Visitors to Bulgaria, the oldest nation in Europe, arrive seeking natural beauty and ancient cultural attractions. Most travel during the warmer months, with 70 percent of the €3 billion in tourism money coming from summer seaside resorts, and only 10 percent from winter resorts. There's still plenty to do in the country, though, as Bulgaria is a top skiing destination. And with low-cost carrier Ryanair's recent arrival, savvy travelers can expect bargain prices to continue.
I compared air-and-hotel vacation packages to Sofia, the capital city, and found savings of up to $598 during the off-peak season.
|Package||Off-Peak Rate||Peak Rate|
|Miami to Sofia||$886||$1,416|
|Kansas City to Sofia||$931||$1,529|
|Los Angeles to Sofia||$985||$1,541|
Off-peak rates are based on travel from February 15 through 22; peak travel prices are based on travel from August 16 through 23. All packages were found using Expedia and include taxes and fees.
Bulgaria's profile has been boosted since joining the European Union in 2007, receiving nods from Lonely Planet as a Best Value Destination for 2010 and a Top 10 Country for 2011. Plus, Europeans are choosing the nation more and more as an inexpensive ski destination, so now is a good time to visit for an authentic experience, before it gets too discovered. Even with this growing recognition, though, it's still easy to find plenty of off-season deals. For example, Hilton Sofia has a weekend special through December 31 that includes three nights' accommodations and breakfast from €83 per night (about $114; see XE.com for current conversion rates). The Grand Hotel Sofia has a Pay Two, Stay Three package through December 31 providing three nights' accommodations and breakfast for €190 per night (about $261). The hotel's It's Winter Time special offers discounted rates from €170 per night (about $234) from December 1 through January 31 that include accommodations, buffet breakfast, three-course dinner, and an after-dinner drink. At the Hotel Anel, Winter Interlude rates from December 17 through January 9 start at €99 (about $136) and include breakfast.
For more information about Bulgaria, visit Lonely Planet's travel guide.
Have you heard of a great off-peak destination this winter? Which of our picks do you most want to visit? Leave a message in the comments section below!
(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com.)