Bulgaria | Thracians & Churches

Rila monastery, an exuberant painted church in the Rila Mountains and home to masterpieces of iconography
Rila monastery, an exuberant painted church in the Rila Mountains and home to masterpieces of iconography
The Rila Mountains
The Rila Mountains
Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Fountain in the town of Hisarya
Fountain in the town of Hisarya
Roman theatre, Plovdiv
Roman theatre, Plovdiv
Roman theatre of Phillippopolis
Roman theatre of Phillippopolis
Varna Monastery
Varna Monastery
Traditional houses in Plovdiv
Traditional houses in Plovdiv
Half-human, half-plant caryatids at Sveshtari Thracian tomb
Half-human, half-plant caryatids at Sveshtari Thracian tomb
Elaborate silver and gold sheep-headed rhyton (drinking vessel), 4th century BC
Elaborate silver and gold sheep-headed rhyton (drinking vessel), 4th century BC
Quadriga of horses from the painted ceiling of the Tomb at Kazanluk
Quadriga of horses from the painted ceiling of the Tomb at Kazanluk

Following a golden age for Bulgarian archaeology, Bulgaria is now one of the culturally richest countries in Europe. Hidden in the hills and forests are some of the oldest Neolithic  settlements, Thracian tombs, and exuberantly painted Medieval churches.

At the edge of Europe, Bulgaria is located at the apex of once great civilisations. This sought-after land was invaded from all sides, Philip of Macedon and Roman Emperor Trajan came up from the west and founded cities here. The east sent armies of Byzantine traders and Ottoman raiders, each leaving their marks. Dr Katya Melamed introduces the many ages of Bulgaria.

  • Visit no fewer than six UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Marvel at the iconic Rila Monastery
  • Explore the Tsarevets Fortress
  • Travel in the company of a Bulgarian archaeologist
  • Tour the village of Hisarya, famed for its hot spring

Themes

  • Romans
  • Prehistory
  • Medieval
  • Historic Churches
  • Cultural Excursion
  • Ancient Greek

Practicalities

  • Special Access
  • Low Single Supplement
  • All Inclusive

Itinerary 2018

Day 1

Upon arrival in Sofia, we transfer to Plovdiv. We begin our tour with a visit to Tell Yunasite, also known as ‘The Flat Mound’, is an important site of the 5th millennium BC.

Day 2

Today we explore the sites of Plovdiv, founded by Philip of Macedon. Intense Roman activity on this site means that little is left of the early city. We visit the Trakart mosaics, the Roman Theatre and the Archaeological Museum.

Day 3

We drive north to the sleepy village of Hisarya, famed for its hot water mineral spring and visit the History Museum. We continue to ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’ after pausing for a picnic at the site of Kazanlak Mound. We have special access to the Kazanlak Tomb, which is decorated with beautiful 4th century BC frescoes. We also visit further remarkable tombs of Golyama Kosmatka and Ostrusha. This evening we return to Plovdiv for dinner.

Day 4

We visit the tomb of Aleksandrovo, dating from the 4th century BC. This afternoon we continue to Stara Zagora. This seemingly ordinary Bulgarian town hides extraordinary Neolithic houses under the city streets. The dwellings are complete with shelves, pots and hearths.

Day 5

We begin the day at the huge settlement mound of Karanovo. This ‘tell’ represents successive phases of occupation from the 6th to the 2nd millennium BC. We then drive east to Nessebar on the Black Sea Coast. Founded by the Thracians, the town later became a thriving Greek trading colony. We explore the old town before driving north to Varna.

Day 6

We spend the morning at the superb History Museum in Varna housing intricately worked gold found at nearby Copper Age burial sites. After lunch we explore this coastal city including the Roman Baths and Marine Garden.

Day 7

Today, we visit the majestic Madara Horseman rock relief. Dating from the 8th century AD, the horseman rides triumphant, a vanquished lion at his feet. We continue to the Sveshtari Thracian Tomb. Here, multi-coloured reliefs depict surreal half human, half plant-like figures.

Day 8

We start our day in Veliko Tarnovo, capital of the Medieval Bulgarian tsars. The town is dramatically situated on a gorge over the river. We explore the Tsarevets fortress, a Medieval stronghold which houses the royal and patriarchal palaces. We also discover the Bulgarian Orthodox Church of Saints Peter and Paul. Later, we travel to the ancient site of Nicopolis ad Istrum. A thriving Roman colony, the town was abandoned in the 5th century AD and eventually replaced by a much more modest Byzantine settlement.

