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11 Day Tour of Bulgaria: UNESCO Heritage, 2021

Itinerary: Sofia ( 2 nights) - Veliko Tarnovo ( 2 nights) - Varna ( 2 nights) – Kazanlak ( 1 night) - Plovdiv ( 2 nights)- Sofia ( 1 night)

Tour Cost Per Person:

Group size:

Minimum 2 participants € 2 250 per person in double/twin room sharing

3- 4 participants € 1 990 per person in double/twin room sharing

5- 6 participants € 1750 per person in double/twin room sharing

Single supplement: € 360

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

Cost Inclusions:

♦ 10 nights accommodation at 3 stars hotels as per itinerary, buffet breakfast and taxes included.

♦ English-speaking guide-driver throughout, salary, daily expenses, hotels included. The guide will drive.

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

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

Bulgaria has 7 UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites

You will visit all of them:

♦ Boyana Church

♦ Ivanovo Rock Churches

♦ Rila Monastery

♦ Sveshtary Thracian Tomb

♦ Madara Horse Ride Relief

♦ The Ancient City of Nessebar

♦ The Thracian Tomb at Kazanlak

Day 1: Arrival in Sofia

Arrive at Sofia airport. Our guide-driver will meet you at Sofia airport. Transfer to your hotel in Sofia.

Sightseeing tour of 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.

Overnight Sofia.

Day 2: All day in Sofia

Breakfast.

Morning: we’ll start the day with visitsto the National History Museum and to the Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both sites are located at the footsteps of Vitosha Mountain.

  • In the National Museum of History one can see the magnificent Thracian golden treasures, as well as artefacts from the oldest in the world discovered so far golden objects, processed by Europe’s most ancient civilization (4600-4200 BC)
  • The 13th century Boyana Churchis 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

Afternoon: sightseeing tour in downtown Sofia. We will visit:

  • The ancient Serdica Fortifications dating from the 3rd-5th century
  • The 4th century St. George’s Rotunda famous for its unique frescoes and original architecture. Its majestic figures illustrate the development of Christian Painting over several centuries, making Rotunda one of the gems of Bulgarian and East European culture
  • The magnificent Alexander Nevski Memorial Church is a masterpiece of late 19th – early 20th century architecture, splendidly decorated. It was designed by the Russian architect Pomerantzev in 1912. This is the biggest Orthodox Church on the Balkans built in post-Byzantium style
  • 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")
  • St. Sophia basilica, 6th century, is one of the most valuable pieces of early Christian architecture in the Balkans
  • Battenberg Square with its emblematic landmarks: The former Royal Palace, nowadays housing the impressive collection of the National Art Gallery and the Ethnographical Museum; 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

Overnight Sofia.

Day 3: Transfer Day: Travel from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo

Breakfast.

Depart Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo. (3 hours drive without stops)

Arrive Veliko Tarnovo.

Perched on steep hills overlooking the Yantra River, Veliko Turnovo’s narrow, lantern-lit streets wind past ancient ruins and unique architecture. During the period 1185-1396 Veliko Turnovo became the capital city of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, where workshops in the city and in remote monasteries created starkly images.
Religious culture, arts and spiritual life flourished particularly during the reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331-1371). A number of monasteries were founded close to the capital city of Veliko Turnovo and throughout the country, where schools of literature, calligraphy and miniature painting were founded. Remarkable masterpieces were created such as the Chronicle of Manasius, which is now kept in the Vatican Library. Most impressive are the images from the Tetraevangelia of Tsar Ivan Alexander, which is the most richly decorated Bulgarian manuscript with 366 miniatures, nowadays on display in the British Museum in London.
We’ll explore the medieval fortress on Tsarevets Hill.

Overnight Veliko Tarnovo.

Day 4: One day excursion from Veliko Tarnovo to Russe on the Danube River.

Breakfast.

Drive to the nearby village-museum of Arbanassi, famous for its traditional architecture and beautifully decorated churches and monasteries, dating from the 17th to 18th centuries. We will visit the most beautifully decorated St Nativity Church. It was painted in 1597 and 1638 .The Church is famous with its fascinating scene- Circle of Life.

