In June 2023 I decided to spend a month in Bulgaria as a digital nomad at BalkanNomads.
Balkan Nomads is the sister business to RisingSoul Retreat. Rising Soul is a space created by Rowena for people to come and live in a community. They offer affordable yoga retreats in Bulgaria. When she realised there was a need for digital nomads and remote workers to have a space to come and settle for some time, stay connected to a community, and practice yoga all while working, she decided to create BalkanNomads.
I found out about this space via a comment in a Facebook Group! And wow I’m so glad I followed my intuitive guidance to come here (even though I was looking for a beach destination, not the mountains!).
In this post, I’ll share all about my experience during my month-long stay. To sum it up, this place really fills a gap that many remote workers, spiritual seekers and conscious beings seek: Community, nature, connection, practice and lots of wifi!
*This post isn’t sponsored – I paid in full myself for my stay so am sharing my genuine feedback.
What is Balkan Nomads?
BalkanNomads is a co-living & co-working community initiative. It’s set up in the tiny village of Belitsa in the province of Gabrovo in Bulgaria. Belitsa is a small Bulgarian Mountain Village (with a whopping 6 permanent residents!!).
Here you can book monthly stays. These stays include spacious double rooms (with a living area & desk), a private bathroom, small kitchen facilities, a co-working space and wifi. PLUS 2 plant-based meals a day AND 1 yoga and meditation class per day.
The BalkanNomads location itself is inside an old hotel. It has been given a new lease on life by the Rising Soul Team. It is a 3-minute walk down the road from the main Rising Soul community. This means you can tap into the community and the classes while also being able to get away to have your own space and get work done.
The special thing about Balkan Nomads, which I am yet to see anywhere else, is it offers an affordable place to stay that is specifically designed for remote workers but also is part of a conscious community offering a full schedule of classes, workshops, retreats and will even make food for you (that is healthy and vegan).
Plus it is in a tiny village where nature is all around. Sure, there aren’t any shops nearby! But the nearest village with connections to the rest of Bulgaria is a short drive away. There are always people coming and going from town so getting anything you need or making a weekly escape is easy.
At Balkan Nomads you get to tap in and tap out of this lifestyle as you please.
I mean, this is pretty special right!?
You can book your stay during the warmer months between May and October.
The RisingSoul Retreat provides the perfect place to “Connect Nomads & Yoga In Nature”. Enabling our amazing residents and guests to find their own mind, body and spiritual connection (while getting shit done for the Digital Nomads).
The venue is built from earthy organic materials and brings the guests are a fusion of rustic practice spaces, mountain valleys and ancient church views. It is in an old farmhouse and all the buildings are original, which is so cool.
Yoga retreat guests stay in rooms or tents in and around the main house, which is a 3-minute walk up the road from the BalkanNomads hotel.
The RisingSoul Retreat is developing as a yoga community which values equability, sustainability and freedom of expression. At RisingSoul, you have the opportunity to tap into multiple yoga and meditation classes throughout the day as well as workshops that may be put on by volunteers and other guests.
You can also have the opportunity to participate in the schedule if you are a teacher yourself (I taught yin yoga a couple of times and it was so special!!). If helping in the kitchen is something you’d like, you can also help with meals on certain days of the week.
Workshops, retreats & ceremonies
RisingSoul also occasionally hosts cacao ceremonies and one-off workshops and retreats by guest teachers. It is up to you whether you want to take time off your work to participate in these workshops & retreats for an additional (low by the way!) fee per day.
I took 6 days off to attend an incredible ‘Reconnect to Your Inner-Self’ magical retreat while I was there hosted by teachers Maria & Tom. It was such a gift to be able to fully switch off and participate in the venue as a retreat guest. So glad I took the opportunity and would highly recommend you set some time aside to take off and fully be immersed in the retreat experience, it was a highlight of the month for me!
We did yoga and meditation twice per day, workshops on magic and manifestation and other awesome workshops and classes like partner yoga, ecstatic dance, laughter yoga (what a joy!), yoga alignment and music and fire nights.
The cost of this was an additional 40EUR per day (because food & accommodation was already paid for).
There was also a Wim Hoff workshop and a cacao ceremony while I was there.
Balkan Nomads is made up of four double bedrooms upstairs, with a kitchenette, co-working & seating area on the ground floor.
Each of the rooms is laid out differently! I saw each one and they’re all very spacious. Three of the rooms have a double bed and a living area with a couch and some of the rooms have a desk. There is also one room that is set up as a dorm.
Each room has its own ensuite too.
My room even had a bathtub!
I loved my room, there was plenty of space to put all my stuff away and even enough floor space for yoga and exercise (a big plus for me!). I loved being able to work from my room as I need to have silence to focus properly on my work. And also just having a space to hang out alone and recharge (I am an introvert!).
My room was warm with a gorgeous view over the mountains and was sun filled every morning.
The decor, fixtures and fittings are a bit dated but I know it will keep improving as Row develops the space more and more (I was one of the first guests to stay here!). It’s also pretty standard and what you would expect from an old, almost deserted village in the middle of nowhere in Bulgaria – considering that, it’s pretty amazing!!
