12-days/11-nights cultural tour, which will show the beauty and tranquility of Bulgaria's countryside. You will realize the creativity of Bulgarian Renaissance and understand why local people still live in the museum towns.
Highlights: 5 UNESCO sites and museum villages of Arbanassi, Bansko, Old Plovdiv, Koprivshtica, Melnik
Itinerary - Bulgaria - A Visual Adventure
Day 1: SOFIA
Multiple arrivals to Sofia. We will meet you at the airport and assist for a transfer to your hotel. Brief presentation of Sofia en route to your downtown hotel. Check in and time at leisure to overcome the jet lag.
T, Accommodation in Sofia at a 3* hotel Niky of Sofia Place, for 2 nights.
Day 2: SOFIA
Morning walking city tour including the 4thc. St. George Rotunda, - a fine monument of Roman architecture, the St. Sophia Christian basilica from the 4-6th c., which gave the city its name, the golden-domed Alexander Nevsky Memorial Cathedral with its impressive interior, exquisite murals, icons and colorful mosaics. Also you will visit the Spanish-Moresque style synagogue and Jewish museum as well as the memorial commemorating the "Saving of the Bulgarian Jews." The synagogue, the church Sveta Nedelya, and the only surviving active mosque in town - are all facing each other, speaking of religious tolerance of Bulgarians throughout the centuries.
In the afternoon: Mountain Vitosha tour with a visit to the 13th century Boyana Church, included in the UNESCO List of World Heritage. Bulgarian welcome dinner in one of the finest folklore-style restaurants in Sofia.
B, D, Accommodation in Sofia.
Day 3: SOFIA – Rila monastery – MELNIK(240 km)
After breakfast at your hotel, we will pick you up and drive to Rila Monastery - the largest in the Balkans, included in the UNESCO List of World Cultural Heritage, which will captivate you with its unrivalled architecture and murals. Tour of the monastery; visit the five-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin Church and the original monastery kitchens from the 19th century.
Proceed to the museum town of Melnik. Scenically located at the foothills of sandstone pyramids, this smallest town in Bulgaria is famous with its ancient architecture and red wine. Walking sightseeing tour, visit one of the old houses, masterpiece of early 17th c. local architecture.
B, Accommodation at a 3* hotel in Melnik , 2 nights.
Day 4: MELNIK – Rozhen & the area (Sandanski, Petrich)- MELNIK
Sandstone pyramids around Melnik and Rozhen monastery are a special place for photographers, so an extra day here is recommendable. Drive to the neighbouring Rozhen monastery. Admire the beautiful views over the sandstone hills around. Visit the Church of the Nativity where walls abound in biblical scenes and images, painted in the 18th c.
Melnik region is a famous wine region, there are several wineries, offering wine-tasting sessions in the area. The caves around Melnik provide excellent conditions for local wines to mature.
B, D, Accommodation at a 3* hotel in Melnik
Day 5: MELNIK - Bansko – PLOVDIV (280 km)
Following breakfast, Proceed to Bansko museum town. This quiet small town with 17th c. old architecture is situated at the foot of the Pirin Mountain National Park, included in the List of World Natural Heritage. Everything is special in Bansko – traditional costumes, the local folklore singing and dancing, wonderful cuisine, and the people. We'll stroll the cobblestone streets and visit the Holy Trinity Church built in the 19th century and known for its interior wood carvings and murals painted by local artists. Reach Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria and one of the oldest in Europe in the late afternoon. Evening at leisure.
B, Accommodation at a 3* hotel in Plovdiv.
Day 6: PLOVDIV – Bachkovo Monastery – PLOVDIV (80 km)
Morning sightseeing tour of Plovdiv, including the Old City museum town, visit the Roman Theatre/ 2nd c. A.D./, the St. Constantine and Helena Church and others. Stroll the narrow cobbled streets and admire the peaceful atmosphere of the Old town. Optional lunch in the garden of the traditional restaurant Paldin, built from the Roman fortified wall in Old Town. After lunch, we will visit workshops of local artisans to learn about Bulgarian crafts, especially pottery.
In the afternoon depart to Bachkovo monastery. Founded in 1083 by Bacuriani brothers - military commanders in the Byzantine Empire, it boasts a rich museum collection and library containing valuable manuscripts in a lovely setting.