Depart Veliko Tarnovo to Russe on the Danube River.

En route visit The Ivanovski Rock Churches ( 11th-14th centuries), UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in Roussenski Lom Natural Park. The Ivanovo Roch Churches which were inhabited by monks during the 11th - 14th centuries, whose walls are covered with valuable murals from various ages. These churches are reached by a climb of more than 200 steps.

Drive back to Veliko Tarnovo.

Overnight Velio Tarnovo.

Day 5: Transfer Day: Travel from Veliko Tarnovo to Varna on The Black Sea Coast

Breakfast.

Depart Veliko Tarnovo to Varna.

En route visit Sveshtary Tomb, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

En route visit Madara Rock Cut Relief, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sveshtary Tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (4th - 3rd centuries BC), a UNESCO World Heritage Site,unanimously consideredmiracle of Thracian sepulchral architecture, was discovered below Ginina Mogila mound in 1982 during regular archaeological excavations.

Built of large limestone blocks, it consists of a ‘dromos’ (corridor) and three premises (chambers), each of which is covered by a separate vault. The decoration of the central (burial) chamber is exceptionally rich. Four different Doric and one Corinthian column support a frieze with triglyphs and metopes, between those there are ten female figures (caryatids) with uplifted arms and above them, in the lunette of the vault, is the picturesque scene of deification of the deceased ruler. A massive decorative stone door (naiskos) hid the burial bed from the eyes of the mortals.

A second humbler bed was designed for the beloved wife, who also followed the deceased in his afterlife, while his favorite horses were laid in the lateral chamber and in front of the entrance to the antechamber. Owing to its remarkable architecture and artistic decoration, in 1985 the Sveshtari tomb joined the world cultural and historic heritage under the protection of UNESCO.

A remarkable monument of Thracian art, perfect as architecture, it amazes both with its wealth of sculptural ornaments – the caryatides below the vault, rosettes, styled ox heads, garlands, colonnades, as well ritual of harmonization painted in vibrant colors.

The Madara Horseman rock-cut relief ( 8th century), a UNESCO World Heritage Siteis a relief cut into the rocks, a unique monument both for Bulgaria and for Europe, created in the 8th century. The relief is located in the vicinity of the town of Shumen, hewn out at a height of 23 m above the basis of a rocky formation. It depicts a triumphant ruler in a symbolic hunting scene. The horseman has spread a lion /symbolizes a powerful enemy/ with his lance. He is being followed by a dog /symbolizes his loyal people/, and led by a bird. The figures are almost of life-size and the scene covers some 40 sq meters. The figures are surrounded by inscriptions in Greek, telling about important events that happened in the period 705 - 831.

The sacred rocks of the Madara plateau and the caves inside them were a major spiritual center during the period of the First Bulgarian State (681-1085).

Continue drive to Varna. Arrive Varna. Overnight Varna.

Day 6: All day in Varna

Breakfast.

Varna, Bulgaria’s third largest city and most important port on the Black sea Coast, is dotted with ancient ruins, fishing villages, resorts and sandy beaches. A busy trading and cultural centre starting with the Greeks in 600 BC, Varna became a major port under the Romans and Slavs, trading with Constantinople, Venice and Dubrovnik.

We will visit:

