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Sofia
Sveti Vlas
Pamporovo
Sunny Beach

Sofia

sofia

Population: 1 491 583
Area: 1,349 sq. Km
(1.2% of the national territory)
Area dialing code: 00 359 2
Main city: Sofia (capital)
Sofia population: 1,231,622

The capital city of Bulgaria is situated in the geographic center of Southeastern Europe thus serving as a natural entrance to Middle East. The city is easily accessible being two hours away by plane from the Central European capitals Vienna and Budapest, and providing easy connection to the other big European cities. The tourists and business travellers have a smooth way into the city whose airport services 295 regular flights per week operated by 20 foreign and 6 Bulgarian airlines to about 40 destinations in the world.

People, towns and culture
The population of Sofia is almost 1,5 million people with average population density of 900 per square meter. In the past couple of years the unemployment rate in the city has been the lowest in the country. The workforce in Sofia is highly educated, motivated and flexible. The city creates and develops 80% of the intellectual recourse in the country with 19 universities situated on its territory.
Sofia has been the capital of the Republic of Bulgaria since April 3, 1879. It is the permanent seat of the National Assembly (the Parliament), the President, The Council of Ministers, the central governing bodies of various agencies, political parties and public organizations.
Sofia accommodates the largest scientific and cultural institutions in Bulgaria.

Airport information
For flight information: www.sofia-airport.bg
Located 10km (6 miles) east of the city centre, the busy two-terminal airport is linked to the most of the capitals in the world. The bright, modern and smoke-free Sofia Airport has the capacity to serve 2.5 million passengers. A new Terminal 2 building, designed with special attention to disabled passengers was opened in December 2006. A large parking lot is located in front of the old terminal building. A new multi-level parking garage providing 820 parking spaces is linked to the departures area of the new passenger terminal. The car parks are open non-stop and parking fee is 2 to 3 leva per hour. Avoid taking airport taxis other than O.K. Supertrans providing services to the city centre for BGN 7/ Euro 3,5. The regular N84 and 284 bus lines cover the route Sofia Airport-Sofia University. Tickets cost BGN 1.00.

Daily Cost
By Western European standards, Sofia is very reasonable priced, with most basic items from food to clothing. As for dining and drinking, the sheer number of restaurants and bars keeps prices down.
On the other hand, accommodation in Sofia is generally more expensive than in the rest of the country and prices are analogous to the average European ones.
If you are prepared to buy your own lunch, stay in hostels and stick to the least expensive bars and restaurants, you could scrape by on around BGN 50/ Euro 25. Staying in a good B&B, eating out in medium-range restaurants more nights and drinking often in bars, you will go through at least BGN 150/ Euro 75.
If you are planning to stay in the best hotels and to have a big night out, expect to spend at least BGN 400/ Euro 200.
As always, if you are traveling alone you will spend much more on accommodation than you would in a group of two or more, most hotels do have single rooms, but they are fixed at about 70-80 percents of the price of a double.
Sofia offer fantastic choice of restaurants at comparatively modest prices. Our recommendation is to avoid the extras and concentrate on the main courses, which start around BGN 10/ Euro 5. Tipping at a restaurant is expected around 10-15 %, even when the service has been dire. Taxi drivers expect a tip too, in the same percentages.

Entertainment
The city is a pleasant location to live and have fun in. Sofia’s appeal is in its cosmopolitan atmosphere and various opportunities for entertainment and tourism. The citizens and visitors of the city can choose from more than 3000 restaurants, cafes and bars which offer an excellent cuisine and a wide variety of good quality wines. The prices are among the lowest in Europe for sure. (See the Daily cost section above). Sofia is also the focal point of cultural and artistic life in the country and boasts 31 movie theatres, 23 theatres, 27 museums and numerous art galleries and exhibition halls. The city hosts a series of international concerts and festivals with the prices of tickets being significantly lower than in Central and Eastern Europe.

