Bulgaria revealed

“Bulgaria Revealed” allows you to experience an extensive array of carefully-chosen Bulgarian cultural landmarks via a comprehensive, yet relaxed itinerary.

Begin in Sofia, where you’ll stroll along the famed yellow brick road to view the capital’s major sights. Continue on to Boyana Church and the spectacular Rila Monastery before traveling to Melnik, surrounded by unusual sand formations and situated right in the heart of Bulgarian wine country.

Next, tour Rozhen Monastery before stopping off in the exquisite town of Kovacevica. Take in the breathtaking natural scenery at Dospat Lake and Trigrad Gorge, then explore the mysterious Yagodinska Cave.

In Batak, visit a key site in the 1876 April Uprising; in the village of Kostandovo, tour the workshop of a master traditional carpet-maker. Experience an evening walking tour in Plovdiv, then admire the abundance of traditional architecture in Koprivshtitsa. At Starosel, investigate the largest Thracian burial complex in Bulgaria.

Visit the Thracian Tomb at Kazanlak, drive through the stunning Shipka Pass, and tour the incredible outdoor cultural museum at Etara.

Witness the woodcarving tradition at Tryavna, shop for crafts in Veliko Tarnovo, and stroll through the architectural gem of Arbanassi. View the Madara Horseman as well as the exquisite sites at Ivanovo and Sveshtari. See the world’s oldest gold treasure at Varna, with the option to tour Balchik Palace and the Aladzha Cave Monastery—or simply spend the afternoon on the beach. Finally, enjoy a splendid day on the magnificent peninsula of Nessebar before returning to Sofia and your flight home.

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, meet your guide, and unpack your bags at the Hotel Niky, situated right in the center of the city. It’s the perfect starting point for experiencing the spirited, reinvigorated culture of the Bulgarian capital.

In the afternoon, enjoy a guided walk along Sofia’s magical yellow-paved streets, visiting the breathtaking Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral, Parliament, the Presidency, and the ancient St. George’s Rotunda. Journey to the base of Vitosha Mountain to visit the medieval Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its exhaustive collection of intact 13th-century frescoes and iconic art.

*should you travel to Sofia on a flight that arrives late in the afternoon or evening, the city tour can also be done the next morning

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

Day 2: Sofia – Rila Monastery – Melnik Click for more photos »

Day 2: Sofia – Rila Monastery – Melnik

Today, depart Sofia in the direction of the UNESCO World Heritage Rila Monastery. Founded in the 10th century by the ascetic Saint Ivan of Rila, the complex is known as one of Bulgaria’s most revered and celebrated religious sites. This spectacular architectural masterpiece was crucial to Bulgarian cultural preservation throughout medieval times and remained in this protective role well into the 1800s, when exquisite restoration work resulted in a profusion of new paintings and murals.

Upon arrival in Melnik, enjoy a guided walking tour to view the exquisite architecture as well as the unusual natural sand formations of the surrounding landscape. Melnik is also a renowned wine region, so a dinner at one of the excellent traditional taverns here will be a special treat.

Overnight in Melnik, Hotel Chavkova House***

Day 3: Rozhen monastery – Kovacevica – Dospat Lake – Trigrad Gorge

Today, head further into the Pirin Mountains to visit the medieval Rozhen Monastery, built in the 1300s and restored in the 18th century. Next, make a short stop in the village of Kovacevica, a thriving artists’ retreat historically and culturally untouched by Ottoman rule. The town is filled with prime examples of National Revival architecture.

Exquisite views await at the Dospat Reservoir, surrounded by wildlife and pine forests. You’ll also visit the magnificent Trigrad Gorge and Devil’s Throat Cave, site of a breathtaking waterfall and Orpheus’ attempted rescue of Eurydice from Hades.

Next, continue your journey into the Rhodope Mountains to view the stalactites and extraordinary cave pearls at Yagodinska Cave.

Spend the night in Dospat, in a wonderful complex built in the traditional architectural style.

Overnight in the village of Sarnitsa, Hotel Villa Romantika***

Day 4: Batak – Kostandovo (carpet workshop) – Plovdiv

Today, you’ll drive to Batak, a key location in the decisive April Uprising against Ottoman rule. The terrible massacre of Bulgarians here in 1876, documented by Januarius MacGahan and Eugene Schuyler, definitively turned the tide of British (and worldwide) opinion against the Turks.

Next, visit Kostandovo to tour the fascinating workshop of a famous traditional carpet-maker who designs for royalty and other luminaries. Because his masterpieces must be ordered well in advance, pieces will not be available for sale; take time here to learn all the details of his exclusive trade.

In the evening, enjoy a walking tour of the Old Town in Plovdiv, famous for its Bulgarian Renaissance architecture and ancient Roman City.

