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Discover Europe's Hidden Gem - Bulgaria


  • Alexander Nevsky cathedral in Sofia

Affordable and fascinating, Bulgaria is a country now being discovered by the Globetrotting Groupie! Deep in the heart of Europe, travelers to Bulgaria will be immersed in a cultural blend of Ottoman, Orthodox, Soviet and western influences: from Roman outposts, mystical medieval monasteries, to modern 21st century amenities. In our sample 12 day itinerary, we will be taken on a tour of the senses and be connected to the history, art, culture, cuisine and hospitality of this hidden gem of Europe.


 

Day 1

Fly Hometown to Bulgaria

Welcome to the hidden gem of Europe: Bulgaria and its capital, Sofia.  On arrival, we will be met and transferred to our hotel.  This evening we meet our fellow group members and enjoy a short evening stroll to a popular local restaurant to get our first taste of the delicious cuisine of the region.

Meal Plan Dinner
Duration2 Nights
Day 2

Exploring Sofia

After a hearty breakfast, we meet our guide for a morning walking tour to uncover Sofia's intriguing past and present. We'll visit the President’s Building, where we'll stop for the changing of the guard, as well as the Sofia Synagogue and the Banya Bashi Mosque. We’ll also tour the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, famous for its gilded domes and masterful mosaics. This afternoon is free to explore Sofia on your own

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 3

Coach Sofia to Rila Monastery

We are off early by coach to begin our exploration of Bulgaria’s fascinating history and cultural diversity. Our first stop is a visit to a Roma (gypsy) village, where we'll be welcomed by these fascinating people, visit kids at a local school, and learn about their history and culture. Later, we'll drive through the scenic Rilska Valley, passing traditional villages en route to our destination high in the mountains: the remote and mystical Rila Monastery where we will be honored guests for the night. The accommodation is basic but the unique experience will make up for it.

Meal Plan Breakfast and Dinner
Duration1 Night
Day 4

Coach Rila to Plovdiv

We will have time this morning to indulge in the serenity of Rila Monastery (even attend an early prayer service) this morning before we take a walking tour of this 14th-century architectural treasure and its fabulous frescoes. Late morning we will depart for the city of Plovdiv with a stop in the Bessa Valley at a winery where merchants from Troy journeyed 4,000 years ago. We'll learn the history of some of Europe's oldest vineyards - from ancient times to the Communist "collective era" and the entrepreneurial present - and enjoy a tasting. Later we'll continue on to Plovdiv, one of Bulgaria's most vibrant cities for our 2 night stay. Tonight we'll enjoy dinner together at a local restaurant. 

Meal Plan Breakfast and Dinner
Duration2 Nights
Day 5

Exploring the Renaissance town of Plovdiv

Once the capital city of ancient Thrace, Plovdiv is actually older than Athens and Rome, with archaeological relics dating back 7,000 years. We'll start our day with a walking tour of Plovdiv's old town, including Trajan's 2nd-century Roman theater and its commanding view of the city. Our tour will also let us delve into the town’s residential heart with a visit to the old town's unique collection of elegant, pastel-pretty "Bulgarian Renaissance" homes from the 19th century. The remainder of the day is free to explore more of this cultural and cosmopolitan city.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 6

Coach Plovdiv to Nesebar via Kazanlak

A great day today as we head to world-renowned Black Sea. En-route we make a stop in Kazanlak to visit some of the greatest examples of early Hellenistic art: a 4th-century B.C. Thracian tomb covered with magnificent murals, and another packed with beautifully preserved gold and bronze artifacts. We'll end our day with dinner together in a seaside restaurant in the quaint island town of Nesebar — dotted with Byzantine churches and even a windmill — and connected to the rest of Bulgaria by only a narrow isthmus. 

Meal Plan Breakfast and Dinner
Duration2 Nights
Day 7

Exploring Nesebar and the Black Sea

This morning we'll go back in time on our guided walk through Nesebar, learning about its important Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian and Turkish past and searching out the unique influences of each. The rest of the day is ours to relax on the beach, stroll around town, take a boat ride on the Black Sea or sample the local catch direct from the fishermen.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 8

Coach Nesebar to Varna

Our morning begins with a scenic drive along the Black Sea coast to the bustling resort city of Varna. Here we will stop to tour the Varna Archaeological Museum and marvel at the oldest gold jewelry ever discovered before heading to our hotel. The rest of the afternoon and evening are ours to explore this modern town and stroll the extensive, waterfront park and promenade. 

Meal Plan Breakfast
Duration1 Night
Day 9

Coach Varna to Veliko Tarnovo

We leave the Baltic Coast this morning and head inland over the lush Balkan Range to Bulgaria's medieval capital, Veliko Tarnovo. Before arriving we take time to view both the Madara Horseman, carved high into a rock cliff 13 centuries ago as well as the historic village of Arbanasi. Tonight we'll enjoy a delicious dinner in a popular restaurant with striking views of Veliko Tarnovo's illuminated citadel across the valley.

Meal Plan Breakfast and Dinner
Duration2 Nights
Day 10

Exploring Veliko Tarnovo

Our tour this morning will take us from rolling hill to rolling hill, with our guide unfolding the story of Veliko Tarnovo and her role in the medieval birth of the Bulgarian Kingdom, its 14th-century fall to the Ottoman Turks, and the 19th-century uprising that led to the end of Bulgaria's Ottoman occupation. We will listen transfixed while we make our way along narrow cobblestone streets, meeting local artisans along the way, before heading to the ruins of one of Europe's mightiest citadels. This afternoon is free to explore on your own. Tonight a special treat as we travel to a nearby community centre for a fabulous cultural and folk performance.

Meal Plan Breakfast and Dinner
Day 11

Coach Veliko Tarnovo to Sofia

This morning we'll visit the remote village of Glogovo — a community that converted to Islam under the Ottoman Turks, and has remain faithful to Islam ever since. Our visit is one of great joy to the villagers and we will have lots of time to meet the locals; we will even have the opportunity to taste some of their traditional cuisine over lunch. This afternoon we return to Sofia for our last night together including a relaxing “farewell” dinner with all our new friends.

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 12

Fly Sofia to Hometown

After breakfast we transfer to the airport to connect with our flights home.

Meal Plan Breakfast

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