Itinerary - Bulgaria for Archaeologists: Ancient History, written in Gold
Day 1 - Friday: Sofia
We will meet you at the airport and assist for a transfer to your downtown hotel. Enjoy a panoramic orientation tour en route, followed by time at leisure to overcome the jet lag.
T, Overnight in a 4* modern, centrally located hotel for 3 nights.
Day 2 - Saturday: Sofia
You will start exploring Sophia’s past, beginning at the National Archaeological Museum, displaying some unique artefacts of European and world importance. Walk down the street to St. George Rotunda ( 4th c. A.D.) and via the Western Gate of Serdica to the antique complex “Serdica”. Archaeological excavations have been carried out in 2010-2012 and remarkable late antiquity heritage have been unearthed. At the north part of the site archaeologists found an exceptionally rare wooden elements of Roman earth and timber dwellings dating back to 1st c. A.D. The cultural strata here is remarkable - 6 meters, from I st c. A.D. to 19th c. A.D.
Your walking tour proceeds to St. Sophia Basilica (6th c. A.D.), which gave the name to the city. You will visit the archaeological level of the basilica of St Sophia, recently opened to the public.
In the evening you will enjoy a Bulgarian Welcome dinner at one of Sophia’s fine restaurants.
B, D, Overnight in Sophia.
Day 3 - Sunday: Sofia
Following breakfast, our guide will make you discover the National Museum of History, which houses one of Europe’s richest collections of ancient gold and other archaeological artefacts. Next you will visit the Boyana Church, renowned for its 13th-century frescoes and included in the UNESCO’s List of World Cultural Heritage. Vital, realistic 240 human images create
one of the most important collections of medieval paintings. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
B, Overnight in Sophia.
Day 4 - Monday: SOFIA – Rila Monastery – PLOVDIV (350 km)
Departing Sofia after breakfast, you drive to the heart of the Rila Mountains, where the Rila Monastery is located in a setting of wild landscapes and high granite cliffs. Founded in the 10th century A.D. near the site where St. John of Rila lived and worshiped in a cave, it has been the biggest spiritual and cultural centre in Bulgaria for hundreds of years.
You will visit the Monastery and its museum and, after a lunch break, continue to Plovdiv.
You will start exploring Plovdiv’s rich archaeological past at the ancient Forum of Philippopolis, the Roman Odeon and the Roman mosaics in Trakart cultural centre. Enjoy a dinner in one of the finest restaurants in the Old Town.
B, D, Overnight in Plovdiv in a 3* hotel.
Day 5 - Tuesday: PLOVDIV – Alexandrovo – PLOVDIV (240 km)
Your touring begins at the Archaeological Museum, followed by a visit to the Late Antique Basilica which houses remarkable mosaics. Your walking tour continues into the historic National Revival quarter, where cobblestone streets lined with Bulgarian 19-century Renaissance houses and churches lead to an impressive Roman Theatre still in use for cultural events. You will visit the restored 14th-century Djumaya Mosque and the partly excavated Roman Stadium.
In the afternoon you drive towards Haskovo region to visit the Thracian tomb of Aleksandrovo, dating from the 4th century BC, famous for its unique artistic decoration.
Plovdiv is famous for its artistic life and the city will be the European Capital of Culture in 2019; There are many art galleries you may visit during a leisurely walk in the Old Town. In the evening you may attend a concert or enjoy street art performers in the restored 19-century Kapana neighbourhood.
B, Overnight in Plovdiv in a 3* hotel.
Day 6 - Wednesday: PLOVDIV – Kazanlak - Stara Zagora (160 km)
After breakfast, you will drive to Kazanlak, the main city of the valley of the Thracian Kings, also known as the Rose Valley. En route stop for a visit to the impressive Thracian beehive tomb at Starosel. Continue to Diocletianopolis
(modern Hisarya). The remains of the Roman fortifications and baths are really impressive. You will proceed north to Kazanlak to visit the Thracian beehive tomb, a unique monument of the Thracian Culture, included in UNESCO's List of World Heritage. The region around Kazanlak is dotted with dozens of Thracian burial mounds. Here, in summer 2004 Prof. Kitov and a team of fellow archaeologists unearthed an ancient gold funeral mask that they say is as important a discovery as the treasures of Agamemnon and Tutankhamen. You will visit the local museum, where this extremely precious discovery is displayed. You will spend the night in Stara Zagora, a small provincial town with a striking archaeological heritage.
B, D, Overnight in Stara Zagora in a 2* family-run property.
Day 7 - Thursday: Stara ZAGORA – NESEBAR (220 km)
Your day will start with a memorable visit to the Neolithic dwellings museum, hidden under the street level of modern Stara Zagora. You will see well preserved Neolithic dwellings, used by the people who settled over here at the end of the 7th and the beginning of the 6th Millennium B.C. An oven, stone grinders, some early Neolithic earthenware, pre-history Idols and house-models are really impressive. You can spend hours in this small museum, admiring the pure beauty of the Neolithic art. You will also visit the new Archaeological Museum which keeps a rich collection of Roman period’s artefacts of Augusta Trajana.
