Motorcycle Travel Guide: Bulgaria

If you’re planning a Bulgarian motorcycle tour, then have a read of this packed motorcycle travel guide first! It’s filled with useful info, some of the very best routes and rides and loads more to help you have an epic Bulgarian biking tour. 

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

By Adrian Zlatkov and Daniel Milushev

Adrian and Daniel are expert motorcycle tour guides in Bulgaria and are the co-founders of BulTrips.

Contents

Why motorcycle travel in Bulgaria?

Bulgaria is an incredibly unique country and the perfect place for a European motorcycle tour because it’s a huge melting pot of nature, history, architecture and incredible riding.

It’s relatively small, but every part is different from the rest. Our culture is ancient and a combination of different peoples and religions. You’ll absolutely love exploring our history and archaeology here too as we have plenty of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

Where to motorcycle tour in Bulgaria

East: The Black Sea

Bulgaria is brimming with jaw dropping nature. In the East we have the Black Sea with its amazing beaches, hidden wild places and stunning resorts. In the North we have the Danube River and vast beautiful plains. The pearl of the north is a city called Ruse, which because of its architecture and history in the early 20th century it was dubbed small Vienna.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

South: The Rhodope Mountains

In the South between the mountains lies the Thracian Valley. It’s famous for its beauty but also because of its production of rose oil, great wines and history. The main centre there is Plovdiv – one of the oldest cities in Europe and elected for the Cultural Capital in 2019. You can find the visible remains there of cultures and empires like the Romans, Bulgarians, Ottomans and many more.

Head even further south and you’ll find the Rhodope Mountains – the most magical and mystical mountains in Bulgaria where people find real Bulgarian spirit, rich folklore, stunning views, natural sites and – importantly – extra curvy roads!

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

West: Rila and Pirin Mountains

In the West stands the highest mountain in the Balkans – Rila. This gargantuan mountain protects Rila Monastery, which is the biggest monastery in Bulgaria. In front of this mountain is Pirin Mountain (a Natural Reserve and also part of the UNESCO Heritage list). The excellent infrastructure in this region is perfect for bikers as there are great roads which will take you to all the amazing spots hidden amongst these towering giants.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

The Capital, Sofia

And of course, we can’t miss Bulgaria’s capital of Sofia. A city of two million, Sofia is the symbol of modern Bulgaria. But also, it keeps all the colours of our nation left by the different cultures and ethnicities. Bulgarians are famous for their tolerance and a symbol of this is a square in the centre of the city where a mosque, an Orthodox church, a Catholic cathedral and a Synagogue standing in the four corners. It is definitely a city worth visiting.

All of this makes a ride in Bulgaria unforgettable. It’s intense – like visiting many different countries all at once. 

Paperwork for motorcycle touring in Bulgaria

Visas – Brits can stay in Bulgaria for up to 90 days within a 180-day period without a visa. More info can be found on the UK Gov site here: gov.uk/bulgaria. Other nationalities should check with their government websites on what their entry requirements are. You will need your passport to enter. 

Vehicle insurance – Third party insurance is mandatory. If you are taking your own motorcycle in, then you will need to make sure your insurance policy covers you to ride in Bulgaria and for the duration of your European trip. If you are renting or joining a tour, then the company should incude insurance on the bike for you.

Personal travel insurance ­– This is not a legal requirement, but is incredibly important. Read more about it in the UK Motorcycle Travel Insurance Guide.

Vignette – There are no vignettes or tax discs required to ride motorways and highways in Bulgaria.

For more info on paperwork when riding abroad, check out these two guides:

READ MORE: Motorcycle Travel Guide: Europe
READ MORE: The Motorcycle Travel Paperwork Guide

Getting in and out of Bulgaria on a motorcycle

If you’re flying in to rent a motorcycle or join a tour, then the best option is to fly into Sofia airport.

If you’re entering with your own motorcycle, then you’ve got the primary crossings of Kalotina check point with Serbia and the Danube Bridge 1 and 2 as borders with Romania. There are also easy access borders to Turkey at Erdine, a number of crossings along the border with Greece and crossings with North Macedonia.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

When to go

The best time of year to travel to Bulgaria is from May to October. The hottest month of the year is August, the coldest is January and the wettest is June.

