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8 Day Bulgaria Archaeology Tour, 2022

Option 1:

Archaeological holiday led by licensed guide-driver. The guide will drive.

Small Group Archaeology Holiday in Bulgaria-the maximum group size is just 6 people

Tour Cost Per Person:

Group size:

Minimum 2 participants € 1 600 per person in double/twin room sharing

3- 4 participants € 1360 per person in double/twin room sharing

5- 6 participants € 1100 per person in double/twin room sharing

Single supplement: € 195

Single supplement applies for single travelers or for those travelling together who would prefer a single room.

Cost Inclusions:

♦ 7 nights accommodation at 3 stars hotels as per itinerary, buffet breakfast and taxes included. Hotel Niky or similar in Sofia. Hotel Odeon or similar in Plovdiv.

♦ Meals: 1 lunch box included on Day 5.

♦ Transportation by comfortable air-conditioned vehicle, fuel, parking, taxes included.

♦ Museum and site visits as per itinerary, entrance fees included.

♦ Comprehensive information package about Bulgaria. Map of Bulgaria.

Option 2:

Expert-led archaeological holiday by professional archaeologist

Small group archaeology holiday in Bulgaria-the maximum group size is just 6 people

All tours operated in comfortable vehicle with driver.

Tour Cost Per Person:

Group size:

Minimum 2 participants € 2 650 per person in double/twin room sharing

3- 4 participants € 2 100 per person in double/twin room sharing

5- 6 participants € 1 660 per person in double/twin room sharing

Single supplement: € 220

Single supplement applies for single travelers or for those travelling together who would prefer a single room.

Cost Inclusions:

7 nights accommodation at 3 stars hotels as per itinerary, buffet breakfast and taxes included. Hotel Niky or similar in Sofia. Hotel Odeon or similar in Plovdiv.

  • Meals: 1 lunch box included on Day 5.
  • English-speaking Archaeologist throughout, salary, daily expenses, hotels included.
  • Transportation by comfortable air-conditioned vehicle, driver’s salary, daily expenses, hotels, parking included.
  • Museum and site visits as per itinerary, entrance fees included.
  • Comprehensive information package about Bulgaria. Map of Bulgaria

All 2021 Archaeological Tours:

Arrive Saturday, Depart Saturday

 

Itinerary: Sofia (2 nights) – Plovdiv (5 nights)

You will visit 3 outstanding UNESCO Heritage Sites

Boyana Church

Rila Monastery

The Thracian Tomb at Kazanlak- 4th c. BC

In archaeological terms Bulgaria is one of the richest counties in Europe. In Bulgarian lands was living the most ancient civilization in Europe. Join us on this exciting journey to discover a rich ancient culture, breathtaking archaeology finds, fascinating destination and hospitable people.

Saturday, Day 1.

Arrive Sofia airport. Transfer Sofia airport to your hotel in Sofia. Overnight Sofia.

Sunday, Day 2. All day in Sofia

Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, was founded more than 7 000 years ago, and has long been an important crossroads between Asia Minor and Europe. Sofia’s monuments attest to the many cultures and civilizations that flourished here.

A settlement inhabited by Thracians Serdi is known from the 2nd c. BC at least. It was well set within a friendly natural landscape; a fertile plain watered by the Iskar River, with Vitosha Mountain at hand and a dozen hot mineral springs.

We will visit the fabulous Archaeology museum that treasures breathtaking archaeology finds.The museum is housed in Buyuk Dzhamiya (The Large Mosque) – the oldest preserved building in Sofia from the age of the Ottoman Dominion, dating back to the end of the 15th century. The museum was opened for visitors in1905. The building Finds form the periods of the Paleolithic Age to the Middle Bronze Age are presented in the Prehistory Hall. Some of the most interesting exponents are those of the settlement mounds of Karanovo and Ezero. A large part of the exponents are related to the flourishing of Thrace in the 5th – 3rd century BC and the Odrysian Kingdom. The backbone of the exhibition in the Vault isthe world’s famous treasure-the Vulchitrun, Pleven region- 13th -16th c. B.C. On the two floors of the Central Hall of the Museum are exhibited artifacts dating from the Late Bronze Age to the Late Middle Ages. They illustrate main periods of the history of a vast region of Southeastern Europe.

