7 nights starting from
12th century capital Veliko Tarnovo
Charming village of Arbanassi
4th century BC Kazanlak Tomb
Plovdiv – 2019 European city of culture and one of Europe’s oldest cities
Bachkovo and Rila Monasteries
The capital, Sofia and medieval Boyana Church
Our image of Bulgaria as a grim Communist state could not be further from the reality as this superb tour demonstrates. At the crossroads of Europe and the Orient, Bulgaria’s history has been influenced by many cultures, from Greek and Roman to Byzantine and Bulgar. From ancient sights to medieval treasures, gilded monasteries, excellent local wine, a rich folklore tradition and spectacular mountain scenery, as well as Communist-era legacies, Bulgaria has a wealth of interest for any visitor.
|19 - September - 2022||£ 999.00||Travel Info Book Now||booking-journey/#/start/BUL/19 September 2022/|
Departing: 19th September 2022 at 08:15
Returning: 26th September 2022 at 14:20
Day 1: Fly from London Heathrow to Sofia
On arrival, transfer by coach to Veliko Tarnovo (approx. 220km) for check in for two-night stay.
Day 2: Morning tour of Veliko Tarnovo and afternoon Arbanassi
In the morning we will have a sightseeing tour of Veliko Tarnovo. The town became the capital, political, administrative, religious and cultural centre of the restored Bulgarian state in 1186 after Byzantine rule. It has been described as “God’s preserved town” and boasts fine architecture, a picturesque hillside setting and a wealth of historic sights, which a guided walking tour will pinpoint. Highlights include the impressive fortress at Tsarevets Hill, Asenevtsi Monument, built in 1985 to mark the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom and the thriving Samovodskata Charshia Bazaar in the historic Varusha district. This afternoon transfer to the delightful village of Arbanassi with traditional architecture from the 17th and 18th centuries. We will visit a traditional house, but the town’s big attraction is the Church of Nativity, whose austere exterior is contrasted with its fantastic interior depicting over 2000 Old and New Testament scenes covering the walls and barrel-vaulted ceiling. This evening we will have dinner included at the hotel.
Day 3: Veliko Tarnovo to Plovdiv via Kazanlak
Today we drive south to the Balkan Mountains and visit the unique “Etura” open air crafts museum showing the everyday town life of Gabrovo in the 18th and 19th century with water-powered craftsman’s workshops, public buildings, shops and a church. Just like in the old days craftsmen manufacture and sell their own work directly to customers. We continue south through the Balkan Mountains through the Shipka Pass (1150m), famous as the site of the Russo- Turkish war of 1877/8. A Memorial Monument to those who died in the battle was erected here in 1934 and we will also make a brief stop at the Shipka Memorial Church, with its gleaming golden dome, located just outside Kazanlak. Then further south to the Valley of the Thracian Kings, which has become one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations in Bulgaria with visitors flocking to see the Thracian tombs discovered in the area, particularly the UNESCO-listed Kazanlak tomb (4th century B.C). Murals in the tomb are the best preserved artistic masterpieces of Thracian art of the early Hellenistic period depicting the life of a buried Thracian noble and his wife – an exact replica is open to the public although the original tomb nearby is protected from public view. We visit the tomb and continue to Plovdiv for a three-night stay.
Day 4: Walking tour of Plovdiv
Plovdiv is Bulgaria’s second largest city, arguably its prettiest and Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited, dating back to 7,000BC. Its status has been recognised with its appointment as European City of Culture in 2019 (along with Matera in Italy, featured on our Puglia tour). The city’s historic quarter boasts beautifully decorated period houses, ancient fortress walls, a Roman forum, theatre and stadium, magnificent churches. During our walking tour we will also visit the Roman theatre, the Ethnographic Museum, and Hindliyan’s house, built in 1835-40 for a wealthy Armenian merchant. Free afternoon to continue your exploration of this lovely city independently.