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

Day 5: Plovdiv - Koprivshtitsa – Starosel – Plovdiv

Today, you’ll discover the charming little town of Koprivshitsa. Walk with your guide along narrow cobblestoned streets to take in the exquisite 19th-century architecture: hundreds of Bulgaria’s best-preserved traditional houses are clustered here.

Continue on through the lovely countryside to Starosel, site of the largest Thracian necropolis ever discovered in Bulgaria. The complex dates to the 6th century B.C., and its extensive scope encompasses six underground temples. Explore the Chetinyova Mogila temple, the only site currently open to the public.

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

Day 6:  Kazanlak – Shipka Pass – Etara – Tryavna – Veliko Tarnovo Click for more photos »

Day 6: Kazanlak – Shipka Pass – Etara – Tryavna – Veliko Tarnovo

Today, travel to Kazanlak in the Valley of Roses to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Thracian Tomb. Discovered in the mid-20th century, it was part of an enormous Thracian mausoleum featuring a vast array of Hellenistic murals.

Next, journey through the Balkan Mountains via the awe-inspiring Shipka Pass, stopping at the memorial honoring Bulgarian heroes who gave their lives during the Liberation of Bulgaria in the late 19th century.

Later on, experience living history at the incredible ethnographic complex of Etara, a captivating open-air museum rich in exhibits and live demonstrations of local traditions, customs, and craftsmanship. The complex includes numerous watermills, traditional homes, workshops, a crafts bazaar, a bakery, and a small restaurant.

Next, head for the town of Tryavna, a picturesque town famous for its woodcarving. Witness lovely examples of this trade when you visit the Old School in the center of town, then tour the Daskalova House; in 1808, two famous masters of woodcarving competed for six months to create the finest ceiling.

Arrival in Veliko Tarnovo in the evening.

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

Day 7: Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi

Today, explore Veliko Tarnovo, medieval capital and cultural center of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Take a guided tour of the Old Town, where you’ll find delightful handcraft shops offering demonstrations of icon painting, woodcarving, textile arts, and traditional metalworking. Savor a cup of Turkish coffee brewed over hot sand, just as it was done in times long past.

Next, take a short drive to the village of Arbanassi, an architectural gem of the 1600s and 1700s brought to prominence by the patronage of an Ottoman sultan. This is where rich and powerful merchants of the past lived out their lives; catch a glimpse at the Konstantsalieva House, home of one of the wealthiest merchants of the 18th century. Discover the Nativity Church, built at a time when Christian architecture in Bulgaria was heavily restricted by the Ottomans.

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

Day 8: Veliko Tarnovo - Ivanovo Rock Churches - Sveshtari Thracian Tomb – Madara Horseman - Varna

Today  you’ll have the chance to explore three UNESCO World Heritage sites. Begin at the unforgettable Ivanovo, a monastic complex hewn directly into the solid rock of the cliff face.

Next, proceed to the 3rd-century B.C. Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari, famous for its Grecian caryatids and ancient murals.

Finally, you’ll view the Madara Horseman, a towering 8th-century relief portraying a monumental horse and rider. Medieval Greek inscriptions document a pivotal military victory.

Finish the day in Varna, an enchanting city on the Black Sea.

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

Day 9: Day trip to Balchik and the Aladzha monastery

This morning in Varna, walk along the lovely Sea Garden, passing by the old Greek neighborhood and the Roman ruins. Visit the Archaeological Museum to see the oldest collection of gold in the world: its priceless treasures date back to 4000 B.C.

You can spend the rest of the day on your own enjoying free time at the beach; alternatively, you may choose to visit Queen Marie’s exquisite Balchik Palace and botanical gardens, along with the Aladzha Cave Monastery, brightly painted with lovely exterior frescoes.

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

Day 10: Varna - Nessebar - Sofia

Today, drink in the incomparable atmosphere at the Black Sea town of Nessebar (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The Old Town, more than 9000 years old, is situated on a tiny peninsula; a narrow manmade strip of land connects this jewel to the mainland. Take a guided walking tour to discover the ancient Hellenistic ruins, Thracian wall, medieval churches, and Byzantine monuments.

Be sure to stop for a moment in one of Nessebar’s pretty restaurants to savor the local catch and fresh salt breezes.

Continue to Sofia, where you’ll arrive in the late afternoon.

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

Day 11: Departure

Your tour ends; transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Download Tour Description PDF

What people have said:

We think our tour with Stoyan has been one of the best we have done. Stoyan was an excellent driver/guide, very considerate, and full of knowledge about Bulgaria and it’s history. We rate your company highly, and would certainly recommend it to friends. Thank you for being so organised and informative, it was all made very easy for us.

Jan and Rich Ellingham (New Zealand)

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 revealed

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
  • One home hosted lunch in Arbanassi, a great chance to learn more about everyday life in Bulgaria
  • 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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