Bulgaria and Romania at a glance

Begin your tour of Eastern European history and culture in the vibrant Bulgarian capital, Sofia, where you’ll stroll along the famed yellow brick road leading from the gold-domed Alexander Nevski Cathedral to the Royal Palace. Tour one of Sofia’s greatest treasures: the magnificent 11th-century Boyana Church (UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Continue on to the beautiful Rila Monastery and Plovdiv, a picturesque artistic haven; you’ll tour the Old Town, Antique Theater, and Roman Stadium. In Kazanlak, visit the duplicate of the celebrated 4th-century B.C. Thracian Tomb.

On the way to Veliko Tarnovo, the medieval Bulgarian capital, drive through the breathtaking and culturally significant Shipka Pass. Visit the soaring Tsarevets Fortress, and take in the spectacular view of the Old Town. Explore Samovodene Street, a mecca for traditional Bulgarian arts and crafts.

Next, visit the architectural gem of Arbanassi, filled with beautifully preserved houses from the 17th and 18th centuries. Tour the Church of the Nativity along with the enchanting 17th-century Konstantzalieva House. Witness the incredible Ivanovo Rock Monastery, hewn directly into canyon walls.

Cross the border into Romania toward Bucharest, and drive into the breathtaking Transylvanian landscape. Explore Bran Castle, renovated in full 1920s style by Maria, second queen of Romania.

In Brasov’s Old Town, admire the Black Church, the Old Town Square, and the medieval city walls. At Peles Castle, the 19th-century royal residence, marvel over the extravagant décor, which epitomized the height of luxury available at the time.

Highlights of the tour

Click Here To See Detailed Tour Itinerary
Detailed Tour Itinerary
Day 1: arrival in Sofia, city tour Click for more photos »

Day 1: arrival in Sofia, city tour

Arrive in Sofia, connect with your guide, and settle into the Hotel Niky, strategically placed right at the center of this sparkling, revivified city.

In the afternoon, delight in a guided promenade down Sofia’s beautiful streets, paved in unique yellow-glazed brick. Drop by the Neo-Byzantine Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral; the National Assembly chambers; the Presidency, built in the style of Socialist Classicism; and the St. George Rotunda, Sofia’s oldest building and an excellent illustration of surviving Roman architecture.

*Please note that if you experience a delayed arrival in Sofia for any reason, the city tour can be broken into two parts: the afternoon of your arrival day and the following morning.

Overnight in Sofia, Hotel Niky*** (centrally located)

Day  2: Sofia – Boyana church - Rila Monastery – Plovdiv Click for more photos »

Day  2: Sofia – Boyana church - Rila Monastery – Plovdiv

Take a small excursion to the foothills of Vitosha Mountain to explore the 10th-century Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site best known for its medieval architecture and highly illustrative collection of pristine 13th-century iconic masterpieces.

Next, drive on to the UNESCO World Heritage Rila Monastery, a beautiful architectural jewel originally brought into being by the reclusive Bulgarian patron saint, Ivan of Rila. The expansive church complex, largely completed during the 19th century, is widely thought to be one of the holiest places in the greater region. This magnificent structure acted for centuries as a safe house for priceless treasures of Bulgarian culture, and its restoration allowed more recent works of art to come into recognition.

Continue to Plovdiv; late afternoon arrival.

Overnight in Plovdiv, Hotel Evmolpia**** (located in the Old Town)

Day 3: Plovdiv – Kazanlak Thracian Tomb– Shipka pass – Veliko Tarnovo Click for more photos »

 

Day 3: Plovdiv – Kazanlak Thracian Tomb– Shipka pass – Veliko Tarnovo

This morning, you’ll have the remarkable opportunity to experience a guided exploration of Plovdiv, one of Europe’s most ancient cities. The Thracians, Romans, and subsequent cultural forces all left indelible imprints that are still visible today. Plovdiv emanates a delightfully inventive aesthetic, and it is a notable gathering place for artists. Take in the atmosphere as you stroll to the Roman Theater and the Museum of Ethnography, founded in 1917. Here, you’ll have the chance to take a closer look at Bulgarian history and culture as represented by myriad examples of traditional clothing and textiles, painting, tapestries, and ceramics.

In the afternoon, drive through the famous Bulgarian rose fields to witness the extraordinary Thracian Tomb (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Please note: you will visit a meticulous replica, as visits to the ancient site, for reasons of preservation, are almost never allowed. The necropolis, recently discovered in the 1940s, represents Bulgaria’s only example of intact, priceless Hellenistic murals.

