Throughout the hundreds of years, Bulgaria has been the home of a wide range of human advancements, from the Thracians three thousand years back to the Ottoman Empire in the twentieth century. This long and differing history has added to the novel culture of Bulgaria today. The Balkan Mountains go through the center of the nation making a wonderful, rough scene highlighted by streams and fields. In the capital city of Sofia, which has been occupied since as right on time as 7000 BC, the rich history of Bulgaria is obvious through the authentic structures.
Day 1: Arrive in Sofia
In and around Sofia
Arrive in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Overnight in Sofia.
Day 2: Sofia & Rila Monastery
This morning we depart for the 10th century Rila Monastery, 121 km (75 miles) south of Sofia at the end of a winding road through high rock walls with formations like giant animals waiting to pounce. This most-revered of all Bulgarian monasteries lies nestled in a soft, green wood. Mountains rise all around it; below it the Rilska River races over a stony bed. In the 9th century, twenty-year old Ivan Rilski (John of Rila) fled to this peaceful place seeking escape from the sordidness of the world. Finding a cave in the woods above this present monastery site, he took up the hermit life. Here he fed the animals and the birds and prayed in the stillness to God. In time, like-minded men joined him and they built the first monastery here about a 2.4 km (1.5 mile) from the present site, where, today, you will find his tomb, the little Church of St. Luke, and the cave he inhabited. In the past, pilgrims were not deemed sinless enough to enter the monastery. The Rila Monastery is one of Europe’s largest monasteries, located in some of Bulgaria’s most beautiful terrain. Sightseeing of the monastery features the unsurpassed frescoes of the Church of the Blessed Virgin. Monks still practice within this five-domed treasure. Also contained within the exquisite fortress-like walls of the monastery is the Historical Museum featuring a collection of objects connected with the monastery’s thousand-year history. After lunch we will return to Sofia. Overnight in Sofia.
Day 3: Sofia – Plovdiv
Today we travel to the ancient city of Plovdiv, situated in the Plain of Thrace. Plovdiv was formerly known as Pulpudeva until Philip II of Macedon’s weary horse collapsed under him here at the edge of the Thracian plain in AD 342. Since that was surely an omen, he built Philippolis on the site in the horse’s honour. Later the Romans renamed it Trimontium — the City on Three Hills. For five centuries, under Turkish rule when it was known as Philibe, it suffered much devastation. Today it is a city of great charm, with legacies of a hectic past. Plovdiv has a lovely “stariyat grad,” or old town, with Turkish influences and a charming character. Our tour includes the Old Quarter, the Ethnographical Museum, and the Roman Amphitheatre. Within Trimontium, the historic heart of Plovdiv, typical 19th century Bulgarian homes line the streets. Overnight in Plovdiv.
Day 4: Plovdiv – Valley of the Roses – Veliko Tarnovo
This morning we depart Plovdiv for the world famous Valley of the Roses. In this valley, 70 percent of the world’s “attar”, or extract from roses, is produced. Nimble- fingered women and girls do most of the picking, while donkeys are used to carry the petals away. In the town of Kazanlak we visit the Thracian Tomb (fourth and third centuries BC). The Thracians are regarded as the original Bulgarians, a people closely linked with the ancient Greeks. Before our climb over the Shipka Pass we will visit the Shipka Memorial Church. The golden Domes of this Russian-style church rise out of the hillside. After crossing the spectacular Shipka with its majestic vistas and momentous history we visit the open-air Ethnographical Museum of Etura, a recreation of a typical 19th century village. After a tour of the museum we continue on to Veliko Tarnovo, once the capital of Bulgaria (1185-1396) and still showing the remains of its past glory — fortress walls and palaces perched among the steep cliffs of the Yantra Gorge. Clinging to the crags that rise above the River Yantra, this capital of the second Bulgarian Kingdom of the Middle Ages is one of the country’s most picturesque sites. It rises on three main hills: fortified Tsarevets; Trapezitsa, where boyars lived; and Sveta Gora, then the centre of a scholarly monastery, now a university site. Overnight in Veliko Tarnovo.
Day 5: Veliko Tarnovo: Town Tour
Today we have a tour of this town laced with history. We will admire the breathtaking views of this picturesque region during our tour of the Tsarevets Citadel (Castle of the Czar). This commanding position was first fortified in the 6th century and had become the royal centre of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom by the end of the 12th century. A short drive away is the hilltop village of Arbanassi, first settled by Albanian immigrants in the 15th century. We will have the opportunity to visit several of the houses in the region dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Balance of the day at leisure. Overnight in Veliko Tarnovo.
Day 6: Veliko Turnovo – Sofia
Today we travel to Sofia via the beautiful Danube Plain. En-route we will cross over the Troyan Pass and visit the nearby Troyan Monastery, Bulgaria’s third largest. After a lunch break we will continue on the well-preserved ‘museum-town’ of Koprivshtitsa. It was here that the revolt against the Ottoman occupation began in 1876. A visit here gives us an insight as to how Bulgarians lived a century ago. Our WALK throughout the enchanting town will bring us to many unique houses with wooden columns, painted facades, richly decorated interiors, and lovely gardens. Overnight in Sofia.
Day 7: Sofia: City Sightseeing
Today we have a sightseeing WALKING tour of Sofia. The motto of the city is “Sofia Grows but Never Ages”; founded over 7,000 years ago, Sofia today is an exciting meeting place of history and the present. Traces of the lives of Thracians and Romans, Proto-Bulgarians and Slavs can be seen here. More than 250 historic, archaeological and architectural monuments have been preserved in Sofia, the center of the country’s political and cultural life. A highlight of our day is the National Museum of History, which will act as retrospective summation of the things that we have experienced and seen on our trip. We’ll also see some of the most famous landmarks: The magnificent St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the most spectacular buildings in Sofia. In addition to the splendor of the building itself, the cathedral is also remarkable for its icons and murals, painted by the time’s foremost artists. Its crypt contains the most valuable collection of Bulgarian icons. St Sofia’s Church is the second oldest, but most significant building, which gave the city its name. Specialists highly value this remarkable archaeological monument, witness of Serdica’s golden age during the 6th century. The large archaeological complex of Roman and medieval ruins, dominated by St George Rotunda is the oldest building in Sofia. Repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, the St George Rotunda has been restored to its original 5th century appearance when it was used as a Christian church. The remainder of the afternoon is at your leisure. Overnight in Sofia.
Day 8: Departure
Departure from Sofia. PRIJATNO PATUVANE!!