Once you have entered the Museum you face the magnificent replica of Madara Horseman sheltered in the arch over the central staircase toward the gallery. This is the only replica exhibited in the Museum. For the Bulgarians it is of special importance. Made at the beginning of the twentieth century, it represents the spirit of this unique time in the history of the European culture and of the Bulgarian state: the foundation and establishment of Medieval Bulgaria.

We will visit The Basilica of "St. Sofia"(6th century AD) thatbuilt over the remains of several older churches from the time of the Roman Empire, which were destroyed during the invasions of Goths and Huns.It is one of the most valuable pieces of early Christian architecture in the Balkans Will visit the ancient necropolis under the "St. Sofia" church.On the four underground levels below the basilica visitors can see 56 tombs and four churches, one of which dates back to the 4th century AD. You will seethe magnificent Byzantine mosaic floor of the fourth century with images of cypresses and pigeons.

Will visit St. George's Rotunda (4th century), famous for its original structure and unique frescoes. Its majestic figures illustrate the development of Christian Painting over several centuries, making Rotunda one of the gems of Bulgarian and East European culture

Will visit the magnificent splendidly decorated Alexander Nevski Memorial Church built in the period 1904–1912 to the designs of the Russian architect Pomerantsev.This is the biggest Orthodox Church on the Balkans built in post-Byzantium style.It is considered a masterpiece of 20th century architecture. The interior is just as splendid in materials and craftsmanship: Italian marble, Brazilian onyx, African alabaster, frescoes and woodcarvings by the best Bulgarian and Russian artists of the time.

Sightseeing tour in downtown Sofia includes:

-The ancient Serdica Fortifications dating from the 3rd-5th century;

-The beautiful Banya Bashi Mosque built in 1566 by the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. The mosque takes its name from the neighbouring Central baths (in the Turkish language, "banya bashi" means "a lot of baths"). Will see the mosque from outside;

-We will walk along Battenberg Square with its emblematic landmarks and will see from outside the former Royal Palace, the Presidency building, and building of the Bulgarian National Bank;

-The National Theatre designed by the architectural firm of Helmer & Felmer from Vienna. The style of the building is a mixture of the neo-Baroque and Secession style;

-The neo-Renaissance building of the Bulgarian Parliament /1884-1886/ designed by architect Konstantin Yovanovic;

-The Central Military Club, built in the same neo-Renaissance style;

-The Sofia University, spectacular designed by the French architect Breansson.

Then we visit The 13th century Boyana Church a remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site. The murals of this famous site reflect both Byzantine and local traditions of the preceding two centuries. The portrait of Dessislava is a genuine masterpiece of 13th century painting, created 200 years before the European renaissance, mark a remarkable peak of Christian Art.

Overnight Sofia.

Monday, Day 3. Transfer Day: Sofia- Plovdiv. En route visit Rila Monastery UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Breakfast at the hotel.

Depart Sofia for Plovdiv. En route we visit the Rila Monastery, UNESCO World Heritage Site in the majestic Rila Mountains. The monastery is an original national museum with a century-old history that dates back to the 10th century. The present building was built in mid-19th century (1816–1848). Located amidst gorgeous mountain scenery, it is considered the highest achievement of Bulgarian monumental architecture of the National Revival period.

Continue our scenic drive through the Rila Mountains via the town of Samokov and BorovetMountain Resort. Arrive in Plovdiv and settle in at the hotel.

Arrive in Plovdiv. Overnight Plovdiv.

Tuesday, Day 4. All Day in Plovdiv.

Breakfast at the hotel.

Plovdiv is majestic!

