Travel with PTG and uncover the ancient ruins in Sofia or explore the coastline on one of Europe’s most beautiful railway lines – Bulgaria will provide an unforgettable adventure. Get ready to experience a truly incredible Bulgarian rail journey!

Experience the best that Bulgaria has to offer first-hand on our curated Classic Bulgaria tour – From ancient monasteries to UNESCO tombs, not to mention Plovdiv – Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2009. Sample creamy yoghurt (widely believed by many to have originated in this country) and tasty and often underrated local wine. If you’re looking for an even more adventure packed trip then why not join us on Rail Wonders of the Balkans instead – a journey through Serbia, North Macedonia as well as picturesque Bulgaria! Unpack your bags at some truly unique cities filled with vibrancy and life guaranteed to be just like no other place you’ve visited before.

Bulgaria is a country rich in history and culture. The earliest evidence of human habitation dates back to 7000 B.C., when the area was inhabited by hunter-gatherers, farmers, and shepherds. In 681 A.D., the Bulgars founded an independent state which would eventually become Bulgaria today. During this time, Bulgaria adopted Christianity as its main religion and developed its own version of Slavic language, called Old Bulgarian.

Throughout the Middle Ages, Bulgaria experienced periods of both prosperity and decline due to frequent invasions from foreign powers including Byzantium, Ottoman Turks, and Nazi Germans. However, despite these hardships, Bulgaria remained a distinct cultural entity with many unique traditions that still survive today.

Perhaps the most recognizable aspect of Bulgaria’s culture is its cuisine. Traditional dishes like banitsa (savoury pastries filled with cheese) and tarator (cold cucumber soup) are emblematic of the country’s love for food, which can often be seen at outdoor festivals and markets. Sofia, the capital city, is home to some of Bulgaria’s best restaurants, offering everything from traditional fare to modern fusion creations.

Bulgaria is also renowned for its music and dance. Bulgarian folk songs are often performed in 8-beat rhythms that represent both sorrowful repentance and joyous celebration. Folk dances such as horo demonstrate the importance placed on cooperation and community spirit; two circles form a chain while linking hands and spinning in unison.

These are just some of the many aspects that make Bulgaria distinctively unique for our rail holiday enthusiasts. The country’s rich history, vibrant culture, and culinary delights provide a wealth of experiences for any rail holiday traveller to enjoy. Whether it’s exploring ancient ruins or catching a traditional dance performance, there’s something here for everyone.

Bulgaria at a glance

P2B bigstock Sofia Bulgaria 39464935

Capital: Sofia
Language: Bulgarian
Money: LEV
Travel advice:

Most restaurants don’t add a service charge, but like many countries, it’s always appreciated as wages are relatively low. 10% to 15% is standard.

  • New Year’s Day – 1 Jan
  • New Year Holiday – 2 Jan
  • Liberation Day – 3 Mar
  • Orthodox Good Friday – 14 Apr
  • Orthodox Easter Saturday – 15 Apr
  • Orthodox Easter Sunday –  16 Apr
  • Orthodox Easter Monday – 17 Apr
  • Labour Day – 1 May
  • Saint George’s Day / Army Day – 6 May
  • Saint George’s Day Holiday – 8 May
  • Culture and Literacy Day – 24 May
  • Unification Day – 6 Sep
  • Independence Day – 22 Sep
  • Day of the Bulgarian Enlighteners  – 1 Nov
  • Christmas Eve – 24 Dec
  • Christmas Day – 25 Dec
  • 2nd Day of Christmas – 26 Dec
  • Christmas Holiday – 27 Dec
  • Dobar den –  Hello.
  • Dovizhdane –  Goodbye.
  • Da  –  Yes.
  • Ne  – No.
  • Molya  – Please or Welcome.
  • Blagodarya – Thank you.
  • Sŭzhalyavam  – Sorry.

