Map of Eastern Europe Express including Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey

Explore from Eastern Europe's Romania and Bulgaria to Turkey

Embark on a spectacular journey from Romania and through Bulgaria to Istanbul, 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, breathe in crisp alpine air on a hike in the Pirin Mountains, and meander back in time in the Old Town of Plovdiv. and bask in the glory of transcontinental Istanbul. 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.


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

Why you'll 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 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.

  • Breathe the crisp air on a hike and take in stunning view in the Pirin Mountain.

  • Stand in awe of the exquisite architectual design of Selimiye Mosque and celebrate the end of your journey in the transcontinental Istanbul.

Is this trip right for you?

  • 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.

  • Hotels in Europe often don't have double beds, but rather two single beds that can be pushed together/apart.

  • 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.

  • If you have more time to explore the region you can extend your trip by starting your travels in Budapest, taking in the best of Romania before continuing into Bulgaria. Or start in Vienna to see the best of Central Europe before heading to Romania and then Bulgaria. Check out our trips 'Eastern Europe Explorer' (trip code WMSEC) and 'Journey through Central Europe & Romania' (trip code AMSCC). Most departure dates are designed to create these perfect combination trips.

Itinerary

Salut! 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
  • Bucharest - Palace of Parliament Tour - RON60
  • Bucharest - Village Museum - RON30
  • Bucharest - Bike Tour - EUR25
  • Bucharest - Former Ceauşescu Residence - RON55
  • Bucharest - Romanian Athenaeum - RON10
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel by train across the friendship bridge into Bulgaria and on to the picturesque town of Veliko Tarnovo. 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
Special Information
Today's travel time is approximately 6 hours.
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
  • Veliko Tarnovo - Tsarevets Fortress
Optional Activities
  • Veliko Tarnovo - Archeological Museum - BGN6
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning, transfer 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Sofia - National Art Gallery - BGN10
  • Sofia - Aleksander Nevski Church - Free
  • Sofia - National History Museum - BGN12
  • Sofia - The Red Flat - BGN18
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today’s trave time is approximately 4 hours.
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 onto Bansko. 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. 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
  • Rila - Monastery Visit
Optional Activities
  • Bansko - Spa Visit - BGN40
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Today’s trave time is approximately 3 hours
This morning venture up into the Pirin Mountains. After a short ride on a chairlift stretch your legs with a hike into the eastern slopes of the mountains, with Mt Vihren, the range's highest peak at almost 3,000m, visible to the west. In the afternoon, hop on a couple of local train and continue to travel to Plovdiv. Situated on the Maritsa River, Plovdiv was once the meeting point of two ancient transportation routes. In the evening, make sure you indulge in the local cuisine, famed for its grilled meats and vegetables on skewers.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Pirin Mountains - Hike & Chairlift
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Today’s travel time is approximately 3 hours.
For today's hike it is recommended you bring comfortable walking shoes with ankle support. Please note that in case of adverse weather conditions the hike in the Pirin Mountains may have to be cancelled. If this should be the case we will visit the local spa instead.
This morning, 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. Enjoy a free afternoon in this charming city.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Plovdiv - Walking Tour with Local Guide
Optional Activities
  • Plovdiv - Bachkovo Monastery - BGN16
  • Plovdiv - Hisarya Hot Springs - BGN50
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Get ready for a long day of travel that takes you from Europe to Asia. Stop at Edirne right after crossing the border and visit the magnificent Selimiye Mosque. Edirne was the first capital of the Ottoman empire and the exquisite Selimiye Mosque was built by order of Sultan Selim II over 400 years ago and represents the highest achievement of Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan’s work, arguably the most beautiful mosque in Turkey. Then continue onto the final destination of your journey, Istanbul, the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have called home. Have some free time after arrival. In the evening, maybe join your new friends for an optional dinner and bask in the beauty of a real Turkish kebab.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Edirne - Selimiye Mosque
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
All good things come to an end, and this morning your adventure officially comes to a close. If you would like to extend your stay in Istanbul we are able to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Optional Activities
  • Istanbul - Hagia Sophia - Free
  • Istanbul - Archaeology Museum - TRY100
  • Istanbul - Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts - TRY100
  • Istanbul - Galata Tower - TRY175
  • Istanbul - Bosphorus Boat Cruise (Public Boat) - TRY50
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

6 breakfasts

Transport

Train, Public bus, Private vehicle, Metro, Taxi, Chairlift

Accommodation

Hotel (8 nights)

Included activities

  • Veliko Tarnovo - Tsarevets Fortress
  • Rila - Monastery Visit
  • Pirin Mountains - Hike & Chairlift
  • Plovdiv - Walking Tour with Local Guide
  • Edirne - Selimiye Mosque

Dates & availability

Trip departures are unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our Eastern Europe Express trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is bookable for this trip, subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
2. You don't have a lot of time in Bucharest and Istanbul at the start and the end of the trip respectively, so if you're keen to explore these underrated cities in depth, we recommend you arrive a day or two before the start of the trip and/or extend your stay at the end.

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.

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