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Bulgaria – Istanbul Combined Tour, 2022

Bulgaria 1 Bulgaria 1

 

Bulgaria – Istanbul Combined Tour, 2022

 

12 Days/11 Nights Tour of Bulgaria and Istanbul

 

Sample Tour Itinerary: Sofia (2 nights) – Veliko Tarnovo (2 nights) – Plovdiv (2 nights) - Sofia (1 night) – Istanbul (4 nights)

 

This tour is operated by Magic Tours based in Bulgaria ( www.magictours-bg.com) and Baltac Tours based in Istanbul ( http://baltactours.com ) We are the travel experts for Bulgaria and Turkey.

This tour is a source of ideas, this is a sample itinerary for a combined Bulgaria- Istanbul tour just to give you an idea how it looks, what are the prices. We will create a unique itinerary to fit the time and money you can spend in these fabulous Balkan countries. Let us customize your journey to Bulgaria and Turkey – Europe’s most ancient civilizations!  The offered prices are for individual travelers. The accommodation in both countries is in 4 stars hotels centrally located.

We can to customize the tour for you for 3 stars hotels or 5 stars hotels. We can offer itinerary for luxury travel too. You are the client! We are here to help.

Our two companies Magic Tours (Bulgaria) and Baltac Tours (Turkey) specialize in small group travelers. We can offer private tours, where we will design a custom itinerary tailor-made according to the travel plan and budget of the individual and group travelers.

Tour Cost for the Bulgarian portion:

2 – 3 guests:                1 950 per person

4 – 5 guests:                1 550 per person

6 – 7 guests:                €  1 335 per person

Per person single supplement   290

 

Tour Cost for the Istanbul portion

Per person in dbl/twn standard room sharing

2 – 3 guests:                   1 500 per person

4 – 5 guests:                   1 340 per person

6 – 7 guests:                   1 180 per person

Per person single supplement    € 390

 

The price includes:

  1. Accommodation  for 11 nights at centrally located 3-star hotels (VAT and local city tax included) ( 7 nights in Bulgaria and 4 nights at Istanbul )

  2. Meals: all breakfasts at hotels.

  3. Transfer from the airport or bus/train station to your hotel in Sofia transportation by private A/C car/van during the journey in Bulgaria, transfer from the airport or bus/train station to your hotel in Istanbul, transportation in Istanbul for two days, one transfer from the hotel to the airport at the end of the program.  

  4. Bilingual local private tour guide throughout.

  5. Entrance fees to museums and sites as per itinerary

  6. The Bosphorus cruise  included  / the public boat that departs every day at 10:35 a.m./

  7. Comprehensive information package about Bulgarian history, culture and language.

 

Excludes: transfer from Bulgaria to Istanbul, lunches, dinners, personal expenses, visa for Turkey and Bulgaria. Please not there is a daily Turkish Airlines flight Sofia - Istanbul.  There are also very convenient day time and night time bus and train connections departing from Sofia and Plovdiv to Istanbul.

 

Day 1:

Arrive at Sofia Airport. Meet your local guide and transfer to your hotel in Sofia (4* category), located in downtown area. Settle in at the hotel and time to refresh and take some rest after the  journey. Orientation for the entire tour and, if time allows, we’ll take a brief walking sightseeing tour in the area.

Overnight in Sofia.

 

Day 2:

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

All day in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital.

Founded more than 7 000 years ago, it has long been an important crossroads between Asia Minor and Europe. Situated in the foot of Mt Vitosha by curing mineral springs, the city is one of the oldest in Europe. Called Serdica in the age of the Thracians, Triaditsa under the Byzantines and Sredets under the Slavs, Sofia attracted ancient and later civilizations. 

"Serdica is my Rome!" By the early 4th century, chroniclers already described the settlement of the Thracian tribe Serdi as 'a splendid and noble city'. This was in the days of Emperor Constantine the Great. Strongly attached to Serdica, the Emperor often called the city his Rome and even intended to proclaim it capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Ultimately, he did not - but he nevertheless built magnificent edifices for the grand ceremonies during his visits.

Sofia was proclaimed capital of Bulgaria in 1879, just a year after the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation of 1877-1878. It is the fourth Bulgarian capital after Pliska, Preslav and Veliko Tarnovo.

