The low down:
Bulgaria is a country on the brink, set to take off as one of the future tourist destinations. It is cheap, and bursting with snow capped mountains and golden beaches. The capital itself, Sofia, has very little of its Ottoman history intact, however its bustling street life and flea markets make it easy to savour the character of the city, especially at night. Roadside pizza stalls make for cheap but delicious street food.
Return with Easyjet to Sofia from £50. A bus to Veliko Tarnovo will cost £10 for a return trip.
Where to stay:
Hostel Mostel in Sofia (Makedonia Blvd.) will set you back £7 a night for a shared room.
Three of the best:
>> One must-see is the Boyana church, at the foot of nearby Mount Vitosha. It is a tiny 10th/11th Century building decorated with some of the oldest frescoes in the world, dating back to 1259. Unlike most other UNESCO sites, you will find this place absolutely deserted. There is a slightly randy old man (harmless, but ladies be careful) who can be found smoking behind the church. For a small tip, he will let you into the church and show you around.
>> If the weather is damp and overcast in Sofia, then you can be sure that the sun is shining brightly on Mount Vitosha. A trip up Bulgaria’s most famous mountain can give some quite impressive views, but without a car is quite difficult.
>> A nearby visit, the old capital of Veliko Tarnovo is brimming with history, and the perfect place for a couple of days of mooching. Dominated by an ancient fort, its horse-drawn carts and barely navigable streets make the city appear to languish in the 19th century.
Rebecca Chalk and James Townsend