Accommodation and cost

Hotels

Good hotels should be booked in advance. The standards are very good with quality rooms and service. You can find plenty of guest houses in every town. Prices for a good three star hotel are around 20-60 Euros.

Check the Booking.com map below to get a good idea on hotels and prices throughout the country.

Booking.com

Camping in Bulgaria

There is no strict camping control in Bulgaria and you can pitch your tent relatively freely. If it looks like private property then always ask for permission first. There are official camp sites in Bulgaria, which are fine, but not as good as in other parts of Europe.

READ MORE: The Motorcycle Camping Gear Checklist
READ MORE: The 10 Best Motorcycle Camping Tents

Safety and security

Bulgaria is a very safe country to travel through. Of course, accidents can happen but it’s rare. Stupid drivers are a bigger threat and so you’ll need to keep your wits about you.  

READ MORE: Motorcycle and Gear Security While Travelling

Riding conditions for motorcycle travel in Bulgaria

Bulgaria has a good infrastructure for motorcycle touring. There are excellent conditions for road riding and also for off-road enduro adventures. The Pirin mountain is very developed for such trips. 

Navigating can be tricky due to a lack of signage in certain areas, so if you are travelling alone and not in a group or on a tour, we’d recommend using a Sat Nav or using Google Maps on your phone to save taking wrong turns and to also make sure you make the most of your time here. 

READ MORE: The 5 Best Motorcycle Sat Navs
READ MORE: The 10 Best Bluetooth Headsets
READ MORE: The 5 Best Motorcycle Phone Mounts

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

Motorcycle tours and rentals in Bulgaria

Bulgaria is an incredible place to ride a motorcycle. However, we are 1,500 miles from Calais on the most direct route and that’s riding boring motorways the whole way! So, this means that a lot of riders from western Europe opt for places closer to home like France, Italy and Spain etc because you don’t need as much time off work to ride there. But, you’ll still eat up a few days getting to your destination and getting home!

The bad thing about this is that people miss out on the wonders of Bulgaria. The good thing about it is that it’s quieter here, there’s so much more for you to explore and it’ll feel like you’re riding through undiscovered lands!

So that’s why we recommend jumping on an all-inclusive tour or renting a bike. You’ll just need to take care of your flight over here and a good tour company will handle everything else. You miss out all the long boring motorways getting to your actual riding destination and get to make the most of your time off work.

Also, Bulgaria isn’t so good for signage and advertising and it’s so easy to miss places and tricky to find those perfect hidden roads. So, if you haven’t got lots of time and really want to see everything and ride the best routes, then joining an organized tour with professional and knowledgeable guides who know their home country like the back of their hand is a great idea.

I personally run motorcycle tours in Bulgaria, where we pride ourselves on the best tours and rides. So if you’re interested in joining one, check out our site www.trips-bg.com

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

Riding gear

Bulgaria can be really hot in the summer and there’s plenty of snow in the winter. We’d recommend a mixture of clothing and gear that can take you through both warm and cold temperatures. A good idea is to go for adventure or touring kit that is breathable with a removable thermal and waterproof lining. Or to leave the waterproof lining at home and take a throwover waterproof.

Footwear is also important too and needs to be comfortable because there’s a lot to see and walking is inevitable.

For loads more information on biking gear such as the best adventure helmets, jackets, boots, reviews and loads more, check out the travel gear guides section below.

READ MORE: Motorcycle Travel Gear Guides
READ MORE: Motorcycle Gear Reviews
READ MORE: How to Choose Your Adventure Riding Gear

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

The 4 Best Motorcycle Tours in Bulgaria

To give you a good idea of some fantastic bike tours in Bulgaria, I’ve shared four of my absolute favourite rides. These are the most popular tours that I take customers on because you’ll get to see so much of Bulgaria; from its ancient culture and history to stunning roads and beautiful scenery. You’ll find info on each tour and the highlights below to help you plan your own Bulgarian motorcycle adventure! Here we go…

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

Motorcycle Wine, Nature and Traditions Tour

This tour takes five days to complete and includes beautiful scenic roads and mountain passes where you’ll be introduced to our history, archaeology and culture.

