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We invite you to call Sarah or Gwen at 1-800-762-4216 to request the full brochure. The brochure will include Important Traveler Information (and answers to most questions) and a Reservation Form. We can send the brochure through the Postal Service or as a PDF attachment. If you would like to receive a PDF, probably the best way to keep the message from going into a SPAM filter is to send a message to sarah@serioustraveler.com. If you are already on our mailing list, no need to complete the entire brochure request form.


Sofia • Boyana Church • Koprivshtitsa • Kazanluk • Kalofer • Shipka • Tryavna • Bozhentsi
Veliko Tarnovo • Arbanassi • Elena • Zheravna • Kotel • Stara Zagora
Plovdiv • Oryahovitsa • Bachkovo Monastery • Kardzhali • Perperikon • Tatul • Zlatograd
Shiroka Luka • Velingrad • Bansko • Leshten • Melnik • Rila Monastery
Including spectacular sites in the Western Rhodope Mountains


April 20 - May 5, 2019 • 16 Days
based on double occupancy beginning
and ending in Sofia, Bulgaria (airfare additional)
Transfers from airport to/from hotel included

Preliminary Day by Day Itinerary

April 20 Arrive Sofia

Welcome to Bulgaria! Plan to make your flight reservations from the U.S. on April 19, so as to arrive in Sofia on April 20. We will assist with your flight and transfer if you wish. Enjoy free time this afternoon to settle in and recover from jet lag. Get acquainted with your traveling companions over a Welcome Dinner this evening. (D)

Hotel Crystal Palace****

April 21 Palm Sunday Celebration

Begin the day, as every day on the tour, with a hearty breakfast. We’ll spend the day in Sofia to learn about its history during a sightseeing tour of the city. Enjoy some of the public cultural events organized this day. The streets are full of women selling flowers. On Palm Sunday people buy flowers for presents to friends and relatives. Willow branches decorate churches and people can bring them home for good luck. The main Cathedral of Sofia has a very large service led by a Bulgarian patriarch with participation of hundreds of choir singers and many priests. Enjoy the beautiful singing and rituals. We have lunch and then a visit to Boyana Church, a UNESCO site, built and painted between the 11th and 14th centuries. The frescoes, dating from 1259 are considered an artistic precursor to the Italian Renaissance, which started two centuries later. At the National History Museum, we will be introduced to Bulgarian history and see some of the most significant findings excavated in Bulgaria. Free time this evening. (about 1 hour driving today)(B-L)

Hotel Crystal Palace****

April 22 Sofia - Koprivshtitsa
Monday Kalofer - Kazanluk

After breakfast, relax on a scenic drive to Koprivshtitsa, one of the typical Bulgarian towns still preserving the atmosphere of the Bulgarian National Revival period. The town is huddled in the mountain folds 70 miles east of Sofia. Koprivshtitsa is said to be a unique combination of rich history and fascinating present. No other Bulgarian “Museum town” boasts such a large number of houses and monuments which have been restored to their original appearance. While walking on the paved narrow streets, we feel we are transported to the erstwhile revival times.

Have lunch with the priest of the local church and then proceed to Kazanluk. En route we will stop in the town of Kalofer where we will visit a local lady who makes hand-made lace.

Before dinner you are in for a treat! Listen to the strains of an orthodox a cappella choir as the sounds of their voices resonate in the church’s lofty vaults - a truly extraordinary experience. Drive 143 miles total today (about 3.5 hours) and overnight in Kazanluk. (B-L-D)