Exploring Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a country of incredible natural beauty and has some of the most stunning landscapes in Europe. From soaring mountains to lush forests, wild rivers, beautiful Black Sea beaches, golden meadows and colourful plains, Bulgaria is a place that will captivate any traveller with its diverse topography. The highest point in the country is Mount Musala, which stands at nearly 9,600 feet tall and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The incredible mountain ranges of Pirin, Rila and the Balkan Mountains are home to countless peaks and offer some truly spectacular vistas. Further east lies the imposing Thracian Plain, a vast flatland dotted with meadows, picturesque villages and rolling hills. The Danube River also passes through Bulgaria, providing a stunning backdrop to the many towns and cities that line its banks. Finally, the region of Dobrogea boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Bulgaria and offers visitors a chance to relax by its crystal clear waters.

Bulgaria’s cultural history is filled with an exciting mix of traditions influenced by both East and West. Throughout the centuries, Bulgarian culture has blended elements from Slavic, Turkish, Greek, and Roman cultures to create a unique identity all its own. From their traditional folk music to their colourful costumes and vibrant festivals, Bulgarians take great pride in their culture and heritage.

Bulgarian cuisine is known for its rich flavours, fresh ingredients, and unique blending of traditional recipes. The country’s culinary tradition has been influenced by a range of cultures throughout its history, including Mediterranean, Balkan, Turkish and Slavic cooking styles. Popular dishes include Shopska Salad (a classic Bulgarian salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion, topped with a generous helping of feta cheese), banitsa (phyllo pastry filled with white cheese and eggs), as well as many different types of soups, stews, and meat dishes. Bulgarian cuisine also features various types of breads such as leavened flatbreads that are often served alongside meals or as appetisers.

Bulgarians also incorporate a variety of herbs and spices into their dishes, including garlic, oregano, dill, paprika and cumin. Traditional desserts include baklava (a pastry filled with chopped nuts and honey syrup), kozunaks (sweet bread rolls filled with raisins), and tikvenik (a type of pumpkin pie). Bulgarian cuisine is truly a unique experience that should not be overlooked!

What’s more, Bulgarians love to share and enjoy their food with others. Many of the country’s dishes are served in large portions and meant to be shared among friends and family. Meals often include a variety of dishes that are served together, allowing everyone to sample a little bit of everything. Bulgarian culture is known for its hospitality, and it’s not uncommon to be invited out by locals for a meal or drinks. Whether you’re visiting Bulgaria or just trying out their cuisine from afar, you can expect flavorful and satisfying meals full of traditions and culture.

Bulgarian wines have a long and proud history, dating back to the ancient Thracians who first cultivated grapes in the land. Since then, Bulgarian wine has been praised for its complexity and character, with many different varieties available to suit all tastes.

The country’s climate makes it ideal for growing a wide variety of grape varieties, from light and aromatic white wines to dark and full-bodied reds. Bulgarian whites are known for their delicate aromas of fresh fruits like melon, apples and peaches, as well as floral notes of jasmine and honeysuckle. Reds tend to be robust with rich notes of spice, black pepper and dried fruit. Many Bulgarian wines also show a distinct mineral quality, thanks to the country’s rocky soils.

Overall, Bulgarian wines are generally well-balanced and have moderate acidity levels. This makes them enjoyable to drink on their own or with food. Plus, they represent excellent value for money – many excellent bottles can be found for under $20. So, why not pick up a few bottles of Bulgarian wine and discover an undiscovered world of flavour? You won’t be disappointed!

The climate in Bulgaria is mainly a temperate continental climate. Summers are hot and dry with the temperature averaging around 27°C during the day, while winters tend to be cold and snowy with temperatures dipping below 0°C.

As such, the best time to visit Bulgaria would depend on your preferences as well as what you plan on doing. For beach activities, the best time to go is during the summer months between June and August. For ski lovers, Bulgaria is a great choice as it has some of the best skiing conditions in Europe from December to April. If you are looking for more moderate temperatures and less crowds, then spring (April to May) and autumn (September to November) are the best times to visit.

Whichever season you decide on, Bulgaria is a great destination for those looking to explore its rich history and vibrant culture. With beautiful sceneries, traditional local dishes and welcoming people, it will be an unforgettable experience!  Enjoy your stay in Bulgaria!

