Itinerary: Ancient Macedonia – Shared Cultural Heritage Tour in Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Greece
Day 1: London > Sofia – Zemen Monastery – Kyustendil (130 km)
We will meet you at Sofia airport and you will proceed by our van & driver to Kyustendil. Stop over en route to visit Zemen Monastery. Although less popular than Rila monastery, Zemen Monastery owes its fame to the interesting architecture (11th century) and mostly to the remarkable 14th century frescoes. However, the first layer of painting is dated to the second half of the 11th century.
You will reach Kyustendil in the late afternoon.
B, Overnight in Kyustendil at hotel Ramira 3*.
Day 2: Kyustendil – Skopje (140 km)
Kyustendil, now a quiet small village famous with its hot mineral springs, has a rich ancient heritage. Following breakfast, you will visit the ancient Pautalia Roman ruins, Hisarluka fortress (4-5 c. A.D.), history museum or the Art Gallery with the largest collection of the famous Bulgarian artist Vladimir Dimitrov- the Master’s paintings.
Departure to Skopje (2 hrs.), cross the border at Gyueshevo/Kriva palanka. Arrive to Skopje, check in. Enjoy an afternoon sightseeing tour of Skopje–the old town, the fortress, St. Spas cathedral, modern city center. The most popular person in Skopje is Mother Theresa. Born on August 26, 1910, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu became a symbol of charity; you can read her quotes all over the city. You will visit Memorial House of Mother Teresa museum and learn about her legacy.
B, Overnight in Skopje at a 3* hotel.
Day 3: Skopje – Tetovo – Gostivar – Debar - Ohrid (220 км)
Following breakfast, proceed to Ohrid. Stopover in Tetovo to visit the Painted Mosque (Šarena Džamija). Reach Ohrid for lunch. Check in and time at leisure for individual discoveries and wandering around this charming village. Start with the Old town with the fantastic Mediaeval Orthodox Churches: Church of St Clement - UNESCO site, Church of St Sofia, Church of St. John Kaneo, Roman Theatre, Fortress of Tzar Samuil.(The walking tour takes about 1,5-2 hrs.) Later in the evening you can walk along the lake shore; visit one of the small restaurants famous for the tasty local cuisine
B, Overnight in Ohrid at a 3* hotel.
Day 4: Ohrid - St. Naum- NP Galichica (if the road is open) – Bitola(200 km)
Following breakfast, continue with exploring Ohrid. Leave for the neighboring St Naum monastery, located in the southern banks of the Ohrid Lake. The monastery was established in the year 900 A.D. by St Naum of Ohrid himself, who is also buried here. St Naum is one of the most prominent desciples of StSt Cyril and Methodius, who in 855 A.D. developed the first Bulgarian alphabet (Glagolitic). The beautiful setting - high mountains above the blue lake, makes the monastery the most popular destination in the region.
Proceed up to the mountains. Road winds through Galichica National Park. Enjoy the beautiful panorama over the lakes of Ohrid and Prespa. Drive to Bitola, a town with exquisite Ottoman and Christian heritage, mingled together during the 5-century co-existence.
B, Overnight in Bitola at hotel Teatar 2*.
Day 5: Bitola - Pella - Verghina - Thessaloniki (300 km)
Breakfast at hotel. Visit the ancient ruins of Herakleia Lynkestis. Proceed to Greece. Cross the border with Greece at Negochani/Niky border crossing point and drive towards Verghina(ancient Aigai). Explore the capital of the Macedonian kingdom before its move to Pella in the 4th century BC. See the remarkable painted tombs, displayed in the excellent site museum under the recreated mound which originally covered the burials. Birthplace of both Philip II and Alexander the Great, it is renowned for its exceptional mosaics made from carefully selected natural pebbles. Some of the finest examples are on display in the new museum.
Drive on to Pella, second Macedonian capital which was only discovered in the 1950s. There is a new museum worth a visit. Reach Thessaloniki for dinner and overnight.
B, Overnight at a 3* hotel in Thessaloniki (2 nights)
Day 6: Thessaloniki
Spend the whole day in this eternal city, exploring its Ancient and Mediaeval past. Walking the streets of the old town to view the Arch and Palace of Galerius, Byzantine Museum, Aghios Dimitrios, Aghia Sofia and the Roman forum. The fortifications and upper town of Thessaloniki are included in the List of World Cultural Heritage.
B, Overnight at hotel in Thessaloniki.
Day 7: Thessaloniki –Melnik/Rozhen - Sandanski (160 km)
Leave Thessaloniki after breakfast, heading North to Bulgaria. Cross the border at Promahonas/Kulata Stop-over in Melnik for a lunch-break and a walking sightseeing of this museum village with the famous sand-stone pyramids, the best invironment for preserving wines.
Drive to the neighbouring Rozhen Monastery. Admire the gorgeous panorama over the sand-stone pyramids and to the majestic Pirin Mountains. Enjoy the peace and tranquility of this spiritual place.
Overnight at St Nikola spa hotel, 3* in Sandanski.
Day 8: Sandanski –Bansko-Dobarsko - Rila monastery - Sofia (320 km)
Should you wish to discover more of the Pirin Macedonia region, go to Bansko. This once small village, now the fastest growing ski resort, is offering typical 18-c. architecture and a lot of history. A detour to Dobarsko, a small village at the foot of the Rila Mountains, will give you an opportunity to visit the old church Sts. Theodore the Tyro and Theodore the Stratelates, to see a unique interpretation of the Transfiguration frescos. En route back to Sofia visit the famous Rila monastery, UNESCO cultural site.
You will reach Sofia in the evening. Check in hotel Niky, ideally located downtown, within a walking distance to all main sites and the pedestrian Vitosha Boulevard.
B, Overnight in Sofia at hotel Niky, 3* (2 nights), or similar, ideally located down town.
Day 9: Sofia
Full day in Sofia to visit more or less-popular, but equally interesting sites. Among the most interesting – Boyana church (11-13 c A.D.) UNESCO site, Kremikovtzi monastery (14-15 c A.D.)
Overnight in Sofia.
Day 10: Sofia – London
Breakfast at hotel. Free morning, followed by a transfer to the airport to catch your home-flight .
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