  • The History and Archaeological Museum which treasures the amazing collection of the ‘Oldest Gold’ in the world. These remarkable artefacts (unearthed in 1972 in a local necropolis) date from 4600-4200 BC and have been classified by renowned international archaeologists as the oldest golden objects in the world’ discovered so far. The archaeological explorations in the area of present-day Varna give strong evidence for the existence of Europe’s most ancient civilization, older than the Mesopotamian and the Egypt civilizations;The fabulous Varnaarchaeology museumhouses the internationally renowned ‘Varna Gold', the oldest gold in the world and Europe's most ancient civilization, even older than the Mesopotamian and the Egypt civilization.Some 4,600 years BC, a mysterious civilization emerged on the shores of lakes near the Black Sea—not far from the modern-day city of Varna. For its time, this Varna culture was amazingly advanced, both culturally and technologically. The first evidence of its existence was found in lovely ceramics, bone and stone idols and copper tools. Then an astounding chance discovery came to light, making headlines around the world. Just a few kilometres from Varna was a Copper Age necropolis (cemetery) containing the oldest gold objects ever discovered. Between 4600 and 4200 BC, long before Mesopotamia or the Egypt of the pyramids, goldsmithing first began on the shores of the Black Sea, in the land that is today Bulgaria. Study of the 300 or so graves in the Varna I necropolis showed that there was a highly structured society here in the Copper Age. The richest graves contained gold diadems and sceptres, heavy copper axes and spear points, elegant finery and richly decorated ceramics. A large amount of shell jewellery was evidence of trade with the South, for the molluscs in question were from the Mediterranean.The necropolis contained more than three thousand golden objects together weighting 6 kg (13.2 lb) Two large ceramic plates are also beyond our knowledge of this age- they are decorated with stylized geometrical pattern executed in golden paint. The archeologists point out that the find of Varna Copper Age necropolis was as important as the discovery of Heinrich Schliemann at ancient Troy and that Varna necropolis is at least 1500 years older than Troy.
  • The 2nd century thermae (baths)is another renowned archaeological site in downtown Varna, the largest preserved Roman public building in Bulgaria.

Overnight Varna.

Day 7: Transfer Day: Travel from Varna to Kazanlak

Breakfast. Depart Varna to Kazanlak.

En route visit Nessebar

  • Nessebar, ancient Messambria, is charming seaside town-museum (100 km south of Varna), and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nessebar is particularly beautiful both in its location on a headland by the sea, and because of its many brightly painted 18th and 19th century traditional timber houses and cobbled streets. It is also famous for the impressive remains of fortifications and for the well-preserved late Byzantine churches, built in the period 11th - 14th centuries at the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.

Continue drive to Kazanlak. Arrive Kazanlak. Overnight Kazanlak.

Day 8: Morning in Kazanlak. Afternoon transfer: travel from Kazanlak to Plovdiv

Breakfast.

The town of Kazanlakis situated amidst the Valley of Roses, the home of the exquisite Bulgarian rose oil, also known as “attar of roses”, a world centre for rose oil production. This area has also became famous as the ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’, due to the numerous archaeological finds of the Thracian period.

We will visit:

  • The very good History Museum
  • The replica of the breathtaking 4th century BC Thracian cupola tomb, another renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site, with exceptional paintings
  • The unique Museum of Rose.

Depart Kazanlak to Plovdiv. Arrive Plovdiv. Overnight Plovdiv.

Day 9: All day in Plovdiv

Breakfast.

Plovdiv is majestic! It is the 6th most ancient city in the world. Plovdiv is fantastic art place!

Plovdiv is Bulgaria’s second biggest city, which 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 Quarter 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. The St. Constantine and St. Helena Church completed in 1832, contains murals painted in 1836 by Zachary Zograph, the best known Bulgarian National Revival painter.

We will visit:

  • The Roman period archaeological finds and sites, dating from the 2nd – 3rd century: the Forum, the Stadium, the Fortress Walls, and, above all, the fabulous Amphitheatre, which was built during the time of Emperor Trajan (98-117). It has 28 rows with tiers of marble seats, which can accommodate over 3 500 spectators and today is still functioning
  • The Old Townwith spectacular architecture of the National Period (18th – 19th century)

Overnight Plovdiv.

Day 10: Transfer Day: Travel from Plovdiv to Sofia. En route visit Rila Monastery, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Breakfast.

Depart Plovdiv to Sofia. En route visit Rila Monastery,UNESCO World Heritage Site locatedin the Rila Mountains, which is 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. Located in the gorgeous mountain scenery of the mountains, it is considered the highest achievement of Bulgarian monumental architecture of the National Revival period. Of particular interest are the Museum, and also the 1335 Hrelyo's Tower in the courtyard, which is actually the oldest preserved building, standing alongside the big five-dome church Assumption of the Holy Virgin, which has splendid frescos by some of Bulgaria’s finest artists of the time.

Continue drive to Sofia. Arrive in Sofia. Overnight in Sofia.

Day 11

Breakfast. Transfer your hotel in Sofia to Sofia airport.

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