The highlights of this tour are staying in guest houses local villages, tasting real homemade food and listening to (and learning) local songs and dances.

And secondly, riding in the Trigrad Gorge and sleeping in a hotel surrounded by natural beauty, horses and Bulgaria’s most famous wine region will blow your mind!

Here’s how to do this route:

Head from Sofia to the oldest city in Europe – Plovdiv. This route takes in one of the most scenic motorcycle routes in Bulgaria. Stop off at architect reserves and get back into 19th century atmosphere. You’ll get to learn lots about the Bulgarian revival period and the struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Continue to Starosel to explore the region related to the mysterious civilisation of the Thracians and check out the Starosel complexes. Once you reach Plovdiv, dedicate some time to visiting Roman theatres and stadiums and the oldest mosque in the Balkans.

From Plovdiv head south to the Rhodope Mountain. Along the way you can stop off at a medieval fortress built on top of a cliff.

From here head to the second biggest monastery in Bulgaria (built in the 11th century by two Georgian brothers).

Then it’s onto the famous Trigrad Gorge.

From the gorge you can take leisurely back roads passing water reservoirs, rivers and mountain passes before reaching the Bulgarian Tuscany. It’s Bulgaria’s most famous wine region. I’d recommend stopping off at the Villa Melnik winery.

Head for the smallest town in Bulgaria and visit 18th century houses, medieval remains of Melnik, 1000-year-old monasteries and then jump back on the bike and head to Kresna and the Bansko area – the biggest ski resort in Bulgaria. Make sure you take a look around the historical areas and if you can, ride to the hut below the highest peak – Vihren. There’s plenty of opportunity here for home cooked meals, spirit drinking and dances with the locals.

On your way back to the capital you can pass the highest mountain in the Balkan peninsula – Rila. Once there, stop off at the UNESCO site of Rila Monastery, which is the biggest and most important monastery in Bulgaria. For lunch try the fresh trout, it’s excellent in this region.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

Natural and Historical Wonders of Rhodope Mountain

This bike tour itinerary will leave you breathless. It gives you the opportunity to ride on some of the most interesting, beautiful and scenic roads Bulgaria has to offer. The Rhodope Mountain tour takes in the Vucha dam, Trigrad gorge and roads along the Central Balkan Mountain. In addition to these sites, you’ll also visit and explore historical places related to the mysterious civilization of the Thracians, Romans, Ottomans and Bulgarians.

Here’s how to do this tour:

Depart Sofia, jump on the motorway and head straight south for the Vucha dam and deeper into the Rhodope Mountain range. From here you can spend the day having an awesome mountain ride. There’s a beautiful cave to explore in this area and you can also climb up the to the Eagle’s Eye from your hotel.

Head East to the most spectacular medieval bridge in Bulgaria. It was built by the Ottomans in the 16th century and has the creepy name “The Devil’s bridge”. The legend says that the builder won a bet with the Devil for how long it could have been built. 

Continue to an architect reserve called Zlatograd and stay overnight there. The town was a commerce center in the 18th-19th century and you can still feel the atmosphere and walk through the narrow streets with small traditional craft shops, keeping the traditions from those days alive. 

This is an excellent riding day as the tour covers a huge reservoir and many historical sites. Your first point of interest will be a religious sanctuary, built on a low mountain pike by the Thracians. You’ll be introduced to a fascinating civilization inhabiting these lands between the late Bronze age and the final Christianization of the Roman province Thrace in the late 4th century AD. This introduction will be important for later on in the trip because you’ll see more of these people’s heritage.

Also stop off at the great city of Perperikon where you can see how the historical periods overlap each other. This place is famous mostly for the Oracle of Dionis, the god of wine. This Oracle was one of the most important after that in Delphi, Greece in antiquity. 

After exploring this rare archaeological site, continue to the second biggest city in Bulgaria – Plovdiv. The city was the European capital of culture in 2019. It is one of the oldest and most artistic cities in Europe.

Start your day off with a good Bulgarian breakfast and then heard north for your final ride to the Central Balkan Mountain. You’ll find a Thracian tomb from the IV century BC on the way. You can also explore and learn about the burial traditions of the Thracians while there. 