Hotel Palace***

April 23 Kazanluk - Shipka Pass
Tuesday Tryavna

A significant part of the day will be dedicated to the Thracian civilization and its remains in the area of Kazanluk. This part of Central Bulgaria is called the Valley of the Thracian Kings due to the fact there are more than 15 discovered tombs and a whole city Seuthopolis, now under the water of Koprinka Dam. We will visit a few of the tombs, all of them dated between 5th and 3rd c. BC. We will marvel at the replica of the famous Thracian Tomb in Kazanluk (UNESCO List) and admire the frescoes depicting scenes from the everyday, religious and wartime life of the Thracians. Kazanluk is very famous for its violin-makers and we can visit the private atelier of one of them and see how string musical instruments are made. Lunch in the area. We will not miss the Historical Museum where precious artifacts from archaeological works around Kazanluk are exhibited. In the afternoon spend time at the magnificent Golden Church of Shipka. Continue on to the town of Tryavna via the historical Shipka Pass. Weather permitting, we will drive up to the top of the Balkan range peak of Shipka, where the views to Northern Valleys and to the South are just breathtaking. Drive 40 miles today - about 1.5 hours. Dinner and overnight. (B-L-D)

Overnight in B&B pansion in Tryavna

April 24 Tryavna - Kmetovtsi
Wednesday Bozhentsi - Etara
Veliko Tarnovo

After breakfast, enjoy a sightseeing tour of Tryavna. The central square of the town has preserved the authentic 19th c. look with the Clock Tower, the Church of Archangel Michael and the old bridge. Have a walk along pedestrian street. Visit some of the woodcarving workshops. Tryavna was one of the centers of woodcarving so a visit to the Wood-Carving Museum is a rare chance to see some of the best works from 18-19th c. We can also visit the Icon Museum with its rich collection of Christian Orthodox art.

Around noon we depart to the little village of Bozhentsi (45 minutes), where numerous houses of 19th century were well preserved and turned into galleries, ethno museums, B&B pansions or cafeterias. On the way, we will stop for lunch at a 200-year-old tavern in the village of Kmetovtsi. Arrival to Bozhentsi. Have free time to enjoy this artistic little village on your own. Continue to the open-air Ethnographic Museum of Etara. The complex presents typical Bulgarian crafts and the traditional way of using water to power these crafts. Next we visit the nearby Sokolski Monastery (19th c.) where we can enjoy the beautiful scenery. The fountain area of the monastery is particularly interesting, which was built by the famous Bulgarian architect Kolyo Ficheto. Drive to Veliko Tarnovo. Dinner and overnight. Drive 70 miles today - about 2.5 hours. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Gurko B&B pansion in Veliko Tarnovo

April 25 Veliko Tarnovo
Thursday Arbanassi – Elena

After breakfast drive to the village of Arbanassi. Explore the Church of Nativity with numerous frescoes from 17th c. which are very well preserved. Our next visit is the House of Konstantsaliev (mid 18th c.). It was owned by a rich merchant’s family and is representative of the fortress-like houses which were spread throughout the Balkan lands of the Ottoman Empire in the 18th c. Return to Veliko Tarnovo (1 hr 15 min), where first we will have a brief stop for a photo opportunity at the Medieval Citadel of Tsarevets. Walk along Samovodene Street where ateliers of different craftsmen are situated – pottery makers, silversmiths, wood-carvers, and more. Enjoy some free time shopping on Samovodene Street and lunch on your own.

In the afternoon we will drive to the nearby town of Elena (45 min). There we will have a walking tour around Old Town. The Church of St. Nicholas (early 19th c.) and the building of Daskalolivnitsata, the first modern Bulgarian school from the 1840s, represent old glorious periods of Elena. We can also visit one of the house-museums, built in early 18th c. with only stone and wooden material. Drive to the village of Zheravna. Dinner and overnight in a B&B pansion. Drive 80 miles today - about 2.5 hours. (B-D)

Overnight in Zheravna in selected B&B pansion

April 26 Zheravna - Kotel

In the morning we will start our walking tour of Zheravna. Admire the beautiful Bulgarian Revival period houses (18 – 19th c.) and their wooden facades. During our stroll visit some of the houses and the church of St. Nicholas (19th c.). On Friday, tradition required people to visit the church and to pass under a table representing the Hill of Golgotha. The table is decorated with many flowers and evergreen geraniums. It is not easy to pass under, but once it is done, everyone takes flowers from the table to bring home. It is believed that they are bringing good health and success to everyone.

