As the title suggests we start our tour in Sofia and travel east across northern Bulgaria to the Black Sea coast and return on a southerly route. Along the way we will visit places of religious, cultural and ornithological interest.
Bulgaria, once part of the Byzantine empire, offers a rich variety religious sites set in spectacular scenery with opportunities to explore local crafts and cuisine.
We hope you will able to join us on this unique tour.
Day 1 - 29 April 2018, Sunday
Arrival at Sofia Airport
Our English speaking guide meets us at the airport and escorts us during the whole trip. Depending on the time of our arrival there may be a sightseeing tour of Sofia. Dinner and overnight in Sofia.
Day 2 - 30 April 2018, Monday
The capital Sofia
After breakfast we enjoy a sightseeing trip around the city.
We will start our walking tour in the city centre which will reveal the colourful blend of numerous ancient sites and modern city landmarks that shape the face of the city and create its vibrant character. The first stop of our city tour is the St.Aleksander Nevski Cathedral – the cathedral church of the Bulgarian Patriarch and apart from being one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world, it is one of the symbols of Sofia. We will visit also the Icon Museum of St. Aleksander Nevski Cathedral. The Church of St Sofia is a definite must-see sight. The capital is named after the patron saint in 14th century. Our journey through time will take us to the ruins of the Roman fortress Serdika and the Rotunda Church that bears the name of Martyr St George the Conqueror. We pass by the National Theatre (a magnificent Neoclassical building constructed by Austrian and German architects), the Central Mineral Baths (former Turkish baths from the early 20th century), the Banya Bashi Mosque – a remnant of the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria – a period that lasted nearly five centuries. The mosque is built by the greatest Ottoman architect and civil engineer Mimar Sinan.
At lunch time we are free to browse the shops in the centre. Afterwards we visit the unique Boyana Church. This holy place is one of the nine cultural and natural Bulgarian sites listed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage. It is famous for the murals from the 13th century, created 200 years before the European Renaissance, a mark for the remarkable peak in Eastern Christian Art by that time. Leisure time to gain impressions of Sofia.
Dinner in a traditional style restaurant where local specialities will be paired with red wines and other Bulgarian drinks.
Overnight in Sofia.
Day 3 - 1 May 2018, Tuesday
Sofia - Troyan Monastery - Etara - Veliko Tarnovo
After breakfast we set off for the enchanting Trojan Monastery, sheltered in the majestic Balkan Mountains. It was founded no later than the end of the 16th century and is the home of one of the holiest icons in Bulgarian Orthodoxy, the Three-Handed Virgin. Many of the paintings in the main church represent the “moral and social experiments” of art at the time.
Our trip continues to Etara - craft museum in the open, where we can witness samples of the traditional crafts from the Bulgarian revival period. We will enjoy a walk in the preserved craftsmen street.
In the afternoon we set off for the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1187-1393) Veliko Tarnovo.
Dinner and overnight in Veliko Tarnovo.
Day 4 - 2 May 2018, Wednesday
Veliko Tarnovo - Arbanassy - Veliko
After breakfast we pass by Trapezitsa Hill, then the Tzarevetz Fortress with the Baldwin’s Tower - the so-called “execution rock”, the Holy Ascension patriarchal Church, the Sarafkina House, the old Konak, the former town hall of the Ottoman administration (now housing the National Revival and Constituent Assembly exposition), and the House with the Monkey.
Time at our disposal for the Samovodska market street with its attractive small workshops where icon painters, master goldsmiths, potters, carvers, weavers and pastry cooks still pursue their crafts, and the old photo studio.
We continue to the village of Arbanassi which was once among the most important trade and cultural centers during the Bulgarian Revival period. Today the settlement is popular for the original architecture and the magnificent frescoes shining on the walls of the small churches spread all over the village. Arbanassi is known worldwide with the Rojdestvo Christovo Church (Church of the Nativity of Christ), with the frescoes from 16th and 17th century. The Konstantsalieva House is an example of a fortified mansion from the Bulgarian Revival period. We will have dinner at a local family’s home in the village of Arbanasi, where we enjoy the homemade local cuisine.
Overnight in Veliko Tarnovo.
Day 5 - 3 May, Thursday
Veliko Turnovo - Shumen - Madara - Varna
Starting from Veliko Tarnovo we head off for Madara. We visit the Madara Horseman, part of the UNESCO Heritage List of Bulgaria. The figure of the life-sized horseman is still covered with mystery. The origins and the motive for the creation of the carving will be revealed. The relief depicts a triumphant ruler in a symbolic hunt scene. According to some scientists the relief is older than the near-by inscriptions from the 7th-8th century and represents a Thracian god. The Madara Horseman is the only rock relief in Europe, and has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1979.
Next stop is Shumen, where we see the Tombul Mosque. Built in the middle of the 18th century, the “Sheriff Halil Pasha” Mosque or so-called Tombul Mosque is the biggest in Bulgaria and the second largest on the Balkan Peninsula. It is interesting for its unusual architecture and in particular for the form of its prayer-hall. Today the mosque is also a cultural monument.
