Bulgaria is home to a beguiling mix of culture, history and nature. From gold-domed churches and religious art, to picturesque old towns and ancient ruins, to stunning beaches and incredible national parks.
On this 8-day tour, embark on an in-depth journey of cultural discovery across Bulgaria. Begin in the capital, Sofia, then head to the city of Plovdiv, famed for its cobbled old town and crumbling ancient theatre. Move on to Burgas where you can visit UNESCO-listed Kazanlak Tomb and pretty harbourside towns along the way. Visit Cape Kaliakra in search of dolphins, the old capital Pliska and the "Throne City" Veliko Tarnovo before heading back to Sofia. End your trip with a walking tour of the capital to see the main highlights.
Arrive in Sofia and transfer to the hotel. (D)
After breakfast, depart for Rila Monastery, the biggest monastery in Bulgaria and the second largest on the Balkans, and the city of Plovdiv known for its Old Town and the ancient theatre. Rila Monastery was founded in the 10th century by St John of Rila, a hermit canonised by the Orthodox Church. His simple dwelling was transformed into a monastic complex which played a vital role in the spiritual and social life of medieval Bulgaria. Plovdiv is considered to be one of the oldest cities in Europe. Here see remains of a Thracian fortress (5th century BC) and well-preserved remains from the Roman time. The Old Town is a marvellous site, with its picturesque churches, the mosque and architecture from the Bulgarian Revival period. (B,D)
Morning visit to Kazanlak Tomb, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here see the numerous tombs of different Thracian kings. Afterwards continue to the Sozopol, one of the ancient towns and harbours on Bulgaria’s famous coast. In 2010, during archaeological excavations of the nearby Saint Ivan (Saint John’s) Island, researchers unearthed holy relics of Saint John the Baptist. Today these invaluable relics are in the care of authorities at St Cyril and St Methodius Church and attract pilgrims from all over the world. (B,D)
Spend the day exploring the old walled city of Nesebar and Aladzha Monastery - a rock monastery hewn into vertical cliffs. Visit Cape Kaliakra and hopefully see the dolphins here. Explore the Palace in Balchik, former summer residence of the Romanian Queen Maria Alexandrina Victoria de Edinburg (1875 – 1938). It is situated approximately 2 km south-west of Balchik in a beautiful location between the Balchik rocks and the sea. Finish the day in Varna. (B,D)
Visit the first capital of Bulgaria – Pliska then head to the Madara Reserve. The most notable monument here is the unique stone relief known as the Madara Rider. The relief depicts a horseman with a sword in his hand. One legend has it that a Bulgarian King was hunting on the plateau when he fell off the cliff and died. Your next stop, Preslav, was known as a spiritual and literature centre, where the development of the Slavic written language and the Golden Age of Bulgaria during the rule of King Simeon I (who reigned in the period 893 – 927) took place. Continue to the village of Arbanasi, located on a high plateau some 5km from the city of Veliko Tarnovo. It is known that the village existed during the time of the Second Bulgarian State (1185 – 1421). At that time the Bolyari (nobles), living in the capital Tarnovo, used it as a summer residence. According to the legend, the King of Tarnovo minted coins here. (B,D)
Explore Veliko Tarnovo and learn about the city’s dramatic past and its main highlight - Tsarevets, the castle of the Bulgarian kings. Visit the Palace, the Patriarch’s complex and Baldwin’s Tower to enjoy stunning views of the “Throne City”. Visit the open-air museum of Etar near Gabrovo. Continue to Sofia. (B,D)
Enjoy a walking tour of Sofia and see the main sights such as Alexander Nevski Cathedral, the parliament, Banya Bashi Mosque and National Theatre. (B,D)
Transfer to the airport and fly back to the UK. (B)