Meet a local lady who still weaves the famous local carpets and rugs. Zheravna is home to very famous writers and politicians. The legends of Old Mountain were written here. These stories are colorful jewels about the people and their character of the Land of the Mountain. After lunch drive to the nearby town of Kotel. We will have a walk in the town with its numerous preserved wooden houses from late 18 – 19th c. In Kotel is situated one of the national schools for folklore. Delight in a private concert from teachers of the school! Drive 25 miles - about 45 minutes. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Zheravna in select B&B pansion

April 27 Zheravna - Stara Zagora
Saturday Plovdiv
Midnight Celebration

After breakfast, depart for the town of Plovdiv. The road is full of small surprises and opportunities to stop and enjoy this scenic ride (135 miles - about 3 hours). We stop in the town of Stara Zagora and walk along the ancient Roman streets. Enjoy lunch in a local elegant restaurant.

Arrive in Plovdiv, the second largest town in Bulgaria with millennial history. It has a well preserved Old Town with houses built during the 18th and 19th centuries. At midnight we plan to join the Orthodox Easter ceremonies in one of churches in Old Plovdiv (please prepare with warm clothes, shoes, gloves and a hat). Thousands of Orthodox Christian worshipers go on Saturday night to hear the Holy Mass that celebrates Easter. At midnight sharp, the ritual is for believers to circle the church three times with burning candles. The belief is that if you have been a good Christian, your candle will continue burning. Overnight in Plovdiv. Drive 150 miles today - about 3 hours. (B-L)

Hotel Trimontium****

April 28 Plovdiv
Easter Sunday Village of Oryahovitsa

Late Easter breakfast is waiting for us at the hotel. Today we will explore the town of Plovdiv, which will be the 2019 Cultural Capital of Europe. Our tour starts at the Roman Theater and continues along the cobbled streets of Old Town. Enjoy browsing through the numerous galleries and antique shops located in Old Town. Stop for a coffee break at one of the elegant restaurants in a beautifully restored home. Depart for the village of Oryahovitsa (about 150 miles roundtrip - 1.5 hours each way) for our very festive Easter lunch, where villagers will be preparing traditional dishes. We will sing and dance with them, feeling like real Bulgarians. Late afternoon return to Plovdiv for an overnight. Drive 150 miles today - about 3 hours. (B-L)

Hotel Trimontium****

April 29 Bachkovo Monastery
Easter Monday Kardzhali

After breakfast enjoy one more morning in Plovdiv. For lunch we will visit the Bachkovo Monastery. On the second day of Easter, the Bachkovo Monastery celebrates the most important event – the Tour of Miracle Icon of Holy Virgin from the monastery to a famous mountain cave, where the icon was hidden for hundreds of years. Continue our drive across the Rhodope Mountains to Kardzhali, where we will stay for the next two days. Drive 85 miles - about 2 hrs. (B-L)

Overnight at Yazovir Kardzhali Hotel***

April 30 Kardzhali Area
Tuesday Holy Sanctuary of
Perperikon - Tatul

Today we will drive first to Perperikon. It is an archaeological complex, which consists of remains from many periods and civilizations. The earliest evidence of life in the area are from around 6th mil. BC. In the late Bronze–early Iron Age an impressive sanctuary was built on the hill. Some historians and archaeologists even consider the place to be the famous temple of Dionysus. There are remains of a royal palace from the period with a stone-cut throne. In 4-6th c. Perperikon became an important Christian center, where it is believed the tribe of Bessae was converted into Christianity in 5th c. AD. In 1362 the Medieval Bulgarian fortress there was conquered by the Ottomans, ending the life of Perperikon.

We will have a lunch in a nearby village with traditional Turkish style home-made food. After lunch drive to the archaeological site of Tatul – the ancient sanctuary of Orpheus. The place is a part of a bigger cult complex, where according to legend the ancient singer and lyre-player was buried. The beginning of the complex is dated to 5th – 4th mil. BC, and the peak is between 18th and 11th c. BC. It is a large rock-cut sanctuary. In Antiquity a Hellenistic temple and a stone wall were built, later being used as a villa rustica by a local Roman nobleman. The latest period of the hill is the Medieval times (around 13th c.). We will have the chance to visit local Muslims, members of an interesting denomination of Islam – Kazalbashi.