In the morning we’ll drive to the outskirts of the city to visit the National Museum of History, where the magnificent Thracian treasures of ancient gold are on display. We'll also visit the famed Boyana Church, a remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site with fascinating frescoes from the 13th century, reflecting both Byzantine and local Christian art traditions.  They impress with the humanistic trends, which were unusual for the medieval period. The frescoes were painted by an unknown Bulgarian painter in the style of the Tarnovo School of Painting and are considered the finest examples of Bulgarian medieval art.

In the afternoon we’ll continue our exploration through the downtown area to see some of the most characteristic historical, architectural and cultural landmarks of Bulgaria’s capital. We will see the Roman Serdica Fortifications (3rd-5th centuries) and St. George's Rotunda (4th century), which is the only building to survive completely, famous for its original architecture and unique frescoes. Painted several times in different ages (4th, 10th - 12th and 14th centuries), the majestic figures illustrate the development of monumental painting over several centuries, making the Rotunda one of the gems of Bulgarian and East European culture.

Other highlights this afternoon will be St. Sofia Basilica (6th century), which is one of the most valuable pieces of early Christian architecture in the Balkans, and the magnificent St. Alexander Nevski Memorial Church, built to the designs of the Russian architect Pomerantsev from 1904 to 1912. The church is a masterpiece of 20th-century architecture, splendidly decorated. The underground crypt is a renowned Orthodox icon museum, which houses an impressive collection of icons from the 9th to 18th centuries. Some of these icons match the best works of Constantinople studios.

Free time in downtown area to explore on your own. Overnight in Sofia.

 

Day 3:

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

Transfer Day: Travel from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo.

We’ll take a scenic drive in the countryside and will stop en route to spend most of the day in the delightful ethnographic village of Koprivshtitsa. Located 120 km east of Sofia and huddled in the mountain folds, the village is especially famous for its beautiful National Revival houses of the 18th – 19th centuries, as well as for the important role it played in 19th century Bulgaria’s history.

Koprivshtitsa style house is characterised by exquisite painted facades and sunny verandas, with carved ceilings and stylish European furnishings.  There is no other Bulgarian town that boasts such a large number of museum houses and monuments, nearly 400 in number, most of which have been restored to their original appearance. A unique collection of ethnographical treasures, old weapons, National Revival works of art, fine fretwork, household weaves and embroidery, national costumes and typical Bulgarian jewellery has also been preserved.

Since 1965 the National Festival of authentic Bulgarian Folklore has taken place every five years in Koprivshtitsa, gathering amateur musicians, artists and craftsmen from all over Bulgaria.

Late afternoon arrival in Veliko Tarnovo and settle in at your hotel (4* category), located in downtown area. Overnight in Veliko Tarnovo.

 

Day 4:

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

All day in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria's medieval capital city.

The regal city of Veliko Tarnovo with its famed archeological sites was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185 - 1396), when Bulgaria was one of the largest states in Europe, until the Ottoman Empire captured it. The city has been at the center of many important historical events and was the birthplace of the first Bulgarian constitution. Perched on steep hills overlooking the Yantra River, the Old Town’s narrow, lantern-lit streets wind past ancient ruins and unique architecture.  The Tsarevets Hill is a natural inaccessible fortress perched on a steep hill where the Royal Palace and the Patriarch Church once stood. There are also remarkable 12th–14th century medieval churches and monasteries, and also many historical buildings like the Town Hall (1872), where in 1879 the First Constitution of Bulgaria was proclaimed. Nowadays it houses the National Revival Museum. The Samovodene Market Street has been revived with its small workshops where master goldsmiths, potters, carvers, weavers and pastry cooks keep busy with their crafts. The nearby historical village of Arbanassi was known as the Royal residence of the Second Bulgarian Empire. It holds fast to the traditions of the Old Bulgarian architecture and its oldest stone buildings resemble inaccessible fortresses with their tiny windows like embrasures, but with richly decorated interiors of carvings and wrought iron, recalling the wealthy life of their former inhabitants. Of the 80 preserved houses, 36 have been declared national monuments of culture.

