Bulgaria 9 Days Road Trip Itinerary – The Discovery Road Trip

Your road trip itinerary significant places: Sofia – Koprivshtitsa – Plovdiv – Sozopol – Burgas – Nessebar – Varna – Madara Rider – Veliko Tarnovo – Devetashka Cave – Belogradchik Rocks – Sofia

The Discovery, the Bulgaria 9 days road trip itinerary is suitable for first-time visitors in Bulgaria who will enjoy the changing scenery from city to village and the sea.  You will see many places, and you will be able to get an accurate impression of the country’s regions in southern and northern Bulgaria. You will see the Balkan peninsula’s largest mountain – Stara Planina, the Thracian plane, and the Black sea. You will spend nights and days in an old village in the mountains, as well as in the Black sea and the ancient capital of Bulgaria – Veliko Tarnovo.  Your trip continues to a triple-hole cave and picturesque Belogradchik Rocks before you return to the capital city of Sofia and blend in with the city atmosphere again. This nine days road trip in Bulgaria has a more ambitious drive pace than the rest of the itineraries.

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Bulgaria 9 days road trip itinerary

Day 1: Arrival and first day in Sofia

The recommended sequence for arrivals between 10 am and 1 pm: Taxi to your hotel > Refresh > Meet your tour guide/self-pace sightseeing > Dining and wining > Go to bed

Flying from the western part of Europe to Sofia in the morning is a pleasing way to allow yourself half a day in the capital city of Sofia. Most flights from Europe will take two to three hours and a half. Sofia airport is a very compact airport. After landing, you will be asked for an ID/passport check because Bulgaria is still not in the Schengen area. After collecting your luggage, you can take a taxi by exiting on the right side of the main building. No need to worry, a taxi is a very efficient way to travel in Sofia. If you prefer public transport – a bus and metro connect the airport to the city center. If you follow our advice, you will be collecting your ren-a-car at the airport already. Please follow the directions from your rent-a-car service provider.

Sofia

SOFIA

The National theatre Ivan Vazov

Sofia is an almost two million city daily, and parking spaces are scarce. We recommend walking and driving only if you must. The city center is very compact, and it will likely take you less than twenty thousand steps to see most of it. Following our advice, you can park your car at the hotel parking and enjoy the rest of the day. Alternatively, you can take a taxi from the airport and rent your trip car the following day.

To see the city and learn more about it, we can recommend taking a private guide. The guides are very relaxed, and you will have a great time. There is no substation of the private guide. If you are more of a self-paces nature, we can recommend the following places in Sofia as a must-see for your half day in the city, stating:

  • Alexander Nevsky Church
  • The Sofia University building
  • The Parliament building
  • The Boulevard Ruski and the Chrystal garden place
  • The former monarch’s palace and the square in front of it
  • The Bulgarian National Bank and the Presidency (also inside the courtyard of the presidency)
  • Opposite the Presidency are the Council of Ministers’ House and the Constitutional Court of Bulgaria
  • The Church of Saint George (rotunda)
  • Vitoshka street provides an opportunity to refresh, have coffee or late lunch
  • The National Palace of Culture
  • Luben Karavelov street
  • Slaveikov square
  • The National Theatre, named after Ivan Vazov
  • The Shishman street, which will lead you back to the Parliament

Dining Tip: The Doctors’ Garden neighborhood, located at the back of Sofia University, on Shipka street and Oborishte street, can provide a relaxing dining atmosphere. Book a restaurant in advance, or walk into the many small restaurant and cafeterias.

Sofia’s Unique Places

Cathedral of Saint Joseph

The Cathedral of Saint Joseph is located in the central area of Sofia, close to Sveta Nedelya square. Initially, the construction of the

Sveta Nedelya Cathedral Church

Sveta Nedelya Cathedral Church has a rich history dating back over 1000 years. Initially, the temple was known as Holy King’s Church as it

Sofia Synagogue

The Sofia Synagogue is the city's only Jewish house of worship. It was built between 1905 and 1909 by the Viennese architect Gruenanger,

Banya Bashi Mosque

The Banya Bashi Mosque was designed by the renowned Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan and completed in 1566 during the Ottoman rule of the

Day 2: Departure to Koprivshtitsa and spend a night in the old village

Distance for the day: 108 km | Time in the car: ~1h 45m | Driving on motorways and country roads

You will be enjoying a drive to a peaceful village located in the mountain. It only takes less than two hours to drive to get through the countryside. On the weekends, many residents from Sofia go there for a day trip. If you start early (in Sofia-weekends early is before 9 am), this will make your road trip less crowded.

