Rural tourism is the best way to get to know the traditions of Bulgaria. Through their stay in a village house, tourists can come to appreciate traditional Bulgarian lifestyles and the culture of the country. The hospitability of Bulgarians, the unique local cuisine, the well-preserved folkways, customs and crafts, the architectural reserves settlements and the beautiful surroundings all contribute to make rural tourism in Bulgaria memorable.
Usually guests are accommodated in an house built in the 19th or early 20th century, and a part of the rich experience is the delicious food that hosts prepare with vegetables picked fresh from the garden and seasoned with herbs gathered in nearby forests and fields. There are many interesting things to do in the villages – visitors can help the hostess prepare some special dish according to a traditional recipe, take part in farm work, rent a horse to visit nearby landmarks, pick aromatic herbs and a basket of forest berries or mushrooms, or ride a mountain bike along the country roads and trails. Tourists may want to milk a cow, cut hay, prepare yoghurt, help make white and yellow cheese, or put up jam. Almost every family in the villages engages in distilling rakia and making wine. The Bulgarian countryside abounds with wineries that have earned international recognition.
In the evening, tourists are often invited to have a meal with their hosts. Traditional dishes are served, folksongs are performed, and local legends are shared. In most cases, guests can help prepare the food. Some villages offer lessons in pottery making, icon painting or folksongs and dances, and there are demonstrations of sewing and embroidering.
Visitors can find country guesthouses all over the country. In the region of the Balkan Mountains there are many such opportunities, in villages such as Apriltsi, Shipkovo, Ribaritsa, Medven, Zheravna, Ichera, Gradets, the villages in the Elena Balkan Mountain, and elsewhere in the region. Near Veliko Tarnovo lies the architectural reserve Arbanasi, which offers its own unique atmosphere. A few kilometers from Gabrovo, there is another architectural reserve that is also a very popular destination for overnight visitors – the village of Bozhentsi.
In the Rila Mountains the villages of Govedartsi, Dobarsko, Mala Tsarkva, Beli Iskar, and Dolna Banya, are particularly popular.
It seems that in the Rhodope Mountains every village offers accommodations for guests. Some of the most popular are Momchilovtsi, Gela, Shiroka Laka, Smilyan, Arda, Zabardo, Leshten, Kovachevitsa, Dolen, Trigrad, and Yagodina. There tourists can taste dishes unique to the region, such as Cheverme and Patatnik, and enjoy a gaida (Bulgarian bagpipe) performance or competition.
Bansko, the pearl of the Pirin Mountains, provides tourists with the opportunity to take part in traditional activities of the region, such as taking an excursion in a horse-drawn cart, and of course sampling local dishes. Visitors can enjoy a reenactment of an attack by brigands at a Haydouk Attack performance, or be photographed dressed in traditional costumes.
Exceptionally attractive are also the villages in the Strandzha Mountains – Balgari, Gramatikovo, Kosti, Brashlyan, and others. Her visitors may walk to ancient wind mills or fulling mills, ride a donkey, or enjoy an excursion in a donkey cart. The Strandzha is also where tourists can observe the traditional dance on live coals.
Guests at the large Black Sea resorts have the opportunity to visit nearby villages and enjoy the residents’ hospitality.
In Dobrudzha (Bulgaria’s breadbasket) tourists can observe the livelihood of the villages, sample the local folklore and cuisine, and visit the unique Dobrudzha farms.
Throughout the country, guests can experience a wide range of customs and rituals, such as the dancing on live coals, mummers, a Bulgarian wedding, singing and dancing on St. Lazar’s day, singing and dancing on Christmas, the holiday of Trifon Zarezan, among others.
Many folklore festivals are also held in the country. Some of the best known are the Plovdiv International Folklore Festival in the city of Plovdiv; the Burgas International Folklore Festival; the National Folklore Gatherings at Rozhen and Koprivshtitsa; the International Festival of Masquerade and Carnival Games and Rituals “Surva” in the town of Pernik; and the National Gathering “Beautiful Thrace Sings and Dances.”