For a Bulgarian rail holiday, there are certain items you will want to be sure to pack. Make sure that you bring plenty of comfortable clothing suitable for a variety of weather conditions, as Bulgaria can experience warm days and cool evenings. A hat is a good idea, as well as sunglasses for sunny days. If you’re headed to the mountains, layers are essential. It’s also a good idea to bring a raincoat or poncho, and waterproof shoes in case of rain. Don’t forget your swimsuit if you plan to visit the beach! Bulgaria is known for its delicious cuisine, so be sure to pack some snacks that can withstand the heat if you plan to do any exploring. Also, make sure you have a reliable power bank and a backup charger for your electronics.

For rail trips, good walking shoes as you’ll have time to explore.

Rail transport in Bulgaria has a long and varied history. It began in 1866 with the opening of the first major railway line between Sofia and Varna. This was followed by the opening of numerous other lines, including narrow-gauge railways which served many rural areas until their closure during the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, Bulgaria saw the introduction of modern diesel-powered locomotives and a variety of railcars designed for both freight and passenger transport.

Following World War II, however, much of Bulgaria’s railway infrastructure fell into disrepair due to lack of investment in maintenance and modernization. This continued until the fall of Communism in 1989 when a major rail infrastructure renewal program was initiated. This has resulted in a modernised rail network with high-speed links connecting the major cities, as well as more efficient freight transport.

The narrow gauge railways have had a less fortunate fate and by the 1990s most of them had been closed down or abandoned due to lack of funds for operation and maintenance. However, the unique heritage of these lines has been preserved by a number of tourist organisations and private museums across Bulgaria. The most notable example is the “Narrow Gauge Railway Museum” in Sofia which houses an extensive collection of rolling stock from narrow gauge railways including steam locomotives and carriages dating back to the early 20th century.

Today, rail transport in Bulgaria is an important part of the country’s transportation system. It serves both passengers and freight and continues to evolve as investment in infrastructure improvements is made. The future of narrow gauge railways remains uncertain, but there are still many enthusiasts who strive to keep their unique history alive.  With such a long and interesting history, rail transport in Bulgaria is sure to remain an important part of the country’s heritage for many years to come.

  • Bulgaria: The Unexpected Nation by Zlatko Bazdanov is an insightful look into the rich history and culture of Bulgaria from its earliest days to present day. It covers a vast range of topics, from politics to religion and culture, making it a great source for those looking to learn more about this Balkan nation.
  • A Traveller’s History of Bulgaria, by David Huxley-Binns, is an excellent introduction to the country. It explores Bulgaria’s complex history from ancient times through to the present day, offering fascinating insights into Bulgarian culture and politics along the way.
  • The Balkans: Nationalism, War & the Great Powers, 1804-2012 by Misha Glenny is a comprehensive look at how Balkan politics has been shaped over the centuries. It provides an in-depth analysis of important events and looks at how they have impacted Bulgaria and its neighbours.
  • The Mountains of Bulgaria: A Guide for Hikers and Climbers, by Daniela Stoycheva, is a great resource for those looking to explore the outdoors in Bulgaria. It covers all of the major mountain ranges and includes detailed descriptions of trails and routes.
  • Bulgarian Folk Music: An Introduction, by Nikola Mavrodinov, is an essential guide for anyone interested in the traditional music of Bulgaria. It provides an overview of the different styles and how they fit into Bulgarian culture, as well as advice on how to appreciate the music.
  • Bulgaria After Communism: Politics, Economics, and Society in Transition by Richard Crampton is a comprehensive look at the social and economic upheaval that followed after the fall of Communism in Bulgaria. It offers valuable insights into the impact of the changes and looks at how they have shaped the country today.

Why choose PTG Tour’s escorted rail tours through Bulgaria

  • Established in 1998, PTG has evolved into a leading tour agency offering rail-based holidays with a focus on culture and heritage.
  • You can choose from a diverse product range, based on your preference and budget.
  • Your escorted rail tour comes with a professional tour leader who will take great care of you, plus local guides when applicable.
  • All hotels and restaurants included in your package are vetted and approved by the local teams.
  • You can travel in confidence as all of our tours are ATOL and ABTA protected.