2017 Highlights of Romania and Bulgaria

Highlights:

You'll visit 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

  • Bucovina outside painted monasteries
  • Historic Centre of Sighisoara
  • Biertan Fortified Church
  • Sibiu Historic Centre
  • Boyana Church
  • Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak
  • Rila Monastery.

Itinerary - 2017 Highlights of Romania and Bulgaria

A 14 day discovery and adventure tour

  • Starting Day: Monday through Friday in summer (15 May - 14 September)
  • Starting Day: Tuesday to Thursday in winter (15 September - 14 May)

Day 1: Multiple arrivals into Bucharest

Welcome to Bucharest – the capital of Romania and the largest city between Berlin and Athens. Your tour guide will meet you at the Coanda International Airport. Transfer to your downtown Bucharest Hotel. Check-in and time at leisure. In the evening enjoy a Traditional Romanian Welcome Dinner and Folklore Show.

T D Accommodation in Bucharest at Hotel Capitol 3* or similar

Day 2: Bucharest City Tour – Sinaia/Peles Castle – Brasov (220 km)

Hot and cold buffet breakfast at hotel. As of the second half of the 19th century, Bucharest was known as “The Little Paris of the East” because of its many Parisian aspects in the city layout, architecture and lifestyle. Today you will drive on the grand avenues such as Magheru, Kiseleff and Victory Avenue. Stop in the Revolution Square and learn about the December 1989 Romanian Revolution. The visit of the Palace of the Parliament (the second largest building in the world) will put you in direct contact with Romania’s last years of its Communist power. Lunch on your own, then leave Bucharest on the way north to Sinaia. We will visit the summer residence of the Romanian royal family, the Peles Castle (if Day 2 is not a Monday, in which case we’ll see the castle from outside). The kings were all of German Prussian origin from the Hohenzollern von Singmaringen family. In the afternoon we arrive in Brasov.

B Accommodation in Brasov at Curtea Brasoveana 4* or Bella Musica 3* (2 nights stay)

Day 3: Brasov, the city from the Middle Ages and Citadels of the Barsa Land (80 km)

City tour in Brasov (3 hours walking time), where we will see the most important cultural objectives of the city from the middle Ages: the town hall square (inside visitation too), the Black Church (inside visitation too), the Weaver Bastion (inside visitation too), the White and Black Tower, etc. Lunch break in the city. In the afternoon we will drive to Bran (Törzburg) where we will visit the so called Dracula Castle. Afterwards we will visit the Peasant's Citadel in Rasnov (Rosenau). Dinner in Poiana Brasov in a traditional local restaurant, once - a shepherd house. After dinner we drive back to Brasov.

B D Accommodation in Brasov at Curtea Brasoveana 4*

Day 4: Brasov – Bicaz Gorge - Agapia – Suceava ( 380 km)

Today we leave Transylvania behind and we drive along the Red Lake (Lacul Rosu) and afterwards along the Bicaz Gorge, an impressive natural phenomenon with hundreds of meters of limestone-walls, towards Piatra Neamt. We visit afterwards the Agapia monastery, with 500 nuns and novices, one of the largest monasteries in Europe. Then we drive to Suceava for a 2-night stay.

B D Accommodation in Suceava at Hotel Sonnenhof  4*(2 nights stay)

Day 5: The Moldavian Monasteries (180 km)

Hot buffet breakfast at hotel. Start the day with a visit to the black pottery workshop in Marginea, they use a technique called “oxygen reduction”; the same technique is found in Mexico only! Bucovina monasteries are gems of medieval Moldavian architecture and artistry. Each of them has a predominant colour. Start with Sucevita Monastery, which is the largest of all, looking more like a mighty fortress than a monastery. The Ladder of John of Sinai is considered one of the best of the frescoes of Sucevita, rarely present in medieval Romanian art. At noon enjoy a traditional Bucovina lunch in the picturesque village of Sucevita. Next is Moldovita. Get explanation of the outer frescoes. Moldovita Monastery is where the UNESCO Golden Apple Award awarded to the painted churches back in 1975 is kept. On the south facade of Moldovita is The Siege of Constantinople belonging to the 24 episodes of the Hymn to the Holy Virgin. Last but not least, we’ll see Voronet, the most famous monastery of all, known as the Sistine Chapel of the East. Voronet features one the best Last Judgment fresco in this part of the World. Receive a complete explanation of the fresco. In the evening enjoy an egg painting demonstration and a home hosted dinner in the village of Vama. Drive back to Suceava.

B L D Accommodation in Suceava at Hotel Sonnenhof 4*.

Day 6: Suceava - Gura Humorului – Bistrita – Sighisoara( 360 km)

Hot and cold buffet breakfast at hotel. Depart to Bistrita over the picturesque Borgo Pass of the Eastern Carpathians with a stop at Castle Dracula Hotel. This is where Bram Stoker placed the “residence” of his imaginary character: Count Dracula. You then pass through Bistrita heading south to Targu Mures, one of the important Central Transylvanian mid-size cities and known for its wonderful architecture. View the Vauban citadel then visit the early 1900s Art Nouveau Palace of Culture in the centre.