1 hour drive from the Bachkovo monastery, up in the Rhodope Mountains, is the “Miraculous Bridges” natural phenomena, it is another Bulgaria’s beauty spot and attracting photographs. Late afternoon - Independent time to stroll the old city. In the evening there are often special events at the ancient Roman theatre from late May through October. You may decide to attend such an event optional (extra fee) should there be one during your visit.
B, D, Accommodation at a 3* hotel in Plovdiv.
Day 7: PLOVDIV- the Rose Valley - KAZANLAK(220 km)
Proceed to the Rose Valley. It includes Karlovo and Kazanlak fields, as well as some parts of the Nova Zagora fields. The Total area is about 3,300 square kilometers. Stop for a visit to the oldest local distillery and attend a lecture on rose water and rose oil distillation. Continue drive through the Valley of the Roses to Kazanlak to meet a group of local fellow photographers and visit the museum of photography.
B, Overnight in Kazanlak.
Day 8: KAZANLAK– Buzludzha* - Shipka – Etara - VELIKO TARNOVO (180 km)
After breakfast, enjoy a sightseeing tour in Kazanlak including: the Thracian Tomb (replica), the Tyulbe (small Islamic mausoleum, 15th century), Museum of the Rose and Rose Oil. The Kazanlak Tomb is a Thracian Tomb from the late 4th - early 3rd century B.C. and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The funeral objects and frescoes depicting hunting scenes and the funeral suggest that a Thracian king was probably buried here. The frescoes are the finest masterpiece of Thracian art.
Next, a pleasant quick stop at Buzludzha. The controversial & decayed communist party monument turned out to be a focal point for young photographers. Next stop is in Shipka - the peak where the most decisive battles were held in 1877-1878 for the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman yoke. There is a monument on the top and a wonderful panorama of the Central Balkan Range.
Continue on to Etara to visit the Ethnographic Open-air Village Museum. Everything surrounding the visitor brings him/her back to the period of Bulgarian Revival with numerous workshops where even today the craftsman work, using the same instruments and techniques.
Drive onward to Veliko Tarnovo.
B, Overnight in Veliko Tarnovo, Gurko Hotel, 3* family run hotel (2 nights)
Day 9: VELIKO TARNOVO – Arbanassi – VELIKO TARNOVO ( 50 km).
Morning sightseeing tour of Veliko Tarnovo, the capital city of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (12-14th c.). Visit the fortress on Tsarevets Hill, the hill where Baldwin's Tower still rises, and Patriarchal Church
Enjoy walking downtown in Samovodene market place, brought back to life by artists and craftsmen, who create and sell exquisite items in their small workshops. In the afternoon -excursion to the medieval museum village of Arbanassi, rich in churches, monasteries and old Bulgarian houses, dating back to XVII century, decorated with unique paintings and wood carvings.
B, D, Overnight in Veliko Tarnovo, Gurko Hotel, 3* family run hotel.
Day 10: VELIKO TARNOVO – Troyan – Koprivshtica – SOFIA (320 km)
After breakfast, drive to Troyan and cross the Balkan range at Troyan-Karnare Pass. Enjoy beautiful panoramas from the mountains down to the valley. En route you may stop for a visit to Troyan monastery. Proceed to Koprivshtitsa, known for its international folklore festival which occurs once every five years in August (August 07-09, 2020). Koprivshtica is a museum town of Bulgarian National Revival architecture, a town where the past seems to come alive. Situated at an altitude of some 3,000 feet above sea level amid lovely meadows and pine forests, the town has long had a magnetic appeal for tourists. Tour of the town (mainly on foot) includes visit to the beautiful old Bulgarian-style houses of Lyutov, Debeljanov, and Kableshkov, which will fascinate you not only with their original architecture but also with their interior 19-century decoration and furnishing. Every single house here is part and parcel of Bulgaria’s history. It was here that the first shot of the April Uprising against Ottoman rule rang out in 1876. Although drenched in blood, the uprising resounded in all of Europe. It is a miracle that Koprivshtica itself was spared destruction and survives in its original appearance.
B, Overnight in Sofia.
Day 11: SOFIA – departure
Following breakfast, our driver will see you off to the airport to catch your flight back home. End of services.