Next, voyage to Veliko Tarnovo by way of the spectacular Shipka Pass. Tour the Russian Church and the historic monument at Shipka Peak—a revered place for Bulgarians.

Late afternoon arrival in Veliko Tarnovo.

Overnight in  Veliko Tarnovo, Hotel Bolyarski**** (located in the Old Town)

Day 4: Veliko Tarnovo – Arbanassi – Bucharest Click for more photos »

Day 4: Veliko Tarnovo – Arbanassi – Bucharest

In the morning, discover Veliko Tarnovo. Meander through the Old Town and search through the delightful shops on the arts and crafts streets, perusing offerings in metalworking, icon painting, woodcarving, and weaving. You can even order a cup of exquisite Turkish coffee, infused on scalding sand in the traditional way.

Next, tour the immense fortification at Tsarevets, strategically placed high on a hill with an uninterrupted view. The fortress served as home to the Bulgarian patriarch in medieval times. Tour the extensive fortress walls and watchtowers, and let yourself be transported back to another era.

Later, take a small side trip to Arbanassi, a sweet, spectacularly preserved village featuring houses built in the 17th and 18th centuries. In days of old, the village became a center of affluence, primarily due to preference ceded by Ottoman luminaries. Take an insider’s peek into the lifestyle of the era inside the fascinating Konstantsalieva House, a preeminent museum that successfully freezes in time the home of a wealthy 18th-century merchant and his family.

Next, view the Nativity Church in Arbanassi, a fantastic example of the religious architectural style prevalent during Ottoman rule.

In the afternoon, depart for a drive north, in the direction of the Romanian border and Bucharest.

Overnight in Bucharest, Hotel Berthelot**** (centrally located)

Day 5: Bucharest (city tour) – Brasov (city tour) Click for more photos »

Day 5: Bucharest (city tour) – Brasov (city tour)

The following morning, savor a lovely city tour of Bucharest, the vast Romanian capital. Against a backdrop of monumental 20th-century architecture, vestiges of a more serene, artistic time are still in evidence, most importantly in the 19th-century French houses and extant medieval churches sprinkled throughout the city.

Next, depart on an exciting journey into windswept Transylvania, still carpeted with old-growth forest and teeming with wildlife.

In the afternoon, your guide will lead you on a comprehensive walking tour of Brasov’s Old Town. Discover the citadel, the enormous Black Church, and the Strada Sforii, the narrowest street in Europe. Old Brasov is still encircled by medieval bastions and fortifications, much to the delight of travelers seeking immersion in that time period.

Wind up your day of adventure by relaxing at one of the wonderful restaurants in Brasov’s Old Town.

Overnight in Brasov, Hotel Armatti*** (located in the Old Town)

Day 6: Brasov – Bran Castle - Peles Castle – Bucharest Click for more photos »

Day 6: Brasov – Bran Castle - Peles Castle – Bucharest

In the morning, you’ll visit the jaw-dropping Bran Castle, situated at the edge of a dramatic cliff and one of the most well-loved and celebrated sites in all of Romania. The interior, made warm and inviting by Queen Marie, does not align with the expectation of a vampire’s abode; but be sure to explore the secret passage while you’re there.

Don’t miss the opportunity to taste the delicious cheeses, pálinka (plum and pear brandy), and traditional sausage and ham for sale at the castle.

A bit later, set out through the untamed Transylvanian wilderness, arriving in the resort town of Sinaia. Here, you’ll have the chance to tour Peles Castle, the astonishing 19th-century royal abode. The castle overflows with all of the riches available for purchase during that time period; pay special attention to the dozens of types of rare and exotic wood employed to finish the interior. Afterward, stop at the lovely Sinaia Monastery, complete with gold mosaic paintings, a museum, and a beautiful bell tower.

Return to Bucharest in the evening.

Overnight in Bucharest, Hotel Berthelot**** (centrally located)

Day 7: Bucharest, departure

Departure; transfer to the airport for the flight home.

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What people have said:

It was an absolutely fantastic experience. I am sincerely grateful to you and to Catalin for the adventure in Bulgaria and Romania. The route we took was full and intense but that is exactly how we prefer it. It seems to me now that we have learnt more about the two countries that you have managed to squeeze almost every notable highlight into the time we had available (with the exception … read more

Gert and Caroline Claassen (South Africa)

The tour far surpassed my expectations. I chose to work with Balkan Trails because of the flexibility in creating an itinerary to fit my schedule. Also, Vlad was quick to respond to any question or concern. Catalin was a wonderful guide with just enough facts without sounding like the encyclopaedia. Stoyan was also very accomodating even going so far as to arrive 30 mins early for our departure from the hotel just to … read more

Starla Suttles (United States)

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vladzoe21

We are Vlad and Zoe Trestian – the owners and managers of Balkan Trails. We have been creating memorable travel experiences in Eastern Europe for almost 20 years now.

