Best of Bulgaria

Begin your tour in Sofia, where you’ll take in the spectacular sights of the Bulgarian capital while strolling along its celebrated yellow cobblestoned streets. The next day, tour Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 11th century, and the fantastic Rila Monastery, repository of Bulgarian arts and culture since the Middle Ages.

Explore Samovodene Street in Veliko Tarnovo, a vibrant shopping destination for traditional arts and crafts. Savor a cup of Turkish coffee brewed over hot sand, just as it was prepared hundreds of years ago. A guided walking tour of Arbanassi provides an exclusive view into daily life during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Next, tour three astonishing UNESCO World Heritage outdoor sites: the Ivanovo Churches, the Sveshtari Thracian Tomb, and the ancient Madara Horseman, popular symbol of Bulgaria.

Your adventure continues in Varna, where you’ll view the world’s most ancient gold treasure. Relax on the beach, or explore the exquisite Balchik Palace and the caves of the Aladzha Monastery.

On the peninsula of Nessebar, you’ll find a gorgeous town with history spanning thousands of years, beautiful old cobblestoned streets, and delightful restaurants with views of the sea. In Kazanlak, center of the famous rose harvest, visit the the Hellenistic Thracian Tomb.

Wind down your epic tour in Plovdiv, a modern urban center with a lovely Old Town and deep ties to the past. Visit Bachkovo Monastery and Asenovgrad Fortress before making your way to ancient Starosel, Bulgaria’s largest Thracian complex.

Highlights of the tour

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

Day 1: Sofia - arrival, city tour

Arrive in Sofia, get acquainted with your guide, and make yourself comfortable at the Hotel Niky, conveniently located on Sofia’s main shopping thoroughfare.

It’s the ideal jumping-off place for taking in the vibrant, revitalized tone of the city. In the afternoon, savor a guided walk along Sofia’s cobblestoned streets, paved with Viennese gold – coloured bricks. You’ll visit the magnificent Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral, the Roman Rotunda of St. George, the Presidency and the Parliament.

*Please note that if you experience a delayed arrival in Sofia for any reason, the city tour can also be done on the next morning

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

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

Day 2: Sofia – Boyana Church – Rila Monastery - Sofia

Today, drive to the base of Vitosha Mountain to visit the Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its outstanding collection of meticulously-preserved 13th-century frescoes and iconic art.

Next, travel to the UNESCO World Heritage Rila Monastery, built in the 10th century. Inspired by the reclusive Saint Ivan of Rila, the complex was built by his students, and is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most sacred religious sites. This religious and historical epicenter maintained Bulgarian cultural preservation for hundreds of years, from the medieval era all the way through to the 19th century. In the 1800s, careful restoration efforts resulted in the production of many new icons and paintings by celebrated masters.

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

Day 3: Sofia - Arbanassi - Veliko Tarnovo

After breakfast, depart Sofia for Veliko Tarnovo, medieval “City of the Tsars.” Take a leisurely walking tour of the Old Town, where you’ll find delightful shops filled with traditional arts and crafts. You’ll learn all about icon painting, woodcarving, textiles, and metalworking. Order a cup of Turkish coffee brewed on a tray of hot sand, in the old way.

In the afternoon, continue on to the village of Arbanassi, which features rare architectural treasures of the 17th and 18th centuries. Arbanassi enjoyed the patronage of an Ottoman sultan, thereby emerging as a residential center for wealthy merchants. At the Konstantsalieva house, you’ll have the chance to observe, in fine detail, exactly how the elite class lived during the 18th century.

Next, discover the Nativity Church in Arbanassi, built during Ottoman occupation according to the exceedingly strict codes and tenets enforced during that epoch.

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

Day 4: Veliko Tarnovo – Ivanovo Churches – Sveshtari Thracian Tomb - Madara Horseman - Varna

Today, you’ll have the rare opportunity to travel to three separate outdoor UNESCO World Heritage sites.

You’ll start the day at the Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo, an extraordinary medieval religious complex carved into solid rock.

Next, move on to the 3rd-century B.C. Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari, renowned for its unusual half-plant, half-human caryatids and extensive murals.

Round out the day at the UNESCO World Heritage Madara Horseman, ancient landmark and popular symbol of Bulgaria. This massive early-medieval relief, cut into a high cliff, may represent a bygone military triumph or Thracian deity.

Arrival in Varna in the late afternoon.

