Why It's Worth It

Upon arrival in Sofia, Bulgaria, visitors are captivated by soaring Mount Vitosha. Yet downtown awaits with the discovery of grand Orthodox cathedrals, charming open-air book markets, ancient ruins, crumbling communist monuments, and unexpectedly chic restaurants and cafes. Boasting three UNESCO World Heritage sites, culture lovers will rush to Rila and Boyana, while nature enthusiasts can explore primeval beech forests. Brush up on your Cyrillic beforehand, because Sofia tends to charm its visitors into lingering here indefinitely. —Stephanie Craig