Koprivshtitsa

Koprivshtitsa

Bulgaria, Koprivshtitsa

What to do in Koprivshtitsa on that day?

Your place of stay will most likely offer a parking space, and you will have parking instructions in your e-mail. Koprivshtitsa is a small, traditional Bulgarian village where you can enjoy self-paced walking and sightseeing. It is kids friendly, and the people are nice too. During the summer, it is less visited by tourists and is an excellent opportunity to disconnect and restart for a night. This museum town has many historical places, churches, old architecture, and traditional cuisine. This is the right place to try Bulgarian yogurt, white cheese, and traditional salami, as well as the many locally prepared dishes.

Day 3: Departure from Koprivshtitsa to Plovdiv and stay in the city

Distance for the day: 88 km | Time in the car: ~1h 40m | Driving on country roads

It is an exciting route, as you will be starting your trip from northern Bulgaria, and you will arrive in southern Bulgaria in just less than ninety kilometers. It will take circa two hours to complete this picturesque trip, though, as it travels through the Stara Planina mountain. If this is a long route for you to take at once, you can make a short detour and grab lunch at Starosel winery. It is one of the new wineries on your way to Plovdiv that is good to visit.

Sozopol

Plovdiv

The ancient Roman Theater

What to do in Plovdiv on that day?

You will arrive in Plovdiv around noon, and you will have plenty of time to see the old town and museums if you like, the Roman theatre, and walk in the Kapana district. The first thing you need to do after you settle in is to get the Plovdiv City Card. We recommend you book a hotel or apartment in the city center.

The old town of Plovdiv is situated on three hills (out of a total of seven in the city; tepe), and its cobblestone streets lead through picturesque old architecture houses dating from 150 years. In many of these houses, people live, and some are transformed into various art and craft museums. The old town is also home to the two thousand years old Roman Amphitheatre, many small coffee shops, and areas you can refresh. You can take a free tour in Plovdiv or make the journey yourself. Alternatively, you can lookup organized city tours and spare time.  The absolute must-see places in Plovdiv include:

  • The Roman amphitheater
  • Hisar Kapia
  • Nebet Tepe (hill) to observe the city from above
  • Sahat Tepe (hill) and the four hundred years old clock tower
  • The Roman stadium in the city center
  • The Mosque in the town (Dzhamiya)
  • Knyaz Alexander – the main street
  • Kapana district
  • Eastern gate

Souvenir Tip: The old town is the best place to acquire traditional souvenirs and bring them home.

Plan accommodation for this road trip: Booking.com provides the best service for booking multiple stays for your nine days road trip in Bulgaria.

Days 4 & 5: Departure from Plovdiv to Sozopol and spend two nights in Sozopol

Distance for the day: 287 km | Time in the car: ~3h | Driving on highways, motorways, and country roads

After the morning coffee in Plovdiv, you will be traveling for a couple of hours and crossing Bulgaria from West to East to reach the Black Sea. The first big city you will meet on the Black Sea coast is Burgas. You can stop at the Sea Garden on the way to Nesebar and Varna in a few days, and now you are heading South by the seashore. Sozopol is just half an hour from Burgas and has many experiences to offer. If you are visiting during the tourist season, mid-July to mid-August, be prepared to see a crowd of tourists in Sozopol. We recommend staying in the town in June or September if you prefer a quieter atmosphere.

Sozopol

Sozopol

before the sunset

What to do in Sozopol on the day of your arrival?