B Accommodation in the Upper Town of Sighisoara at Hotel Cavaler 4* or similar

Day 7: Sighisoara - Biertan – Sibiu (120 km)

Hot and cold buffet breakfast at hotel. City tour of Sighisoara – this is the only still inhabited medieval citadel in Europe. It was developed by the German settlers as of late 12 C. It stands on a network of tunnels and catacombs and, according to one version of the myth; this is where the Pied Piper brought the children of Hamelin after their ungrateful parents refused to pay him his due. Walking tour includes the two squares of the Citadel (Upper Town), the Scholars’ Staircase, the Ducklings’ Square, the Tinsmiths’ Tower, the House with Antler, the Tower with Clock (climb up for a great view), the Torture Chamber and the Weapon Museum. Sighisoara is the place where the famous Vlad the Impaler Dracula was born in 1431. The Birthplace is today a restaurant and one of the main tourist attractions.

Drive to the nearby fortified church of Biertan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a visit of the former Seat of the Lutheran Bishops between 1516 and 1867. Before noon time arrival in Sibiu: the chief city of the Transylvanian Saxons still surrounded by defence walls.  Take a leisurely walking tour of Sibiu, the chief city of the Transylvanian Germans. Visit the old surrounding defence walls and the remaining towers, each belonging to a certain guild. One of the landmarks of Sibiu is the Bruckenthal Museum assembled by baron Bruckenthal, governor of Transylvania at the beginning of the 19th century. The Evangelical Cathedral was completed in its actual shape in 1520, but inside, there is an exquisite fresco of the Crucifixion on the north wall of the choir dating from 1445. View the Passage of Stairs linking the Upper town to the Lower town, the 1859 Liar's Bridge and the Byzantine style Orthodox Cathedral, a replica of St. Sophia in Constantinople. The tour will end with a visit to the original Pharmacy Museum.

Dinner is in one of the best local restaurants in Sibiu where you will taste traditional Romanian dishes.

B D Accommodation in Sibiu at Hotel Continental Forum 4* or similar

Day 8: Sibiu - Cozia - Pitesti - Bucuresti – Sofia (210 km+flight Bucharest-Sofia)

Following breakfast, we drive along the Olt River gorge towards southern Romania. Stop for a visit of the Cozia monastery, a beautiful 14th century Eastern Orthodox monastery. We then continue back to Bucharest.  Drop-off transfer to Bucharest airport to catch a PM connecting flight to Sofia. Your Bulgarian guide will meet you at the airport and assist for a transfer to your downtown hotel.

B,T, Overnight in Sofia at hotel Trakia Best Western 4*, ideally located in the historic center, 2 min walk from the pedestrian area.

Day 9: Sofia ( 50 km)

In the morning we will enjoy a city sightseeing of Sofia, a city with 7000-year long history (approximately two and half hours leisurely walking tour). Sofia highlights include the National History Museum, displaying the gold and silver Thracian treasures, and the Boyana Church, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, one of Bulgaria's most significant historical treasures dating back to the 13th century. Other points of interest during the tour will be the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Rotunda of St George, the St Nicholas Russian Church and the Banya Bashi Mosque as well as a view of the Great Synagogue.  In the evening enjoy a Bulgarian Welcome Dinner.

B D Accommodation in Sofia at Hotel Trakia Best Western 4*.

Day 10: Sofia - Koprivshtica – Plovdiv ( 220 km)

Breakfast at hotel and take off for Plovdiv. En route we will stop over for a visit of Koprivshtica, a museum town of Bulgarian National Revival architecture, a town where the past seems to come alive. Situated at an altitude of some 3,000 feet above sea level amid lovely meadows and pine forests, the town has long had a magnetic appeal for tourists. Our walking tour includes visits to the beautiful old Bulgarian-style houses of Lyutov, Debelyanov and Kableshkov, which will fascinate you not only with their original architecture but also with their interior 19-century decoration and furnishing. Every single house here is part and parcel of Bulgaria's history. It is a miracle that Koprivshtica itself was spared destruction and survives in its original appearance. We then travel to Plovdiv, the main city of the Thracian Valley. Plovdiv's location astride the river Maritsa, and its six hills, which are prominent features on the Thracian plane, indicates the strategic significance of the city. It is one of the oldest and most colourful towns in Bulgaria. No one can tell exactly when the foundation stone was laid here, although it must have been over 5000 years ago. Old Plovdiv on Trimontium hill is the centre of Bulgarian national revival architecture at its height and is full of charm and artistic character.

Hotel check in and time at leisure. Plovdiv will be an official European Capital of Culture in 2019. Local creative industries have been mushrooming here and attract more and more people, looking for new art travel experience. Enjoy your dining experience in one of Plovdiv's best gourmet restaurants, located in the Old Town.

B, D, Accommodation in Plovdiv at the Famous House hotel 3* or similar.