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Sofia must do’s

1. Experience the spiritual energy of the most beautiful churches in the capital
– Alexander Nevsky Temple Church – the largest on the Balkan Peninsula
– St. Sofia Church – one of the oldest churches in Sofia, which gave its name to the city.
– St. George Rotunda – the oldest building in Sofia, included in UNESCO’s World Heritage list
– Boyana Church – beautifully preserved monument of Bulgarian medieval art with over 240 murals, also entered in UNESCO’s World Heritage list
– Sofia Synagogue – the third largest in Europe.

2. Learn about the rich history of the country by visiting Sofia’s most famous museums
– National Historical Museum – one of the largest historical museums on the Balkans, preserving over 650 cultural monuments
– Ethnographic Museum, with over 50,000 artifacts illustrating the life and traditions of the Bulgarian people.
– Archaeological Museum – the oldest museum in the country and one of the largest in Europe

3. Do not miss the symbols of Bulgarian art and culture
– National Art Gallery with over 3,000 artworks by famous Bulgarian artists
– National Opera and Ballet, where you can hear world-famous stars and watch original ballet performances
– Ivan Vazov National Theater – an institution with 100 years of history

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4. Visit emblematic places where you can feel the pulse of the capital
– The open-air bazaar at the Alexander Nevsky Square
– The park in front of the National Palace of Culture (NDK)
– Vitosha National Park – the mountain which is the local’s favorite haunt

5. Delight in the verve of Bulgarian folklore and taste traditional Bulgarian hospitality by visiting an authentic Bulgarian restaurant

6. Stay longer than planned and return again to the city
whose name means Wisdom!

Sveti Vlas

Population: 2 143
Distance from Nessebar: 10 km
Distance from Burgas: 38 km
Coastline: 16 000 sq. m.

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Location
The Sveti Vlas (St. Vlas) town has about 3,000 inhabitants and is situated just 4 km to the north of Sunny Beach resort and 9 km away from the town of Nessebar. It lies in the skirts of the Stara Planina mountain (also called the Balkan mountain) and thus offers a beautiful combination of sea and mountain climate, considered favourable for those suffering from lung diseases. The adjacent beaches are of a total length of about 1 km and average width of 16 meters. Besides the town’s central beach, there is also a smaller one (the so-called Campinga after the campsite there), stretching from the Sun Palace complex to the Riviera complex. Sveti Vlas is the only place on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, where the beaches are facing directly south.The eastern end of the town’s adjacent coastal line hosts the small port of local fishermen.

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History
The town of Sveti Vlas is believed to have been founded by the Thracian tribe of Larisi in the 2nd century BC. At that time, it reportedly bore the name of Larisa. It was renamed Sveti Vlas in the 14th century AC after the patron saint of cattle growers and merchants. During Ottoman rule (late 14th-19th century AC), the town appeared in administrative registrars as Manastir (Monastery) or Kyuchuk Manastir after the five monasteries in the vicinity of the town. Unfortunately, none of the monasteries has been preserved up to present days. Officially, it restored its name of Sveti Vlas after the reunification of the Bulgarian state in 1886.

Accommodation

The settlement became a climatic sea resort in 1963. Sveti Vlas has grown as a tourist resort in recent times, serving as a quieter alternative to nearby Sunny Beach. The gap between the two places is shrinking as more hotels and holiday apartments are built along the coast. Sveti Vlas lies at the northern end of a bay which has Sunny Beach in its middle and the ancient town of Nesebar at its southern end. Sunny Beach and Nesebar are easily accessible by bus or taxi, and there are also boats going between Sveti Vlas and Nesebar. The latest development of the area has been the building of the marina, the largest in Bulgaria. The marina with its clubs and restaurants has become famous among the wealthier people in Bulgaria, and expensive cars like Ferraris and Porsches can frequently be seen.

Closest airport: Bourgas airport (BOJ), 35 km

Transport:

Transport to Sunny Beach, Nessebar and Burgas by bus, private minibuses, or taxi. In addition, there is water transport from Nessebar to Burgas and Sunny Beach.

Pamporovo

Pamporovo is a modern ski resort in the heart of Bulgaria’s Rhodopi Mountains, yet steeped in folklore. It is said to be home of Greek mythical singer Orpheus whose music and poetry could even (allegedly) charm wild animals. Because of its location as the southernmost ski resort in Europe, it is also the sunniest.