Plovdiv is the World’s 6th oldest town. Bulgaria’s second biggest city treasures a history that goes back thousands of years, traces of which have survived to the present day. The Thracians founded Plovdiv during the Neolithic period in the 2nd millennium BC. The Old Plovdiv was built in the 18th-19th centuries as the centre of the Bulgarian National Revival architecture. Along steep cobblestone lanes, behind stone walls and iron-studded heavy oak gates, one could glimpse at verdure and flowers, surrounding the typical Plovdiv symmetrical houses with their painted facades, oriels and jetties and grid windows.

In the course of time, the territory of Plovdiv has revealed traces of all the main historical ages. The buildings have been raised up one above the other as if they have written an illustrated textbook on the development of construction materials and techniques – just sit in front of a wall, read the dates and try to reconstruct the events.

We will seesectors of the street system with colonnades, an Odeon, the Stadium partly reconstructed, sectors of the fortress walls repaired later by the Byzantines. We will see the late ancient peristylish residential building “Eirene”, having floor mosaics, one of the most worthy of notice buildings in ancient Philippopolis /Plovdiv/.

Djumaya Mosque built in 1423, is one of the oldest in Bulgaria. It was built on the place of the Bulgarian church “St Petka”. "Djumaya” in Turkish means “Friday”; the day when services were held according to Moslem tradition. According to a very famous Turkish traveler Evlia Chelebi, who crossed Bulgaria several times in the 16th century, there were more than 50 mosques in Plovdiv at that time. One could imagine what the significance of the town was then. The multi-unit plan of this mosque is considered to be a proto-type for the Ulu Cami style introduced during the Ottoman Beylicat Period. It was built by Shihabedin pasha, son of the patron of Plovdiv and beilerbei of Roumelia. The building has been restored twice: in 1785 and again in 1818 after being damaged in an earthquake. The mosque is decorated with murals by Nakshi Mustafa Zelebi dating from the 19th century. It was built as an imperial mosque by Murad II in about year 1423. It is said to be one of the three examples of the oldest type of the Ottoman worship buildings still preserved on the entire Balkan Peninsula.

Our city tour to include the fabulous Roman Theatre built during the time of Emperor Trajan in the 2nd century, it has 28 rows with tiers of marble seats, which can accommodate over 3 500 spectators.The stage rises about 3.5 m above the ground and covers 400 sq.m.The archaeological research was carried out in 1968-1979.

We will immerse in the majestic atmosphere of the Old Town with the spectacular architecture of the NationalRevival Period (18th – 19th century).This ancient city has astonishing historical and cultural heritage and an amazing Old Town, applying for UNESCO List of World Cultural Heritage. It was built in the 18th-19th centuries as the center of the Bulgarian National Revival architecture. Along steep cobblestone lanes, behind stone walls and iron-studded heavy oak gates, one glimpses at verdure and flowers, surrounding the typical Plovdiv symmetrical houses with their painted facades, oriels and jetties and grid windows. Every house here has its own atmosphere, its intimate world with carved ceiling and bright murals, window seats and fine furniture from Venice, Vienna and London.We will visit a house museum in the old town.

We will visit The Archaeology museum in Plovdiv. The Museum boasts one of the richest collections of 100000 exhibits of artefacts related to the history of Plovdiv and its region. Plovdiv is the heir to one of the biggest and most famous ancient towns in the Balkan Penninsula - Philippopolis.

Overnight Plovdiv.

Wednesday, Day 5. One day excursion to visit Perperikon and The Tomb of Alexandrovo, 4thc. B.C

Breakfast at the hotel.

Depart Plovdiv for Perperikon.

Perperikon is located in the East Rhodope Mountain.The rock city stands on a cliff top at a height of 470 meters. The village of Gorna krepost lies at its foot, and the river Perpereshka flows beside it. The comfortable river valley has created conditions of life since ancient times. Therefore the valley is strewn with dozens of archaeological sites from various ages, the center of which is Perperikon.

