Silistra is an agricultural district whose relief is mainly made up of fertile hills and the Danube valley plain. Its main urban centre is Silistra, a small Danube port that is also its industrial centre. The little town of Dulovo is the main hinterland urban centre of Silistra. A ferryboat connects the Romanian side of the Danube and the town of Calarasi with the town of Silistra on the Bulgarian side.
Silistra is one of the districts with important Turkish minorities.
Silistra city is also a point of interest with its archaeological heritage:
- The Turkish fort “Abdul Medzhidi” or the so-called Medzhidi Tabiya fortress,
- The Roman and Byzantine ruins of the ancient port on the Danube
The overall touristic frequentation of Silistra is low, mainly made up of transiting and/or business tourists.
The touristic infrastructure of the Silistra County registered a fluctuant evolution in the last years. The investments made before the economic crisis (before 2008) generated new accommodation places as we can see in the graphic below. These effects can be observed in 2009, but in 2010 the number of average places started to drop constantly.
The city of Ruse justifies its importance for its economy, population size and its role as main frontier gateway between Romania and Bulgaria (through the oldest and main bridge over the Danube between the two nations). Ruse oblast is more defined by the Danube valley than its neighbors. Its hinterland does not reach the mountains and is composed by rolling hills and plateaus dotted by little villages and towns.
Three major forms dominate Ruse’s tourism:
- The tourism connected with Ruse city, mainly a business/professional tourism including also an important urban/cultural tourism part,
- The cultural-religious tourism generated by the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Ivanovo Rock Churches and the Rock Monastery “St. Dimitrius Basarbovski”, village of Basarbovo,
- The natural-eco-tourism around the Rusenski Lom Nature Park and the greenway (bicycle path) along the Danube shores on the track of the 6th Euroveloroute.
Another significant factor is the importance of Ruse city as a Danube port and industrial base. Danube River cruises call sometimes in Ruse for a short hop.
Additional attractions can be mentioned:
- the speleological highlights (Orlova Chuka Cave),
- the Kolyu Ficheto Bridge over the Yantra River (a 19th century bridge),
- the medieval fortified town of Cherven.
Given its tourism attractions Ruse should invest in the creation of new accommodation capacities and a particular tourism offer:
- Nature and active tourism: the natural parks but also the Danube natural area (islands) can be the backbone of new offers for biking, trekking, climbing, raiding, canoeing,
- Culinary and agro-tourism with a representation of the whole Bulgarian Danube-riparian area.
Veliko Tarnovo district
Veliko Turnovo is one of the main touristic destinations. Its territory relief and topography makes the transition from the Balkan Mountains range and the valley of the Danube with an intermediary level of rolling hills and plateaus. It is crossed by rivers and streams tributary to the Danube that have their sources in the Balkans (Stara Planina) and flow to the Danube.
In the north, on the Danube frontier with Romania, Veliko Turnovo includes Svishtov an important river port (across from Zimnicea in Romania) with an industrial base and with a ferryboat terminal for the Danube River crossing to Romania.
Benefiting from the attraction and international notoriety of the city of Veliko Turnovo, alternative tourist products were developed in the neighbourhood:
- agro-tourism in Arbanasi, Ledenik and Malki Chiflik villages,
- cultural tourism with monasteries (Kilifarevo, Plakovo, Kapinovo, Patriarchal Monastery of the Holy Trinity and Transfiguration of God, Holy Forty Martyrs Church in Veliko Turnovo) and museums,
- nature and adventure tourism in the Emen Canyon.
Several important archaeological sites are found here (mainly Roman, Byzantine and then Medieval Bulgarian), especially on the road from Ruse to Veliko Turnovo (Nicopolis ad Istrum – where Wulfila the Bishop of the Goths invented the Gothic alphabet in the 4th century) and on the Danube (former frontier of the Romanian Empire near Svishtov Camp Nove).
Different actions that could be engaged:
- The development of tourism connected to the local folk traditions and to the culinary features of the area. It is today an unexploited potential of the territory, especially in the areas between the Danube and the city of Veliko Turnovo.
- The development of nature tourism and associated forms (eco-tourism, adventure tourism, sports) can be reinforced and promoted as the district has many resources in the area: spectacular river gorges, islands and natural reserves on the Danube, the extensive and largely untouched mountainous area with lakes and forests.
- Some forms of health-tourism can be envisaged in the area given the existing facilities in Voneshta Voda, a naturally preserved area
Pleven is an important agricultural Bulgarian district crossed by 3 major rivers (Osam, Iskar and Vit) that all flow into the Danube. It is also one the Bulgarian districts that includes the biggest stretch of the Danube that is also the national frontier with Romania. The historical Danube port of Nikopol and the Belene city (famous for the new nuclear plant that was built nearby) stands also in the Pleven district.
The tourism sector (urban tourism is the main form) of the district is dominated by the city of Pleven and its accommodation infrastructure, catering in majority dedicated to business and transit tourists.