Afterwards we travel to Varna - the city where the world’s oldest golden treasure was discovered, which is now a big cultural, tourist and economic centre. ‘The sea capital’ Varna is the largest city on the coast and gains growing importance for the country’s trade and business.
Dinner and overnight in Varna.
Day 6 - 4 May, Friday
Varna - Nessebar
Today we travel to Nessebar where we will spend the next three days in a cosy hotel with beautiful view and central location in Nessebar.
In the afternoon we could relax and enjoy the sea.
Dinner and overnight in Nessebar.
Day 7 - 5 May, Saturday
Nessebar - Sozopol - Ropotamo - Nessebar
The charming peninsula of the Old Town of Nesebar which has existed as an important maritime centre for more than 9000 years is today a cultural monument included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
We will have the pleasure of experiencing the romantic spirit of the old “Mesembria”: narrow cobblestone lanes, tiny squares, two-storied period houses with stone ground levels and wooden upper floors, gift shops, pubs, taverns and lovely flower gardens!
The town of Nesebar is also famous for its 41 churches – the earliest dating from the 4th-5th century. We will visit St. Stefan church famous as the New Bishopric from the 11th c. In the afternoon we travel south to Sozopol. Our next stop – Ropotamo river is famous as the river with the most beautiful and tender water lilies. It was named after the Greek goddess of ‘Ro’, meaning ‘Run’. The legend tells that the Goddess was so charming and sang so beautifully that she managed to persuade pirates to leave the area in peace. We take a boat and go downstream to the mouth of the river. If we are lucky we might even see a number of rare bird species. On our way back to Nessebar we take time for a walk in the old town of Sozopol. In ancient times it was known as `Apollonia` - a town of beauty and youth. We will explore the Old Town with its Revival period houses adorned by aromatic flower gardens, narrow cobbled streets, tiny art galleries and inviting taverns.
Dinner and overnight in Nessebar.
Day 8 - 6 May, Sunday
Nessebar - Burgas - Nessebar
After breakfast we travel to Bourgas to join the ceremony in the church BLAGOVESTIE. In the afternoon we will enjoy the beautiful sea garden - one of the most popular places of interest in the city and a favourite place for the locals to stroll. The Sea Garden Park is situated along the coast and flecked with flower beds, trees and sculptures.
Our next stop will be the Nature reserve Poda that covers coastal wetlands teeming with bird species. The three distinct ecosystems at Poda – a freshwater habitat, a saltwater habitat, and a mixed habitat (both freshwater and saltwater) provide for the extraordinary diverse flora and fauna. The reserve is a true haven for the nature lovers all year round for bird watching around the reserve. If the weather is not good enough for bird watching and we can visit the Salt Museum in Pomorie.
Dinner and overnight in Nessebar.
Day 9 - 7 May, Monday
Nessebar - Sliven - Kazanlak - Bachkovo Monastery - Plovdiv
Heading off for the heart of Bulgaria we start our journey from Bourgas via Sliven and the Blue rocks. Then we will continue towards Kazanluk - the town of the Bulgarian Rose Damascene and the Capital of the Valley of the Thracian Kings.
In our next stop we will explore the Copy of ancient Thracian Tomb near the town of Kazanluk which is included in the UNESCO heritage list, there we will have the opportunity to see some beautiful samples of Thracian art and learn more about their fascinating culture.
After that we continue to the Bachkovo Monastery - the second in size and importance in Bulgaria, dating back to the 11th century. Visitors are impressed with the rich collections of old icons, jewellery, coins and church plates. In the afternoon we will travel to the town of Plovdiv – a city of ancient glory, culture and arts, picturesquely situated on seven hills. Considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe and the world along with Rome, Athens, Carthage and Constantinople, Plovdiv generously invites the visitor to raise the curtain of history and explore an abundance of multicultural layers left here by the Thracians, Macedon, Romans, Byzantines, Bulgarians and Ottoman Turks. We are proud to mention that Plovdiv has been chosen a European capital of culture 2019!
Dinner in an elegant and emblematic restaurant in Plovdiv.
Overnight in Plovdiv.
Day 10 - 8 May, Tuesday
We will get acquainted with the Ethnographical Museum, St Constantine & Helena Church and trace the history of Plovdiv along the Roman path which passes by a few highlights from Antiquity, today a part of the contemporary city centre: the Roman Theatre, built in the 2nd century AD by Emperor Trajan, serves as an imposing décor for open-air opera performances and classical concerts during summer; the Roman Stadium which had hosted more than 30 000 spectators in the ancient past, the Forum where social life thrived; the Odeon (“Bouleuterion”) – the seat of the city council (“Boule”) and the Archaeological underpass that represents a well preserved Roman street leading into a Roman mansion decorated with marvellous mosaics with the face of Goddess Eirene among the various depictions.
