For our next insider interview, we had the chance to sit down with David from DavidsBeenHere.com to discover his top tips on visiting Bulgaria, a country in one of his all-time favourite regions – The Balkans.
Like many travel bloggers, David decided that the 9-to-5 wasn’t for him. That was back in 2007, when he created DavidsBeenHere.com to document his travels, and he’s been at it ever since.
With every visit to a new place, David aims to immerse himself in the local culture. So, after spending 22 days exploring various regions of Bulgaria, David had plenty of insider tips to share about a visit to this richly historical and beautiful country.
Read our full interview with David below.
So, why Bulgaria?
The Balkans are my favourite region in the world. There is no end in terms of what you can do, and Bulgaria is one of the many countries in this region. Bulgaria itself sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, so it has an amazing mix of cultures and history that you can’t find elsewhere in the world.
Bulgaria’s cities are amazing, and of course, the Black Sea is stunning as well. Since Bulgaria is so packed with history, are there any cities that you’d consider can’t-miss for a day trip away from the coast?
I would suggest a visit to Plovdiv, which is inland about three hours from Elenite and Sunny Beach. It’s the ancient city of Philippopolis named after King Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great. They have done a great job of excavating and conserving the ruins of the city.
We’ve heard good things about taking a day trip to the Thracian tombs of Sveshtari from Golden Sands, a stunning UNESCO world heritage site. What other historical spots should we add to our plans?
From all the historical sites I saw, I’d recommend everyone sees Plovdiv’s Roman Theatre, Veliko Tarnovo’s Fortress, St George’s Rotunda in Sofia and the ancient town if Hisarya near Plovdiv, which is a walled city which has thermal hot springs.
Another thing we love about Bulgaria is its fantastic wine. Is there anything you’d recommend?
Yes, Bulgaria is known for its amazing wines, which I can tell you are some of the best in Europe! Some people have a negative view of white wines, but Bulgaria has some really good white wines that beat the stereotype. In general, the Balkan region has a huge variety of grapes and delicious white wines.
Bulgaria has many great wineries and vineyards to visit. You can find dozens of routes outside of Plovdiv, as well as several within half an hour’s drive of Nessebar and Sunny Beach.
The food in Bulgaria is very affordable, and we know that local ‘mehanas’ are popular for good food and dancing – but what do you consider to be the most authentic Bulgarian cuisine?
Bulgarian cuisine is all about fresh ingredients. Everyone starts with a salad and cheese and then moves on to a meat dish. But, they also eat lentils and lots of beans and soups! On top of that, you’ll find loads of fresh fish along the coasts, so it’s very well-balanced.
What cultural souvenir would you recommend taking home for holidaymakers that don’t want another pen or postcard?
Wine is a great souvenir, as it’s very affordable – and delicious! You can go to a winery and get a case shipped home. That way, you will be able to remember Bulgaria every time you open a bottle.
After travellers have had their fill of partying and beach fun in popular Sunny Beach, where would you recommend going to experience the local culture?
Burgas is the second biggest beach town on the coast, just over 30 minutes away. It doesn’t have fancy resorts like Sunny Beach, but it’s a great family-friendly city that has a beautiful seaside park, clean beaches and lots of history and art.
What’s the best way to get around?
If you plan to do a few day trips, it’s definitely worth driving as the public transportation isn’t always reliable. While some of the roads have potholes, all signs are in the Cyrillic alphabet and in English so it’s pretty easy to get around.
Do you have any other suggestions for alternatives to the tourist trail?
If you’re flying into Plovdiv, visit during the Folklore Festival to see different European countries compete in dancing. Then, as I mentioned before, stop at a wine estate for a tasting and a lunch – and to take home a bottle!
Finally, if you aren’t able to visit in summer, go in winter to Bansko, Borovets or Pamporovo for world-class skiing at one-third the price for the same thing in France or Switzerland!