Bulgaria at a glance

In this beautifully curated, compact tour, discover the essentials of old Bulgaria: historic architecture, vibrant traditional arts and crafts, sweeping panoramic vistas, medieval monasteries and fortresses, and traces of Roman and Thracian culture.

Begin your tour in the vibrant Bulgarian capital of Sofia, where you’ll stroll along the famed yellow-paved streets to explore major landmarks such as the Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral and  the covered food market. At the 11th-century Boyana Church (UNESCO World Heritage Site), explore the priceless treasures at your leisure.

Drive into the mountains to the Bulgarian Orthodox Rila Monastery, built a full 1147 meters above sea level. In the picturesque, artistic Plovdiv, tour the Old Town, Antique Theater, and Roman Stadium. In Kazanlak, home of Bulgarian rose oil more valuable than gold, visit the celebrated UNESCO World Heritage, 4th-century B.C. Thracian Tomb.

On the way to Veliko Tarnovo, drive through the breathtaking Shipka Pass, site of the final Bulgarian victory over the Ottoman Turks. Visit the soaring Tsarevets Fortress, and take in the spectacular view of the Old Town. Explore Samovodene Street, a mecca for folkloric Bulgarian arts and crafts.

Next, visit the architecturally significant village of Arbanassi. Tour Konstantzalieva House, where you’ll explore the daily realities of a well-to-do 17th-century family. You will also explore the Nativity Church, built at a time when Christian architecture in Bulgaria was subject to restrictions imposed by the Ottoman Turks.

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, unpack your bags, and recover from your long journey at the Hotel Niky, the ideal point of departure for taking in the reinvigorated, ultramodern culture of the city.

In the afternoon, enjoy a guided walk along Sofia’s magnificent streets, paved in golden – coloured cobblestones. Tour the glorious Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral, the Presidency, and the 4th-century Church of St. George, complete with a surviving Roman street and surrounding ruins. Journey in the shadow of Vitosha Mountain to tour the medieval Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its extensive, archetypal compendium of 13th-century icons and paintings.

*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 – Rila Monastery – Plovdiv Click for more photos »

 

Day 2: Sofia – Rila Monastery – Plovdiv

Today, bid farewell to Sofia and make your way to Rila Monastery, a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site. Inspired by the patron saint of Bulgarians and constructed in the tenth century, it is regarded as one of the most sacred places in Bulgaria. This vast architectural masterpiece safeguarded Bulgarian cultural preservation through the medieval era and well into the 1800s, when meticulous restoration projects generated exquisite new piéces de résistance.

Following your monastery tour, continue on to Plovdiv.

Upon arrival in Plovdiv, you’ll have the chance to explore one of the most ancient of all European cities. Initially founded as a Thracian settlement, Plovdiv later developed into a crucial Greek and Roman garrison. The city now offers a highly energized artistic ambience filled with a multitude of galleries and cafés. During your guided tour, you’ll discover the ancient Roman Theater and the Ethnographic Museum, one of Bulgaria’s foremost cultural repositories.

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

Today, your destination is the ancient capital of Veliko Tarnovo. On the way, stop at Kazanlak, renowned for its exquisite rose harvest, and visit the Thracian Tomb (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Please note: you will be touring the replica, as visits to the original are permitted only on rare occasions. This vast Hellenistic complex, unearthed in the 1940s, comprises a vast necropolis of the Thracian cult of the dead.

Continue your journey over the strikingly beautiful Shipka Pass, where Bulgarians defended their country against the Ottoman Turks in the War of Independence in 1877.

Arrival in Veliko Tarnovo in the late afternoon.

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

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

Day 4: Veliko Tarnovo – Arbanassi – Sofia

In the morning, tour Veliko Tarnovo, capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Take a walking tour through the Old Town, and discover picturesque handcraft shops filled to the brim with icon paintings, textiles, and metalworking—all available for purchase. You may choose to sample a cup of traditional Turkish coffee made on hot sand, exactly as it was brewed in times long past.

Next, tour the strategic fortification of Tsarevets, built high on a monumental hillside. It was the stronghold of kings during the Middle Ages. Explore the extensive medieval walls, church, and watchtowers.

Later, step back in time at the exquisite village of Arbanassi, an architectural jewel featuring beautifully-preserved 17th- and 18th-century churches and merchants’ houses. The picturesque settlement remains largely unchanged, and offers unparalleled opportunities for investigating the deep past. The finest example can be found at the 17th-century, National Revival-style Konstantsalieva House. You’ll also take a tour of the Nativity Church, an outstanding representation of the religious architecture of the time.

In the afternoon, drive back to Sofia.

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

Day 5: Sofia, departure

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

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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)

Can’t begin to express my thanks to you, your firm and both my guides. Stoyan and I happened upon a Festival of St. Marko Day in Momina Kliabura with the women attired in their village culture. Truly this was a highlight of the trip and totally out of the blue (a large group would have never done this, but Stoyan did). It was a pleasure to have traveled under your auspices. … read more

Linda Brolly Hathaway (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 at a glance

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
  • 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)
  • Gratuities for your guide (entirely at your discretion)

 

Posted in: 1 Bulgaria 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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