Explore Eastern Europe's Romania and Bulgaria

Embark on a spectacular journey from Romania and through Bulgaria, discovering the architectural grandeur and quaint cultural enclaves that make this such an intriguing part of the world. Absorb Bucharest’s austere atmosphere on a guided walking tour, compare age-old places of worship in Sofia and be treated to traditional Bulgarian hospitality on an overnight homestay in Gorno Draglishte. Breathe in crisp alpine air on a hike in the Pirin Mountains, and meander back in time in the Old Town of Plovdiv. Relatively short in terms of distance travelled, this nine-day trip is a fascinating study in just how much regions can change as you cross national borders.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Bucharest, Romania
Finish
Sofia, Bulgaria
Countries
Bulgaria, Romania
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
WMSI
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Immerse yourself in the communist past and vibrant present of Bucharest, a city often underrated by travellers

  • Travel through the scenic Rila Mountains in Bulgaria, mingling with monks at the 10th-century Rila Monastery

  • The village of Gorno Draglishte is home to a rich cultural heritage and a delightful community of welcoming locals. Experience the best of both worlds during a family home-stay (delicious home-cooked dinner included)

  • The ancient Roman theatre in Plovdiv’s city centre was only discovered when a landslide uncovered it in the 1970s. Explore the amphitheatre and Plovdiv's other significant sights on a guided walking tour

Is this trip right for you?

  • As there are potholes and cobblestones in many European cities, it's recommended that you leave any wheelie bags/cases at home and bring a backpack instead.

  • This trip involves some travel by public bus, including a few long journeys. Although this can be a bit tiresome, it's a great way to meet locals and relax while enjoying the passing scenery.

  • Summer temperatures can be extreme in many of the regions visited (over 40°C), which can be uncomfortable. It’s important to use sun protection, wear layers to combat the heat and drink plenty of water. Please carefully consider the time of the year you wish to travel and your suitability to that season.

  • As accommodation on this trip is twin share, single travellers will share a room with another traveller of the same sex. This trip is a great opportunity to get to know other like-minded people, so embrace it while you can. However, if you’d prefer not to share, a single room supplement is available at an additional charge. Please ask your travel consultant for more details. Hotels in Europe often don't have double beds, but rather two single beds that can be pushed together/apart. Please also note that some of our accommodation on this trip offer shared bathrooms rather than en-suite facilities.

  • As you will have the opportunity to visit several orthodox churches on this trip, please ensure you cover your legs, shoulders and chest and show the appropriate respect. It's a good idea to bring a light scarf to cover your skin as needed.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2018 to 31 December 2018. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 24 October 2017

