Bulgaria - A Balkan Serendipity

Home to some of the most incredible UNESCO sites, heritage and wondrous nature, Bulgaria had had a grim reputation during the Communist era in its storied past but now, it is one of the most revered destinations in the Balkans for its surreal landscapes, hidden culture and the shimmer of the Black Sea. 

HIGHLIGHTS

Witness surreal landscapes and nature of Bulgaria

Savour exquisite wines and gastronomy 

Stay in refined boutique hotels 

Enjoy an insightful experience with the local characters

ITINERARY

DAY 1: ARRIVE SOFIA

Arrive Sofia International Airport where you will be met and thereafter, we drive to the heart of the capital city of Bulgaria on a private tour of the old town to learn about Sofia's fascinating former communist legacies. Hop onto a vintage Russian jeep - a Beyond X Boundaries exclusive where you will be given an introduction of the Communist era beginning with a visit to the Museum of Socialist Art, documenting Bulgaria's communist past with artworks and exhibits of famous Communist leaders, local and abroad. We will also stop by to admire interesting monuments and buildings such as the Former Bulgarian Communist Party Headquarters and the Soviet Army monument. Thereafter, we will visit the stunning Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world, built in striking Neo-Byzantine style, decorated with its signature gold-plated dome, completed in 1912 to commemorate the 200,000 soldiers who died in the Russo-Turkish war between 1877-1878. Next, we continue to the Banya Bashi Mosque, the only remaining functioning mosque in Sofia, built during the late 16th Century by the greatest Ottoman architect, Mimar Sinan who also oversee the construction of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Our tour of Sofia wraps up with the visit to the Church of St George, built in early Christian style by the Romans in the 4th Century, considered to be the oldest building in Sofia, built at the time when Sofia was the residence of luminaries such as Galerius and Constantine The Great. A step away, we check in into the Sofia Hotel Balkan.  

Overnight: Hotel Sofia, Balkan, Sofia

Meals: NIL

DAY 2: SOFIA / ISKAR GORGE / BELOGRADCHIK

This morning, we leave the capital travelling north through the Balkan Mountains and the deeply cut Iskar Gorge. A stop at a small monastery will give you a chance to feel the atmosphere of this natural way and the life that people here have lead for centuries. Our goal for the day is Belogradchik – a small town in the foothills of the mountains famous for its unique red rocks formations and the fortress that was build using the natural defense of the landscape. Visit the Belgradchik Fortress, also known as "Kaleto", one of the best-preserved Bulgarian fortresses in the Balkan Mountains with its origins dating back to Roman times and has been used till the 19th Century. Take a walk to feel the surreal and dramatic setting of the fortress, set against the imposing Belogradchik Rocks, a group of strange-shaped sandstone and conglomerate rock formations that are intriguing as they are almost unreal. We will then arrive at the Hotel Skalite for check in and enjoy the day at leisure. 

Overnight: Hotel Skalite, Belogradchik

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 3: BELOGRADCHIK / DEVETASHKA CAVE / LOVECH / VELIKO TARNOVO

An exciting day beckons as we leave the mountains travelling through the Danube River valleys constantly surprised by exciting limestone features before arriving at the jaw-dropping and ennormous Devetashka Cave, which has provided shelter for humans dating back to the Paleolithic era. Formed by dissolution of soluble rocks and characterized by sinkholes, caves, and underground drainage systems, the cave measures  approximately 2km in length and with a huge entrance ‘hall’ measuring 60m in height. In places the ceiling is 100 metres above the ground and there are seven huge holes through which daylight illuminates the vast interior. It is these holes that earned the cave the name Maarata or Oknata ("the eyes"). Up until the 1950s,  Devetashka Cave was used as a military site and for the storage of petroleum, leading to the destruction of some of the natural formations in the cave. Today, concrete bases remain inside the cave where large oil tanks had been installed.  A railroad was built leading to the entrance of the cave, and some remnants of a bridge can be found across the river. 

Our journey then continues into the town of Lovech, one of the oldest settled places in Bulgaria, built on the remains of the Thracian settlement Melta and the Roman city Presidium. Greeting us on arrival is the Covered Bridge that spans the Osum River, a symbol of Lovech, built between 1872-1874 and now houses interesting souvenir shops in it. Enjoy a walk through the narrow, cobbled streets of the Varosha Quarter, taking a step back in time into the 19th Century to feel the nostalgic atmosphere and at the highest point of the old town, the ruins of the Hisarya Fortress, providing a panorama of the area. In the late afternoon, our day ends with our arrival into the medieval city of Veliko Tarnovo, former capital city of Bulgaria where we check in into the Hotel Studio. This evening, enjoy a relaxing dinner with your guide at the delightfully-charming and award-winning Restaurant Shtastliveca with warm inviting decor, enjoying the local delights of the region. 

