From Roman Ruins to Mountain Monasteries
Bulgaria is one of Europe’s best kept secrets: great food and wine, fascinating historical sights, outstanding scenery, and friendly people. Spend twelve days on this private tour of Bulgaria exploring the diverse terrain of this country and getting to know its unique people and culture. Start in the capital Sofia, winding your way across the Roman ruins and vineyards of the Thracian Plain to the Black Sea resort town of Varna. Then head up to the Danube River town of Ruse, and inland along the Balkan Mountains to Veliko Tarnovo and Kazanluk, stopping off in scenic towns and ancient monasteries as you go.
Travels to: Bulgaria
Days 1-3: Sofia (Bulgaria) and Plovdiv
Begin your private tour in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. Explore the center of this ancient city on foot, taking in some of Bulgaria’s most important buildings, including the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The next day you’ll head out of town and across the Thracian Plain to Plovdiv, replete with Roman ruins and modern wineries.
- Stroll through Sofia’s city center, marveling at the immense Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
- View the wonderful frescoes adorning the UNESCO-listed Boyana Church in Sofia
- Sample local wines at Dragomira Winery near Plovdiv
- Contemplate Bulgaria’s deep history as you roam the Roman amphitheater in Plovdiv
Days 4-6: Varna and Ruse
From Plovdiv head east to the Black Sea coast, stopping off in the small towns of Burgas and Nessebur along the way. Spend a full day exploring the seaside resort town of Varna. Then head back inland to the Danube River city of Ruse. Thracian ruins and modern museums are among the touring highlights in and in between these cities.
- Learn more about the post-Ottoman history of Varna at the city’s interesting National Revival Museum
- View some of Europe’s largest Roman baths outside of Varna, known as Odessus in antiquity
- Head even farther back in time as you view the Madara Horseman and the Sveshtari Royal Tomb, both dating to Thracian times and on the UNESCO World Heritage List
Days 7-10: Veliko Tarnovo and Kazanluk
From Ruse head back south toward the Balkan Mountains, overnighting in both Veliko Tarnovo and Kazanluk as you go. Medieval villages, ancient churches, vibrant markets, and museums showcasing the history of the region are among the sights you’ll see in these towns. Take time to sample a few more Bulgarian wines and learn about the rose oil industry of Kazanluk.
- Explore the hilltop fortress of Tsarevets, one of Veliko Tarnovo’s most important sights and a great place to learn about local history and take in the views
- Visit the small village of Arbanassi, home to several ornately decorated churches and monasteries dating back centuries
- View the UNESCO-protected, beehive shaped-Thracian tomb in Kazanluk, and the browse the related exhibits at the town’s history museum
- Breathe deeply and enjoy the aromas as you learn about Kazanluk’s rose oil industry at the Damascena Ethnographic Complex
Days 11-12: Sofia and Rila Monastery
From Kazanluk head back to Sofia, stopping off in Koprivshtitsa on the way. Your final full day in Bulgaria is dedicated to a visit to the beautiful Rila Monastery.
- View traditional Bulgarian architecture and learn about the post-Ottoman revival of Bulgarian culture in the small village of Koprivshtitsa
- Visit Rila Monastery in the mountains south of Sofia, a UNESCO-listed site and Bulgaria’s most important religious complex
Dates & Prices
- Private trip prices vary by season and are subject to hotel availability for your travel dates.
- Listed prices below are based on double occupancy and a 2 traveler minimum.
- Hotel upgrades, additional nights, and solo traveler prices are available on request.
- These prices are not valid during Bulgaria’s annual Rose Festival period. If your dates include the second half of May or the first half of June, please call for pricing.
Land tour price, per person, starting from:
- Shared accommodations as noted in the itinerary. Contact MIR for hotel upgrade prices.
- Meals, as noted in the itinerary: 11 breakfasts, no lunches or dinners.
- One arrival and one departure transfer. Additional arrival and departure transfers available at additional cost.) MIR will arrange for travelers to be met upon arrival and seen off on departure, whether or not we make your air arrangements.
- Ground transportation throughout itinerary by private vehicle (type of vehicle depends on number of travelers in your group).
- Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Services of a professional English-speaking guide from Day 2 until Day 11.
- Complete pre-departure electronic document that includes detailed packing suggestions, reading list links, country-specific information, maps, travel tips, and more.
- Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost.)
- Electronic final update bulletin with any late news, updates, and important information.
- International airfare and taxes/fuel surcharges.
- Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
- Single supplement if requested or required.
- Baggage handling.
- Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, email, laundry, and alcohol.
- Gratuities to local guides, drivers, porters, and other service personnel.
- Visa fees, excess-baggage charges, airport departure taxes, vaccinations, and other medical costs.
- Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
- Travel-related insurance including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance.
- Optional pre- or post-tour extensions.
Level 2: Moderate, but Customizable
This ‘Essential’ itinerary designed for private travel features long days walking and standing, some long days of overland travel, some stair climbing, unpaved sidewalks and streets, uneven surfaces and steps, absent handrails, and lack of elevators. While some of these challenges are inherent in the destinations and sites, as one of our Essential Series programs this trip can be modified as needed for those travelers who are looking for a less challenging (or more challenging) program.
There is a significant amount of touring on foot, and those travelers planning to take the program as written should be able to walk one to two miles a day comfortably. Footing can be an issue and travelers should be able to negotiate streets of packed dirt, cobblestones, uneven surfaces (possibly steep and/or wet), and deal with situations without handrails or ramps. Museums rarely 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 in the basic program are generally four-star hotels. Upgrades are available, please call for details.
2/14 Photo credit: Michel Behar
3/14 Photo credit: David W Allen
4/14 Photo credit: Richard Fejfar
5/14 Photo credit: Michel Behar
6/14 Photo credit: Alexander Tour
8/14 Photo credit: Michel Behar
9/14 Photo credit: Michel Behar
10/14 Photo credit: Michel Behar
12/14 Photo credit: Michel Behar
14/14 Photo credit: Michel Behar