Central & East Europe

Bulgaria & Romania: Frescoes & Fortresses

Photo credit: Michel Behar

16 Days
From $7,695
Trip Type
Small Group
Group Size
Max 16
Activity Level
May 28 departure features the Rose Festival!

Through the Valley of the Roses to the Painted Monasteries


Explore the complex histories and fascinating cultures of Bulgaria and Romania, two East European countries whose rugged terrain and consequent isolation have helped preserve their heritage. Discover the luminous frescoes of the painted monasteries, breathe in the fragrance of the Valley of the Roses, and spend an afternoon visiting with villagers in a tiny Transylvanian town. Visit six different UNESCO World Heritage Sites in these two countries and explore a cave monastery, an ancient Thracian tomb, gorgeous castles, and massive citadels.

Read all about traveling on this tour from Patricia Schultz, author of the New York Times #1 bestseller, “1,000 Places To See Before You Die,” Read Patricia’s trip impressions here. 

Travels to: Bulgaria, Romania


Bulgaria-Romania Map


  • Days 1-3: Sofia (Bulgaria)

    Begin the journey in Sofia, Bulgaria, a city with more than 7,000 years of history. Visit the serene Rila Monastery, founded in 927 AD as a retreat for hermits.


    • Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, with its 4th century St. George Rotunda
    • 10th century UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery, with its brightly colored stripes and beautifully detailed frescoes
  • Days 4-6: Plovdiv, Kazanluk, Veliko Tarnovo

    Pause in the Thracian settlement of Plovdiv, the second oldest city in Europe, with its ancient Roman amphitheater and 19th century architecture. Continue through the beautiful countryside of the Valley of Roses toward Veliko Tarnovo, capital of the 12th century Second Bulgarian Empire. Here, the preserved remains of the Royal Fortress still stand at the top of Tsarevets Hill.


    • Visit a local pottery workshop and learn about the glazing style unique to Bulgaria in Plovdiv
    • Kazanluk, center of Bulgaria’s rose oil industry, in the fragrant Valley of Roses
    • Veliko Tarnovo, considered the historical and spiritual capital of Bulgaria
  • Days 7-9: Ruse, Bucharest (Romania), Suceava, Gura Humorului, Painted Monasteries

    Before crossing the Danube, stop in Ruse to visit the Ivanovo Cave Monastery, dug into the cliffside during the Middle Ages. Tour Bucharest, Romania’s capital, and contemplate Ceausescu’s last folly, the 1,100-room Palace of the Parliament. Fly to Suceava to explore the heritage of Bucovina and its UNESCO-listed painted monasteries near Gura Humorului.


    • Explore the UNESCO-listed Ivanovo Cave Monastery
    • Romania’s capital, Bucharest, once called “Little Paris” for its tree-lined boulevards, Belle Epoque architecture, and exuberant culture
    • Ceausescu’s last folly, the 1,100-room Palace of the Parliament
    • Painted monasteries of Bucovina, their walls frescoed with vivid 14th-15th century biblical scenes
  • Days 10-12: Sighisoara, Transylvania, Sibiu, Medieval Towns

    Explore the birthplace of Vlad Dracul in the citadel of Sighisoara, drive via dramatic Bicaz Canyon, and enjoy a brandy tasting at the home of a local family. Stroll the Old Town Square in the Saxon town of Sibiu.


    • Sighisoara, a UNESCO-listed medieval town in the heart of Transylvania, birthplace of Vlad Dracul
    • Explore the Bridge of Lies and the medieval plazas in Sibiu, the Piata Mare and Piata Mica
    • UNESCO-listed fortified Saxon church of Biertan
  • Days 13-16: Brasov, Sinaia, Bucharest

    Discover the medieval Romanian town of Brasov, encircled by thick stone walls. Visit Bran Castle, which served as Bram Stoker’s model for Dracula’s ancestral home. In Sinaia, visit Sinaia Monastery and admire the German-influenced 19th century Peles Castle before heading to Bucharest for a farewell dinner.


    • Bran Castle, immortalized as Dracula’s castle in Bram Stoker’s novel
    • Sinaia Monastery, one of the oldest in Romania
    • Peles Castle, final resting place of several Romanian monarchs

Dates & Prices

Small group tour – max 16 travelers

Land tour price, per person. Based on double occupancy and minimum group size of 5 travelers.

  • 2024 Dates
    May 28 - June 12
    Aug 20 - Sept 4
    Tour, double occupancy
    Plus internal airfare
    Single supplement
  • 2025 Dates
    May 27 - June 11
    Aug 19 - Sept 3
    Tour, double occupancy
    Plus internal airfare
    Single supplement

What's Included

  • Tour Includes
    • Accommodations, as noted in the itinerary.
    • Most meals, as noted in the itinerary: 15 breakfasts, 14 lunches and 12 dinners.
    • Restaurant tips for included meals.
    • Services of experienced, English-speaking local guides, drivers and other staff, including a MIR Tour Manager.
    • Arrival/departure airport transfers. MIR will arrange for all travelers to be met on arrival and seen off on departure whether we make your airfare arrangements or not, provided you arrive and depart on the tour start/end dates in the tour start/end cities.
    • Ground transportation throughout itinerary by private coach or minibus (size of vehicle depends on group size).
    • Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees as outlined in itinerary.
    • Special events, excursions and cultural performances per the itinerary.
    • Baggage handling where available.
    • Gratuities to local guides, drivers, porters and other service personnel.
    • Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements (on request; please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
    • Complete pre-departure electronic document that includes detailed packing suggestions, reading list links, country-specific information, maps, travel tips and more.
    • Electronic final update bulletin, with any late news, updates and important information.
  • Not Included
    • Internal airfare (internal airfare is quoted separately and is subject to change by airlines).
    • International airfare or taxes/fuel surcharges.
    • Meals not specified as included in the itinerary.
    • Single supplement charge, if requested or required.
    • Items of a personal nature (phone calls, email, laundry, alcohol, excess baggage, etc).
    • Gratuities to Tour Manager.
    • Visa/passport fees or airport departure fees if required. (Note: no visas are required for U.S. passport holders).
    • Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
    • Travel and trip cancellation insurance.

Activity Level

Level 2: Moderate

This small group tour features long days walking and standing while touring, some long days in the touring vehicle, and some surfaces that may present walking challenges for those with limited mobility. Only those fit to travel and who accept the local conditions should consider joining this program.

Travelers must be able to walk one to two miles a day, keeping up with fellow travelers. Long days in the touring vehicle may cause driving after dark and late-in-the day arrivals in the next destination city. While touring on foot, footing can be an issue and travelers should be able to negotiate cobblestones, uneven surfaces (possibly steep and/or wet), and deal with situations without handrails or ramps. Some attractions are only accessible via steep staircases. Museums and some hotels may not have elevators.

Past travelers have also encountered challenges with plumbing, bureaucratic service, variety of locally available foods, and availability and quality of public restrooms.

Accommodations are planned to be roughly four-star properties, though some smaller properties may not align with a star-rating system and accommodations in smaller towns may not have the same amenities as those in the larger cities.


Traveler Reviews

  • "The trip exceeded our expectations. Each of the churches were gorgeous and castles stunning. Guides were knowledgeable and very nice."

    D. Axelrod

    New York, NY

  • "Diverse and great introduction to two countries that are usually overlooked in the history books. Beautiful countryside, rich history, chance to view some of the transition from communism. I loved the beauty of Veliko Tarnovo, and the vibrancy of Bucharest."

    A. Dickenson

    Staten Island, NY

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