Overnight: Hotel Studio, Veliko Tarnovo

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 4: VELIKO TARNOVO (EXCURSION TO RUSENSKI LOM NATURE PARK)

Enjoy a morning exploration of Veliko Tarnovo, once a flourishing town in the Middle Ages for its exciting mix of Christian and Ottoman cultures and craftsmanship. After breakfast, a morning tour ensue with a visit to the Tsarevet area where we witness the ruins of the Tsarevet Fortress and a walk around the Samovodska Charshiya old crafts street. Thereafter, make a brief stop at the Holy 40 Martyrs Church, built in 1230 on the order of Bulgarian tsar, Ivan Asen II in honor of his victory near Klokotnitsa over the Despotate of Epirus under Theodore Ducas. 

We then journey out in the second half of the day to the Rusenski Lom Nature Park, named after the Rusenski Lom River, the last right-side tributary of the Danube River and home to the UNESCO-listed Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo where we enjoy an easy walk from Ivanovo village to admire and learn about the group of monolithic churches, chapels and monasteries adorned with well-preserved 13th - 14th Century frescoes and murals of medieval art. Not far away is Basarbovo Monastery where we will visit the only-active remaining monastery carved out of rock in Bulgaria, first carved by Hesychast monks as early as the late 12th Century. We will then return to Veliko Tarnovo for another spellbinding night in the ancient capital. 

Overnight: Hotel Studio, Veliko Tarnovo

Meals: Breakfast 

DAY 5: VELIKO TARNOVO / SHIPKA PASS / KAZANLAK / PLOVDIV

Leave Veliko Tarnovo today as we head south crossing once again the Balkan Mountains and leaving the northern part of the country behind. Our pleasant drive takes us on the scenic Shipka Pass, site of fierce battles during the Russo-Turkish war in the late 19th Century. We then stop to visit the abandoned and peculiar UFO-shaped Buzludzha Monument, originally built as a socialist assembly hall and today a curious wreck, filled with graffiti , falling concrete, decaying stairs after the fall of the communist regime. 

Thereafter, we continue south to the town of Kazanlak, driving pass pockets of rose and lavender fields in season and home to the essential oils industry where roses and lavenders are cultivated and then harvested for distillation of scented oil used for beauty, cosmetics and therapy. We will visit a distillation farm and production distillery to learn about the industry, the process and in season, a chance to witness spectacular fields of rose and lavender where you may have the opportunity to participate in harvesting. Finally, we arrive into Plovdiv, designated as the European Capital of Culture for 2019 and the second-largest city in Bulgaria. After some orientation, we will check in into the Imperial Plovdiv Hotel & Spa

NOTES:

Rose harvesting season is from April to May and lavender season is from June to early August. 

Overnight: Imperial Plovdiv Hotel & Spa, Plovdiv

Meals: Breakfast 

DAY 6: PLOVDIV

Enjoy a full day immersing in Europe's oldest-continuously inhabited city, Plovdiv as we enjoy a tour of its historical sites and the old town that dates back to more than 8000 years. Originally a Thracian settlement before its evolution into a Roman city, it is most renowned as the "City of Phillip", named after Phillip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great who conquered Plovdiv in 342BC and thus became the most prosperous city of ancient Thrace province. Throughout the later ages, it was ruled by the Byzantines and Ottomans before becoming part of Bulgaria. We begin with a visit to the Roman Amphitheater, one of the best-preserved theatres in the world and still used for performances today. We will also visit the fascinating Regional Ethnographic Museum, with its colorful facade and housing over 40,000 artifacts where one can understand deeper about Plovdiv's ancient traditions, turbulent periods in history and culture. A stroll through the Old town area offers an insight into the traditional homes and residences that opens your horizon towards the eager regaining of identity from the Ottomans. Worth a stop is the lookout area of the Roman ruins at Nebet Hill where you can enjoy a panorama of the old town before spending the rest of the day at leisure to unwind and relax, shop in the atmospheric center of Plovdiv. 

