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Check out our authors' picks of must-see sights, local hangouts and unforgettable activities.

Rila Monastery
The isolated Rila Monastery, outside Sofia, is Bulgaria's best-known abbey. From the outside it's like a fortress, and inside it's fantastically beautiful – replete with richly coloured frescoes and balconies which resemble outstretched flower petals.

Social life in the Black Sea port of Varna revolves around Ploshtad Nezavismost. This square is the starting point of Varna's evening promenade, which flows eastwards from here towards the seaside gardens.

Almost too idyllic to be real, Koprivshtitsa's half-timbered houses lie in a valley amid wooded hills. Thanks to the bribes of local traders, the village was spared from a torching by the Bashibazouks during the April Rising of 1876, while all around it burned.

Veliko Tarnovo
Few places enjoy such an incredible location as the fortified city of Veliko Târnovo, whose huddle of antique houses seems bound to the rocks by wild lilac and vines while seemingly poised to leap into the chasm below.

Melnik is a wine-making town, encircled by hard-edged crags, scree slopes and rounded sandstone cones. Its cobbled backstreets, with their narrow courtyards and whitewashed stone houses on timber props, invite aimless wandering and guarantee some eye-catching sights.

Dzhumaiya Mosque
Plovdiv's Dzhumaiya Mosque, thought to date back to the fourteenth century, is the finest building on Ploshtad Stamboliiski, with a diamond-patterned minaret and lead-sheathed domes.

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