Mountain facts

Resort elevation: 1,650m (5,413ft).
Top elevation: 1,926m (6,319ft).
Base elevation: 1,450m (4,757ft).
Number of lifts: 18.
Number of runs: 17.
Average annual snowfall: 1.5m (4.9ft).

Hit the slopes

In spite of sunny weather and a mild climate, Pamporovo usually enjoys a reasonable snowfall, with a season lasting between late December and early April. The new automatic snowmaking system helps keep a reliable cover when snow is scarce however.

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Most of the main runs fan out from the peak at Mt Snezhanka, which has a viewing tower at the top. The majority are suitable for intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders, including the black run Snezhanka 2 (known as The Wall). The main beginners’ run (the Tourist Track) is a 4.2km (2.6-mile) trail from the peak to the base.

In addition to over 25km (16 miles) of ski runs, there are also 38km (24 miles) of cross-country skiing tracks and off-piste opportunities.

The lifts include a new four-seater chairlift, and the ski schools have a good reputation, with over 100 qualified instructors. Ski gear can be hired at both Malina Village and Studenets.

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Beyond the slopes

Take a high-speed ride around the hills on a four-seater snowmobile. Ice skating is also available. Private bus trips are possible to nearby places of interest like Bachkovo Monastery, the second largest in Bulgaria, and the peaceful lakes of Smolyan.

Family fun

The ski school welcomes children over the age of eight, and the ski kindergarten, for kids aged four to seven, has half-day and whole-day packages. The Hotel Perelik has a massive swimming pool (open to non-guests) and hugely popular bowling alley. There is a small children’s play area (unsupervised) outside the Hotel Murgavets.

Après ski

The lively Après Ski Bar (ground floor of Hotel Perelik) has a mix of cocktails with burgers and steaks. For the best view mid ski, the bar and restaurant at the Snezhanka TV Tower on the peak of Mt Snezhanka is a popular meeting point.

The White Hart (see Eating Out below) has karaoke nights, live bands and a big screen TV with international sports. Some of the most popular bars and clubs are located in the larger hotels, including karaoke, cocktails and Sky Sports at the Irish Dak’s Bar (Hotel Snejanka).

Eating out

Most restaurants serve up local dishes plus popular international cuisine, with the largest hub around the Hotel Murgavets. The Italian Restaurant (Hotel Perelik) has a wonderful selection of pastas and pizzas. Live traditional music plays nightly at the roomy mehana Bulgarian Village (adjacent to Hotel Murgavitz) with a large range of local dishes and roaring log fire.

Near the bus stand at the main junction, Baj Ilia is a locals’ favourite with tasty cheap Bulgarian food; a few more small restaurants are clustered nearby. The huge Chevermeto specialises in the Rhodopi dish of cheverme (barbecued lamb), and also has live traditional music. The British-style White Hart, opposite Hotel Murgavets, has an all-day full English breakfast, plus burgers, steaks and pizzas.

Getting around

All major hotels run free shuttle buses to the ski centres Studenets and Malina Village. There are also buses to the nearby ski resort of Chepelare, 10km (6 miles) north and it may be possible to get (indirect) buses to the small new snowboarding centre of Momchilovtsi, 12km (7 miles) east. Once the Perelik project is complete, there will be better transport facilities to other local ski resorts.

Splashing out

Indulge in a full Oriental therapeutic treatment at the Hotel Pamporovo‘s luxury spa. Sip a cocktail on the top-floor terrace of the Piano Bar (Hotel Orlavetz) or puff away at the Whisky and Cigar Bar (Hotel Pamporovo).

Hotels are spread out along the road junction between Plovdiv to Smolyan, with the highest concentration of hotels, bars and restaurants on the street around the huge Hotel Perelik, which also serves as a good information point.

Like most other resorts in Bulgaria, Pamporovo offers some of the cheapest skiing in Europe, and is hugely popular with those seeking value for money rather than skiing with celebrities. The resort is set to balloon after the completion of the Perelik development project, which will link Pamporovo to the nearby resort of Chepelare, increasing piste length and number (scheduled for late 2008).

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