If you're expecting a steady diet of stodgy East European stews, think again: While the pretentious may brand Bulgarian food "peasant" cuisine, it is the best-kept secret this side of the Balkans, with an emphasis on fresh seasonal produce, and healthy, unfussy preparation methods. Influenced by the 500-year Turkish occupation and the country's proximity to Greece, Bulgarian cuisine features plenty of spices (many of which are indigenous), and predominantly chicken, pork, and veal, often baked with cheese or yogurt, and piles of fresh vegetables. Perhaps the answer to why Bulgarian fare is so delicious (and hard to export) lies in the quality of the Bulgarian soil, which some say is imbued with a special bio-energy (Bulgarian herbs are considered the highest quality in Europe), a result of the country's mineral-rich rivers and streams.

Bulgarians almost always start their meal with a simple salad accompanied by a shot (or two) of rakia, the local grape- or plum-based liquor. Meat -- chicken or pork, usually chargrilled over coals or baked in an earthenware pot with vegetables -- follows, with a side order of potatoes or bread. Chubritsa, a unique Bulgarian spice, usually is on the table to perk up a meal should you deem the flavors too bland.

Besides the wonderful quality of the cuisine, there is the price: You need not pay more than 3€-5€ ($3.80-$6.35) for a meal, and about as much for a good-quality red wine to accompany it. Wine lovers will do well to order reds made with Mavrud or Melnik, both grape varieties unique to Bulgaria (white wines fare less well).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.