UNESCO in Bulgaria - a jewelry box with nine jewels

Departure Date: from 01-04-2019 to 31-10-2019 Status: Open for booking Price: 650 Duration: 9 days
Departure Date: from 01-04-2020 to 31-10-2020 Status: Open for booking Price: 680 Duration: 10 days
Departure Date: from 01-04-2021 to 31-10-2021 Status: Open for booking Price: 680 Duration: 10 days
Departure Date: from 01-04-2022 to 31-10-2022 Status: Open for booking Price: 680 Duration: 10 days
Departure Date: from 01-04-2023 to 31-10-2023 Status: Open for booking Price: 790 Duration: 0 days
Departure Date: from 01-04-2024 to 31-10-2024 Status: Open for booking Price: 890 Duration: 10 days

Are nine sites under UNESCO protection too few or too many for a country? They are many if situated in a small area – as small as Bulgaria. But few, if that territory can tell the history of a whole European civilization. It was here that the oldest gold treasure in the world, dating back to the 5th millennium BC, was discovered. The ancient Thracians that inhabited the region a few millenniums after that left many wonders that spark our curiosity as well - from mysterious stone sanctuaries to elaborate royal tombs. The territory of the country later became a Roman province and it was about Serdica (today's Sofia) that Emperor Constantine said: "Serdika is my Rome". The Bulgarian tribes that arrived here in the 7th century, together with the local Slavic tribes, continued the legacy of the region. After the acceptance of Christianity, they developed a rich culture and even created their own writing system - the Cyrillic, which later spread to the other Slavic countries. Apart from the numerous cultural sites, there are two natural ones that have made it to the UNESCO list as well - the Pirin National Park - with its limestone mountain landscapes and glacial lakes and the Srebarna Nature Reserve - a freshwater lake, home to over 100 species of birds, many of them rare and endangered.

UNESCO sites in Bulgaria:
♦ Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak - famous for its well-preserved exquisite murals
♦ Thracian Tomb in Sveshtari - renowned for its half-human, half-plant caryatids
♦ Town of Nessebar - a unique architecture mix of Hellenistic ruins and 19th century traditional wooden Bulgarian houses
♦ Madara Horseman - an 8th century rock relief carved in a 100-m-high cliff
♦ Boyana Church - a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church, situated in Vitosha Mountains, near the capital city of Sofia
♦ Ivanovo Rock Churches - a complex of rock-hewn churches, chapels, monasteries and cells, decorated with beautiful medieval frescoes
♦ Rila Monastery - the biggest monastery in Bulgaria and important spiritual site throughout the Bulgarian history
♦ Pirin Mountain - known for its limestone mountain landscapes and glacial lakes
♦ Srebarna Lake - a freshwater lake, home to over 100 rare bird species


Day 1. Arrival in Sofia.
Arrival in Sofia and transfer to your hotel. Free time to explore the city on your own.-/-/-

Day 2. Sofia – Rila Monastery – Melnik
We start our tour with one of the emblems of Bulgaria - the Rila Monastery. Founded in the 10th century by the monk-hermit St. Ivan of Rila, the monastery played a crucial role throughout Bulgarian history, preserving the Bulgarian spirit and culture during the five centuries of Ottoman rule. Nowadays, it continues to be one of the most important spiritual sites in the country. It is situated in a picturesque area in the heart of Rila Mountain - among age-old forests and high rocky peaks. The most characteristic feature of the monastery is its vibrant and detailed frescoes, created by one of the most prominent Bulgarian artists at the time. The monastery is also home to Rafail's cross - a wooden crucifix showing 104 religious scenes and 650 miniature figures, carved out of a whole piece of wood (81 х 43 cm). The route continues southward to the small town of Melnik - the smallest one in Bulgaria. It is known for its good wine, old houses and picturesque landscape of steep sandstone pyramids surrounding it. We will spend the night in a hotel in Melnik. B/-/-

Day 3. Melnik – Pirin – Bansko
Today we are heading to Bansko resort, driving through the picturesque southern parts of Pirin Mountain. We will do a short hiking tour around the Bandaritsa circuit, starting from Vihren hut. Along the way, we will get to enjoy spectacular views of the glacial lakes and high peaks. Due to its unique biodiversity, a huge part of the Pirin Mountain has been declared a protected territory – Pirin National Park and it was added to UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983. On the way back to Bansko we will see the Baykushev's pine - the oldest coniferous tree in Bulgaria, believed to be over 1300 years old. Overnight in a hotel in Bansko. B/-/-

