• Bulgaria

Overview

Nestled in the Balkans & next the Black Sea, Bulgaria has been at the intersection of Thracian, Roman, Persian, Greek, Slavic, & Ottoman history. This makes it the perfect destination for an archaeologist looking to uncover clues about civilization many of the world’s most formative eras. This tour will take you back in time, as you explore Bulgaria’s historic treasures, including old edifices, architectural reserves, archaeological sites, & more.

Highlights

  • Plovdiv – Experience the long history of this Bulgarian city, including Philip of Maceon, the city’s founder, & the remnants of Roman influence & control.
  • Sofia – The capital city of Bulgaria is home to both ancient artifacts and modern Bulgarian life and culture.
  • Nessebar – Explore the old, well-preserved fishing town of Nessebar which still has monuments from a number of ancient civilizations, including the Thracian, Greek, Roman & Byzantine eras.
  • Ruse - Also known as “The Small Vienna, Ruse earned its nickname because Italian, Austrian, Bulgarian, & German architectural influence.

Sample Itinerary

Day 1: Sofia

Arrive in Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia. At the airport, you will meet your guide & transfer to your hotel.

Day 2: Sofia - Rila Monastery - Sofia

After breakfast, depart for your visit to the Rila Monastery.  The core of monastery dates back to the 10th century, & since, the building’s turbulent life cycle has become a symbol of Bulgarian history. Rila Monastery is listed among UNESCO’s cultural & natural heritage sites. It is the biggest compound of its kind in the country. This afternoon, return to Sofia for a sightseeing tour. Among your stops are the Church of St. George, the Banya-Bashi Mosque & the Alexander Nevsky Golden-Domed Cathedral.

Day 3: Sofia - Plovdiv

Enjoy breakfast before heading to the Plovdiv, a town with more history than Bulgaria itself! Spend the day exploring the sites of Plovdiv on foot. Learn more about Philip of Maceon, the city’s founder, & how Romans commandeered the city leaving behind a number of buildings that still stand today. You’ll have the chance to the Roman mosaics in the Trakart Center, the Roman Odeon, the Forum of Phiippopolis, & more.

Day 4: Plovdiv – Perperikon – Haskovo

This morning, you will head out for your day’s excursion to Perperikon. Located on East Rhodope Mountain, Perperikon is an ancient megalith structure, entirely carved into rocks. Not only is its history impressive, but it also sits atop a cliff 470 meters high. Below, you’ll be able to see the river valley, which is strewn with archaeological sites, each looking for artifacts from different eras. Perperikon dates back to 5th century B.C as a center for religious activity & today, it is one of Bulgaria’s most popular tourist destinations. It is believed that two renowned prophecies were made from the altar of Perperikon – the conquest of Alexander the Macedonian & the power of Gaius Julius Caesar Augusts, the first Roman Emperor. Continue on to Haskovo for your dinner & overnight.

Day 5: Haskovo - Alexandrovo - Stara Zagora - Nessebar

After breakfast, visit the Thracian tomb of Alexandrovo, before continuing on to Stara Zagora. Learn about the town of Stara Zagora at the Regional History Museum, filled with artifacts & archives from its 8,000 years of history. The “Neolithic dwellings” Museum is also home to the best preserved dwellings from mid-6th century BC in Europe. This afternoon, head to Nessebar for your dinner & overnight in the hotel.

Day 6: Nessebar

Enjoy the day in Nessebar, an old fishing town on a small rocky peninsula. Nessebar is well-preserved & still has monuments from Thracian, Greek, Roman & Byzantine eras. After a visit to the archaeological museum & walking tour, relax with some afternoon free time. Then, dinner in Old town at a seafood restaurant.  

Day 7: Nessebar - Varna

Depart for the city of Varna this morning after breakfast. Explore the city & its many sites, including the Archaeological museum, where you can see a plethora of Thracian artifacts as well as the oldest of gold in the world. Dinner in this evening is in your hotel. 

Day 8: Varna - Devnja - Madara - Sveshtari - Ruse

From Varna, you will head towards Devnya, home to the Museum of Mosaics, where mosaics from Marcianopolis & the early-Byzantine period are displayed. During the archaeological project that uncovered the mosaics, researches also uncovered the House of Antiope, a grand late-Roman house, dating back to the end of the 3rd century. The house was decorated with ornate mosaics but was destroyed during the invasion of the Gotts in 250 & 251 & later, rebuilt. 
Continue on to Madara to witness the well-known Madara barelife, a monument known as The Horse Rider. Built in the 8th or 9th century, the monument has become a symbol of an adolescent Bulgaria. From Madara, you will travel to Isperih for a visit to the Sboryanovo National Archaeological reserve. Here, there are over 100 mounds, believed to be maps of stars & evidence of the astronomical culture of the Thracian people. The most famous of the mounds is the Sveshtari Thracian tomb, also a UNESCO world heritage site. This afternoon, you’ll make it to your day’s destination in Ruse for dinner & your overnight.

Day 9: Ruse – Ivanovo monastery - Nikopolis ad Istrum - Veliko Tarnovo

This morning, explore the city of Ruse, also known as “The Small Vienna.” Ruse is Bulgaria’s primary port along the Danube River, & earned its nickname because Italian, Austrian, Bulgarian, & German architectural influence. Continue to Ivanovo to visit the Rock Monasteries, each with their unique frescoes. Learn about the long history of these medieval churches, chapels, & monastic cells, from the time they were carved into the banks of the river Lom, to the invasions of the Avars. This afternoon, you’ll arrive in Veliko Tarnovo where you will enjoy dinner with a local family at their house in Arbanassi Village.

Day 10: Veliko Tarnovo - Arbanassi - Kasanlak

Following breakfast, depart on your tour of the most ancient city in Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo, with a history of over 5 millennia.  Depart for Arbanassi, a well-known museum town filled with quaint houses that resemble small fortresses. Among the historic buildings is The Birth Christ, the oldest of Arbanassi’s 5 churches & is now an art gallery with an impressive collection. Later this afternoon, arrive in Kasanlak.

Day 11: Kasanlak – Sofia

This morning, head for the “Valley of the Thracian Kings.” Along the way, stop at the tomb of Kazanluk, a replica of the eponymous tomb decorated in 4th century frescoes. You may also have the chance to see other notable tombs, such as Golyama Kosmatka, if open, Shushmanetz, & Ostrusha. Take some time to peruse the archaeological museum in the town before departing this afternoon for Sofia.

Day 12: Sofia

Your day in Sofia will be filled with meetings & museums. Visit the Museum of St. Sofia as well as the Archaeological Museum, the oldest of its kind in Bulgaria. The museum has an extensive collection, including Thracian artifacts & Apolon bronze. You’ll also have a chance to see the Banya-Bashi mosque, known for being an icon of Islamic architecture. Your next few stops are all in Boyana, a beautiful quarter in Sofia named for its centerpiece, the Boyana Church. The Church is a UNESCO World & Cultural Heritage site; it is made up of three different parts from three different eras. At the National Historical Museum, you will have the chance to meet with an architect. Then, take a tour of the university.

Day 13: Sofia

Today, continue on your tour of the city of Sofia before departing for the airport.