Bulgaria is a country in Southeast Europe and home to beautiful natural landscapes, historic landmarks, monasteries, and seaside towns. If you’re planning to travel to Bulgaria, there are some important facts about Bulgaria to know before you get there!
Knowing some fun Bulgaria facts will definitely impress any new Bulgarian friends you’re likely to make (as Bulgarians are very friendly). So ahead and pull any of these out of your back pocket next time you’re enjoying a round of Rakia at a hip Sofia bar!
Fun Facts About Bulgaria
1. Symbolic Colors
We’ll start off this list of Bulgarian facts with an easy one to learn! There are three colors on the Bulgarian flag, and each has its own meaning. The white symbolizes hope, the green symbolizes the incredible nature of the country, and the red symbolizes the blood that was soaked into the land.
2. A Land of Cheese
The white cheese produced in Bulgaria is so renowned and so good that it doesn’t even need to be called Bulgarian cheese. People around the country simply call it cheese and although it looks like feta cheese that you might find in Greece, it’s anything but!
The cheese is widely known for its smooth texture and exclusive flavor that’s like no other. It’s these two features that have won it so many international cheese competitions.
3. An Unlikely Desert
While you may not think of Europe as a place where you’d find many deserts, there actually are a few of them around the continent including one in Bulgaria.
The Stone Desert, or Pobiti Kamana as it’s officially known, is a dry stretch of land outside the city of Varna that features tall rock formations. To make it even more desert-like, there are even cacti and reptiles in this little desert!
4. A Military First
Rayna Kasabova was the first woman in the world to take part in a military flight.
5. Bulgaria is An Old Country
When it comes to countries in Europe that have gone the longest without a name change through history, Bulgaria is the second oldest country.
The country has had this name since 681 AD. It should also be noted that the geographical area known today as Bulgaria has been continuously inhabited since that time.
6. A Crave-worthy National Dish
If a pastry filled with cheese and eggs sounds delicious, you won’t have trouble finding this dish around Bulgaria! That’s because the dish, known as Banitsa, is the country’s national dish. Whether you want to have it for breakfast or as a midday snack, most restaurants serve it any time of day.
7. One of the Oldest Treasures ever Found
You may not have heard of the Varna Necropolis, but it’s a gold treasure cache that was found in an old cemetery outside of Varna that’s said to be among the oldest gold treasures ever found anywhere. Experts think it’s around 6,000 years old.
8. Bulgarian Rose Oil
Up to 80% of the world’s rose oil comes from Bulgaria. Actually, it comes from a specific area of the country known as The Valley of Roses. And yes, as you pass through this valley, you’ll catch the scent of roses.
Rose oil has been a top export in Bulgaria for more than 300 years and it’s such a huge part of local culture that there’s even a Rose Festival held every year in Kazanlak and there are rose-themed shops all over the country.
9. Bulgaria is very Biodiverse
When it comes to biodiversity, Bulgaria ranks third in Europe due to its number of plant and animal species. For example, there are more than 400 different species of birds. If you ae wondering what the national bird of Bulgaria is it’s the Balkan Levant Sparrowhawk.
10. Rakia is the National Drink of Bulgaria
This is one of those facts about Bulgaria that any visitor will learn immediately. There are two types of Rakia: one of them is commercially available and produced following strict regulations and the second type is homemade by local people who have good intentions but may not be making a truly safe product!
In other words, the latter is basically the Bulgarian version of what North Americans know as Moonshine. This very strong fruit liquor is said to promote good health. Whether that’s true or not, you’re sure to get a bit tipsy after a few drinks!
11. What’s in a Name?
In Bulgaria, babies are not named the same way as they are in North America – you might be used to a naming system that sees a child given a random first name of the parents choosing followed by the father’s sir name.
The old-fashioned way of naming newborns is still used in Bulgaria and that means your middle name is your father’s name whether you’re male or female. The only difference when it comes to gender is a slight variation in the spelling.
12. Celebrating Life’s Special Moments
One of those most interesting facts about Bulgaria is that it’s customary to spill water in front of the door of a person who is graduating from school, getting married, writing an important test, or any other important milestone. This is said to bring good luck to that person.
13. Backward Body Language
Most people around the world nod their head up and down for yes and side to side for no, but in Bulgaria, it’s the exact opposite!
14. Wolves and Brown Bears
There’s a large population of wolves and brown bears in Bulgaria and these populations seem to be thriving better than in prior years likely due to protection efforts.
Wolves are on the way to being fully protected while brown bears already are. You also won’t see bears performing for tourists anymore in Bulgaria; animal rights activists help put a stop to that around 2009.
15. A Small Country with a Big Wine History
Evidence points to winemaking being a part of Bulgarian life since 4000 B.C. Currently, there are almost a dozen types of wines produced in Bulgaria including Mavruf, Dimyat, Pelin, and Gamza.
16. An Old City
Bulgaria is an old country with a very old city. The city of Plovdiv is thought to have been founded around 8,000 years ago, making it the oldest city in Europe. It’s been continuously inhabited since that time.
17. Keeping Track of the Days
The Bulgarian Calendar is unique in many ways but its claim to fame is the fact that UNESCO has deemed it the most accurate calendar in the world.