Overnight: Imperial Plovdiv Hotel & Spa, Plovdiv

Meals: Breakfast 

DAY 7: PLOVDIV / THE RHODOPE MOUNTAINS

An extraordinary day begins as we leave Plovdiv behind on our journey to the Rhodope Mountains - home to some of the wildest and pristine landscapes in Europe. Lush valleys, nostalgic villages, surreal nature make the Rhodope Mountains an unmistakable destination in Bulgaria off the beaten track! Our first visit of the day will be Asen's Fortress, built since the Thracians era in 3rd Century BC and was refortified again in the Middle Ages. Visit the 13th-century Church of the Holy Mother of God to admire the historic iconography and stone inscriptions. Enjoy panoramic views of the mountain scenery, and learn why the fortress gained importance in the Middle Ages, and how it was conquered by the armies of the Third Crusade. Next, head to picturesque Bachkovo Monastery deeper in the mountains. Founded in 1083, and one of the most sacred places in Bulgarian history, the monastery’s main church contains a valuable icon of the Virgin Mary from 1310 that, according to legend, can work miracles. Admire the 12th-century Church of the Archangels and its 19th-century paintings. Thereafter, continue to the natural phenomenon of Chudnite Mostove "The Wonderful Bridges". In this terrain of limestone, a unique landscape has been created by the process of aggressive erosion. Under this region of the Rhodope Mountains, the geographical traits of limestone have made it common to find massive landscape features such as gorges, buttes, sink holes, jagged ridges, and other rock phenomenons. 

Our next stop will be a brief visit to the village Shiroka Laka. founded in the 17th Century and renowned for its preservation of traditional houses, musical culture and nostalgic landscape. Enjoy an insight into the typical architectural style of the Rhodope Mountains - 2 storey buildings with bay-windows and an internal wooden staircases. Finally, a short drive away arrives us at the sublimely-gorgeous Villa Gella, a luxurious retreat tucked in the hamlet of Gela where you will spend a mesmerizing night in the Rhodope Mountains, tucking into local gastronomic treats. 

Overnight: Villa Gella, Rhodope Mountains

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 8: RHODOPE MOUNTAINS / MELNIK

Another inspiring day begins as you wake up and smell the coffee in the Rhodope Mountains. Say farewell to your host at Villa Gella as we move westwards and deeper in the mountains going through the Trigrad Gorge and entering the Devil’s Throat cave. Once there it is not hard to imagine why it bears this name. The constant roar of the water inside makes you feel like you’re inside a mythical creature. Next, our journey takes us to the tranquil village of Kovachevitsa where you experience a time warp taking in its well-preserved 18th and 19th Century setting and atmosphere. The houses in the village are almost entirely made of stone, and it is interesting that the roofs are from stone slabs too. Only the highest houses have their ast storeys made of wood. Kovachevitsa is an architectural reserve, boasting the beauty of Revival period architecture which must be seen to understand what masters lived in the Revival period and how durable their houses are, standing now firm and impressive with their unique style. 

We then continue further west to Melnik, the smallest town in Bulgaria, nestled in a region renowned for its wines and in an unique area surrounded by earth pyramids formed by weathering and erosion. A lovely stroll takes us to a panoramic spot where we sit down to enjoy a glass of wine, admire the changing hues on the pyramids before a short distance away, we arrive at the sensational, Zornitza Family Estate, a stunning Relais & Chateaux property where this evening, savor to an exciting degustation menu by Chef Vasil Spasov. 

Overnight: Zornitza Family Estate, Melnik

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 9: MELNIK / RILA MOUNTAINS

We start the day with a visit to Villa Melnik, a family-owned winery with over 30 acres of vineyards in Melnik - the wine capital of Bulgaria. Enjoy an informative tour of the cellars and the stunning environments and surrounding villages and a sampling of the wines, consistently one of the finest and revered in the world of wine. Thereafter, we will drive north past the Pirin Mountains and arrive at the foot of the spectacular Rila Mountains where we visit the UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery, founded in the 10th Century by St John of Rila, a hermit canonized by the Orthodox Church. Considered to be the most beautiful monastery in the world, be dazzled by its unique design and decor that leaves nothing to spare. Thereafter, we transfer to the unique Hotel Yastrebets where you will stay the next 2 nights in the delightful Finnish chalets. 

