Bulgaria | Thracians & Churches
Bulgaria is, in archaeological terms, one of the richest countries in Europe. The previous ten years have been, almost literally, a golden age for Bulgarian archaeology, with spectacular sites and priceless finds coming to light. Hidden in the hills and forests are some of Europe’s oldest Neolithic settlements, Thracian tombs, replete with grave goods and exuberantly painted Medieval churches.
At the edge of Europe, in ancient times, Bulgaria was located at the apex of great civilisations. From the south and west Philip of Macedon and Roman Emperor Trajan founded cities here. From the east came Byzantine traders and Ottoman raiders. Dr Katya Melamed introduces the many ages of Bulgaria, from the Black Sea to the Rila Mountains, from the Neolithic to the Iron Curtain.
- Spectacularly varied history and landscapes introduced by a Bulgarian archaeologist who has excavated all over the country
- From the Neolithic houses of Stara Zagora, through Roman Plovdiv, to the exuberantly painted churches high in the Rila mountains
- Visits to no fewer than six UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Historic Churches
- Cultural Excursion
- Ancient Greek
- Special Access
- Low Single Supplement
- All Inclusive
Upon arrival in Sofia, we transfer to Plovdiv. We begin our tour with a visit to Yunasite Tell, also known as ‘The Flat Mound’, is an important site of the 5th millennium BC.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included - dinners with wine
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
- Hotels - 3 nights in a modern hotel near the Maritsa River in Plovdiv, 1 night in a hotel in central Stara Zagora with views of the Black Sea, 2 nights in a central hotel with good views and modern rooms in Varna, 2 nights in a comfortable, rustic hotel in Veliko Tarnovo, 3 nights in a 4* hotel in central Sofia
- Flights - Scheduled return flights London to Sofia
3 nights in a modern hotel near the Maritsa River in Plovdiv
1 night in a hotel in central Stara Zagora with views of the Black Sea
2 nights in a central hotel with good views and modern rooms in Varna
2 nights in a comfortable, rustic hotel in Veliko Tarnovo
3 nights in a 4* hotel in central Sofia
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