We understand traveling is personal and individual, and no two travellers are alike. That is why the majority of our tours are based on customised itineraries. Your tour is exactly that: YOURS. Just let us know when you’d like to arrive and depart, what your interests are, the type of hotels you prefer, and we’ll take care of the rest.

Looking forward to showing you our part of the world.

Other Ways to get in touch:

Have a Question? Call Us: 0040 723 578 452

E-mail address: office@balkantrails.com

Frequently asked questions

1 Bulgaria and Romania at a glance

What is included with this tour?

Included services and features:

  • The possibility of having your itinerary customised in any way you desire before the tour starts, at no extra charge
  • Great flexibility regarding changes to the daily itinerary even after the start of the tour
  • A private, licensed English speaking guide/driver, available throughout the tour
  • All guide’s expenses (meals, accommodation, etc.)
  • Private transportation in air conditioned car
  • All car expenses, such as gasoline, parking and road tolls
  • Complimentary wireless internet access in the car, so that you can stay in touch with your loved ones even while traveling
  • Entrance fees as per the itinerary, with guided visits. If you wish to add any sight on the go, the guide will always be available with information during the visit
  • Accommodation as per the hotel list on the itinerary page (we can also offer a different selection of hotels, based on your preference)
  • Breakfast every day
  • Airport transfers

Not included:

  • Airfare to and from Romania or Bulgaria
  • Meals or beverages, other than the included ones
  • Photo fees (some sights require the payment of a fee for allowing you to take pictures – they are mostly inexpensive, around 2 or 3 euro/sight)
  • Gratuities for your guide (entirely up to your discretion)

Posted in: 1 Bulgaria and Romania at a glance

About Tours In General

Where do the tours start?

Our tours start in either Sofia (Bulgaria) or Bucharest (Romania). Both cities have well-connected international airports. However, we can also customise the tours to start in a different city, if that better suits your flight arrangements. Alternative airports include Varna or Burgas (in Bulgaria) or Sibiu, Cluj Napoca, Iasi and Targu Mures (in Romania).

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What are the departure dates?

We do not have set departure dates. All our tours are private and organised on request. The dates when you start and end the tour are entirely up to you.

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I like one of the tours, but I’d like to make some changes to the itinerary. Is it possible?

Of course. All our tours are customisable. We can make changes to one itinerary, join 2 itineraries together, or you can just tell us about the places you want to see, and we’ll make a whole new itinerary just for you! Customising a tour comes at no extra charge.

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I would like to change some of the hotels that come with the tour. Can I do that?

Definitely. The hotels are always up to you. We can upgrade the standard selection of hotels, or if you are on a budget, we can also offer cheaper accommodation options.

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I see that in most cases, only breakfast is included. Why is that?

Having meals included means that you would have to be at a certain restaurant at a certain time just so that you don’t miss a pre-booked meal. This takes away from one of the great advantages of a private tour: flexibility. Not having a restaurant pre-booked gives you great freedom to set your own pace each day, add or skip some sights as you go, etc.

To ensure maximum flexibility throughout your trip, meals are usually planned as you go. Your guide knows the best restaurants in each area you travel through and will make suggestions based on the kind of meal you’d like to have.

The meals we include are the ones that come with an important cultural element: home-cooked meals where you can interact with locals, lunches at homes of artists where you learn more about a specific form of art, or refreshments such as the ones offered during the home visit with the Gypsy family.

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Do your tours include any insurance related services?

No. We recommend to all of our clients to  carry a medical insurance that would cover any health-related costs that might incur while on the trip. Insurance for trip interruption and lost/stolen luggage is also recommended.

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Do I have to pay for the guide’s meals?

No. The guide will have a meal allowance, which will cover his meals. Furthermore, the guide will only join you for meals if you ask him to – if you’d rather be on your own for lunch and/or dinner, that is perfectly fine.

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How about changes of itinerary on the fly? Can we do that?

Changes on the fly can be done to a certain extent. You can always choose to skip a meal or a sight, or swap for a totally different sight altogether. Alterations of itinerary that imply hotel changes are subject to rooms availability. Also, please note that in the case of last minute hotel cancellations, sometimes the hotel may charge late-cancellation penalties which can be up to 100% of the reservation cost. Additional costs generated by on-the-fly changes will be billed separately.

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