Sozopol is a small old town founded in the 7th century BC by Greek colonists. Located on the Black Sea shore, Sozopol established itself as a trade and naval center in the following centuries and became one of the wealthiest Greek colonies in the Black Sea region. Nowadays, it provides more of a relaxing atmosphere. You will enjoy the old town and its narrow streets filled with restaurants and cafes. The town has a charming old inner harbor. From the new port, located 10 minutes away, you can take a boat tour around the city, and if you are lucky, you may see dolphins on the way. For those who stay close to the old part, Sozopol offers an in-town beach located in its center. Bulgarian tourists, as well as people from Poland, Czech, and Hungary, love Sozopol, and you will meet many of them on the streets. For those interested in exploring and more intensive journey planning, we can recommend the following place to see South from the town:

  • Shofiorski plaj / The Drivers’ beach
  • Arkutino Beach and the Sand Lilly preserve in Arkutino
  • Ropotamo river and boat tour
  • Beglik Tash
  • Exploring the Strandja region, further on the South – Brashlyan village and Mishkova Niva

If you prefer a beach away from the crowd, the Drivers’ Beach is suitable for you. Many locals visit the beach during the weekend, which may be crowded. Please note that there is no service, and the beach offers no lifeguard. You can refresh yourself in the nearby Duni resort.

Drivers' Beach

Drivers' Beach

Alepu

The Ropotamo river delta offers a stunning view from above. You can reach the delta by boat from the sea or the river. It provides a tiny beach near by and a tranquil atmosphere.

Ropotamo River Delta

Ropotamo River Delta

Delta

Brashlyan village used to be called Sarmashik. Two small rivers Pantaleyska and Churka pass through the village before flowing into the Katun River. The present village of Brashlyan dates from the late 17th century. In the whole region, there are traces of ancient human presence – dolmens, mounds, and sanctuaries. The village church St. Dimitar dates from the late seventeenth century. Read more about Brashlyan village.

Brashlyan village

Brashlyan village

Strandzha Mountain Region

For those interested in surfing, kayaking, and other wing-water sports – we can recommend heading a few kilometers North from Sozopol towards the windy Gradina beach.

Day 6: Departure from Sozopol to Varna and a short stop in Burgas/Nesebar on the way

Distance for the day: 170 km | Time in the car: ~2h 55m | Driving on motorways and country roads

Whether you spend the last two days on the beach or travel around Sozopol to explore more places, it is time to pack and continue your journey to the Northern part of the Bulgarian seashore. You start from Sozopol, and in thirty minutes, you will be entering Burgas, a town you passed through two days ago. Burgas is proud of its Marine Garden, and you can quickly stop there for a coffee if time allows.

A short stop in Nesebar on the way to Varna

Continuing on the North for thirty-five minutes, you will be in Nesebar. A walk in the old Nesebar can be refreshing under the shade of the narrow streets. The old town has many ancient churches dating from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Once, Nesebar had as many as 40 churches, eleven of which are preserved nowadays. The ancient city of Nessebar is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

It will take approximately one hour and forty-five minutes to drive from Nesebar to Varna.

Nesebar

Nesebar

Old inner harbor

What to do in Varna on that day?

Located on the Black Sea, Varna, with its cafes, restaurants, and hotels, has a long history of being the sea holiday place of Bulgaria and the region. Today, Varna has to offer beaches with tiny soft sands and many hot mineral springs. Varna is home to many cultural events and offers child-friendly attractions such as a Zoo, a Dolphinarium, the city aquarium, the Astronomical observatory named after Nicolaus Copernicus, and more. It also has many restaurants where you can experience fine Bulgarian cuisine. We can recommend the tourist portal of Varna, where you can check what will be available on the date of your arrival.

Varna

Varna

The Black Sea Resort with tradition

Day 7: Departure from Varna, make a short stop to see the Madara Rider and a stay in Veliko Tarnovo

Distance for the day: 236 km | Time in the car: ~3h | Driving on highways and country roads

After the morning coffee, you will be heading West, and on the way to Veliko Tarnovo, you can make a short stop at Madara Rider near Shumen. Drive will only take less than an hour.