18. Plenty of Room to Get Away from it all
If you’re looking for a place where you can go to get away from it all and be one with nature, Bulgaria has plenty of remote places to do so. That’s because about one-third of the country is covered in forest. So, if hiking, camping, nature, viewing, or just exploring pristine wilderness is on your list, this is the place to go!
19. A Unique Kind of Spring Fling
Leading up to spring, Bulgarians welcome the new season on March 1st with a celebration known as Baba Marta. It is celebrated with the giving and receiving of Martenitsa, which are red and white bracelets or tassels.
It’s given to friends and family to celebrate the arrival of spring and to wish them good health. When you receive one, you wear it until you spot a stork, swallow, or other sign of spring.
20. February 14th is for Trifon Zarezan
While you may know February 14th as Valentine’s Day and a day to celebrate love, Bulgarians know this day as Trifon Zarezan and on that day, wine is celebrated! I guess the two go hand in hand if you like to drink wine on Valentines Day like me!
21. In the Middle of it all!
Bulgaria is surrounded by many other countries, putting it quite literally in the center of Eastern Europe. Romania, Greece, Turkey, North Macedonia, and Serbia are the five countries that border Bulgaria.
22. Great Bulgarian Inventions
The digital wristwatch was invented by Peter Petroff and the first electronic computer was invented by John Vincent Atansoff. Both of these men were from Bulgaria.
23. A Peculiar Custom
Upon first glance, a participant decked out for Kukeri festivities might look bizarre and even a little scary, but rest assured, this ancient tradition serves a purpose and is one of the most fun facts about Bulgaria. Between the months of January and April, various Kukeri celebrations take place around the country to welcome the upcoming spring season.
The tradition is thought to have Thracian roots and has been around since before Roman times. Men dress up in animal-like costumes complete with headdresses and masks and make their way through village streets while carrying out rituals to ward off evil.
24. A Land of Many Monasteries
There are many monasteries in Bulgaria with the number estimated to be around 350. Most of these monasteries are located in remote regions surrounded by mountains and forest and many of them can be visited by tourists. Some of them are very old too and date back as far as the ninth century.
25. Bulgaria has Healing Waters
Many people are unaware of Bulgaria’s healing waters which can be found in more than 700 natural springs located around the country. In fact, Bulgaria is one of the best places in the entire world to relax in these geothermal springs.
People have been coming from all over since before Roman times to soak in these rejuvenating waters and today, there are spas dedicated to the healing powers of the springs in many towns and villages including Bankya, Varna and Velingrad.
26. Fire Dancing is a Thing in Bulgaria
It’s a very old tradition and it’s still done in Bulgaria – I’m talking about fire dancing and it’s something to when you visit! If you want to witness one of these amazing performances, you’d have to travel to one of the remote mountain villages where fire dancing is still performed. The village of Bulgari in Strandzha, is one of the best places in Bulgaria to witness this spectacle.
27. Reptiles are Common in Bulgaria
If you find it hard to believe that there are reptiles in Bulgaria, you’ll find it even harder to believe that there are 38 species of reptiles that make their home there. These reptiles are not only found in the Stone Desert area, but they are found all over the country.
28. A Flag Untouched
It’s quite something to be able to say that your country’s flag has never been captured in battle and Bulgaria is one of few countries that can make this claim.
29. Bulgarian Bagpipes
If you thought Scotland was the only country that claimed the bagpipes as its national instrument, think again! Bulgaria also claims the instrument as its national instrument except the instrument is known locally as gaida.
30. An Old Bridge
According to the engraving on one of its railings, the Kadin Bridge near Nevestino was built way back in 1470. The stone bridge is 100 meters long which is quite the feat back in those days!
31. Bulgarian Yogurt is to Die for
If you are a foodie or yogurt lover, you may think one of the best facts about Bulgaria is about their yogurt. Bulgarian yogurt, or kiselo mlyako, is renowned for its unique taste and texture. One of the reasons that Bulgarian yogurt is so good is due to the use of a particular bacterium culture that not only makes it super tasty but super healthy too!
That bacterium is only found in the country making the yogurt so unique from any other anywhere else in the world.
32. A Bulgarian Invention
Contrary to popular belief, Cyrillic Script was invented in Bulgaria and not in Russia. All of the countries that use the script, including Ukraine and some other Balkan countries, are using a script that has been adapted from the original Cyrillic one that was first used in the late 890s!
33. An Archaeologist’s Dream
We already know about the famous and very important monuments that have been unearthed in places around Italy and Greece, but did you know that Bulgaria also has many notable archaeological finds? From Archaeological Complex Serdika in Sofia to the Ancient Theatre in Plovdiv there is something for history buffs at every corner.
The country ranks third in all of Europe so you can bet there are plenty of historical monuments to see around the country!
34. 7 Million and… Declining?
To complete this list, we’ll leave you with one of the more interesting facts about Bulgaria. Bulgaria has a large population for its size, but that population is one the fastest declining populations in all of Europe.
According to the Bulgarian National Statistical Institute, the country’s population stood at 6,948,445 in January 2022, which is approximately 100,000 less people than just five years prior!
We hope you enjoyed these fun Bulgarian Facts! See below for more facts around the world!