Thrace (Thracia in Latin) was part of the Aegean-Mediterranean world in the southern part of Eurasia, a contact zone between continents and people and a site of religious practices, artistic skills and experiences. The Thracians lived on Bulgarian lands during 2nd –1st millennium BC. Thracians and Trojans both belonged to the ‘Old culture’ and fought together against the Greek tribes. In Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the Thracian kings are described as semi-gods in the possession of magnificent gold and silver.

Perperikon is connected with Orpheus and the Orphic Tradition.
Orpheus, the most famous of all Thracian heroes, was most probably born in the Rhodope Mountains in nowadays Bulgarian lands, and one can feel his impact on spiritual practices, art and culture. It is estimated that he lived in the 13th century BC at the end of the Bronze Age. Orpheus lived in the times of Moses and five centuries before Homer. Many explorers claim that Orpheus was a real historic figure who lived a generation before the Trojan War. According to Aristophanes Orpheus was famous for his initiation in the mysteries and his telling people to reject homicide. Orpheus was a preacher for brotherhood among people.
The Thracian religion was based on the balance of two elements: the solar and the chthonic. Hence its major figures – Orpheus and Dionysus, the great Mother Goddess and her dual son, constituted the usual images presented in the Thracian art. The numerous treasures founded in Bulgarian Thrace mark the cosmogony rites connected with the new birth of the king and his sacred marriage with the Goddess. The Thracians believed that the son of the Sun and the earth are immortals. The belief in immortality was reflected by images in tombs and sanctuaries, as well as decoration of vessels, ritual sets, weapons and warriors and horses armor. By means of images and symbols the Thracian artist conveyed in his creations the religious and universality of his religion and cult rituals of Thracian society.

The medieval archaeological complex Perperikon is one of the most ancient monumental megalithic structures, entirely carved into the rocks. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Bulgaria.

Religious activity at the top of the cliff began in the 5th century BC. It is associated with the beliefs of the Copper Age people, who started the cult of the sun god. Here they established the first sanctuary and started leaving food containers for the gods. These religious rites continued through the entire Bronze Age (III-II millennium BC). The sophistication of the metal tools made the hard rock cutting possible. At that time the oval hall with a huge circular altar in its center was built. There, priests performed their sacred rituals with wine and fire. These religious practices were typical for the temple of Dionysius, which was long sought in the Rhodope mountain. The latest archaeological research show clearly that the temple was located exactly in Perperikon. According to the legends, two crucial prophecies were made from the altar of this temple. The first one predicted great conquest and glory for Alexander the Macedonian, and the second, made a several centuries later, predetermined the power and strength for the first Roman Emperor – Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus.

Lunch Box included.

Continue drive to Alexandrovo Thracian Tomb. The Tomb of Alexandrovo, 4thc. BC is one of the largest facilities of the kind discovered so far. What makes it unique, however, is the mural paintings inside. Painting covers entirely the round and rectangular chambers and a small part of the corridor. Hunting and battle scenes, as well as scenes from a funeral feast alternate with monochromatic layers and those with ornamental decoration. Images in the first chamber are predominantly monochrome or ornamental. A horse-rider occupies the space above the entrance to the central room and a footman is opposing him, apparently in a fight.

Mural paintings in the round burial chamber outstand in diversity and richness. It is adorned with six horizontal zones in vertical sequence. Two of them have figural decoration. Best reserved is the belt zone displaying hunting scenes. Images of horsemen are particularly important because of their scientific value. The horsemen are dressed in tunics, some wear pants. They are armed with spears and swords. The forms of weapons add to the knowledge about Thracian weaponry and warfare.

The horse figures and extremely detailed detail harness are impressive are presented, which according to the colour feature gold, silver and bronze applications. Their positioning on, saddles and chest is essential for the interpretation of horse-riding sets already known. Labrys-shaped decorations (as a double ax) in decorate the space Over the horse heads.

Drive back to Plovdiv. Overnight Plovdiv.

Thursday, Day 6. One Day excursion to visit Stara Zagora and Nova Zagora

Breakfast at the hotel.

Depart Plovdiv for Stara Zagora.

We visit the extraordinary Neolithic Dwelling Museum in Stara Zagora.

