Bulgaria is situated in South-Eastern Europe and occupies an area of 111 000 in the North-Eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. Its length is 520 km and its width is 330 km. The overall length of its borders is 2245 km. Bulgaria borders to the north on Rumania (the frontier line runs along the Danube river and continues on land to the north-east), to the south - on Greece and Turkey, to the west - on Serbia and Macedonia (former Yugoslavia) and to the east - on the Black Sea. The average altitude is 470 m.

about 8 million the average density of the population is 76, 2 people per a square kilometer. The number of the town population (68, 3%) prevails over the number of the rural population. The main part of the population are Bulgarians numbering 7 200 000. Beside them in the country live about 800 000 Bulgarian Turks, 300 000 Gypsies and small number of Jews, Armenians, Russians and Greeks.

The relief of Bulgaria is extremely varied. Vast plains and valleys, precipitous ravines and gorges, deep glens nestling among hills, lowlands and high mountains alternate together on its comparatively small territory. The average altitude above sea level is 470 m. The Rila Mountains are the highest in Bulgaria as well as in the whole Balkan Peninsula with Mt. Moussala - 2925 m.
34% of the seaside consists of beaches and dunes. Along the seaside there are 18 lakes and many bays, the largest of which are the bays of Varna and Bourgas.

The climate in Northern Bulgaria is moderate continental, while the climate in Southern Bulgaria is intermediate continental tending to Mediterranean. The climate in the regions with an altitude of 1900-2000 m above sea level is mountainous and along the Black Sea coast it is maritime. The climate of the seaside regions is milder in the winter and cooler in the summer than the climate of the interior of the country. The average annual temperature is 10.5°C. The average January temperature is around O°C. Average summer temperatures rarely exceed 30°C.

Sofia, population over one and half million

Other main cities
Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, Rousse, Pleven, Veliko Turnovo

The official religion is Eastern Orthodox which is professed by 86, 6% of the population. 13, 1% of the population profess Islam and 0, 3 profess other kinds of religion.

the official language is Bulgarian and uses only the Cyrillic alphabet. To facilitate tourists, road and direction signs in populated areas, resorts, railway stations, airports and along the main motorways are also spelled in Roman letters. English, German, French, Russian and other languages are spoken in the country.

Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic in which the sovereign power belongs to the people who exercise it through their representative bodies, elected by direct and secret ballot. Every Bulgarian citizen over the age of 18 has the right to elect or to be elected. The state power is divided into legislative, executive and judicial.

It will take you back dozens of centuries to Pliska, Preslav and Veliko Tarnovo - the seats of the first Bulgarian khans, czars and kings; to the stone carving of the Madara Horseman; to the Thracian Gold Treasures; to the breathtaking murals of the Kazanlak Tomb and the church in Boyana; to the quiet wisdom of the Rila Monastery and to the towns of Koprivshtitsa, Melnick and Zheravna - Renaissance legends of wood, stone and color.

It will be omnipresent in your days with unique finds in the museums, including the world s oldest gold; with beautiful collections of works from self-taught old masters to modern painters in the art galleries; with classical concerts and folklore song-and-dance festivals.

Bulgaria offers excellent conditions for tourism. The Black Sea Coast has become world known for its wonderful geographical and climatic conditions: a warm sea, with almost imperceptible tides, well-wooded shores and vast beaches covered with fine golden sand. Modern resorts offer excellent conditions for rest and recreations, such as Zlatni Pyassatsi (the Golden Sands), Drouzba, Slunchev Bryag (the Sunny Beach), Rousalka, Albena, Duni, Elenite, St. Constantine and Elena, motels, camping sites and summer camps.

Each of the Bulgarian mountains has a charm of its own - their snow-capped peaks sparkling in the sun, covered with thick pine or deciduous forests interspersed with fragrant alpine meadows. There are numerous cosy chalets and pleasant holiday houses, snuggling in the mountains folds. The mountain and ski resorts of Borovets, Bansko, Pamporovo, Malyovitsa, Velingrad, Yundola and many others are equally attractive in summer and in winter.

Bulgaria is also famous through its mineral springs (more than 500) and many of them are used for balnetherapy. Health resorts (Spa) were built in Kyustendil, Vurshets, Sandanski, Pavel Banya, Hisar, Bankya and in many other places of Bulgaria.

There are 2000 explored and unexplored caves in Bulgaria. In one of them, the Magoura Cave, the unique rock drawings made by people from the pre-historical time can be seen. The Belogradchik rocks, the natural pyramids at Melnik, the Pobiti Kamuni (Stone Forests) near Varna, the Er Kyupria (Devil s Bridges) in the Rhodopes are some of the most curious sights of Bulgaria.

Beside the natural beauties of Bulgaria there are countless historical and cultural monuments. The Thracian tumulus (burial mound) near Kazanluk and the Proto-Bulgarian Madara Horseman near Shoumen are two of them. Entire towns and villages in Bulgaria are nominated as museum towns -Turnovo, Koprivshtitsa, Old Plovdiv, Melnik, Zheravna, Kotel, Tryavna, Nessebur and many other places where memories of the past still linger.

Passport and visa
EU nationals and some other European citizens do not need a visa!

Customs formalities
The import of personal effects needed during the time of travel or stay-consumer goods not exceeding the amounts stated in the customs declaration, is permitted. It is prohibited to take out works of art, coins and other objects of proven historic, scientific or artistic value. International banning and restrictive regulations also applied.