What is the Madara Rider? It represents the figure of a knight triumphing over a lion. It is carved into a 100-m-high cliff near the village of Madara. Madara was the sacred place of the First Bulgarian Empire before Bulgaria’s conversion to Christianity in the 9th century. The inscriptions beside the sculpture tell of events between AD 705 and 801. Madara Rider is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. More about the Madara Rider on UNESCO World Heritage webpage.

Madara

Madara Rider

Near Shumen

Next, you are heading towards Veliko Tarnovo, and the drive will take approximately two hours.

Sozopol

Veliko Tarnovo

Tsarevets fortress

What to do in Veliko Tarnovo on that day?

Veliko Tarnovo is one of a few cities in Bulgaria whose name consists of two words. It translates as The Great City and has more than seven thousand years of history. Among the many things you can do in Tarnovo are:

  • Make a quick entrance into the Tsarevets Fortress and Baldwin’s Tower
  • Walk the Skywalk to see the town from the hight
  • Walk by the building of the Bulgarian First National Assembly
  • Visit the Mini Bulgaria Park, and you can recognize some of the places you already visited
  • Relax and refresh at Gurko Street
  • Take a walk to the house with the monkey, a masterpiece by the architect Kolyu Ficheto
  • Visit the Samovodska Charshia Market
  • Stay for a traditional Bulgarian dinner in the city, or visit the Nearby Arbanassi

It is interesting to note that the Constituent Assembly in Veliko Turnovo, from February 1879 to April 1879, sets the beginnings of parliamentary life in Bulgaria.

Day 8: Departure from Veliko Tarnovo to Belogradchik Rocks (Devetashka Cave on the way)

Distance for the day: 340 km | Time in the car: ~5h | Driving on country roads

It will take approximately an hour and a half drive from Veliko Tarnovo to The Devetashka cave. The Devetashka Cave is a significant natural cave with an entrance of 35 meters wide and 30 meters high. The earliest traces of human presence date back to the Early Stone Age, about 70,000 BC. In the 1950s, the cave was used as a military warehouse. Most recently, the cave was a scene for the action film The Expendables 2, where Sylvester Stallone crash lands a plane into the cave.

Tip: There is a parking space just before the cave entrance. The walking surface in the cave may be moist and slippery, and we recommend adequate shoes and precautions to be taken, especially if you are visiting with kids.

Devetashka Cave

Devetashka Cave

Devetaki

After the short stop at Devetaki, we continue our journey to the Belogradchik Rocks. This part of the journey will take approximately three hours and a half. You will be driving through country roads, and road conditions may be significantly less than perfect in this part of Bulgaria. Drive carefully!

Kaleto

Kaleto

Belogradchik Fortress

What to do in Belogradchik on that day?

You need to see two things if you are in Belogrdchik – the Belogradchik Rocks and Kaleto Fortress. The Belogradchik Rocks are a group of strangely shaped sandstones. They are rock formations on the western slopes of the Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina). Rocks come in different colors, from predominantly red to yellow. These rocks have remarkable shapes and are associated with fascinating legends. The Belogradchik Rocks were declared a Natural Monument of Bulgaria and a New Wonder of the World in 2011.

In the 3rd century AD, the Romans built the fortress of Kaleto at Belogradchik to protect the transport of goods and gold from the Thracian lands to the empire. Over the centuries, this early fortress has been rebuilt many times as needed. Later, the Bulgarian Tsar of Vidin, Ivan Stratsimir, further expanded the fort in the 14th century, making the settlement of Belogradchik the second most important in the country. The fortress was once in the hands of the Hungarian King Ludovic I and was later incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. The fort last saw combat in 1878 during the Russo-Turkish War, followed by the Serbian-Bulgarian War in 1885. The fortress is located just a few kilometers from the Serbian border.

Day 9: Departure from Belogradchik via Berkovitsa, and arrival in Sofia

Distance for the day: 180 km | Time in the car: ~2h 50m | Driving on country roads

What to do in Sofia on that day?

Sofia

Sofia

Relax time

Your 9 days road trip itinerary technical information and data:

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