Planning to travel through the Balkans someday? Do you have any idea of how much there is to see in Southeastern Europe?! Luckily, I’ve prepared this ultimate Balkans travel bucket list with must-see places, awesome events, and wonderful experiences you simply have to try if you’re coming over.
For keeping it handy, I also made a Balkan infographic at the end. You can save it, pin it, print it, whichever works best for you and your travel style.
This is a pastry product, kind of like a pie, which is usually enjoyed for breakfast. Depending on the stuffing, Banitsa can be salty (e.g. with sirene cheese, spinach, mushrooms, cabbage) or sweet (e.g. pumpkin, apples, walnuts). Excellent as street food, for the on-the-go backpacker.
2. Tarator Soup
Similar to the Spanish Gazpacho, Tarator is a soup that’s served cold. It is made of yoghurt, cucumber, dill, garlic, oil and water. In other words, it’s a more liquid version of the Greek’s Tzatziki. 🙂 However, it can also be served with walnuts, and, to make it even more refreshing on those hot summer days: ice cubes!
3. Shopska Salad
This is a salad you will find in every menu when you’re visiting Bulgaria. The Shopska salad is simple and contains basic ingredients (cucumbers, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, and parsley), but it’s also very tasty. In addition, the colours of its ingredients are also the ones found on the Bulgarian flag.
Depending on the Bulgarian region you’re in, the taste of this meal will vary. However, even though the recipes are different, it always contains marinated cooked meat and vegetables, plus spices. Kavarma can be mild or hot, therefore if you’re not into spicy foods, ask beforehand or skip it!
5. Raki (40-90% alc.)
Raki is a common treat in the Balkans. It is made by the distillation of fermenting fruit (grapes, plums, pears, apples, apricots, cherries or figs). The taste of raki might not be to everyone’s liking, but it is definitely something to try, at least once. Cheers!
After a day an a half spent in Sofia, we went on with our car trip and got to visit Rila Monastery. It was so nice to enjoy the mountain temperatures after the hot days we had experienced till then. We felt so cold that we actually switched to long pants, discreetly, in the parking lot!
As usual, read on or jump to the quick guide at the end of this article! 🙂
About the Rila Monastery
The Rila Monastery is quite a sight, due to its beautifully painted interior courtyard. It was founded in the 10th century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
In the afternoon, after our magnificent stop at Devetashka Cave, we continued to travel to Sofia Bulgaria‘s capital city.
I finally got to travel to Sofia Bulgaria!
Ok, maybe I am a little too excited about this. But you see, I had passed through Sofia so many times before, on the way to Greece, but until this time I never actually got out of the car to visit anything. I’m really thankful to Elena and Adrian who were kind enough to offer to host the three of us while we were doing the Balkan road trip. Not only did we get a free and comfortable place to rest our heads for the night, but we also got the chance to catch up with old and dear friends.
I also appreciated having a newly-established local as our guide. Elena took us to some really cool spots in Sofia, spots which we might not have discovered on our own.
Let’s get into the details! Or you can check out the quick guide on Sofia at the end of the article.
We left Veliko Tarnovo behind, heading to Sofia, Bulgaria‘s capital. However, on the way there, we had to make one stop — we simply had to visit Devetashka Cave!
A friend who was living in Sofia at the time had told us how interesting it is. Afterwards, our own Internet searches returned some astonishing images. The latter managed to convince us that this was a must-see since we were in Bulgaria.
Want to explore the cave? Well, there’s quick guide waiting for you at the and of the article, with information on how to get there, what the tickets cost, plus some other details. And until then, I guess the following photos will have to do!
Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria) was the first stop in our Balkan road trip. We quickly found a convenient place to stay, based on the Lonely Planet recommendations, took a shower and went for a long walk.
Our small group discovered Veliko Tarnovo’s street art, admired its bright terraced houses, got caught by the rain at Assen’s monument and visited Tsaravets Fortress. We also went to Marno Pole Park and found ourselves in the middle of a colourful festival.
If you’re short on time, you can just skip to the Quick Guide at the end of the article.
If not, join me in exploring Veliko Tarnovo!