Whether you’re a birder or a bagpiper, foodie or folklore fan, you can time your hiking or cycling adventure holiday in Bulgaria for some extra cultural or natural boosts along the way. Our Bulgarian adventure holidays are open between the months of April to October, depending on the tour. Many of our walking holidays, for example, take you rambling in the Rhodopes, with uplifting temperatures of between 20-25C between May and September. If it’s pure air quality you’re after, the best time to go to Bulgaria is anytime, as its mountainous areas are reputed to be some of the cleanest air in Europe. Breathe in confidence, then be prepared to have it taken away.
Best time to go to Bulgaria for climate
The climate in the Western Rhodopes, your base for our Rhodope Mountains Explorer or our Cycling holiday in the Rhodopes, is temperate continental with an average 200 days of sunshine a year. It is influenced both by the colder air coming from the north and by the warmer breeze from the Mediterranean. Depending on location and altitude, temperatures vary but between May-September, the daily averages are 20-25C. Spring and autumn are pleasant in the Rhodopes with cold nights and occasional rain. However, even in summer temperatures have been known to drop to single figures at high elevations.
On this same Rhodopes cycling holiday, you come to a fine finale on Greece’s Halkidiki Peninsulas, which gets too hot for cycling during the summer months, so we don’t run trips during those months.
In Bulgaria’s Rila and Pirin National Parks, temperatures are similar, as you are surrounded by mountains such as Mt. Vihren, (2,914m), which you can trek to on our walking holiday in the Pirins, or Mt. Musala, the country’s highest peak at 2,925m, which you can trek to on our Best of the Bulgarian Alps holiday.
In May you can still see snow at high elevations however the valleys are starting to warm up, bringing out wildflower fests of poppies, primroses, yellow mullein and wild orchids. May can also bring rain showers, so do pack waterproof gear. The cities of Plovdiv and Sofia are still relatively quiet at this time, however, so although you may get rain, you won’t be deluged by daytrippers.
Best time to go to Bulgaria for culture
Jazz in Bankso
The hills of Pirin National Park can almost pick up the vibes of the International Jazz Festival in Bansko, as it is only 30mins from the heart of the park. Taking place in early August, there is an impressive programme of international jazz artists with an array of free events across the town, many of which are in the main square. Our Pirin Mountains walking break and Rila and Pirin Mountains and Lakes holiday both have time set aside in Bansko.
Opera in Plovdiv
Although many of our trips start or finish in the capital city of Sofia, we endeavour to include Plovdiv in our itineraries because it is a cultural revelation. So much so that it was European City of Culture in 2019, although Plovdiv has been winning cultural laurels for much longer, as it dates back to 4000BC. It’s like a mini Rome in some ways, a city of seven hills with a stunning Roman amphitheatre in the Old Town, cobblestone streets and ancient buildings. The city’s Opera Open Festival takes place every summer, with an impressive programme of opera, ballet and some rock ‘n roll too, emanating from the amphitheatre with its views over the city and Rhodope Mountains in the distance. Our Bulgaria walking and spa adventure holiday and Rhodope Mountain Explorer holiday start and end in Plovdiv, and our Bulgaria UNESCO sites self-drive or Highlights of Bulgaria holidays pass through it, so you may want to extend your stay if your visit times with this colossal cultural event. The Plovid Opera House also has an impressive programme of opera and ballet all year round.
Bagpipes in Gela
Bagpipes and Bulgaria aren’t immediately synonymous for most visitors. However, the instrument, called kaba gaidag in Bulgarian, plays an important part in Rhodopean cultural heritage. As a result, there is an annual International Bagpipe Festival during the first weekend of August in the small village of Gela, in the heart of the mountains, which players from around the world attend to harmonise across the hills. You visit Gela on our Walking and spa holiday and our Rhodope Mountains Explorer holiday.
Folk in Rozhen
The Rozhen National Folklore Fair takes place in mid-July and, if you want a hit of traditional music and dance, choirs and customs, Rozhen rules, with this festival dating back to 1898. Taking place in meadows that have the Rhodope Mountains as their backdrop, one of the most famous events of the festival is the performance of Sto Kaba Gaydi (One Hundred Bagpipes), which culminates in some of the most dramatic droning that you will ever hear. Rozhen is also an important stop on our Highlights of Bulgaria and Cycling in the Rhodope Mountains holidays so that you can visit the 13th-century Rozhen Monastery, the largest in the Pirin Mountains, as well as the National Astronomical Observatory, located on Mt. Rozhen, one of the Rhodope peaks at 1,750m.
Roses in Kazanlak
The dates vary each year, but the Rose Festival in Kazanlak is usually around the end of May or beginning of June boasting a Barbie-esque array of pink throughout this town and surrounding plain of the same name. The town has long been centre of the rose oil industry, a national symbol of Bulgaria and one of our recommended responsible gifts to seek out on your travels. The festival starts with a Damask rose-picking ritual when local people dress in traditional costumes, followed by a rose parade with floats and folk singing, rose exhibitions and a general flush of festivities.
Birding in Bulgaria
Keen birders flock to Bulgaria for the proliferation of birds of prey hovering over their mountain habitats. Some of the beauties to espy include golden eagles, griffon vultures, peregrine falcons and kestrels. There are a few rare black vultures and Egyptian vultures on the neighbouring Greek side of the Rhodopes, as well as over 200 species of birds in the Central Balkan National Park. The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds is a nest of knowledge on species and locations and the best time to go to Bulgaria for birding is spring migration which comes to a head in May, with autumn migration creating some excellent sightings from mid to late September.
If you’ve enjoyed learning some aspects of Bulgarian culture, then you may also want to read our blog, Bigging up the Balkans. Bulgaria is just one of the countries that makes up the Balkan Peninsula, with Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia offering a wealth of adventures and cultural experiences. You can see all of our Bulgaria holidays here, and please do not hesitate to contact our Bulgarian experts for more details.