Day 11: Plovdiv – Valley of the Roses – Veliko Tarnovo ( 220 km)

After breakfast, take a leisurely walking tour including a visit to the Old Town, the 2000yrs old Roman Theatre; Ethnographic museum and the Byzantine and medieval fortifications, the 15th century mosque. Walk along the narrow cobbled streets and admire the silence and tranquility of this historic town, visit workshops of local artisans to learn about Bulgarian crafts, especially pottery. Leave Plovdiv and drive north to Kazanlak, the main city of the famous Rose Valley. This valley has been a centre of rose oil production and export for centuries. (Roses are in full bloom from Mid May to Mid June). We visit the Rose museum to find out why Bulgarian rose oil is an essential ingredient of top-quality perfumes. Recently, the Rose Valley has become known also as the Valley of the Thracian Kings. The Thracians were the earliest recorded population in the eastern half of the Balkan Peninsula, in what is today Bulgaria. It was at the end of the Late Bronze Age that the Greek authors, Homer in particular, called the territories north of Greece by the name of Thrace. The Thracians had an exceptionally original culture and created an amazing civilization. We visit the Thracian beehive tomb in Kazanlak, 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. This extremely precious discovery is displayed in the local museum. We cross the Balkan Range at the Shipka Pass and visit the gold-domed Shipka Memorial Church. The view from the top of the pass over the Thracian Plain is really spectacular. We proceed with a visit of the open-air Etara Ethnographic Museum. The 18th – 19th century crafts and lifestyle will come to life in front of you as you visit this famous open-air museum. Next stop is Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria’s old capital city. Picturesquely situated on the three hills circled by the Yantra River, Veliko Tarnovo still preserves the typical 19th century architecture with its houses perched one above the other along the sloping hills. Past glory with fortress walls and palaces creates an amazing background for a joyful contemporary life of this University town, full of  young people. Evening at leisure.

B Accommodation in Veliko Tarnovo at Hotel Gurko 3*, ranked # 1 for 2014 by Trip Advisor.

Day 12: Veliko Tarnovo – Troyan – Sofia ( 280 km)

Hot and cold buffet breakfast at hotel. Take a morning walking a tour of this town, full of history. The capital of Mediaeval Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo, is one of the most picturesque historical settlements. Located on the hills above the meandering river Yantra, this city, once a glorious medieval capital (1186 – 1393), is now attracting thousands of romantic travelers with its irresistible atmosphere. Mixing the legends of the past with bursting joy of hundreds of young students – this is Veliko Tarnovo today, the second most important University City after Sofia. Start exploring the city with the Tsarevets Royal hill. Our guide can tell you more than any of the thick books will. Then go to the Samovodska market place, with its narrow cobbled streets, where every stone tells a story. The neighbouring Arbanassi museum village is a genuine gallery of art. Apart from a gorgeous view over the city of Veliko Tarnovo, there are two musts here: the 15th century Church of the Nativity, repainted in the 17th century, and the house of Konstantsaliev’s- a fortress-like stone building, excellent examples of the 18th century architecture at its height. Travel back to Sofia via the beautiful Danube Plain. Stop over in Troyan and Oreshak, famous for its Folk Arts and Crafts Exhibition. Here you will meet local ceramicists and see them work. The region became famous in the 19th century with the local ceramic production. Most of the souvenir pottery on sale throughout Bulgaria is made here, in Troyan.  Time permitting, visit the nearby Troyan Monastery, Bulgaria's third largest.

B Accommodation in Sofia at Hotel Trakia Best Western 4*.

Day 13: Rila Monastery Excursion ( 230 km)

After breakfast, we travel to the famous Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located some 70 miles to the south of Sofia, in the heart of the Rila Mountain. Founded in the 10th century, it has been the biggest spiritual and cultural centre in Bulgaria or hundreds of years. On a number of occasions it was destroyed and burnt down, only to rise again like a phoenix from the ashes. The visitor’s first sight of Rila Monastery huge towering walls gives the impression of a fortress. However, a step through the archway produces a wonderful surprise. Visiting the Monastery is a must. The Monastery’s unrivalled architecture and murals will captivate you. The monastery is the largest in the Balkans and included in the List of World Cultural Heritage. Our tour of the monastery includes a visit to the Monastery Church, which is of particular artistic value, for it was adorned by the foremost 19-century masters of the Samokov, Bansko and Debar schools of painting and woodcarving. We visit the Monastery Museum featuring a rich collections of precious artefacts from the monastery’s thousand-year history. Monks still live and practice here. We drive back to Sofia. The balance of the day is at leisure. Dinner on own.

B Accommodation in Sofia at Hotel Trakia Best Western 4*.

Day 14: Sofia – Departure

Breakfast at hotel. (Boxed breakfast will be provided for the early departures). Multiple transfers to Sofia International Airport for your return flights.

Recommended period:   April – October, valid for minimum 2 persons per booking Supplements: Accommodation in Plovdiv (1 night) during the periods of the Trade Fair: September 24 – October 01,2017 :
  • Per person in single room – 23 US$
  • Per person in double room – 35 US$
Note: Tour is available with upgraded hotels. Please ask for a custom quote.