The second largest city in Bulgaria, Plovdiv, has so much to offer. It’s only an hour’s drive away from Sofia, has amazing mountains within and outside the city borders and is full of history all the way back to the old Romans. In short, there are tons of things to do in Plovdiv, but if you want to explore the region, there’s just as much. Here’s where to start.
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Plovdiv Day Trip: Sofia
Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria and as such has attractions to offer for days on end. A day trip might not be enough but it’s a good start. I mean, I keep coming back here for short visits so I can vouch for that. Take a hike up Vitosha (and maybe even dust off your skis). Fill up your water bottle with healthy mineral water by the Sofia History Museum. Marvel at the old excavations right in the city centre, next to mosques, churches and synagogues. There are free Sofia walking tours to get you update on what makes Sofia so special.
[su_highlight background=”#ef7583″]How to get from Plovdiv to Sofia[/su_highlight]
Plovdiv Day Trip: Assenowgrad and Bachkovo
Not even an hour drive (by car, train, bus or day tour) away from Plovdiv, the small town of Assenowgrad packs a punch. Not necessarily because of its local museums or picturesque location by the river, but because of what lays beyond the town borders. Walk into the woods and follow the bend of the cliffs and you will reach Asen’s Fortress. A little further, you can find the beautiful Bachkovo Monastery.
Plovdiv Day Trip: Buzludzha Monument
One of the coolest architectural highlights in Bulgaria is Buzludzha Monument. Towering high on the mountain of the same name, this futuristic looking saucer-shaped building used to serve as the Communist Party headquarters. After Communism’s fall, the building likewise fell… into disrepair. While you can still visit for free, it’s no longer possible to sneakily enter.
Plovdiv Day Trip: Veliko Tarnovo
Next to Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo is my favourite place to be in Bulgaria. It’s extremely pretty, has a huge fortress, charming old streets, a picturesque river and there are cute villages and scenic views to be had among its surrounding mountains. A day here suffices, therefore making it perfect material for day trips from Plovdiv.
Plovdiv Day Trip: Shipka
Shipka hosts the fabulously intricate and important Shipka Memorial Church. It’s also known as Memorial Temple of the Birth of Christ (Храм-паметник „Рождество Христово) and Orthodox. The church is actually dedicated to the Russian, Ukrainian and Bulgarian soldiers who died in the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878) and fought for the liberation of Bulgaria.
Plovdiv Day Trip: Koprivshtitsa
To get a feeling for traditional Bulgarian villages (and see where locals flock and tourists still have no clue about), visit Koprivshtitsa. Koprivshtitsa is a beautifully preserved Bulgarian village with authentic Bulgarian National Revival buildings. This includes house museums as well as local restaurants that serve traditional cuisine. Get lost in the cobblestone streets and just soak up the peaceful atmosphere.
Plovdiv Day Trip: Kazanlak and Flower Fields
Come spring, Bulgaria explodes in flowers. There are lavender and sunflower fields all along the main roads in the country’s centre. After all, Bulgaria is the world leader when it comes to lavender oil production. Since fine flower oils and scents are the specialty of Bulgaria, it’s no wonder flowers are revered. Especially the Rose Festival in Kazanlak is a highlight that draws visitors as far as Japan. (The Japanese LOVE flower festivals.)
More Plovdiv Trips
- Rila Monastery – This is the most famous and largest monasteries in Bulgaria (and maybe even the southern Balkans). The story goes that hermit St Ivan of Rila lived in the caves nearby in the 9th century. It wasn’t until his students that the monastery was built. The saint himself had zero possessions. Local buses go to Rila over Sofia. To get there straightaway, book a tour.
- Seven Lakes – Visitors to Bulgaria flock to these famous locations, no matter the season. In spring, you can see meadows of purple crocuses blossom around the smooth surface of the Rila Lakes. In summer, they allow you to cool down on a hot day and in autumn, the golden grass makes for a great contrast.
- Thracian Valley Wines – If you love either Bulgarian wine or history (or both), this region is pure heaven for you. Come here for wine tasting.
- Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak – Apart from the wines, you can discover ancient ruins and archaeological sites, such as Golyama Kosmatka tomb and the largest Thracian temple near Starosel village, dating back to 4-5 centuries BC. If you don’t have a car, I recommend doing a tour, which can teach you more about the history and take the hassle out of getting around. Public transport is limited.
- Velingrad – In case you are in dire need of some relaxing, try the Bulgarian spa capital. There are 80 mineral springs!
- The Miraculous Bridges – I mean, the name says it all, these rock bridges are indeed quite remarkable. They stand at 1450 meters above sea level right within the Western Rhodope Mountains. You can easily combine them with Bachkovo and Asen’s Fortress.
- Arbanasi – One of the villages worth exploring around Veliko Tarnovo is Arbanasi (Арбанаси). YOu can follow the hiking trails from town up into the hills for around 90 minutes. The hike isn’t challenging but very scenic. The village is renowned for its history and well preserved buildings.
- Musala Peak – Serious hikers will already know of Musala Peak. It is the highest point in the entire Balkans! The Rila national park is close by as well.
Should You Stay in Plovdiv or Do Day Trips?
Plovdiv itself is well worth a visit but more than two days aren’t necessary for seeing its attractions. (Though if you want to catch breathtaking sunsets from all the Plovdiv hills, that’s different.) I totally recommend Plovdiv as your base to see amazing villages, landscapes and historic buildings in the vicinity. The country has so much to offer, even if you just want to do a regional roadtrip through Bulgaria. (Plus, you can get around without renting a car, too!)
Tell me, which Plovdiv day trip is your favourite?
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