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A Local’s Southern Bulgaria Travel Guide

Bulgaria is conveniently divided into northern and southern halves by the bisecting Balkan Mountains running east to west. South of the mountains, you’ll find a variety of significant historical sites, beautiful Black Sea beaches, and vibrant cities. In fact, Bulgaria’s largest cities are located in Southern Bulgaria: Sofia and Plovdiv.

In this Southern Bulgaria travel guide, we want to offer you the information you need to plan a trip to our beloved home. Southern Bulgaria is a place of astonishing natural beauty, diverse topography, mesmerising history, and so much more. Come see for yourself! We would be delighted to show you our favourite local places and all the top sites in Southern Bulgaria. 

Explore our variety of private Bulgaria day tours or get in touch for a tailor-made Bulgaria tour catered to your travel style and interests.

Why Visit Southern Bulgaria

There is so much to love about Southern Bulgaria that we could never write it all in a single travel guide! As locals, we adore this part of the country and its incredible diversity of things to do and places to explore.

If you love the outdoors, Southern Bulgaria is a playground. From the Rila Mountains to the Rhodope Mountains; from the Black Sea beaches to the flower-filled valleys. Hiking in Southern Bulgaria is always a favourite activity for us here at Excedo Travel. If you’re keen to hit the trails, we’d love to show you the best views and share our local insights!

Rila National Park

If you’re a history buff, nothing beats the vast expanse of history crossing this region of Southern Bulgaria. From ancient empires to the more recent Soviet era, our cities share stories of the variety of cultures and peoples who have called this place home over millennia. The history here is truly mind-boggling!

If you’re a culture-seeker, you’ll love exploring Bulgaria’s largest cities and some of its smaller, lesser-visited cities. From traditional foods to traditional festivals, you can really dig deep into Bulgarian culture if you step off the typical tourist track in Southern Bulgaria!

Whatever you’re seeking during your trip, we can promise you’ll find an amazing variety here in our backyard. Let’s dive into it: here’s what to do and when to visit Southern Bulgaria.

Pirin National Park
Kamenitsa Peak in Pirin National Park

Top Things to Do in Southern Bulgaria

There are so many things to do in Southern Bulgaria that we could write an entire book about just this region! But there are a few things that we highly recommend for all visitors, whether this is your first visit or you’ve explored before.

Visit Sofia

Visiting the capital city is a must-do in Bulgaria, of course. You can review our Sofia City Guide for much more detailed information to help you plan your trip.


Visit Plovdiv

Another city in Southern Bulgaria, Plovdiv is known as the City of 7 Hills and is the second-largest city in the country. A stroll through Plovdiv’s art district is a personal favourite activity!

Want more tips? Here are the best cities to visit in Bulgaria and what to do in each!

Other Top Things to Do in Southern Bulgaria:

Visiting the popular cities is what most first-time visitors to Bulgaria do. But there is so much more to Southern Bulgaria than just its big cities! Here are some of our favourite other spots and things to do…

Marvel at the Rila Monastery, a 1000-year-old Christian Church boasting astounding relics and artefacts. Check out our essential guide to visiting Rila Monastery so you’re properly prepared.

Rila Monastery & Boyana Church – UNESCO Overdose

Hike in Rila National Park, which is one of our personal favourite activities! Rila boasts so much to see and do, with the Monastery being a top attraction and the 7 lakes drawing nature lovers from all around. Hiking in Rila National Park is definitely a top must-do when in Southern Bulgaria.

Visit the town of Ivaylovgrad in Southern Bulgaria to see one of Europe’s most interesting monuments from Roman times: the Villa ‘Armira’. This magnificent Roman architecture harkens back to the iconic structures of Pompeii. Eager to explore? We visit during our 8-day tour in the Wild Eastern Rhodope Mountains.

Explore Stara Zagora, a smaller city that was once at the crossroads for ancient empires, including the Romans, Ottomans, and Thracians. You can also learn about the local ancient burial mounds at the Neolithic Dwellings Museum. Perhaps more popular in modern times, the annual linden tree bloom attracts visitors to Stara Zagora, too. The scent is intoxicating!

Climb in Pirin National Park, which boasts amazing massifs and appeals to outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. Here are 5 reasons to climb in Bulgaria, to whet your appetite! 

Visit Melnik, which is the smallest town in all of Bulgaria! It’s known for its historic significance. Melnik is an architectural reserve, with an astonishing 96 buildings deemed to be cultural monuments. With a population of just 385 people, this is a unique spot to visit in Southern Bulgaria. 

And if you’re already there, why not make the short 7 km drive to the Rozhen Monastery? The Rozhen Monastery might not be as old or as big as the Rila Monastery, but there is a certain charm to it. Its beautiful frescoes are another fine example of Bulgarian Christian-Orthodox art.

When to Visit Southern Bulgaria

One of the most fascinating things about Southern Bulgaria is its diversity. For a rather small area, the variation in topography and weather can amaze any newcomer!

Visiting Bulgaria in the summer months (June through August) is best if you intend to enjoy our Black Sea beaches and the intense summer heat. But if you’d prefer to get outdoors and be active, we recommend considering the spring or autumn months for more comfortable hiking and climbing temperatures.

The winter months are also quite popular here in Bulgaria. Check out our guide to visiting Bulgaria in the winter if you’re keen to learn more.

While we couldn’t possibly outline every single place we love in all of Southern Bulgaria, we hope we’ve convinced you to plan your trip to our beautiful part of the world. We’re always happy to chat about our many tour options, so do feel free to get in touch. We look forward to welcoming you to Southern Bulgaria soon!