Pleven boasts many resources for the development of active nature-eco-tourism (bird watching, biking, trekking, riding, canoeing, etc.) and of agro-tourism (wine and wineries, gastronomy etc.). Some of the attractions that can support such a development are listed below:
- The wineries of the territory, the Wine Museum and the Aleksandar Stamboliyski Professional High School of Vine Growing and Wine Making (est.1890) and the National Institute of Viticulture and Oenology (est. 1902) in the city of Pleven,
- The Persina Natural Park on the Danube including many big and unexplored islands on the Danube,
- Ruins of ancient Roman towns and military outposts on the Danube (e.g. Ulpia Oescus),
- The Euroveloroute no.6 all along the Danube,
- Reselets Dolls – unique natural formations, multiple caves. This is one of the few places in Bulgaria where scorpions can be seen.
Regarding the tourism accommodation infrastructure, tourism accommodation capacity of the Pleven County registers a yearly fluctuation. From 2008 to 2012, the overall accommodation unit does not demonstrate a stabile evolution. In 2008 a growth of total average units was observed, while in 2010 has started a decrease reaching almost the value of 2008. In 2012, it seems that the number of average units increased again.
Vratsa is located between the Balkan Mountains and the Danube valley, displaying all the relief forms from the mountains to the hills and the Danube plain.
Vratsa is a major destination for mountain/trekking and nature-eco-tourism. The Vratsa Balkan Nature Reserve, with its picturesque and impressive karst formations and rocks is also an adventure tourism attraction (climbing and caving). Vratsa town is also an urban destination, especially for MICE tourism with a well-developed accommodation infrastructure.
Vratsa has many attractions that can be the basis for the development of innovative and highly attractive nature/eco-tourism and agro/ethnographic/cultural tourism products:
- Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park
- Well known folk festival and traditional orchestras,
- The scenic Iskar Gorge (the valley of the Iskar that then flows into Pleven district where it spills into the Danube) near Cherepish Monastery (a 14th century Orthodox Monastery),
- Vratsa city is associated closely with the Bulgarian National Liberation movement and with Hristo Botev national hero and poet that heroically died fighting the Ottomans in the Vratsa mountains,
- Ancient monasteries in the mountain area.
The evolution of the accommodation infrastructure in Vratsa is worrying. It indicates great difficulties for the accommodation facilities to secure their operative revenue. The number of places available on a yearly basis registered a sharp increase in 2009 and then a sharp decrease in 2010 and then a slight downward trend.
Montana is similar to Vidin, a county nestled between the Balkan Mountains range and the Danube River’s valley, with a hilly area in between. Its main urban centers are the city of Montana (in the hilly area near the mountains) and the town of Lom, a Danube port.
Montana is primarily an urban and mountain ski tourism destination, with an important business tourism component.
The districts have nevertheless many other tourism resources for developing the cultural, natural/adventure tourism but also agro-tourism:
- The Montana Reservoir – a dam lake on the Ogosta river, popular for swimming and fishing, that can easily support water sports,
- Berkovitsa – a municipality set at the heart of the Balkan Mountains. The town is emphasizing the mountain and winter-ski tourism as a strategic economic sector for its development and intends to invest heavily in new facilities and infrastructures,
- Klisurski Monastery of St. Cyril and St. Methodius – Varshets,
- Traditional cultural or ethnographic events,
- Ancient Roman forts and ruins (Kaleto ruins)
- Chiprovtsi: an ancient town near the mountainous Bulgarian-Serbian border with a complex history of multicultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic background and with a well-known tradition of craftsmanship.
The tourism accommodation infrastructure is limited in Montana oblast, even though it is bigger than its neighbors Vidin and Vratsa. Nevertheless it displayed almost constant increases during these last years, in spite of the economic crisis that begun in 2008.
Vidin district is placed between the Danube River (its capital being an ancient Danube city and port) and the hilly and mountainous area of the Balkans. It is the first Bulgarian county that the Danube encounters after exiting the Iron Gates gorges. This strategic position influenced and composed the heart of the history and the development of the Vidin district. Its touristic resources and attractiveness potential result also from this geographic positioning and structure.
Vidin displays for the moment a very low intensity tourism, with a main attraction represented by the city of Vidin and its cultural and urban asset (Baba Vida fortress) and the Belogradchik village with its rock formations and old forts (Belogradchishki skali ).
With the opening of the new bridge over the Danube between Vidin and the Romanian part (Calafat) the increased accessibility of other emitting basins represent a big opportunity for the districts to develop leisure tourism. Vidin city is also a short-hop stopping point for Danube River cruises.
The potential of Vidin is nevertheless an important one, especially on the:
- nature/adventure tourism part, with attractions like the Danube River and associated attractions (sand beaches, cycling and riding, fishing and hunting, bird watching, etc.), the mountains with their associates activities (mountain climbing, trekking, visiting caves),
- cultural and thematic tourism (local traditions, handicrafts and artisan works, events, culinary and wine) – mainly in the rural area.
The tourism accommodation capacity in Vidin oblast is rather limited with an evolution not directly linked to the overall economic situation. There is a rather vigorous increase during the 2008-2011 period and then a drop in overall accommodation capacity in 2012.