Currency and currency exchange
The Bulgarian national monetary unit is the LEV.
1 EURO = approx. 2 LEVA
1 LEV = approx. LM 0.20
Coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 50 stotinki (coins, 100 stotinki = 1 LEV) and banknotes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50,100, 200 leva are in use. The exchange of currency is unrestricted and there is no compulsory exchange. Upon departure from the country any unused Bulgarian currency may be changed back into the respective national currency.

Medical services
Medical and dental treatment is at a high level.

Working hours
Banks usually work with clients from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., offices from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. Most shops are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and many are open on Sunday.

220 V - throughout the whole country.

Useful phone numbers
Emergency-112; Police – 166; Ambulance – 150; Road assistance – 146; Reliable taxi service – 973 2121

Credit cards
The following credit cards are accepted in many hotels, restaurants and shops in Bulgaria: Diners Club, American Express, MasterCard, Carte Blanche, Balkanamericard, Visa, Euro card, etc. They can be used for payment of all standard services: hotel accommodation, restaurants, nightspots, shopping, car rentals, air tickets, etc.

Time difference
Winter time: GMT + 1 hour (October through March). Summer time: GMT + 2 hours (April through September).

Official holidays
January 1 - New Year; March 3 –Liberation Day ; Easter; May 1 - Labour day; May 24 - the Day of Bulgarian Enlightenment and Culture and Slav Script; December 25 - Christmas.

Going Out
With Bulgarian innate love of celebrating, entertainment was one of the first sectors to recover from Communist austerity. Bulgarians place a great deal of emphasis on friendships and amusement and city dwellers meet up in cafes, restaurants and bars on most evenings, especially in the summer. Coffee has a special place in the daily lives of Bulgarians and you will find plenty of cafes offering excellent quality espresso in and outdoors.
The cities (Sofia, Plovdiv, and Varna) as well as the big resorts on the Black Sea coast boast a long list of discos, hip bars and nightclubs with highly competitive prices. In smaller towns, your options will be restricted to restaurants but even there you can have plenty of fun. Most traditional restaurants have live folk music and you will invariably be invited to get up and join in the horo - the national dance.
Throughout the summer there are several art events which now have a cult international following, such as the August jazz festival in the mountain town of Bansko.

Eating Out
In Bulgaria, you can eat outdoors at least six months of the year - either in a bustling central streets in Varna, Plovdiv or Sofia, or in a quiet courtyards in small historical cities and sites, taking you back a hundred plus years.

Sofia is chock-a-block with restaurants and a new one opens every month. The higher class ones tend to favour international or Mediterranean cuisines, though most offer some Bulgarian dishes. There are also plenty of hip bistros, and most cafes serve snacks. People tend to eat late and to eat slowly: food is about relaxation and enjoyment. Whatever type of food you prefer; the quality will be high and the price low.

Traditional Bulgarian cuisine can be enjoyed at a few specialized restaurants in the cities. However, for the real thing, you need to go to one of the many museum towns or villages (like Melnik, Koprivshtitsa, Zheravna and Bozhentsi) whose preserved houses bring back the atmosphere of late 19th century Bulgaria.

The food is great - fresh, simple and strong ...
Bulgarian cuisine is one of the tastiest in Europe. Food is still cooked with fresh, naturally grown ingredients. It combines the wonderfully rich Ottoman influence with a peasant cooking style that uses flavour-packed vegetables and herbs. Yum! Start with a salad of fresh tomatoes and home-made sheep cheese. Follow up with a slow-baked stew in a clay pot and you are in heaven. There are plenty of non-meat dishes too.

Bulgaria excels in sirene (a white salty cheese) and yoghurt. The yoghurt is so good and so distinctive that it is exported world wide simply as Bulgarian Yoghurt. Sirene is an ingredient for two immiscible specialties. Try them. Number one is Shopska salad, made with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and onion. Number two is banitsa, a savoury flaky pastry that every Bulgarian grabs with a coffee at street stands.

Meat lovers? The main dishes are chicken, pork and lamb-based - typically hearty, simple and tasty. Grilled meats are popular and include kyufteta (spicy meat balls), and kebapcheta (elongated meat balls). Chushki byurek- peppers stuffed with cheese and herbs and fried in breadcrumbs - are a great entree or a meal in a moment.

Festivals & Religion
Bulgaria preserved its Orthodox Christianity through five centuries of Muslim domination and fifty years of Communist atheism. Nowadays Bulgarians celebrate both Christian celebrations and traditional festivals, many of which have their roots in pagan beliefs. In some regions the predominant religion is Islam and in others the two religions coexist peacefully side-by-side.

The Orthodox churches, with their dark, incense-filled interiors, spectacular icons and heavy wood-and-gold icons engender a sense of mystery and awe. Easter is the largest church celebration in Bulgaria, when a sea of people with swaying candles gather around the churches at midnight to hear mass.

The traditional holidays, rooted deep in folklore, are more prevalent in rural Bulgaria than in the cities and tend to relate to the harvest and health. At the start of Lent, the Koukeri, men disguised in animal skins and furs, wearing grotesque painted masks, do the rounds of the villages banging loud bells to ward off evil spirits and ensure a good crop; whilst in the south east of Bulgaria Nestinari still dance on burning embers to mark the beginning of summer on the feast of Saints Constantine and Elena. Even sophisticated city folk will get up at a wedding to join in the Horo - a dance in a circle to folk music.

Festival of roses - in Kazanlak: 30 May-1 June
The Bulgarian rose production is popularised every year during the Festival of Roses. This festival originates from the celebrations held at the beginning of the rose-harvesting period. Old rose growers used to organize pageantries in which manufacturers paraded, dressed up in rose flowers.


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