Day 5: Bachkovo Monastery and winetasting in Brestovitsa
Today we visit the UNESCO-listed Bachkovo Monastery, founded in 1083 by a prominent Byzantine statesman and military commander, and one of the most important monuments of Christian architecture in the country. Although the monastery survived the first waves of Turkish invasion in Bulgarian lands, it was later looted and destroyed, but restored near the end of the 15th century. The cathedral church of the Virgin Mary (finished in 1604) is where the most valuable icon of Virgin Mary, dated from 1310 is kept. Our day will also include the nearby remarkable remains of King Ivan Assen’s fortress - a wise ruler of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, as well as a 13th century church, decorated with authentic iconography. An afternoon winetasting in the nearby village of Brestovitsa will complete the day.
Day 6: Plovdiv to Sofia with guided tour of Sofia and visit to Boyana Church
Today we head to the capital, Sofia, with a history that stretches over seven millennia. On arrival we will check-in to our hotel for a two-night stay. Sofia is one of the most ancient cities in Europe, but with continuous additions and amendments including the Soviet era that define its current appearance - “Ever growing never aging” is the capital’s motto of Bulgaria’s capital of some 1.3 million people. Sights include the Roman Serdika Fortifications (Sofia oldest preserved building), 4th century St. George’s Rotunda, famous for its original structure and unique frescoes, Alexander Nevski Cathedral, Ivan Vazov National Theatre, The National Assembly and Church of St. Sophia. It enjoys a vibrant outdoor life too, with open-air cafés, busy markets and attractive parks and gardens. We will head to the suburbs to see the (once again UNESCO-listed) 10th century Boyana church – one of the greatest and best-preserved examples of medieval art in Europe.
Day 7: Morning visit to Rila Monastery with late afternoon free in Sofia.
This morning we make the journey to visit the Rila Monastery in the foothills of the Rila Mountains - Bulgaria’s largest and most beautiful monastery and one of the oldest in Europe, founded in the 10th century. The cloister is a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site and the most visited tourist destination in Bulgaria. Behind its 20-metre-high walls which give it the appearance of a fortress, lie impressive monastic buildings, a church and a chapel with remarkable wall paintings. The monastery was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries, with its current incarnation dating from the early 19th century. Remainder of the day free in the afternoon in Sofia to continue your exploration independently.
Day 8: Free time in Sofia until transfer to Sofia airport for return flight to London Heathrow.
NB: Exact order of excursions may vary according to local conditions and tour manager's discretion.
Please note the maximum group size on this tour is 35 passengers.
Yantra Hotel, Veliko Tarnovo – 2 nights
The four-star Yantra Grand Hotel in Veliko Tarnovois part of the Bulgarian hotel chain Sharlopov Group, which was established 15 years ago. The building of Yantra Grand Hotel is a cultural monument with a unique location at the hart of the Old Tarnovo Town, next to Samovodska Charshiya street. The only of its kind panoramic Yantra Restaurant with a view to Tsarevets Stronghold and the unique Sound & Light performance, and with a live music show. Vienna Café with tempting cakes and sweets made at Yantra pastry studio.
Hotel Ramada Trimontium, Plovdiv – 3 nights
The four-star Meridian Ramada Hotel Trimontium is located in the heart of Plovdiv. Extensive facilities include restaurant, bar, fitness centre with indoor and outdoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna and gym and very comfortable bedrooms with all modern facilities including free wifi.
Central Park Hotel, Sofia – 2 nights
The four-star Rosslyn Central Park Hotel is located in the city centre of Sofia opposite the National Palace of Culture. Facilities at this modern, comfortable hotel include restaurant, bar and very comfortable bedrooms with all modern facilities including free wifi.
A beautiful country with untouched forests and attractive old towns. Vessa our guide was excellent and our driver Stefan very good. We were a very happy group who melded well and had fun with Angela as our wonderful Tour Leader. I would recommend this trip to all of my friends - a really fascinating country with heaps of culture and history.
Review by Anonymous who travelled 16-September-2019
It is an excellent tour full of surprises. Vessa’s knowledge is outstanding. The hotel dinner was very good and the lunches were excellent. The wine tasting was great fun and very informative and because there were only 21of us it worked very well. Overall we had a good time. Helped by a super guide, relaxed tour Manager and a fabulous driver.