Alo! Welcome to Romania. Bucharest, Romania's capital city, likes big things. It's home to one of Europe's biggest squares and its Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world. It's worth arriving into the city a few days early to explore. Perhaps take a tour of the Palace of Parliament (former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu ordered the construction of this 12-storied monster, a building of staggering scale and opulence that includes 1,100 rooms and 4,500 chandeliers), or check out the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. You might even like to partake in one of our Urban Adventure day trips, such as the 'Home Cooked Bucharest' tour.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Museum of the Romanian Peasant - RON6
  • Palace of Parliament Tour - RON35
  • Urban Adventures - Home Cooked Bucharest - EUR41
  • Urban Adventures - Bucharest Sites and Bites - EUR52
  • Urban Adventures - Outcast Bucharest - EUR52
  • Village Museum - RON10
  • Urban Adventures - Bohemian Bucharest: Markets & Mahallas - EUR55
  • Urban Adventures - Locals on Tap - EUR25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm today – double check with reception to confirm the time. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have this ready for collection.
Travel by train across the friendship bridge into Bulgaria and on to the picturesque town of Veliko Tarnovo (approx 6 hrs). Veliko Tarnovo's history is incredible. Founded in 4500 BC by the Neolithic people, the Romans later built the first fortress walls and in the 6th century a Byzantine capital was established on Tsarevets Hill by Emperor Justinian. After the foundation of the second Bulgarian empire in 1185, it became the second most important and beautiful city in the region (after Constantinople) and trade and culture flourished for the next 200 years. In 1393 the town fell to the Turks who held the city until the Russians liberated it in 1877. Because of its importance during the second Bulgarian empire, the city was chosen as the place where the Bulgarian constitution was written in 1879 and where the official proclamation of Bulgaria as an independent state was made in 1908.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning join your leader for a visit to Veliko Tarnovo's imposing Tsarevets Fortress which overlooks the city. This once-magnificent fortress was first built in the 7th century and the ruined citadel is a delight to wander through. The rest of the day is free for you to explore the City of Tsars. Wander through the Old Quarter with its preserved Renaissance houses and handicraft workshops before relaxing in one of the town's cafes or 'vinarnas' (wine bars).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tsarevets Fortress
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel by train from Veliko Tarnovo to Plovdiv (approximately 5 hours). Situated on the Maritsa River, Plovdiv was once the meeting point of two ancient transportation routes. Join a local guide for a tour of the main sights and some insight into the town's history. The most remarkable sight is the ancient Roman theatre, accidentally ‘discovered’ after a landslide exposed the site in the early 1970s. Built in the 2nd century BC during the reign of Trajanus, the theatre seats about 6,000 people and is now back in use. From here, wander up to the site of the former hilltop fortress of Nebet Tepe, where you can enjoy excellent views of the city. Head back down to visit the 15th-century Dzhumaya Mosque, still in use today. Later today make sure you indulge in the local cuisine, famed for its grilled meats and vegetables on skewers.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Plovdiv Guided Tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a free day, so why not embark on an aimless wander through Plovdiv's narrow alleyways to see traditional coppersmiths, farriers and potters at work, or browse through the myriads of antique shops lining the streets. Alternatively head out of town and check out the underground crypt at Bachkovo Monastery or discover one of the many hot springs in the Plovdiv region. One of the most well-known spa towns is Hisarya, famous for its 22 mineral springs. Your leader will be on hand to help you organise transportation to get there.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hisarya Hot Springs - BGN50
  • Bachkovo Monastery - BGN16
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Journey on to the small town of Bansko (approximately 3 hours). Set at the base of the majestic Pirin Mountains, Bansko is home to more than 150 cultural monuments. Down its cobbled streets, many of its stone houses have been transformed into charming ‘mehanes’ (taverns). Wander through pl. Vazrazhdane and check out the frescoes of the Church of Sveta Troitsa, or the paintings in the Rilski Convent. Stretch your legs with a hike into the eastern slopes of the Pirin mountains, or visit the Belitsa Bear Sanctuary, home to rescued dancing bears. The sanctuary is the largest of its type in Europe, covering over 120,000 square metres. Here the bears can languish in lush green woods, with a river and pool in each enclosure. Seeing them sleeping in the sun, playing in the water and being free from captivity can be very moving. In the evening, you'll have the opportunity to indulge in some local cuisine. Try filet elena (spicy cured meat) or kapama (simmered meat, rice and sauerkraut), washing it down with some delicious melnik (dark red wine).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Pirin Mountains Hike & Chairlift
Optional Activities
  • Belitsa Bear Sanctuary - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
From Bansko transfer to the small village of Gorno Draglishte (approximately 30 minutes) and spend the night at our local friend's guesthouse. While the accommodation is simple and not all rooms have an en suite, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming and you'll be treated to a delicious home-cooked dinner. You'll even have the chance to learn about the traditional weaving practices of the area, and maybe join the hosts for a dance.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Today journey into the Rila Mountains, where you'll visit the impressive Rila Monastery. Tucked away in a valley, this World Heritage-listed site is the largest and holiest of Bulgaria's orthodox monasteries. It was founded in 927 to keep Bulgarian spiritual and social life alive during Turkish rule. The entire monastery complex is a work of art in itself – check out stunning murals, the 14th-century Hrelyo Tower, the five-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin Church and the original 19th-century monastery kitchen. Then it's on to Sofia. Bulgaria's capital is a cosmopolitan city with wide tree-lined boulevards and pleasant parks. You've got the rest of the day to wander, so maybe begin with a browse around the cured meats and cheese of the Central Market Hall, then take a walk through the city and see the gold-domed Alexander Nevski Church. You might want to sate your cultural curiosity at the National History Museum, discover artefacts from the many empires of old that have occupied the city at the National Archaeological Museum, or get cultural at the National Art Gallery. In the evening why not meet for a last dinner with your group.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Rila Monastery Visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
All good things come to an end, and from this morning onwards your adventure officially comes to a close. Since you're already in Sofia, why not keep the travel buzz going a little bit longer on one of our local Urban Adventures tours? Our Urban Adventure day trips offer some great insight into the local cuisine; try the 'Breakfast with Sofia' or 'Sofia Food, Heritage and Culture' tours.
Optional Activities
  • Aleksander Nevski Church - Free
  • National Art Gallery - BGN10
  • National History Museum - BGN10
  • Urban Adventures - Sofia Food, Heritage, and Culture - EUR35
  • Urban Adventures - Breakfast with Sofia - EUR27
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

6 breakfasts, 1 dinner

Transport

Train, Public Bus, Private vehicle, Metro, Taxi

Accommodation

Hotel (7 nights), Guesthouse (1 night)

Included activities

  • Tsarevets Fortress
  • Plovdiv Guided Tour
  • Pirin Mountains Hike & Chairlift
  • Rila Monastery Visit

Dates & availability

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Important notes

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT
A single supplement is available on this trip.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

Reviews

Our Eastern Europe Express trips score an average of 4.86 out of 5 based on 42 reviews in the last year.

Eastern Europe Express, September 2017

Ron Sprinkle

Eastern Europe Express, August 2017

Marion Bancroft