Overnight: Hotel Yastrebets, Rila Mountains

Meals: Breakfast 

DAY 10: RILA MOUNTAINS (THE SEVEN RILA LAKES)

Spend the day in the Rila Mountains, walking  around its pearls: The Seven Rila Lakes, with impressive natural beauty, easy access by chairlift, variety of paths and hiking routes in the area. With your expert mountain guide today, we start exploring each of the lakes one by one on the Seven Lakes circuit, each named after its most characteristic feature. The highest one (at 2500m/8200ft above sea level) is called Salzata ("The Tear"), from where we have a bird’s eye view over all seven lakes, as well as surrounding outcrops and deep valleys; the next one in height carries the name Okoto ("The Eye") after its oval form; Babreka ("The Kidney") is the lake with the steepest shores of the entire group; Bliznaka ("The Twin") is the largest of all; Trilistnika ("The Trefoil") has an irregular shape; the shallowest lake is Ribnoto Ezero ("The Fish Lake") and the lowest one is Dolnoto Ezero ("The Lower Lake"; 2100m/6995ft), where the water that flows out of the other lakes is gathered to form the source of Dzherman River. 

NOTES:

This walking route is moderately arduous, with individual brief paths featuring steep inclines but comfortable for the experienced hiker/walker. 

Overnight: Hotel Yastrebets, Rila Mountains

Meals: Breakfast & Picnic Lunch

DAY 11: RILA MOUNTAINS / DEPART SOFIA

Our journey comes to an end in Bulgaria and en route to Sofia Intl Airport, we will make a visit to the UNESCO-listed 10th Century Boyana Church, famed for its impeccably preserved medieval frescoes, the church demands attention with its ancient artworks; spend a while admiring the depictions of angels, apostles, saints and sinners, and listen to the historical context of their creation. 

Meals: Breakfast

HOTELS

Sofia Hotel Balkan, a Luxury Collection Hotel is an iconic 5-Star landmark in the vivid center of Sofia and is perfectly located in the heart of the city. Monuments, museums, theaters, cafes, galleries, parks, business and cultural establishments surround the Sofia Balkan, an oasis of luxury, refinement and impeccable service. 

Hotel Sofia Balkan, Sofia

Hotel Skalite boasts amazing views of unique and impressive rock formations, the Belogradchik Rocks, offering superb facilities and services in the centre of Belogradchik. Well-appointed accommodation provides comfort for the intrepid traveller discovering one of the less-trodden destinations in Bulgaria. 

Hotel Skalite, Belogradchik

Located on a square of Veliko Turnovo’s historical centre, Hotel Studio offers views of Tsarevets Fortress and the Tsarevets Hill. The hotel has 13 luxurious rooms, all equipped with sofas, cable TV, Internet, telephone, mini bar and bathrooms are top class. In the hotel are more comfortable lobby lounge with bar, restaurant style neoromantik with perfectly selected menu bar and terrace with spectacular view to the hills Tsarevets and show "Sound and Light."

Hotel Studio, Veliko Tarnovo

Perfectly located in a central and quiet area, Imperial Plovdiv Hotel & Spa is an ideal choice for both business and leisure travellers. It is within walking distance of Plovdiv’s cultural heart “The Old Town” and only minutes away from the city’s business and shopping districts. 

Imperial Plovdiv Hotel & Spa, Plovdiv

Villa Gella offers an authentic but luxurious experience in the wilderness of the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria. Nestling in the hamlet of Gela, the reputed birthplace of the legendary musician Orpheus, this restored six-bedroom villa, at an altitude of 1700m, commands magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.

Villa Gella, Rhodope Mountains

Built from the heavy stones and the dreams of a family of aesthetes enamoured with their home country, Zornitza Family Estate produces wine, honey and truffles; cultivates organic fruits and vegetables; and raises its own livestock. The main house boasts a contemporary design, yet traditional materials. Staying at this property is a unique opportunity to discover southern Bulgaria in all of its luxury and authenticity

Zornitza Family Estate, Melnik

Nestled in the pine forest in the shade in the summer, or snowy roofs in the winter, the Finnish Chalets of Yastrebets Hotel Wellness & SPA carries you in a luxurious and comfortable fabulous atmosphere. Each chalet  has two floors, everything is made out of Finnish pine trees, living room at the first floor, bedrooms on the first floor and second floor, porch in front of each villa 

Hotel Yastrebets Wellness & Spa, Rila Mountains

SEND US AN ENQUIRY

Our Partners
Follow Us
  • Facebook - Black Circle
  • Twitter - Black Circle
  • Instagram - Black Circle

Subscribe to Newsletters

2019 by Beyond X Boundaries. All Rights Reserved.  Co . Reg. No 53312240J TA 3013