Review by Jennings who travelled 16-September-2019
This was a superb tour overall. Our coach driver Stefan & Bulgarian guide Vessa were excellent. Vessa was extremely knowledgeable& informative about her country .She perhaps could have been less detailed at times - but you could not fault her enthusiasm. We saw some remarkable frescoes & buildings , lots of beautiful Bulgarian countryside and splendid mountain ranges.The hotels were all comfortable and the people friendly and hospitable. I really enjoyed this tour and meeting my fellow travellers.
Review by Russell who travelled 16-September-2019
Slightly unsure what numbers you want here - I travelled with a friend but I think we were around 22 altogether. I absolutely loved this very well organised holiday which was my first trip to Bulgaria. It was excellently managed by our tour manager, Angela Minton who was enormous fun and ever helpful. She was particularly kind in helping me when my wallet was stolen from my backpack with a considerable loss of cash. We were superbly educated by our Bulgarian guide, Vesa, who was a mine of information and our driver, Stefan, was of the highest order. The three of them made for a very relaxed holiday for all of us. My favourite venue was Veliko Tarnovo with its wonderful sweeping views round the valley and the exceptionally friendly and helpful hotel staff. I should add that it was while walking up through the town, an invisible and unmarked one inch 'step' in the pavement brought me down and resulted in broken ribs!! Having had them before I knew I was OK as long as I kept going. An A&E trip when home confirmed my views. However, the owner of the shop in Veliko Tarnovo where the accident happened admitted I was not the first. I told her she would have been in trouble in the UK for not marking the all but invisible 'step' with yellow warning tape. A friendly Bulgarian woman further up in the town told me it was the source of 'many falls!!' It was at this stop that we did the very steep climb up the hill opposite our hotel. All made it and we felt pretty pleased with ourselves! The group was well bonded and very friendly and we felt lucky in this respect. While in Plovdiv we had a visit to a wine tasting in Brestovitsa. We were hosted by the delightful family of three who run the wine business from home. They couldn't have been kinder or more welcoming. It was fascinating. I confess I had no idea there were so many statues, icons and churches in Bulgaria. The Etura open air museum managed to convey 'Bulgaria' without the need for them! The only restaurant I would have paid to avoid was the one with an awful lot of coaches outside when we arrived for lunch and was SO NOISY it was impossible to converse. In fairness, that is the only adverse comment I have!! A great week so many thanks Travel Editions!
Review by Conway who travelled 16-September-2019
The tour exceeded expectations. Very interesting and with a wealth of places to visit and things to see. Bulgaria has had a long and complex history and this is revealed in its buildings and museums. I think a visit to the Archaeological Museum in Sofia would have been a good place to start rather than having to squeeze it in at the end. The Thracian, Greek and Roman history of Bulgaria is fascinating . We enjoyed the holiday very much so our comments are intended to be constructive. We found the long drive to Veliko Turnovo on the first day very exhausting. A day in Sofia adjusting and acclimatising would have been welcome plus more time to visit its Museums and galleries. We would have also liked to have had more dinners included as looking for restaurants in a new town after a long day's excursion felt too much at times. Future travellers need to understand that there is a lot of walking on both steep ground and rough cobbles involved. Many of us found it hard going at times. Loved the swimming pool in Plovdiv though ( which could be a destination in its own right). It made a real difference to our daily recovery. More of those please! Thanks to Angela and Vessa for a great trip.
Review by Gore who travelled 16-September-2019
The holiday exceeded our expectations in every respect. Our tour manager Angela and our local guide, Vesala were both exceptional. Vesala had a wealth of knowledge which she was able to communicate in an interesting and enthusiastic way. Our driver (iordan?)was also excellent and a very pleasant man indeed. We both would highly recommend this holiday for anyone with and interest in Balkan history. The two small trips to a Rakia producer and to a family run vineyard were extremely interesting also.
Review by Wilson who travelled 14-May-2019
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