Overnight in Varna, Hotel Boutique Splendid**** (located next to the Varna Cathedral)

Day 5: Day trip to Balchik and Aladzha monastery

This morning, stroll along the sweeping Sea Garden in the Black Sea resort of Varna, passing by the Roman Baths. Visit the Archaeological Museum to view the Gold of Varna, the oldest gold treasure ever discovered, with priceless items dating to 4000 B.C.

Spend the afternoon on your own, relaxing on the beach; or tour the lovely Balchik Palace and botanical gardens, and the Aladzha Monastery, a cave structure beautifully painted with bright exterior frescoes.

Overnight in Varna, Hotel Boutique Splendid**** (located next to the Varna Cathedral)

Day 6: Varna – Nessebar – Kazanlak Thracian Tomb - Plovdiv Click for more photos »

Day 6: Varna – Nessebar – Kazanlak Thracian Tomb - Plovdiv

This morning, journey to Nessebar, an exquisite 9000-year-old town built on a former island (now a beautiful peninsula). Nessebar is known for its picturesque churches and houses, and the settlement still supports a vibrant fishing culture. Find a table at one of the delightful restaurants overlooking the sea, and fill your lungs with the beautiful salt air.

Next, make a stop at Kazanlak, an area renowned for its rose harvest. Here, you’ll visit the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Thracian Tomb. This astounding complex, discovered in 1944, encompasses a vast Thracian necropolis featuring a huge array of murals. It represents Bulgaria’s only collection of Hellenistic masterpieces still in their original state.

Arrival in Plovdiv in the late afternoon.

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

Day 7: Plovdiv Walking Tour – Bachkovo Monastery - Asenovgrad Fortress -  Plovdiv Click for more photos »

Day 7: Plovdiv Walking Tour – Bachkovo Monastery - Asenovgrad Fortress - Plovdiv

Today, explore Plovdiv, one of the most historically diverse cities in all of Europe. Founded by the Thracians, Plovdiv later became a strategic Greek and Roman center. The city is known for a lively arts scene and bohemian atmosphere featuring an abundance of galleries and cafés. With your guide, visit the ancient Roman theater of Philippopolis and the preeminent Ethnographic Museum, situated in one of the oldest houses in Plovdiv.

Next, journey to the Chepelare River to tour the vast Bachkovo Monastery, founded in 1083; enjoy the amazing view at the imposing Asenovgrad Fortress, built on a high strategic point inhabited since the Thracian and Roman eras.

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

Day 8: Plovdiv – Starosel – Koprivshtitsa - Sofia

Today, you’ll explore the delightful village of Koprivshitsa. On your guided walking tour, wind your way along narrow cobblestoned streets to view the abundance of 19th-century architecture: over 400 of Bulgaria’s best-preserved National Revival houses can be found here.

Travel through the beautiful countryside to Starosel, site of the largest known Thracian complex in Bulgaria. The mausoleum, comprised of six underground temples, dates to the 6th century B.C. Tour the Chetinyova Mogila temple, the only one of the existing sites open to the public.

Continue to Sofia; arrival in the late afternoon or evening.

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

Day 9: departure

Your tour ends. Transfer to the airport for the flight home.

Download Tour Description PDF

What people have said:

I am totally satisfied with everything we did, I think you put such a lot of thought into it all that you did not leave much to improve upon. The two guides were excellent, we very much enjoyed their company as well as being able to rely on them for good translations and communication with locals. I appreciated having a Bulgarian guide in Bulgaria and a Romanian guide in Romania. … read more

Valerie Kleindienst (Australia)

The tour is well planned, not only it covers most of the tourist must visit places, Balkan Trails even planned out the itineraries to visit more places other than those written on tour books. The tour covers the important cities, the country sides, the sea and the mountains. I find visiting the local craftsmith on the horse wagon is most interesting. We have a chance to speak to the locals and see how they … read more

Mr. and Mrs. Lee (Australia)

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If you would like to book this tour, or just want to learn a bit more about it, please fill in the enquiry form below and we will get back to you within 48 hours.
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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 Best of Bulgaria

What is included with this tour?

Included services and features:

  • The possibility of having your itinerary customised before the start of the tour, at no extra charge
  • Great flexibility regarding changes to the daily itinerary even after the start of the tour
  • The services of 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 included with the itinerary  (we can also offer a different selection of hotels, based on your preference)
  • Breakfast every day
  • One dinner with folklore show, in Plovdiv
  • Detailed map of Bulgaria
  • Airport transfers

Not included:

  • Airfare to and from Bulgaria
  • Meals or beverages, other than the included ones
  • Photo fees (around 2 or 3 euro/sight)

 

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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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