In the afternoon we will have time to explore the city on our own and to have the opportunity to visit the Balabanova House or Hindlian house, the City Gallery with unique Bulgarian arts and crafts or just to stroll on the old cobbled streets with many antique shops.
Dinner and overnight in Plovdiv.
Day 11 - 9 May, Wednesday
Plovdiv - Rila Monastery - Sofia
After a scenic drive we reach the emblematic Rila Monastery (UNESCO). Having survived the times and the complicated history of our country, it still fascinates the visitor with the pure and harmonious line of the buildings’ exquisite colonnades, arches richly decorated with murals and fretwork.
Some of the best Bulgarian artists have created their masterpieces here: the golden iconostasis of the monastery church; the double-sided cross, carved by the monk Raphael; the Hrelyo Tower.
We can enjoy the sandstone pyramids of Stob – near the village of Stob, in the region of the southwestern Rila mountain range.
Then we travel back to Sofia.
Dinner and overnight in Sofia.
Day 12 - 10 May, Thursday
Sofia - Flight to England
Relaxing/shopping morning in Sofia before an early afternoon flight to Manchester.
Today you will travel back home and say “Goodbye” to Bulgaria with a promise to keep the colourful memories that we have created together!
Itinerary subject to change.
Price per person - £1370 per person
What the price includes
Not included in the price
Please note that the cost of the tour may be subject to surcharges - please see the booking conditions. Currency exchange rates used £1 = € 1.1505 as published in the Financial Times on 11th January 2017.
APC (ATOL Protection Contribution) provides passenger protection via the ATTF (Air Travel Trust Fund). For further information visit www.caa.co.uk
HOW TO BOOK
Either click 'Book' at the bottom of this page or download, complete and return the booking form to:
Worldwide Christian Travel 36 Coldharbour Road, Bristol, BS6 7NA UK
Tel: 0845 458 8308
Worldwide Christian Travel has been organising Christian holidays and tours, mainly to the Holy Land, for over 40 years. We cover all aspects of travel and are one of the most comprehensive Christian travel organisers in the country. Worldwide Christian Travel is a trading name of Hadler Tours Limited.
People of all ages are welcome, but, whatever your age, we must insist on a reasonable level of fitness. A number of sites involve rough walking.
Hadler Tours Limited is a member of ABTA with membership numbers 93522 & V2096. ABTA and ABTA Members help holidaymakers to get the most from their travel and assist them when things do not go according to plan. We are obliged to maintain a high standard of service to you by ABTA’s Code of Conduct. For further information about ABTA, the Code of Conduct and the arbitration scheme available to you of if you have a complaint, contact ABTA, 68-71 Newman Street London W1T 3AH Tel: 020 7637 2444 or visit www.abta.com.
All monies paid by you for the air holiday package shown are ATOL protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is ATOL 3078. For more information see our booking terms and conditions.
Passports, Visas and Vaccinations
Travellers are responsible for ensuring that they have a valid passport for travel to the relevant countries and that it is valid for at least 6 months after the date of travel. Visas are not required for British passport holders visiting Bulgaria. At the time this brochure went to press no vaccinations or inoculations are required for travel but you may wish to consult your own doctor for advice concerning this. If you have any queries regarding the above, we will be happy to help.
For the latest travel advice please visit www.fco.gov.uk, see BBC Ceefax page 470 onwards or call 0870 606 0290.
Further Information And Paying The Balance
Further information will be sent to you regarding any action that may be required approximately 10 weeks before departure. A final invoice will also be sent at this time and the balance for the tour must be paid at least 8 weeks before departure.
Full travel information, including details of meeting points, flight times, accommodation and travel information, will be sent to you approximately 2 weeks before departure. Normally, tickets are not issued but are handed to you at the airport or departure point by our representative who will be there to ensure that you depart without a hitch and to deal with any last minute difficulties.
It is compulsory to have travel insurance for your booking. Holiday Extras have a range of policies available at very competitive prices. You can obtain a quote online by clicking here or alternatively you can call 0871 360 2742 and quote ABTA number 93522.
Our normal procedure is to deal with tips on a group basis and these are included in the price. The tour leader will distribute them to the guide, driver and hotels on your behalf. Individual tipping is not recommended unless the circumstances are exceptional.
Room Check In and Check Out Times
The standard international practice is to let rooms from midday to midday. However times do vary. Check-in times are usually between 2pm and 3pm, check-out times between 11am and 12 noon on the day of departure. Therefore, if you check-in immediately after a night flight this would normally count as one night’s accommodation. Similarly if your return flight is at night you will normally be required to vacate your room at 12 noon prior to leaving for the airport. Day rooms are subject to availability/cost and should be arranged locally with the accommodation management.
Page published June 2017
“My wife and I have just returned from the Mothers Union Pilgrimage to the Holy Land led by Jennie and Malcolm Jones. The hotel, guide, itinerary and leadership were excellent, making it 7 unforgettable days. Many thanks to all involved. ”