In the morning we’ll take a sightseeing walk in the Fortress at Tsarevets Hill and will visit the Museum of the National Revival, where the first Bulgarian Constitution was adopted in 1879. Afterwards we’ll take a short drive to the village-museum of Arbanassi, famous for its traditional architecture and the beautifully decorated Nativity church, dating from the 16th – 17th centuries. Dug into the ground with austere exterior, hidden domes and without a belfry, it is a genuine art gallery containing 3,500 figures painted by unknown masters of different periods. Our sightseeing tour continues in the afternoon viewing the architectural landmarks of the Old Town and in the Samovodene Market Street, a traditional 19th century artisan and shopping area. There are plenty of free time opportunities for enjoyable individual activities in the area.

Overnight in Veliko Tarnovo.

 

Day 5:

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

Transfer Day: Travel from Veliko Tarnovo to Plovdiv.

In the morning we’ll stop en route to see the Etara Museum of Architecture and Ethnography. This is an open-air village museum with numerous artisan workshops, the only one of its kind in Southeastern Europe. It displays the authentic atmosphere of a typical Bulgarian town from the period of the National Revival in the 18th – 19th centuries. In the authentic workshops of the museum more than 20 traditional Bulgarian crafts are being practiced in their traditional technological cycle.

We’ll continue our scenic drive through the historical Shipka Pass in the Balkan Mountains, which is one of the most important roads connecting the South and the North part of Bulgaria. It is a famous historical site, due to the dramatic events during the War of Liberation (1877-1878). On top of the peak is the Monument of Freedom (over 30 m high), which was built in the period of 1926-1934 honoring to the soldiers who fell in the fierce battle to defend the peak. 894 steps lead up to the monument.

Later we’ll stop in the town of Kazanlak to visit the world-famous Thracian tomb (4th century BCE), a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area around Kazanlak became particularly popular in the last two decades, as many new Thracian tombs were unearthed there, presenting the evolution of the Thracian culture in the 5th-4th century BCE. Bulgaria and the world started to speak about the Valley of the Thracian kings. The Kazanlak Thracian Tomb was the first cultural site in Bulgaria which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This mausoleum of 4th century BCE was discovered in 1944. The style is typical for Thracian tombs from the 5th to 4th century BCE, with a vaulted entrance corridor and a chamber topped by a beehive dome. 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 original site is located inside a protected building, and the replica is right next to it and is open to visitors.

In the afternoon we’ll take a scenic drive through the famous Valley of Roses. This is the home of Bulgarian Rosa Damascena, which is the source for the production of the exquisite and rare Bulgarian rose oil, also known as “attar of roses”, used as a key source for many of world’s finest perfumes. May and June are the most majestic months for visiting the Valley of Roses, as then the rose fields are blossoming and the whole valley is absorbed with rose fragrance. We’ll visit a rose oil distillery and plantation en route to learn about rose-growing and rose oil production in Bulgaria.

Rose picking lasts for about a month, from around May 20 to June 20, however this depends on the actual weather conditions. Rose picking is done early in the morning, from 5 a.m. till not later than 9-10 a.m. The process is very labor-consuming, for example a kilogram of rose oil requires about 300 kilograms of rose blossoms. A kilogram of rose oil costs about 5500 euros on the international markets.

Every first Saturday and Sunday of June the traditional Rose Festival takes place, which is unforgettable experience of Bulgarian beauty, merriment and hospitality.

Late afternoon arrival in Plovdiv and settle in at your hotel (4* category), located in downtown area. Overnight in Plovdiv.

 

Day 6: 

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

All day in Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second largest city.

The ancient and picturesque city of Plovdiv has a history that dates back thousands of years, traces of which have survived to the present day. Recently, British archaeologists proclaimed Plovdiv to be the sixth oldest city in the world.

It was founded by the Thracians in the 2nd millennium BCE and called Eumolpia, and has had several names since then, like Philipopolis after Philip II of Macedon (342 BCE); Trimontium, i.e. ‘the City on Three Hills’ during the Roman times when it was the major city of the Roman province of Thrace (1st century CE).

The Old Town 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 could glimpse 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 style and atmosphere, its intimate world with carved ceilings and bright murals, window seats and fine furniture from Venice, Vienna and London.

During the day we’ll explore the historical, architectural and cultural landmarks of ancient Plovdiv.

In the morning we’ll see the 2nd century Roman forum and stadium, the fabulous Roman amphitheater, which was built during the time of Emperor Trajan (98-117), and the fortress walls of ancient Trimontium. We’ll also see Dzhumaya mosque which was built as an imperial mosque by Sultan 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 Balkan Peninsula.