During a rescue archaeological research in 1969 remains of a burned dwelling were found there. It is one of the best preserved and richest in inventory two-storey residential dwelling in Europe from the early Neolithic period (beginning of the VI millennium B.C.). It was preserved in situ in a special protection construction.

The size of the dwelling is 10 x 5.80 m and it was 7 m high. It was built from wooden stakes fixed in the ground, interwoven with rods. The construction was coated with a mixture of clay and straw.

There were two rooms on the first floor and one on the second. The dwelling was inhabited by 3 families. On the northern walls of the room there were the furnaces, which are the best preserved ones from the Neolithic period. Next to them there are stone hand mills for grinding grain and large ceramic vessels – granaries, where grain stocks were stored by the inhabitants of the house.In each of the rooms there are about 60 ceramic vessels with various shapes and decoration. They were scattered on the floor after the dwelling had been burnt down.

Three ceramic columns are also preserved on-site. In their top end they are branched out and resemble bull horns. These columns were cult sanctuaries where the inhabitants used to perform rituals. The furnace, bits of the stone hand mills, and other inventory, originally from the second floor of the dwelling, had fallen down on the first floor.Standing before the remains of this ancient Neolithic dwelling we are revealed the world of people who lived in this place 8000 years ago.

In the basement of the museum there is an exhibition Prehistoric Art in Stara Zagora. The museum treasureswonderful masterpieces of pottery, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic sculptures, ornaments and tools made by the creators of the first European civilization.

We visit the beautiful Regional Museum of History Stara Zagora- that keeps artifacts from prehistory archaeology, antiquearchaeology, medievalarchaeology, Bulgaria 15th -19th century.

We see The Ancient Roman Forum Complex and late Antique Mosaics in Stara Zagora.

Next drive to Karanovo to see the Karanovo Tellone of the most important Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement mounds in Southeastern Europe. We will see also the Thracian chariot tomb. The Karanovo tell, 6 millennium BC, is world-famous. There are very few prehistoric sites in Europe as important as Karanovo.The cultural layer of the Karanovo tell is 12, 45 m thick and consists of successive settlements from the Neolithic to the Bronze age.The archaeological excavations at Karanovo enabled the establishment of the Karanovo Chronological System and provided the basis for division into periods of the Neolithic, Copper Age and Early Bronze Age not only in Thrace but of South-East Europe as well. The earliest occupation of Karanovo date to the beginning of the 6th millenium BC.

Then we see The Thracian Chariot Tomb of a Thracian Aristocrat from 1st Century AD.The tomb and the four-wheeled chariot were discovered in the fall of 2008 including the remains of two horses and a dog.

In addition to have four wheels, which is a very rare archaeological find, the chariot is remarkable for the large size of its wheels – 1.2 meters in diameter. It also features well preserved bronze decoration.

All the finds are displayed in the tomb in their original spots.

Drive back to Plovdiv. Overnight Plovdiv.

Friday, Day 7. One day excursion: Plovdiv-Hissar- Kazanlak in the Rose Valley-Plovdiv.

Breakfast at the hotel.

Depart Plovdiv for Hissar (modern Hissarya)a Late Roman spa town, where we will see the remains of the fortifications and baths.

Already during the second century AD, there were Roman baths here and at least one temple dedicated to the water nymphs. No doubt the healing properties of the water encouraged visitors to the region and accounts for its early prosperity. However, it is as a late Roman city that Hissar is best known. We do not know for certain the name of this ancient city but it is probably Diocletianopolis, founded by Emperor Diocletian c. AD 300.

After that continue scenic drive to Kazanlak in the Rose Valley and The Valley of The Thracian Kings.

The Kazanlak Valley is home of the exquisite Bulgarian rose oil, also known as “attar of roses”, a well renowned world center for rose oil production. The oil-yielding rose, Rosa Damascena, was brought to Bulgaria from India via Persia, Syria and Turkey. In Bulgaria, in the Kazanlak valley, situated between the Balkan Mountains and the Sredna Gora Mountains the rose found a second homeland. In the 19th century Rosa Damascena became the greatest wealth of the Kazanlak region and a symbol of Bulgaria.