The internet infrastructure in Bulgaria is quite good, which may be surprising to you! The government invested in the internet, thank goodness.
This is one of the reasons why Bulgaria is attractive to many digital nomads. It is affordable, beautiful and has good wifi.
Many digital nomads head to Sofia or Bankso, however the experience at BalkanNomads is more unique and niche considering the nature and the yoga community on tap.
The wifi at BalkanNomads was sufficient for my needs! At times it was faster than others but in general, it was good enough to do all of the things I needed to do, including Zoom calls.
If you require high-speed internet and deal with downloading & uploading massive files, you may find it to be slow.
The only times the Wifi didn’t work was when there were power cuts which happened twice while I was there. To overcome this, get a SIM card with data as 4G coverage is good there and just charge up your devices each night in case.
At times the actual Wifi might stop working (this is due to the internet company doing some maintenance work usually). When this happens you can either rely on a hotspot or Balkan Nomads have a backup modem that runs on mobile data.
The Internet really wasn’t much of an issue here (and was much better than the Internet I had in Bali for reference).
The co-working space
There were numerous options when it came to spaces to work.
First, there is the comfort and privacy of your own room. For more social options, there were plenty of tables and chairs downstairs to sit and co-work with others.
There is also a room in the Rising Soul house with a desk and a co-working room in the Tea House which is just across the road from the RisingSoul house (and where lunch is served!).
The biggest emphasis at RisingSoul is a community, not just a community but a conscious community that is co-created by volunteers and guests alike.
This is a place to feel seen, recognised, and included and offers you a sense of belonging (which can be hard as a digital nomad!).
Expect to form strong bonds with the volunteers, Row, the other guests and even Bogdan, who is the owner of the Balkan Nomads house (lovely Bulgarian man who doesn’t speak a word of English but is incredibly hospitable and will offer you coffee and cookies every day!).
When you stay for at least a month as a BalkanNomad, you will have the chance to participate in and connect with the community deeply. You will see how everything works and the waves a place like this goes through with people coming, going and staying. It is truly magical and challenging all at the same time.
A key aspect of Rising Soul & BalkanNomads that helps to foster this sense of community is Karma Yoga. Each day you’re expected to do 30-40 minutes of ‘chores’ such as washing up, walking the dogs (yes there are dogs and cats!!), picking fruit, helping in the garden, going to the market and so on. You may feel resistant to the idea but it is a wonderful way to feel like a useful member of the community.
RisingSoul is a collaborative effort and if you are after a space to connect with the community in this way, close to nature and with sustainability in mind, then you will love this space!
The yoga & classes/schedule
The yoga and meditation schedule was very full of amazing yoga classes such as hatha, yin, restorative and kundalini. There were also exercise classes, yoga nidra, sound meditation and more. There is a yoga barn and also a meditation room for practising in. One sunny mornings there is also a lawn to practice yoga on in the sun!
Every morning there is a chance to meditate/do a kundalini kriya and practice yoga. In the afternoon there are generally two classes and another one in the evening after dinner. So lots to choose from!!
As a BalkanNomad guest, I could attend one yoga class and one other meditation class per day. With so many options I could slot in going to classes when it suited me.
On Saturdays, the morning schedule is the same however in the afternoon there is a hike and mountain yoga instead! Sundays are rest days where everyone can do their own thing.
The classes and timetable will vary depending on what teachers are currently at RisingSoul.
There are two main shared meals a day, brunch and dinner. These are both included! They also have a fruit bowl in the main kitchen which you can graze from throughout the day!
For brunch, you have sweet and savoury options. Typically there will be oats and fruit along with a selection of breads, spreads and salads.
For dinner, there are usually potatoes, lentils, curries, soups, salads, rice and delicious spreads.
Meals change depending on what ingredients are available and the creative inclination of the amazing chef!
The Tea House
There is also an incredible lunch served every day in the Tea House with drinks, coffee and treats. This isn’t included but is very affordable and delicious (and a great excuse to take a lunch break!).
You can also buy supplies from the Tea House such as plant milk, chocolate, snacks, soap and so on.
All of the food is vegetarian and mostly plant-based. They are happy to accommodate any dietary requirements.
Most of the ingredients are sourced from the local market and everything is made from scratch.
The best thing about BalkanNomads (for me anyway!) is how close it is to nature and how your lifestyle is integrated with the forest, mountains and rivers nearby.
Just across the road from BalkanNomads is a road that goes all the way up into the mountains which has beautiful meadows and stunning views. This makes for an amazing walk!
Behind Rising Soul there is a walkway into the forest with a river, a waterfall and lots of mushrooms (that are regularly foraged!).
There is a river across the road which is clean and great for swimming to cool off from the sun. Expect to see plenty of dragonflies and fireflies during your stay.
There is no shortage of snails, lizards and even snakes in the area!
