|DURATION: 12 days
PRICE: € 1350
|DIFFICULTY: 1/2 (of 4)
BEST PERIOD: June-September
TOUR TYPE: Guided
We can enumerate many reasons and evidence why Bulgaria should be in your travel list but we hope it is already there and you are just wondering which is the best way to explore it! If so, let us present to you a program that combines short hiking walks across the pristine nature of long mountain chains with the cultural stroll around vibrant villages and modern cities. A colourful kaleidoscope of divine natural vistas will contrast with the architectural, archaeological and religious heritage of our small but enchanting country. Enrich your knowledge in many fields, try local cuisine, challenge yourself in handicrafts, and hike among ancient forests. Throughout the journey, you will be accompanied by a friendly guide who will tell you unexpected stories, mythical legends and proven facts. In the itinerary are also listed two UNESCO sites – the Kazanlak Thracian Tomb and Rila Monastery!
The program 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 a centre-based hotel for the first overnight.
Day 2: Sofia – Troyan Monastery – Troyan/Apriltsi
We will start our guided exploration with a stroll around the compact city centre of Sofia. More than 2000 years of history, different epochs, and numerous historical remains and ancient ruins will be just a small part of what we are going to see during our walk. Prepare yourself to awe every time we turn behind a corner. At noon we continue towards the Northern slopes of the Balkan Mountains, where we will stop to encounter the Troyan Monastery. It is not just an opinion but a true fact – the area around the Monastery is one of the most stunning parts of the whole mountain chain. The locals are famous for their colourful pottery and also producing one of the most delightful brandies – plum rakija. We can have a glass of this beverage with a super tasty dish in our accommodation (Troyan city or village of Apriltsi, choice upon availability).
Day 3: Troyan/Apriltsi – Veliko Tarnovo – Arbanassi – Veliko Tarnovo
We depart after breakfast towards the Medieval capital of Bulgaria – Veliko Tarnovo. We will reach this charming city, perched on the hills around Yantra River, and start our walking tour immediately as there are plenty of sites to be discovered. Most of the streets are narrow and resemble a labyrinth which at any time leads either to a charming building with flowers hanging from the windows or reveals a breathtaking view towards the river and the monument of The Asen’s dynasty. Towering on a high hill is the medieval fortified city of Tsarevets, one of the king’s residences. We will ramble around the zigzagged trails towards the Church with extraordinary frescoes inside. Our efforts after the first short hiking experience will be rewarded with jaw-dropping scenery. Today we will also explore Arbanasi – an architectural reserve and another monastery nearby – Preobrazhenski. Two overnights we will spend in Veliko Tarnovo.
Day 4: Veliko Tarnovo – Etara – Bozhentsi – Tryavna – Veliko Tarnovo
Since Veliko Tarnovo is our base for two nights, today we are going to explore the area around, which hides many less-known sites of historical importance. Our first stop will be the ethnographic open-air museum of Etara. It is a glimpse into the characteristic atmosphere back in the 18th and 19th centuries. Cobbled narrow streets with small workshops from each side will show us how pottery is made, the traditional wool spinning, metalworking, wood carving, and many more which you can also try on your own. Our walk will be followed by a visit to the village of Bozhentsi – another charming settlement that keeps the spirit of the past centuries and the glorious past of Bulgarians. At the end of the day, we will stroll around the hilly streets of the city of Tryavna – the birthplace of the woodcarving movement in Bulgaria and masters of the icon school.
Day 5: Veliko Tarnovo – Kazanlak – Plovdiv
Time to bid farewell with the Northern Bulgaria as we will cross the Balkan mountains through the most famous pass – Shipka. It is a place where a lot of battles had happened during the Ruso-Turkish war. Because of this, two important monuments have been erected exactly there and Bulgarians celebrate their liberation each year in March- The Monument of Freedom and the Shipka Memorial Church Birth of Christ. Our main spot today will be a monument with world importance – the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak listed in UNESCO. Kazanlkan is located in the center of Bulgaria and it is also the center of the Valley of the Roses. The afternoon we will spend in Plovdiv – enchanting city, with romantic Old Town where splendid houses are well-preserved and now functioning as museums, galleries or cafes. The city of the Seven Hills how it is popular offers artistic ambiance and brings outstanding magnetism which makes visitors return back someday. The night we will spend here.