Day 4. Bansko –Plovdiv
Our journey continues through the quaint mountain roads of the Rila and Rodopi Mountains, before reaching our stop for the day - Plovdiv. Plovdiv is one of the oldest still inhabited cities in the world. It has existed as a settlement for more than 8 000 years. It has been the capital of Ancient Thrace and a large trade centre in the Middle Ages. In the historic quarter of the city, we will explore the beautifully decorated houses in traditional Bulgarian style, ancient fortress walls, the ancient Roman theatre and stadium and the numerous magnificent churches Overnight in a hotel in the city. B/-/-

Day 5. Plovdiv – Kazanlak tomb – Nessebar
After breakfast, we are heading to Kazanlak Valley, known also as the Valley of the Thracian Rulers. The term was coined by a Bulgarian archaeologist in the 20th century, due to the extremely high concentration of Thracian tombs and monuments found in the area. Eight of the tombs have been explored in detail and most of them are open for visitors. We will visit the Kazanlak tomb, dating back to the 4th century BC. The tomb consists of a narrow corridor and a round burial chamber, both of them decorated with ornate murals depicting the everyday life and the special rituals of the Thracians. Another term often used to describe this valley is the Valley of the Roses. Roses take a central part in the culture of the locals. Every year in June a Rose Festival takes place in the region, so if you are travelling during that period you can get a chance to witness it and even take place in the rose-picking activities. We will then continue to the town of Nessebar, situated on the Black Sea coast. We will spend the night in a hotel in Nessebar. B/-/-

Day 6. Nessebar
Today we will explore the charming town of Nessebar. Although it is a famous holiday resort for Bulgarians and foreigners alike, the town has managed to preserve its laid-back atmosphere. Nessebar (then Mesembria) was one of the most important ancient seaside colonies of the Greeks that inhabited it in the 6th century BC. In the later centuries Romans, Byzantines and Bulgarians have left their marks as well and contributed to the town turning into a real open-air museum nowadays. We will take a walk in the city and explore its fortress walls, numerous basilicas and churches, as well as the wooden traditional Bulgarian houses. Overnight in Nessebar. B/-/-

Day 7. Nessebar – Madara Horseman – Sveshtari – Srebarna
Today we are leaving the seaside town and heading towards the Madara Horseman. Historians have not agreed on the meaning and symbolist of this rock relief carved in a 100-m-high cliff. Some scholars believe that it depicts a Bulgarian ruler from the 8th century, while others think it represents or is somehow connected to the old Bulgarian deity Tangra. Either way, the cratsmanship of the people who carved it is worth admiration. The next stop is another Thracian tomb - the one in the village of Sveshtari. It dates back to III century BC and is characterized by the voluminous female figures framing the central compartment. A short walk from the tomb is the Muslim sanctuary of Demir Baba Teke. It is believed to have healing powers and is frequented by locals praying nearby it. Overnight in the village of Srebarna. B/-/-

Day 8. Srebarna – Ivanovo Rock Churches –Veliko Tarnovo
We start our day with a visit to Srebarna lake, located just a few kilometres from the village. It is an important stop on the path of migratory birds in their migration between Europe and Africa, called Via Pontica. About 100 species nest here. Among them is the Dalmatian pelican, considered by many to be e most attractive one. We will then continue to the rock-hewn churches near Ivanovo village - an important centre of Hesychasm (type of monastic life) in Bulgaria in the 14th century. Here are some of the best-preserved examples of the iconography of that time. Our last stop for the day is Veliko Tarnovo - the Medieval Capital of Bulgaria, where the glorious past of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom can be felt. We will visit the Tsarevets Hill which is towered by the Patriarch church “Holy Ascending of God” and explore the old town. Overnight in Veliko Tarnovo. B/-/-

Day 9. Veliko Tarnovo – Sofia/ Boyana church
Today we are heading back to Sofia. On the way, we will take a short stop to visit the cave "Saeva Dupka", known as the underground pearl of Bulgaria. The cave is filled with massive stalagmites, stalactites, and other cave formations. Before finishing the tour in Sofia, we will visit the Boyana Church - a beautiful medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church situated on the outskirts of the city. Free time to explore the capital city on your own. Overnight in a hotel in Sofia.

Day 10. Departure.
Transfer to the airport for departure. B/-/-