The National Architect Reserve Koprivshtica is another time machine you can stop off at on the way. This town is extremely important in the Bulgarian Revival period and the struggle against the Ottoman Empire. It is perfectly preserved from the 19th century. It’s a brilliant place to walk around and have a traditional lunch.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

Grand Motorcycle Tour of Bulgaria

This is the big one! This tour explores most of Bulgaria’s famous sites while riding awesome roads throughout the country. You can complete this tour in one unforgettable week and can visit most of the UNESCO sites, important historical places and learn about ancient cultures and lands while riding and exploring some of the best roads Bulgaria has to offer.

Here’s how to do this tour:

Start the adventure from your hotel in Sofia early morning. There’s a beautifully curvy road that leads all the way to the Central Balkan Mountain.

On the way, stop off and enjoy Bulgaria’s nature and Revival period villages as well as passing through the famous Rose Valley. You will see where the rose fields are and, if the season allows, see endless fields full of sweet smelling flowers.

Along the way, also stop off at these places:

Check out the Kazanlak Thracian tomb, which is one of our great examples of ancient art. Its paintings are preserved from the IV century BC, representing the fashions of the Hellenistic era.

Visit the Memorial Russian Church, built in the name of the casualties from the Russian-Ottoman war of 1877-1879. It is an architectural masterpiece.

Next up is the highest point of the Central Balkan Mountain where you can enjoy the amazing view and also visit the Shipka monument, dedicated to major heroic battles from the same war.

Your final destination for the day will be Veliko Tarnovo, the medieval capital of Bulgaria. It’s worth taking a guided visit of the remains of the glorious medieval city. Don’t forget to visit the spooky museum of Ottoman prisons and dungeons.

Head straight for the beautiful Hotnica waterfall because the road there is incredible for bikers.

Then it’s onto the best preserved Roman town in Bulgaria. It was destroyed by the Huns in the V century and was never rebuilt. It’ll give you the chance to explore and imagine how this Roman city looked when it was alive.

Ride to the Lom natural reserve, enjoy its amazing scenery and ride through it and then onto the Ivanovo cliff monastery dating back to the XIV century.

Your target here is to reach and overnight in the “Small Vienna of East Europe” – Ruse. You can enjoy a nice walk in one of the most beautiful city centres Bulgaria has to offer and along the Danube River.

This will be a very interesting day that will take you through the worlds of very different ancient peoples.

Stop off at the royal tomb of the Thracian people of the Getae, dated in the IV century BC. This site is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and it is one of the best examples of heritage from this ancient culture. The riding to it is through a very beautiful and scenic road.

Next is the Madara horsemen, which is related to the Bulgarian pre-Christian religion and society and then onto Varna – the Bulgarian capital of the Black Sea. It’s an incredibly beautiful and interesting city. Make sure you spend an afternoon in the Sea Garden and overnight in Varna.

There’s a must-see archaeological museum in Varna holding the oldest gold treasure in the world. It tells the story of a very developed civilization from the Copper-Stone Age and became known as the Danube Civilization.  

Start riding South and next to the coast before crossing the Central Balkan Mountain again. Head to Nessebar, which is a small semi-island. This place can take you from the moment it was colonized by the Greeks in the 7th century BC through the mighty Bulgarian state of the 13-14th century and to the Revival period of the 19th century. It’s well worth staying here overnight.

Ride towards Plovdiv, the second city of Bulgaria and the oldest in Europe. The riding this day will be a bit boring because it will be mostly on a highway, but you can relax and enjoy the speed.

Once you get to Plovdiv in the afternoon, enjoy exploring the Roman theatre, stadium, wealthy Bulgarian houses, the oldest mosque in the Balkans and much more.

The city is also excellent for craft bars and restaurants, so head to the area called “The Trap” as it’s the city’s beating heart and spend the night in the historical part of the city.  