Day 6: Plovdiv – Bachkovo Monastery – Shiroka Laka – Devin
We say goodbye to Plovdiv and dip into another bewitching mountain – the mysterious home of Orpheus – Rhodope mountain. The rounded green crests of the mountain will embrace us soon after we leave Plovdiv. We will stop first at the second largest monastery – Bachkovo Monastery. The Holy Cloister was established back in 1083 and is a perfect example of icon painting masterpieces and in the main temple is kept the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary that is believed it has healing powers. The afternoon we will spend in the green heart of Rhodope mountain, the famous SPA city of Devin. Two nights we have here, so for sure there will be enough time to relax by the swimming pools with mineral water or enjoy the SPA center of our hotel.
Day 7: Devin – Trigrad – Yagodina – Devin
Time to add some hiking of our guided trip. We visit the Devil’s Throat Cave in the morning, located in the depths of the sheer rocks of impressive Trigrad Gorge. The visit will give us some cold shivers, especially when we hear the roaring waters of the highest underground waterfall at the Balkans Peninsula. Above the rocks, we will start our walking trip towards another cave, which will amaze us with its unique formations – Yagodina Cave. The walk between these two caves is easy, passing under the shades of ancient deciduous trees and through the lovely small village of Yagodina. The wildlife in the area is very rich and if we are lucky enough we may spot traces of animals among which foxes, wild boars, or even a brown bear.
Day 8: Devin – Dolen – Bansko
We leave Devin after breakfast and continue towards the village of Dolen. The twisting road through the thick forest will help us relax in the car and look through the photos we took since now. Due to the sheer remoteness, the village of Dolen has kept the unique outlook from the Revival Period, and strolling around its hilly streets will be like travelling through time. Our final destination will be the city of Bansko, located in the outskirts of Pirin mountain. It is mainly popular because of the ski zones but it is also an important historical centre, one of the beating hearts of the movement for Bulgarian Liberation. We will ramble around the streets of Old Town to enrich our knowledge of this region of Bulgaria.
Day 9: Bansko – Banderishki Lakes – Bansko – Sandanski
Another day spent in the warm embrace of nature! Pirin mountain is an alpine-like chain with jagged peaks, towering above 2000 m.a.s.l. The raw beauty of its granite and marble peaks contrasts perfectly with its greenish side, dotted with numerous glacier lakes. Today we will loop around a big group of lakes known as Banderishki Lakes. Mighty peaks are mirroring in their crystal waters and sitting by the shores will give us pure happiness of being so close to nature. After the hike, we move on and will stop at Sandanski. There we will spend the next two overnights and could enjoy another session of Spa procedures or swimming in mineral pools.
Day 10: Sandanski – Melnik – Rozhen Monastery – Sandanski
Enjoying our strong breakfast in the fresh mountain air, we will start later another day assorted with historical landmarks and outdoor activities. We will visit the smallest city in Bulgaria, Melnik. Surrounded by sandy pyramids, this picturesque settlements is famous for its exquisite wines, ageing deep in the cellars of the gorgeous houses. From the city, we will follow a trek that will take us to Rozhen Monastery from which we can fulfil our photo gallery with marvellous pictures of the complex and the background of the folded crest of Pirin mountain.
Day 11: Sandanski – Rila Monastery – Sofia
The last day of our cultural and hiking tour will be devoted to the largest monastery complex in Bulgaria, the most visited one and also listed in the UNESCO heritage list – Rila Monastery. It was established in the 10th century and demolished several times. Now, behind the sheer walls are kept fascinating buildings among which is the oldest surviving one – the medieval watchtower. We will pamper ourselves with the tasty specialities of the Old Bakery – mekitsa (flat fried donuts) which are most delicious when flavoured with powdered sugar. In the afternoon we can enjoy free time in Sofia which will let you do some shopping at the very last minute before your departure. Overnight in Sofia.
Day 12: Sofia
Transfer to Sofia Airport.
> 1800 € per person in twin/dbl room (in a group of 2-3 persons)
> 1350 € per person in twin/dbl room (in a group of 4-8 persons)
Single room supplement: 155 € (obligatory for all individual clients)
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.
Joining the tour: The tour is organized on private basis only. There are no scheduled group departures, which you could potentially join individually.
Best time: June-September.
Accommodation: three and four-star hotels; en-suite rooms; breakfast and supper included.