhaps one of the most important factors. How could you plan when to go and what part of the country to visit without having the slightest idea of Bulgarian weather?
To locals like me, weather may be mostly a matter of small talk (and regular complaints because believe it or not, we like to complain about the weather too), but I’ve noticed that during my travels, weather information is one of the first things I check before I depart or even plan a journey. To help fellow visitors, kashkaval tourist prepared this all-year guide to the weather in Bulgaria.
In a nutshell: the key Bulgarian weather facts
Bulgaria is not a huge country even by European standards, so weather variations between the different regions are usually no more than 6-7 °C. That is if you exclude the high reaches of the mountains, where the altitude makes it dramatically colder.
Bulgaria’s climate is a combination of continental and Mediterranean influences, which means the country has four quite well-defined seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter) and temperatures vary dramatically in different times of the year. In general, you can expect summers to be quite hot and dry and winters to be snowy and freezing, with spring and autumn providing a transition between the two.
The warmest parts of Bulgaria are in the southwest, where the Mediterranean climate effects in the valleys are particularly strong. The seaside has a mild subtropical climate heavily influenced by the Black Sea’s presence. The plains and lowlands in the north and south experience continental weather (with the south usually a bit warmer) and the mountains are known for their Alpine climate conditions.
To give you an idea: the highest temperature ever recorded in Bulgaria is 45.2 °C, while the lowest record stands at −38.3 °C. That’s a staggering difference of 83.5 degrees!
Bulgarian spring: greenery and tree blossoms
After the harshness of winter, the blossom of trees signals the beginning of spring at some point in March. As the temperatures gradually increase and the remaining snow melts, the fields and meadows are at their greenest and the landscapes can be incredibly scenic.
In spring, you can expect temperatures of 15-25 °C in Bulgaria, steadily increasing from March to June. There’s less sunshine than in the summer, but normally it doesn’t rain a lot either. The weather can be quite foggy and turbulent in general, especially in March, which has a reputation for being unpredictable.
Mountains above 2000 metres remain snowy until June-July, so hiking is a bit challenging in spring, and the waters of the Black Sea are too cold for comfortable bathing until mid-June or so.
Bulgarian summer: sunbathing and hiking delight
Bulgarian summer rolls around with the beginning of June, when temperatures reach above 30 °C. July and August are the hottest months and the sun can be quite strong at midday indeed. Temperatures above 35 °C are not uncommon and it can sometimes be nearing 40 °C!
Summer days are usually clear and sunny, though when it rains, it pours in the form of brief but violent summer storms (and those can be hailstorms too, so better find some shelter!).
This may seem like a whole lot of heat, but thankfully, Bulgaria offers a lot of ways to escape. The gentle breeze of the seaside and the refreshing Black Sea (which in summer is in the 20s) make for a very pleasant summer holiday. And don’t forget, the mountains are at their most inviting with their cooler temperatures and chilly nights around the fire!
Bulgarian autumn: the smell of roasting peppers
Summer tends to end by mid-September, when temperatures drop a bit and the days get shorter. September and October can still be quite warm and pleasant and in general autumns are not particularly rainy compared to the rest of Europe. Autumn is also the season when grapes are harvested to make wine and grannies prepare supplies for the coming winter – you cannot mistake the trademark smell of roasting peppers in September and October!
Bulgarian autumn boasts temperatures around 10-25°C, gradually decreasing as winter approaches by the end of November and early December. Early September may still be a good time to hit the seaside or ascend into the mountains, but by October it usually gets too cold for that.
Bulgarian winter: snow and ski paradise
Winters starts with December, when temperatures begin to drop below zero. The end of December usually brings the first snow of the year and until March it usually snows rather than rains. Though it can stay below zero for weeks in a row (temperatures around -5 to -15°C are common), the days can still be regularly clear and sunny. In fact, for many places in Bulgaria, winter is one of the driest seasons.
Clear and sunny with below zero temperatures keeping snow on the ground for a long time – sounds like perfect skiing and snowboarding conditions, doesn’t it!? And indeed, late December to March (whenever there’s snow) is Bulgaria’s winter season, when resorts like Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo attract local and international tourists to their ski trails.