In the afternoon our walking sightseeing tour continues in the fascinating Old Town. We'll see the charming Ethnographical museum and some of the museum-houses of prominent 19th-century Plovdiv citizens; the art gallery-museum of one of the most famous modern Bulgarian painters of the 20th century, and the beautiful St Constantine and St Helena church, completed in 1832, which contains murals painted by Zakhari Zograph, who was the best known Bulgarian artist during the period of the National Revival. After the tour, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to stroll in the Old Town or in the High Street on our own, and to enjoy the artistic manner of life, which is so typical for this charming city.

Overnight in Plovdiv.

 

Day 7:

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

Transfer Day: Travel from Plovdiv to Sofia via Rila Monastery.

We’ll drive through the gorgeous scenery of the Rila Mountains, passing via the famous Borovets mountain ski resort, and will visit Rila Monastery, the most impressive of all Bulgarian monasteries, an original national museum with a century-old history. The monastery dates back to the 10th century, but has been plundered and burned down several times. The present building was built in mid-19th century (1816–1848). Located in the gorgeous mountain scenery of the mountains, it is considered the highest achievement of Bulgarian monumental architecture of the National Revival period (18th-19th centuries). It is also a monument of international significance and a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Late afternoon arrival in Sofia and settle in at your hotel (4* category), located in downtown area. Overnight in Sofia.

 

Day 8:

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

The BG portion concludes after breakfast. Participants may choose to continue for Istanbul (Turkey) by bus, train or air (not included in the price).

Arrive in Istanbul.

Transfer to your hotel in Istanbul (4* category), located in downtown area.  

Overnight in Istanbul.

 

Day 9:

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

Visit Hagia Sophia, a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture from the 6th century with its impressive dome, and Chora Church, which exemplifies the best of Byzantine mosaic and fresco art from the 14th century. In addition, we will also see the Underground Cisterns, built by Justinian in the 6th century to store water underground.

 

Day 10: 

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

Our morning excursion brings us to the Topkapi Palace, the seat of the Ottoman Sultans between the 15th to 19th centuries. The Topkapi Palace exemplifies Turkish palatial architecture and the artifacts on display demonstrate the incredible wealth and power that the Ottoman Empire controlled for more than 600 years. We also visit the Harem to gain insight into life in this intriguing palace 400 years ago. An excursion to this palace helps one understand the Ottoman Empire better.

Suleyman the magnificent ordered a mosque appropriate to his title to be built by the architect Sinan, which resulted in the beautiful and breathtaking Suleymaniye Mosque. We explore this beautiful mosque to learn more about the epitome of Ottoman architecture reflected in this building. Later on we will visit the Spice Bazaar, where spices have been traded since the 16th century, and the Grand Bazaar with its 4,000 shops and countless alleys and streets.

In the evening, attend the ritual of the Whirling Dervishes of the Sufi sect, a mystical branch of the Islam religion.

 

Day 11:

Breakfast: Hotel dining room. 

We start the day by cruising the Bosphorus, the beautiful waterway that separates Istanbul into two, Asia and Europe, thus making Istanbul the only city in the world that is situated on two continents. As we cruise slowly on this wonderful waterway, you will see the magnificent waterfront palaces, fortresses, mansions, and the coastline that are among the symbols of this fabled city.   In the afternoon, we will explore the wonderful Archeological Museum. The Archeological Museum of Istanbul displays remarkable works of art from various periods, manifesting the rich historical legacy of Turkey.  In the afternoon, we will take a short stroll on Taksim Square and the pedestrian Istiklal Street to see the young and dynamic face of Turkey.

 

Day 12:

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

 

Upon request we can offer two extensions: 

-  Ephesus by plane – 2 nights

- Cappadocia by plane – 2 nights.

 

Bulgaria’s Tour Highlights:

-         Visit three outstanding UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites

-         The National Museum of History in Sofia

-         Explore in the city of Plovdiv, considered 6th oldest city in the world, and in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria’s medieval capital city (12th – 14th centuries)

-         Exciting journey through the famous Valley of Roses

Istanbul’s Tour Highlights:

-         Visit Hagia Sophia, a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture from the 6th century  and Chora Church   

-         Topkapi Palace

-         Suleymaniye Mosque

-         Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar

-         cruising the Bosphorus, the beautiful waterway that separates Istanbul into two, Asia and Europe

-         The Archeological Museum

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