Avoid the highways today and take the beautiful and scenic mountain roads back. Along the way, stop off at Koprivshtica and learn about the famous “April Uprising” against the Ottomans and the aftermath of these heroic actions. Also visit the Starosel Thracian tomb dating back to the IV century BC.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

The Ultimate Adventure Tour

If you’re after a proper Bulgarian motorcycle adventure, then this is the one for you. This tour takes in the amazing nature and beauty of Bulgaria from the ground by riding through the best locations in the country as well as visiting jaw dropping historical locations and cities. And you can also admire Bulgaria from the air by paragliding in the Central Balkan Mountain region and gaze into the infinity of space from the National Observatory in the Rhodope Mountain. This one has it all!

Here’s how to do this tour:

From Sofia jump on the highway for an hour’s warm up before riding one of the most spectacular roads in Bulgaria. Head around the Vucha Dam where there are plenty of curves to carve and stunning views.

There are some wonderful restaurants to stop off at along the way. Once you’re fuelled up, head deeper into the Rhodope Mountain, pass one of the most famous gorges in the country and check out the beautiful hidden caves too.

There’s plenty of opportunities here for amazing hotels and delicious Bulgarian cuisine and excellent hospitality.

Stay in the Trigrad area and pump your adrenaline with an off-road four-wheel drive to the famous Eagle’s Eye. From there you’ll have an amazing view of the Rhodope Mountains. Once there, you’ll find plenty of options on how to spend the rest of your day dependent on what you fancy doing.

After a good Bulgarian breakfast head to the Devil’s Throat. It’s not a typical cave and is full of legends and stories. Then it’s onto some lovely riding through small villages and towns and onto the National Observatory Rozhen. If you’re lucky with the weather you will be able to gaze at the night sky through the most powerful telescope in Bulgaria and admire the beauty of the universe.

You’ll be heading for Plovdiv today, but before that there’ll be plenty of stops at famous Bulgarian sights. The first one is the Wonder Bridges. It’s a natural phenomenon created only by the force of the water.

Next up are two historical sites that are important to Bulgarian medieval heritage. One is a fortress and the other is the second biggest monastery in Bulgaria. You will be introduced to Bulgarian history and will be prepared for the cherry of the day – Plovdiv. It is one of the oldest constantly inhabited cities in Europe (more than 8,000 years of human evolution). You can overnight here and explore the incredible city, from Roman monuments to medieval Bulgarians, Byzantines and the Ottomans. This is the Cultural Capital of Europe and you will love it. Spend the evening in the area called “The Trap” as it’s brimming with small restaurants, craft breweries and clubs. It’s very vivid and artistic.

This is the day you fly. In the morning, ride directly to the Central Balkan Mountain, park up and jump on a chairlift that’ll take you to around 2,000 meters altitude. From there you can jump off the mountain and paraglide! You’ll be tandem with a professional instructor and can just sit back, relax (if you can!) and take it all in. This is an incredible place to experience paragliding and I thoroughly recommend you give it a go here.

Head to Koprivshtica after, which is an architectural reserve and has been perfectly preserved since the 19th century. Despite the beauty and unique atmosphere, the town is extremely important for Bulgarians because it’s where the revolution against the Ottomans started. You will learn a lot about those events here.

If you’re strapped for time, you could always head straight back to Sofia from here. But if you have time to squeeze another day in, then stay the night and carry on with these detours tomorrow…

There are a few stops along the way back to Sofia that are well worth the detour, such as churches from the late Roman period and a reconstruction of a Stone Age 7th millennium BC settlement. These detours will put you on a great riding route next to mountains and along beautiful landscapes.

Avoid the highways today and take the beautiful and scenic mountain roads back. Along the way, stop off at Koprivshtica and learn about the famous “April Uprising” against the Ottomans and the aftermath of these heroic actions. Also visit the Starosel Thracian tomb dating back to the IV century BC.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Tour Bulgaria

About the Authors

Adrian Zlatkov and Daniel Milushev are professional tour guides from Bulgaria. The duo are the owners of BulTrips Ltd and Biker Guides and run awesome motorcycle tours in Bulgaria. Their goal is to become a leading company for cultural tourism in Bulgaria. They only run small group and private tours, their routes are carefully prepared and always include something that isn’t well known or on the tourist map. That’s because both Adrian and Daniel are highly educated in history and archaeology and are passionate about applying their knowledge to their tours.  

If you’re after an expertly run Bulgarian biking tour, check them out below:

Read more on Motorcycle Travel in Bulgaria and Europe

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