However, this area achieved another important recognition as the Valley of the Thracian Kings, due to the numerous amazing archaeological excavations of the Thracian epoch.

In the 4th and 3rd centuries BC the valley of Kazanlak was within the borders of the Thracian kingdom of Odrysae, ruled by Seuthes III. It played a vital role in the historic development of Thrace in the 4th century and during the early Hellenic age. The Kazanlak Tomb, the Thracian town of Seuthopolis and the Maglizh Tomb, along with the 15 newly discovered tombs are an indisputable proof for the highly developed material and spiritual culture of the Thracians who resided in and near Kazanlak at that time. The Thracian ruler Sevt III sustained good diplomatic relations with Athens and strived to unite the several Thracian states. In his honor a magnificent temple was built, where numerous golden, silver and bronze objects, believed to be an integral part in the king’s life after death, were found. Around 282 BC the valley of Kazanlak was conquered by the Celts who built their capital Thile 12 kilometers away from Kazanlak. The Celts destroyed and set fire on Seuthopolis but 80 years later they were chased away by the Thracians.

The capital of the Kingdom of Odrisae, Seuthopolis, was built on the left shore of the Tundzha River, in the middle of the 4th century BC. It had a surface of around 5 hectares (around 12 acres) in an irregular pentagonal form. There were a king’s palace, a vast square, straight streets, sewage system for clean water and two entrance doors on the north and the south of the city. Solid stone walls and bastions with defensive towers kept the town from enemy intruders. At this place Seuthes III stamped seven types of coins. The Thracian noblemen maintained trade connections on a regular basis with Kabile and the lands near the White Sea by sailing on the Tundzha River. Meanwhile, they bought fine Greek commodities from the Greek emperions - marketplaces near the Black Sea. In the centre of the town there was a magnificent statue of Seuthes III made of bronze and put on a marble pedestal.

We visit the beautiful History Museum Iskra at Kazanlak housing the latest breathtaking archaeological discoveries from the Valley of the Thracian kings: we see the bronze head of Seuthes III , King of Odryssoi, the founder of Seuthopolis. We will see incredibly beautiful gold wreath and many other gold and silver artifacts from 4thc. -3rd c. BC.

We will visit the replica of The Kazanlak Thracian Tomb. It was the first cultural site in Bulgaria which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This mausoleum of 4th century B.C. was discovered in 1944. The style is typical of Thracian tombs from the 5th to 4th century B.C., with a vaulted entrance corridor and a chamber topped by a beehive dome. The tomb has fine reliefs and interesting early paintings. The dome frescoes paintings are the greatest treasure of the tomb. They are a masterpiece of Hellenistic art and depict the civil and military life of a Thracian noble who was buried there.

The tomb is located inside a protected building. Its replica is right next to it and is open to visitors.

We visit the Golyama Kosmatka tumulus.The temple–tomb of Seuthes III was revealed in 2004. The Golyamata Kosmatka tumulus is 20 m high and about 90 m in diameter. A head from a bronze life–size statue had been buried in a pit by the entrance of the tomb.

Then we see Ostrusha Tumulus. It is 20 m high. It was discovered in 1993. The temple with the burial tomb under the soil is dating from the mid 4th c. BC. Six chambers cover an area of 100 sq. m. A horse decorated with a set of silver appliqués on the harness has been buried in the chamber to the left of the entrance. The burial chamber is of a special interest. It has been cut in a monolith stone block more than 60 ton in weight (2,50 x 3,50 x 2,50 m). A burial bed has been shaped across the entrance, its legs like lion’s paws.

We visit the unique Shushmanetz Tomb, 4th c. B.C. It was found in August, 1996. It is a fascinating example of the Thracian architecture.

Drive back to Plovdiv. Overnight Plovdiv.

Saturday, Day 8.

Breakfast at the hotel. Depart Plovdiv for Sofia airport. End of our service.

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