WHY IT’S HOT: CULTURE MEETS COAST IN EASTERN EUROPE.
We say: Despite their rich history and soaring peaks, Bulgaria’s hinterlands have largely failed to register with travellers more familiar with its cheap pistes and laid-back capital. But, as European Capital of Culture Plovdiv puts the rugged south-west on the map in 2019, that may be about to change.
As one of Europe’s oldest inhabited cities, Plovdiv wears its history lightly – there aren’t many places where you can glance from Roman theatre to Ottoman-era mosque. Wander its cobbled Old Town and crumbling fortresses, then head for the Rhodope Mountains where scenic trails wind past Byzantine and Crusader relics.
The country’s historic east coast is opening up, too, as new low-cost flights to the Black Sea city of Burgas launch from nine UK airports in May. Combine a visit with exploring rose-pink salt lakes, former pirate islands and some dramatic kayaking.
Don’t miss: Not far from Plovdiv lie the pin-striped monasteries, hiking trails and hidden vineyards of the Rila Mountains, a rugged escape far off the tourist trail.