Day 9

This morning we head to Arbanassi. Here we uncover the Folk House and the Nativity Church, which is covered in stunning frescoes and feature a pantheon of saints. Next we journey to Etar and explore the Open Air Enthographic Museum. It has been open since 1964 and consists of typical Bulgarian revival houses.

Day 10

We head into the beautiful foothills of the Rila mountains, to visit the Rila Monastery. This iconic masterpiece is one of Bulgaria’s most famous and most beautiful sites. Later, we view the remarkable 13th century frescoes at Boyana Church.

Day 11

We view the collections of the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia before we continue along the walls of ancient Serdica. We also see St George’s Basilicata and the Church St Sofia before our flights home.

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

We depart from London and upon arrival in Sofia, we transfer to Plovdiv. We begin our tour with a visit to Tell Yunatsite, also known as ‘The Flat Mound’, an important site of the 5th millennium BC. Set against the mountains, the site here holds evidence to suggest it could be Europe’s first civilisation.

Day 2

Today we explore the sites of Plovdiv, founded by Philip of Macedon. Intense Roman activity on this site means that little is left of the early city. We visit the Trakart mosaics, the Roman Theatre and the Archaeological Museum.

Day 3

We drive north to the town of Hisarya, famed for its hot water mineral spring and visit the History Museum. We continue to ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’ after pausing for a picnic at the site of Kazanlak Mound. We have special access to the Kazanlak Tomb, which is decorated with beautiful 4th century BC frescoes. We also visit further remarkable tombs of Golyama Kosmatka and Ostrusha. This evening we return to Plovdiv for dinner.

Day 4

We visit the tomb of Aleksandrovo, dating from the 4th century BC. This afternoon we continue to Stara Zagora. This seemingly ordinary Bulgarian town hides extraordinary Neolithic houses under the city streets. The dwellings are complete with shelves, pots and hearths.

Day 5

We begin the day at the huge settlement mound of Karanovo. This ‘tell’ represents successive phases of occupation from the 6th to the 2nd millennium BC. We then drive east to Nessebar on the Black Sea Coast. Founded by the Thracians, the town later became a thriving Greek trading colony. We explore the old town before driving north to Varna.

Day 6

We spend the morning at the superb History Museum in Varna housing intricately worked gold found at nearby Copper Age burial sites. After lunch we explore this coastal city including the Roman Baths and Marine Garden.

Day 7

Today, we visit the majestic Madara Horseman rock relief. Dating from the 8th century AD, the horseman rides triumphant, a vanquished lion at his feet. We continue to the Sveshtari Thracian Tomb. Here, multi-coloured reliefs depict surreal half human, half plant-like figures.

Day 8

We start our day in Veliko Tarnovo, capital of the Medieval Bulgarian tsars. The town is dramatically situated on a gorge over the river. We explore the Tsarevets fortress, a Medieval stronghold which houses the royal and patriarchal palaces. We also discover the Bulgarian Orthodox Church of Saints Peter and Paul. Later, we travel to the ancient site of Nicopolis ad Istrum. A thriving Roman colony, the town was abandoned in the 5th century AD and eventually replaced by a much more modest Byzantine settlement.

Day 9

This morning we head to Arbanassi. Here we uncover the Folk House and the Nativity Church, which is covered in stunning frescoes and feature a pantheon of saints. Next we journey to Etar and explore the Open Air Enthographic Museum. It has been open since 1964 and consists of typical Bulgarian revival houses.

Day 10

Today we spend a full day in Sofia where we will visit the National Museum of History and the UNESCO listed Boyana Church with its 13th century frescoes in the morning.

After refuelling at lunch we head out on a walking tour of Sofia where we take in the city’s key sites before settling down for dinner.

Day 11

We head into the beautiful foothills of the Rila mountains, to visit the Rila Monastery. This iconic masterpiece is one of Bulgaria’s most famous and most beautiful sites.

Day 12

After breakfast we transfer to the airport to board our flight to London.

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  4. Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
  6. Field Notes
  7. Hotels
  8. Flights

Travel Information

For full information about Passport validity and Visa requirements as well as Health and Vaccination information please click here.

Enquire now

Have a question or just want to find out more?

Book now

2019 Tour Details

Tue 10th September - Sat 21st September

Available

£2,595

inc.

sgl supp: £255

BUL19A

Led By: Dr Katya Melamed

Guide Lecturer

Share tour with friends