Leave Stara Zagora and drive east to Karanovo, only 35 km away. Here you will visit 2 sites: Karanovo 1 is the largest settlement tell in the territory of Europe. Seven consecutive archaeological cultural strata have been found in it, reflecting the stages of development of the material culture of the prehistoric society in Thrace. The strata prove that there had been settlements in the course of 4 millennia – from the 6th millennium B.C.(early New Stone Age) to the 2nd millennium B.C.(early Bronze Age). As a result of the investigations, the Karanovo chronological system has been worked out, serving as a standard in the synchronization of the European pre-historical cultures.
Karanovo 2, also known as “The Eastern Mound” displays a four-wheel warrior’s Chariot along with the remains of two horses and two dogs and a Tomb of a Thracian Nobleman from the 1st century A.D.
You drive to the Black Sea coast to spend the evening in Nesebar, another UNESCO cultural heritage site.
B, Overnight in Nesebar in a 3* hotel.
Day 8 - Friday: NESEBAR – Varna – SHUMEN ( 200 km)
Morning city tour of Nesebar (ancient Mesembria) will introduce you to ancient and mediaeval fortifications and several outstanding mediaeval basilicas. You will enjoy this slow pace walk in cobbled streets with beautiful sea-view panoramas. You will visit the local Archaeological Museum, too and depart north to Varna. Varna is one of the largest Black Sea cities, founded as a Miletian colony in the place of an old Thracian settlement already during the 6th c. B.C. Enjoy the city sightseeing of Varna, visit the well preserved Roman Thermae and the Archaeological museum, where the world's oldest gold (45000-42000 B.C.) is displayed. Stop-over in Devnya to visit the Mosaics museum. This is an “in situ” museum and displays remarkable Roman mosaics (3rd – 4th century A.D.)
Proceed to a small village in the region of Shumen for dinner and overnight in a eco-complex.
B,D, Overnight in a 3* eco-hotel.
Day 9 - Saturday: SHUMEN – Madara - Pliska – Sveshtari – RUSE ( 190 km)
Your first visit will be to the Madara national historic and archaeological reserve. This is where you will see the Madara Horseman, a unique bas-relief hewn into the sheer rock, included in the UNESCO List of World Heritage. Next stop is in Pliska, the capital of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. You will visit the site and the small Archaeological museum before driving to Sveshtari Thracian Tombs. Sveshtari is one of the most sensational archaeological discoveries during the past two decades, dating back to the 4th-3rd century B.C. The most famous Thracian tomb was built in the early 3rd century B.C. and included in the List of UNESCO Cultural Heritage Sites in 1985.
Proceed to Ruse. You will enjoy a leisurely walking tour of the largest river port in Bulgaria and one of the cities with years-long European cultural traditions. Ruse has been even referred to as “Little Vienna” in the past, for its Neoclassicism style of buildings. Stunning and brilliant Austrian style architecture abounds, particularly around the city’s main square.
B, Overnight in a 4* hotel in Ruse.
Day 10 - Sunday: RUSE – Ivanovo – Nikopolis ad Istrum - VELIKO TARNOVO (140 km)
After breakfast, you start with a visit to the Regional History museum, displaying the Borovo Thracian Treasure (4th c. B.C.), then tour the site of Roman Sexaginta Prista overlooking the Danube.
Proceed to the archaeological reserve Ivanovo Rock churches (13th -14th c.), listed in the UNESCO 's List of World Heritage. Six of the monastery churches and chapels preserve frescoes from 13th-14th C. Admire the famous frescoes at the "Holly Mother" church, created in the middle of the 14th c by an anonymous Bulgarian author. Be ready to climb 200 steps to reach this rock church.
En route to Veliko Tarnovo you will visit Nikopolis ad Istrum archaeological site, on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The ancient city was founded by the Roman Emperor Trajan in honour of his victories over the Dacians in 101 and 106. Proceed to Veliko Tarnovo for dinner and overnight. The capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (12th -14th c) is situated on three hills, mirrored in the waters of the Yantra River winding down below.
B,D, Overnight in a 3* hotel in Veliko Tarnovo for 2 nights.
Day 11 - Monday: VELIKO TARNOVO- Pavlikeni – VELIKO TARNOVO (90 km)
Enjoy a morning city sightseeing tour, including visits to Tzarevets Royal Hill, which is a genuine outdoor museum with its royal buildings, churches, fortress walls, towers, and the restored Ascension patriarchal church.
Continue to Hotnitsa to visit the Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlements, famous for the gold treasures dating back to 5th
Millennium B.C. Drive to Pavlikeni to see a Roman ceramic production centre.
Your evening is at leisure to explore the hidden secrets of this charming city.
Day 12 - Tuesday: VELIKO TARNOVO – Vratsa – SOFIA (330 km)
Following breakfast, you depart for Vratsa to visit another Archaeological Museum, renowned for its outstanding collection of Thracian artefacts, including the famous Rogozen Treasure, a hoard of 165 silver artefacts, belonging to the elite members of the Thracian tribe Triballi (6th – 4th c. B.C.) After the visit you continue to Sofia.
B, Overnight in Sofia.
Day 13 - Wednesday: Sofia
After breakfast we will see you off to the airport to catch your flight back home.