Bulgaria offers an unparalleled glimpse into Antiquity when Greek colonists met courageous Thracian soldiers, when all were conquered by the powerful Roman Empire, when Bulgarian khans arrived from Central Asia and settled in the Balkans…
In the meantime you’ll stroll the streets of the biggest Bulgarian cities bustling with young people and local colour. There will be many chances to reveal what life under the Ottomans, Bulgarian Monarchy as well as Communism were about. All you need is comfortable shoes, inquisitiveness and a lot of space on your camera memory card. Are you ready?
Day #1 Sofia
Arrival to Sofia.
After settling in at your hotel a walking tour follows. Discover the charms of the capital city – “Ever growing, never old” as its motto states. Even though the city itself was largely rebuilt after the period of 500-year-old Ottoman rule its museums hide exciting collections about the past.
Highlights of the day include the recent archaeological excavations in the very centre, Roman necropolis below St. Sofia church and some of the most dazzling Thracian gold and silver hoards at the National Archaeological Museum.
For dinner savour typical Bulgarian fare at a traditional style restaurant.
Overnight in Sofia.
Day #2 Sofia - Plovdiv
Today’s morning will take you deeper into the twists and turns of events of the 20th century.
First visit the Museum of Sofia History to discover the chic of Royal Bulgaria predating World War Two. Selected exhibits from the Palace as well as from the houses of the rich show that once the Ottomans were gone Bulgaria quickly caught up with latest European fashion.
Later delve into the art legacy of Communist Realism that shaped the public ambience in which local people lived until 1989. Lenin’s statue and the red star of the party house were removed from Sofia’s main square over 25 years ago but you’ll see them here, in the collection of the Museum of Socialist Art.
Lunch at a local restaurant followed by a transfer to Plovdiv, the second largest Bulgarian city.
On the way enjoy a picturesque detour to the foot of Rodopi mountain. Drive through lush vineyards and taste the local wines. Speciality of the region is the robust Mavrud, the drink that used to make ancient Thracian soldiers invincible.
Dinner and overnight in Plovdiv.
Day #3 Plovdiv - Kazanlak
After breakfast put on comfortable walking shoes to roam the pathways of Roman emperors, Bulgarian soldiers and Turkish tradesmen. Plovdiv has been a melting pot and crossroads of cultures for millennia on end. The downtown pedestrian area is the territory of local slow-paced life while the Old Town is the treasure chest of archaeology and architecture.
Enjoy an included visit to the Museum of Folklore located in one of the most beautiful 19th-century houses. Within its collection one can explore the lifestyle of both farmers, craftsmen and the rich as well as marvel over the endless variety of colourful national costumes.
Lunch at a local restaurant located in one of the Old Town’s pastel coloured houses.
Afternoon drive north to the town of Kazanlak located in the vicinity of the ancient capital of the most powerful Thracian tribe, Odrysae. Get to know the unusual Thracian funerary rituals by visiting two beehive tombs that are dated to 4th century BC. One of them was discovered only some 12 years ago!
Later on savour the flavours of rose products and learn why essential rose oil is dubbed “Bulgarian liquid gold”.
Dinner and overnight at a charming local hotel.
Day #4 Kazanlak - Arbanassi - Veliko Tarnovo
Cross the Balkan mountain in the early morning and hear the stories of courage and valour related to Shipka pass and the battles against the Ottomans during the Liberation War (1877-1878).
Head for Arbanassi – a small village where fortress-like houses rub shoulders with 400-year-old churches. Here enjoy an included visit to local museums and lunch in peaceful surroundings. Lovely panoramic view to Medieval capital city Veliko Tarnovocomes as a bonus.
Later head for Tarnovo itself – a painters’ dream of a town where fortress walls and old houses cling onto steep hill slopes as if by magic. Enjoy several magnificent photo opportunities and a visit to one of the oldest historic churches. Final highlight of the day is the so called Multimedia Centre where you’ll walk among figures of Bulgarian kings, knights and bishops.
Dine on fine fare at a reputed local restaurant.
Overnight in Veliko Tarnovo, with views over Yantra river.
Day #5 Veliko Tarnovo - Shumen - Madara - Varna
Go on exploring the facets of history and culture by visiting Shumen, a city in North-Eastern Bulgaria located in the vicinity of the ruined first two capitals of the country. The “1300 years Bulgarian Statehood” monument looms tall on a plateau above the city. Let yourself be impressed by statues of Bulgarian state leaders of Middle Age made of tonnes of concrete. Visit the biggest mosque in the country, a fine example of Ottoman Rococo style.
For a change from city restaurants, savour fresh local produce for lunch at a countryside charming private hotel.
In the afternoon take in the healing energies of Madara caves and Madara horseman bas-relief. Head further east to a museum complex in Neofit Rilski village and immerse yourself in Thracian lifestyle. Dress like and ancient local inhabitant, taste the food of times long gone or try your hand at archery.
Reach coastal city of Varna in time for a pleasant dinner and overnight.
Day #6 Varna - Balchik - Varna
After breakfast explore the maritime capital of Bulgaria, famed for its glorious ancient Greek and Roman past, busy port and varied cultural festivals. Visit the second largest Bulgarian Orthodox church, stroll the lovely main street and maritime park. A highlight visit to the local Museum of Archaeology follows – among many other fascinating exhibits it keeps a collection of the world’s oldest man-processed gold (cca 4500 BC).
While at the seaside enjoy a treat of fish lunch at a local restaurant.
The afternoon hours remain at your disposal for an optional visit to Varna’s Retro Museum* or an optional tour to Balchik**.
Dinner and overnight in Varna.
Day #7 Varna
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Departure from Varna airport.