|DURATION: 12 days
PRICE: € 1350
|DIFFICULTY: 1/2 (of 4)
BEST PERIOD: June-September
TOUR TYPE: Guided
From time immemorial, Bulgarians and Nature have competed in creativity. Do you wish to combine the magical charm of Bulgaria’s most beautiful mountains with its renowned heritage sights? The disciplines are diverse enough: architecture, painting … We leave you, our clients, to judge. For our part, we have prepared a programme that includes Bulgaria’s most richly muralled monasteries, remarkable monuments of culture and the arts, towns and villages with centuries-old histories, and natural features such as fearful caves and rambling routes crossing Bulgaria’s idyllic mountains.
The programme includes hiking treks of low or medium difficulty (up to 10-12 km or 2 to 3 hours), as well as longer walking tours of tourist sights along the route.
Day 1: Sofia
We meet you at Sofia Airport and transfer you to the hotel where the group will overnight.
Day 2: Sofia – Troyan Monastery – Troyan/Apriltsi
A tour of the city centre takes us across Sofia’s 2000-year history. We shall see the ruins of Roman Serdika, the early Christian rotunda of “St. Georgi”, the former Tsar’s palace, the Orthodox cathedral of “Alexander Nevski”, the Mosque of Banya Basi, the Synagogue – the biggest in the Balkans and the administrative buildings constructed during the communist regime. In the afternoon, we cross the central Balkan ridge to visit the Troyan Monastery, the largest in Northern Bulgaria. The region’s famous plums brandy is also produced by the monastery itself and we can taste this during supper. We overnight at Troyan or Apriltsi in the northern foothills of the Balkan ridge.
Day 3: Troyan/Apriltsi – Veliko Tarnovo – Arbanassi – Veliko Tarnovo
Veliko Tarnovo awaits us. To this day, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire retains all attributes of royal and patriarchal authority. We tour the magnificent Tsarevets Castle on its hill between the meanders of the Yantra River, the Arbanasi architectural reserve (the Konstantseli fortified house built in a typical 17th century style and the small church of “Nativity of Christ”, which despite its ascetic outward appearance hides a richly decorated interior), and the Preobrazhenski Monastery. There are two overnight stays at Veliko Tarnovo.
Day 4: Veliko Tarnovo – Etara – Bozhentsi – Tryavna – Veliko Tarnovo
Today, the stress is on the trades, architecture, and commerce of 19th Century Bulgaria, into whose atmosphere we immerse ourselves at the Balkans’ largest open-air ethnographic museum, Etara. As we walk along the cobble street skilled craftsmen will make us feel part of Bulgarian folk traditions in metal working, leather crafting, potting, wood carving, wool spinning and working with other types of material. Our next stop is Bozhentsi, a charming architectural reserve. From there, a forest walk which offers views of the Balkan range takes us to the town of Tryavna, renowned for its icon-painting and woodcut traditions.
Day 5: Veliko Tarnovo – Kazanlak – Plovdiv
Again crossing the Balkan range, we halt at the Shipka Pass, site of the most epic battles for Bulgarian liberation during the 1877 Russian-Turkish War. We then continue south to the Valley of the Thracian Kings and visit the Kazanlak Tomb: Bulgaria’s original UNESCO-listed site. The afternoon is devoted to Plovdiv. In the Old Town, we follow in the footsteps of history around the remains of the ancient Thracian city of Eumolpia, the Antique Theatre and the Roman Stadium, through to the colourful National Revival Period houses which comprise the charming architectural profile of the Three Hills. We overnight at Plovdiv.
Day 6: Plovdiv – Bachkovo Monastery – Shiroka Laka – Devin
The Rhodope Mountains, birthplace of the mythical musician Orpheus, await us. We first tour the Bachkovo Monastery (the second biggest in Bulgaria), known for its richly muralled refectory and the miracle-working icon of Virgin Marry. A panoramic walking tour traverses the idyllic Rhodopes with the ultimate destination of the Shiroka Laka architectural and ethnographic reserve. There are two overnight stays at a spa hotel in Devin.
Day 7: Devin – Trigrad – Yagodina – Devin
A transfer to the Trigradsko Zhdrelo Gorge takes us to the mystic Dyavolsko Garlo (The Devil’s Throat) Cave, sheltering the Balkans’ sheerest underground waterfall is (42m/138ft). We continue on foot to the edge of the gorge through a mosaic of ancient deciduous forest to the Yagodinska Peshtera Cave: one of Bulgaria’s longest and most beautiful. This is a particularly pleasant hike, which immerses us in the traditional lives of the local people and the idyll of rolling crests and forests.
Day 8: Devin – Dolen – Bansko
Meandering Rhodope roads take us to the village of Dolen. Its sheer remoteness has helped preserve magnificent masterpieces of Bulgarian National Revival Period architecture. In the afternoon, we arrive at Bansko in the foothills of Mount Pirin, where we shall overnight.
Day 9: Bansko – Banderishki Lakes – Bansko – Sandanski
We make for the alpine parts of the Pirin and the captivating Banderishki Lakes. We shall be left breathless along the way, not because of any physical strain, but because of the 360-degree panorama of Cirques with 16 picturesque glacier lakes huddled in them. After this, a coach takes us to the hot mineral springs resort of Sandanski for two overnight stays at a spa hotel.
Day 10: Sandanski – Melnik – Rozhen Monastery – Sandanski
Today, we visit Bulgaria’s tiniest city of Melnik, huddled among the sand peaks of its celebrated natural pyramids and replete with the authentic beauty of National Revival architecture. Some of Bulgaria’s most distinguished wines, another Melnik speciality, mature in cool cellars deep under the sand hills. An idyllic trek takes us to the Rozhen Monastery with its wonderful views of Mount Pirin.
Day 11: Sandanski – Rila Monastery – Sofia
On our way to Sofia, we drop by on the UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery: Bulgaria’s largest and best-known Christian abbey. A ramble across a shady beech wood takes us to the cave once inhabited by Bulgaria’s first recluse monk, Sveti Yoan Rilski, founder of the Rila Monastery. In the afternoon, we enjoy free time in Sofia. We overnight in the city.
Day 12: Sofia
Transfer to Sofia Airport.
– 1350 € per person in twin/dbl room in a group of 4-8 persons
– 1800 € per person in twin/dbl room in a group of 2-3 persons
Single room supplement: 155 € (obligatory for all individual clients)
Joining the tour: The tour is organized on private basis only. There are no scheduled group departures which you could potentially join as individual.
Price includes: transfers to and from Sofia Airport (on first/last tour date only) and all other transfers in the itinerary; accommodation and catering as in the itinerary; English-speaking guide; entry charges to caves and museums and all local taxes.
Price does not include: extra food and drink; mountain maps; medical insurance; personal expenses; spa procedure fees.
Best time: June-September.
Accommodation: three and four-star hotels; en-suite rooms; breakfast and supper included.
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