4 UNESCO sites and museum villages of Arbanassi, Bansko, Old Plovdiv, Kazanlak, Melnik.
8-day/7-night 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.
Country Roads of Bulgaria
8-day/7-night cultural tour, which will show the beauty and tranquility of Bulgaria's countryside. You will feel the creativity of Bulgarian Renaissance and understand why local people still live in the museum towns.
Day 1: Sofia
Multiple arrivals to Sofia. We will meet you at the airport and assist for a transfer to your downtown hotel. Brief presentation of Sofia en route to your hotel. Check in and time at leisure.
T, Accommodation in Sofia in a 4* hotel Thracia Best Western, or similar, for 2 nights.
Day 2: Sofia (80 km)
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 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 visit of 13th century Boyana Church, included in the UNESCO List of World Heritage and the National History Museum which houses an excellent collection of Bulgarian artifacts.
In the evening: Bulgarian Welcome dinner
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, visit also the monastery’s museum, which houses a rich collection of valuable old manuscripts, charters and icons, an ethnographic exhibition of fabrics, jewelry, carpets and wrought iron objects, and a library containing more than 16 000 books. Proceed to the museum town of Melnik. Scenically located at the foothills of sandstone pyramids, this smallest town in Bulgaria is famous for its ancient architecture and red wine. Walking sightseeing tour, visit one of the old houses, masterpiece of early 17th c. local architecture.
B, Accommodation in a 3* hotel in Melnik.
Day 4: MELNIK – Rozhen - Bansko – PLOVDIV (260 km)
Following breakfast, 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. 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 through 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. Evening at leisure.
B, D, Accommodation in a 3* hotel in Plovdiv.
Day 5: 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. 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. 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, L Accommodation in a 3* hotel in Plovdiv.
Day 6: PLOVDIV-Koprivshtica-Kazanlak-Shipka pass– Etara -VELIKO TARNOVO (300 km)
Drive north to visit the village Koprivshtitsa, known for its international folklore festival which occurs once every five years in August (August 06-08, 2010). Continue drive through the Valley of the Roses, across Balkan Range to Kazanlak. Sightseeing tour in Kazanlak includes: 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 in Shipka - the peak where the most decisive battles were held in 1877-1878 for the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman domination. There is a monument on the top, a wonderful panorama of the Central Balkan Range and a very beautiful memorial church. 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 craftsmen work, using the same instruments and techniques.
You can talk to the craftsman, watch them work and can even try to make something yourself. Drive onward to Veliko Tarnovo, the capital city of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (12-14th c.).
B, L Overnight in Veliko Tarnovo, Gurko Hotel, 3* family run hotel.
Day 7: VELIKO TARNOVO (50 km)
After breakfast you will enjoy the sightseeing tour of Veliko Tarnovo. 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, Overnight in Veliko Tarnovo, Gurko Hotel, 3* family run hotel.
8 day: VELIKO TARNOVO – Ivanovo Rock Churches – Ruse – BUCHAREST/ SOFIA (200/400 km)
Following breakfast, drive to Ruse, en route visiting Ivanovo Rock Churches (12th-14th century A.D.) Located 18 km south to Ruse, they were part of a mediaeval monastery of St. Archangel Michael. High in the rocks, 40-50 m above the ground, natural caves were transformed into churches in the 12th century. The best preserved murals are in the Church of the Holy Mother (14 c). The original frescoes were made by artists from the Tarnovo School of painting and impress with the elegant figures and original colours, proof of exceptional artistic skills. Walking sightseeing tour of Ruse follows, then drive back to Sofia (or proceed to Bucharest), where tour ends.