That Bulgaria made it to number five on CNN's list of Top Tourist Destinations for 2011 is an indication the country should not be overlooked when planning your trip to Europe. With a history of over 13 centuries under Ottoman, Byzantine, and Soviet rule, Bulgaria is a treasure trove of mixed architecture, culture, and age-old traditions.
Whether you choose to fly direct to the modernized capital Sofia, or go via London, Vienna, or Brussels to smaller beach-towns such as Varna, getting to Bulgaria has never been easier with affordable flights on several international airlines. Bulgaria's growing reputation as the Dental Tourism Capital of Europe points to affordability as a big factor in drawing tourists to the country. Hotels, tours, and food are even cheaper once you travel outside Sofia, so your budget can definitely stretch for a longer trip. While the Black Sea beaches and Bansko's ski resorts are definitely worth a visit, head off to the erstwhile capital of Tarnovo, Rila Monastery, or Plovdiv's Roman ruins to get a true sense of Bulgaria's enigmatic character.
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Since direct flights from Canada are scarce, it's probably best to book a flight to a hub city such as London, Paris, Amsterdam or Frankfurt and then fly into one of Bulgaria's four international airports in Sofia (SOF), Varna (VAR), Burgas (BOJ), or Plovdiv (PDV). This will save you a lot of time, money, and energy, as otherwise there could be as many as three stopovers involved. Alternatively, you could fly to Sofia and then use cheap flights on Bulgaria Air or the frequent inter-city bus and train services to get around the country.
Bulgaria's climate would suit anyone's fancy. For beach enthusiasts and hikers, the summers are hot and dry with an average temperature of 28°C. In wintertime, it can drop to -10°C in the mountains often accompanied by heavy snow, making it a perfect spot for winter sports fans. The coastal areas experience the most moderate temperatures between 19 – 25°C. So when to go really depends on what you're looking for!
Between April and June and post-September are the best times to visit because airfare rates are low and you'll avoid the tourist masses, but there's still enough sunshine to make your trip worthwhile. If you're heading to Bulgaria with your skis, try to avoid the more expensive December/January peak season. Since the ski resorts sometimes stay open well past March, you could take a later trip and still make the most of Bulgaria's great slopes.