Every Sunday RisingSoul usually arranges a group outing to nearby towns such as Veliko Tarnovo, Tryavna and Gabrovo. There is the option to go on overnight trips to explore different areas a little more like Plovdiv.
I did a couple of trips to Veliko Tarnovo which is a gorgeous town. A group of us did an overnight trip to Gabrovo with a few others to see visit an amazing Ethno Village (Etar) and to see a creepy monument to communism on a mountain (Buzludzha).
Tryanva was a quick and easy trip which I did a few times to explore and to just take a break from the community with others by going for dinner and drinks!
I also spent a day in Plovdiv before I arrived in RisingSoul which was amazing.
I loved having the freedom to explore with my new friends, stock up on some snacks and treats for myself and also be fully immersed in the BalkanNomads and retreat experience. This was important for a month-long stay (for me anyway!).
There are three different prices:
- 750 EUR per month for a bed in a dorm room
- 1000 EUR per month for a private double room single occupancy
- 1500 EUR per month for a private double room double occupancy
All rooms come with an ensuite and living area.
The price includes 2x meals per day and 1 yoga and 1 meditation class.
When you take into account all that is included in the price, it is a pretty amazing deal!! Plus you won’t be spending much money when you’re there (there isn’t much to spend money on) and Bulgaria, in general, is very affordable. So even when you go on your excursions, it won’t cost much!
There are a few downsides to BalkanNomads, which are actually upsides really!
1. You may leave your job after staying here!
When you live in a place like this and practice a lot of yoga in nature surrounded by conscious people, it may give you the clarity to question your career decisions. This is actually a great thing!
2. You may find it hard to have the discipline to fit in your work
When you’re surrounded by others on a retreat who are enjoying their entire days to participate in the community it can be hard to get work done.
Having set meal times which involve socialising and karma yoga as well takes up more time than you probably usually would expect. This combined with the yoga class schedule, may leave you feeling like you don’t have much time!
I found it challenging to fit in all my work while also wanting to be a part of the community, it took an adjustment but was definitely worthwhile.
3. Getting used to living according to a schedule and set food may be challenging at first.
If you’re a digital nomad who tends to live alone, do your own things and manage yourself fully then you may find it challenging at first having set meal times with food that may be very different to what you’re used to.
Give yourself a week to adjust to the food and your new schedule! Trust me you will feel so much healthier and lighter eating the food they provide and sticking to a healthy routine!
How to get there
There are a few ways you get to RisingSoul. Driving is always an option if you have a car.
Otherwise, you need to get yourself to Tryanva from either Plovdiv or Sofia. From Tryavna you will either be picked up or a taxi will be booked to collect you and take you to Belitsa.
There are many flights from all over Europe to Sofia and some international flights to Plovdiv (especially from London where I came from).
Most likely you will be flying into Sofia. You can get to Tryanva via bus from Sofia (this is definitely the easiest option). There are also trains from Sofia however, unless you’ve been to Bulgaria before you may find the trains really stressful and difficult to navigate (especially with luggage).
I flew into Plovdiv and spent a day exploring there before going to BalkanNomads. So I caught the train from Plovdiv to Tryavna which was really challenging. The train ride itself was fine, it was just getting to the train that was the hard part. I couldn’t understand any of the signs or the ticket and people at the station were very unhelpful.
Plus it was almost impossible to get my luggage on board by myself (the trains are old and are basically a ladder up onto the carriage) f and there wasn’t anywhere to put it (if you travel light this won’t be so much of an issue).
When I left I caught the bus from Tryavna to Sofia which was a much easier and more enjoyable option.
Saying all that, Plovdiv was such a beautiful place. I’m glad I stopped there for a day and I do recommend this option! Just be prepared for the train and definitely book the direct train to Tryavna (there is one per day).
The best way to book
Book directly through the website or by emailing email@example.com.
Usually, Row will give a little discount for booking direct!
The best time to go
Balkan Nomads is open from May to October. During July and August, there will be many more people at Rising Soul on shorter-term holidays, this is when the weather is also the hottest.
If you prefer cooler weather and to be around more people who are staying longer term then May – June and September – October are the best months to go.
My month at BalkanNomads was a truly unique experience and something I feel is very hard to find (maybe impossible!). BalkanNomads is a unique set-up serving Digital Nomads who want to:
- Connect with others,
- Be close to nature,
- Practice yoga and meditation
- Connect with like-minded conscious individuals
- Get shit done
- Not spend a fortune
I had such a great time spending a month with the Balkan Nomad and Rising Soul Community. I created many lifelong memories created and friendships that will stand the test of time.
Travelling around Bulgaria isn’t the easiest (think public transport system that makes no sense, very little English speaking and some very grump faces!) so it was incredible to have the haven of BalkanNomads to settle into and feel at home and like I belonged somewhere, even if it was just for a month. I felt seen and recognised and fully accepted for who I am while I was there.
If this sounds like something that would also resonate with you and you’re curious about being a *conscious* digital nomad in Bulgaria, then don’t hesitate! Take the plunge and book a month-long stay at BalkanNomads!