This afternoon we can explore many of the interesting signs and details which were the main interest for a joint Bulgarian-American expedition in 2014, which explored the magical area of Eastern Rhodope. Drive back to our hotel near the Kardzhali Dam. Dinner includes freshly caught fish from the dam. Drive 80 miles today - 2 hrs. (B-L-D)

Overnight at Yazovir Kardzhali Hotel***

May 1 Zlatograd – Shiroka Luka

The next two days brings us to the green beauty of the Western Rhodopes. Century old pine trees, large meadows, breathtaking canyons and lots of mountain rivers make this area one of the major European reserves. Bulgarians still dress in their traditional costumes here and mothers still carry their babies in a sort of bag on their backs. First we drive to Zlatograd- a small Ethnographic crafts center, where we will spend some free time. Have a cup of Turkish coffee at the old cafeteria of Zlatograd. We will taste a delicious home-prepared lunch, while listening to a bagpiper playing for us. The day will end in the village of Shiroka Luka, where the National Folklore School is located. Many of the best folklore singers and musicians studied here. Drive 90 miles today - 3.25 hrs. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Shiroka Luka in hotel ****

May 2 Gorges and Lakes of
Thursday Velingrad

This day is dedicated to the beauty of nature. We will drive to the spectacular gorges and caves where legends say Orpheus entered the Underground World. Continue via scenic roads, crossing lakes and rivers, arriving at the famous SPA town of Velingrad. Our accommodation will be at a luxury SPA hotel with time for rest and treatments. In the evening enjoy a private concert by a famous male a cappella group. The concert will be organized in an old Turkish bath. Overnight in Velingrad. Drive 95 miles - about 3.5 hours. (B-L)

Velingrad SPA hotel****

May 3 Velingrad - Bansko
Friday Leshten

In the morning we take the narrow gauge train from Velingrad to Bansko to admire the picturesque mountainous scenery. Around noon we arrive in Bansko and have a walk in the old part of town with buildings from 19th c. Then we continue south to admire the beautiful scenery and architecture of old Bulgarian villages. We overnight in restored 19th c. houses in the village of Leshten. Dinner with local ingredients. Drive 85 miles - 2.5 hrs. (B-D)

Overnight in Leshten

May 4 Leshten - Melnik
Saturday Rila Monastery - Sofia

After breakfast we drive to the Melnik – a well hidden gem of Balkan architecture from 18th c. We can admire the serenity of the magical sandy formations above the town and small old houses nested in the foothills of Pirin Mountain just below the marble Vihren peak (9,563 feet). The town has preserved its old central part, but is now surrounded by a winter-mountain sports center. We drive further north to reach the famous Rila Monastery. The exquisite monastery (pictured on page 1 of this brochure) is situated deep in the heart of the Rila Mountain at an altitude of 3,766 feet above sea level. It is a virtual outdoor museum.

Leave the monastery and drive northward to bid farewell to our new friends, guide and travel companions over a Farewell Dinner in Sofia. Overnight Sophia. About 210 miles traveled today - 5.5 hours. (B-L-D)

Hotel Crystal Palace****

May 5 Depart Sofia

Our tour ends after breakfast at the hotel. We’ll arrange a group transfer to the airport early this morning. (B)

B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner


We invite you to call Sarah or Gwen at 1-800-762-4216 to request the full brochure. The brochure will include Important Traveler Information (and answers to most questions) and a Reservation Form. We can send the brochure through the Postal Service or as a PDF attachment. If you would like to receive a PDF, probably the best way to keep the message from going into a SPAM filter is to send a message to sarah@serioustraveler.com. If you are already on our mailing list, no need to complete the entire brochure request form.





© 2018 Travel Concepts International, Inc. CST 2005743-40

Travel Concepts International, Inc.
Cultural Tours to Better Understand the World and Its People

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