From the magnificent Balkan Mountains to its sunny Black Sea coast, Bulgaria doesn’t put a foot wrong for family holidays.
From the magnificent Balkan Mountains to its sunny Black Sea coast, Bulgaria doesn’t put a foot wrong for family holidays. Gorgeous seaside resorts in summer are matched by Europe’s lowest cost skiing from December to April. Choose pretty Plovdiv for an urban break with festivals, ancient history and breathtaking architecture and then drop in on Sofia too – both cities are less than two hours apart. Or head for the hills and pick from an unfair number of Bulgarian ranges where everything from mineral spas to extreme mountain biking are part of the adventure.
Direct flights from the UK to Sofia all year round take just over three hours.
Direct flights from the UK to Varna and Bourgas access all Bulgaria’s Black Sea summer holiday resorts, north and south.
Black Sea beaches enjoy sunshine and temperatures of between 22 and 25˚ from May to September.
Bulgaria’s ski resorts open in December, remain snow-sure until April and offer some of the best value family ski holidays in Europe.
Stara Planina or the Balkan Range, runs across Central Bulgaria for outdoor adventure holidays less than two hours drive from Sofia.
Plovdiv, in Southern Bulgaria, is the country’s ‘second city’ but considered more captivating than the capital. It’s under two hour’s from Sofia and hosts many of the country’s annual festivals and events.
If you’re travelling with older kids or teens, the Istanbul Night Train from Plovdiv to the Turkish capital is an iconic journey. Trains leave every evening at 9.15pm and arrive in Istanbul at 8am.
The Bulgarian capital’s a long way from making it on to the list of great urban holidays. But if you’re taking advantage of the country’s good value skiing, there’s sport to be had less than 10km from the city centre on Mount Vitosha. So, Sofia’s a good base for a winter break and, when you’re past the traces of Communist era dreariness, it can also be surprisingly charming.
Bulgaria’s famous Black Sea resort has 3.5km of beach that’s up to 100m wide at some points and drenched in sunshine from May to September. Average summer temperatures of 25˚ are another crowd pleaser and you’ll find the country’s highest concentration of water sports, waterparks, outdoor activities and big, beachy hotels here too.
Fly into Burgas from the UK, and the southern Black Sea resort of Nesebar does beach holidays with Bulgarian character. At 3200 year’s old, it’s one of Europe’s most ancient towns and wears the past with pride. Which doesn’t stop it coming good on cove-like shores and lively spirit: history just adds a lot more interest and it’s difficult not to be won over by the authentic atmosphere.
With its remarkable wooden architecture, charming seafront, winding old town streets, ocean views and intriguing coastline, 7th century Sozopol is Bulgaria at its loveliest on the Black Sea. The beaches here are quite small, and busy in summer, but bigger and emptier sands lie just to the north and south of the town centre. A backdrop of lush, green countryside adds an element of outdoor adventure into the holiday mix for older kids and teenagers.
The Pirin Mountain resort of Bansko is a couple of hour’s drive from Sofia and the top place to ski in Bulgaria. A combination of large modern hotels and cosy, traditional inns keep the charm level high. But 14 lifts and gondolas, 70km of runs, snow-sure slopes from December to March and some of the best prices in Europe are what UK families find most attractive about ski holidays in Bansko.
Beautiful Borovets is just 70km from Sofia and Bulgarians have been skiing here in some style since the late 19th century. The resort’s surrounded by the densely forested Rila Mountains and it’s held on to a traditional elegance while still making room for luxury hotels, chic chalets and a wide choice of shops, restaurants and activities. Weekend skiers from the city love it here, so it can get busy. But that’s not much of downside when you have a 58km ski area, snow-sure slopes from November to April, fast lifts and reliably competitive holiday costs.
Bulgaria isn’t a huge country but, once you’re outside cities and towns, it becomes quite rural, very quickly. Public transport isn’t great and almost every journey is probably more of an expedition than you want with kids. So unless you’re sticking in and around one of the Black Sea resorts, hiring a car is the way to go here. On the plus side, it’s an incredibly beautiful country to drive through and the roads are never too busy.