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Active Bulgaria

You love hiking and cycling and have an interest in exploring off-the beaten track mountain routes in the heart of the Balkans? You wish to get a closer look at the Bulgarian cultural heritage, learn how the local people live in the Bulgarian countryside and try some mouth-watering homemade specialties?  Then this is the trip for you!
The hiking and walking routes featured in this itinerary pass through breath-taking parts of the Bulgarian Pirin and Rhodope Mountains. The trails afford amazing views over high rocky cliffs, woods, lakes and two of Bulgaria’s most renowned natural rock phenomena - the Stob Sandstone Pyramids and the Wonderful Bridges. While marvelling at Bulgaria’s natural treasures we will follow the steps of the Thracians, Romans and Proto-Bulgarians who left countless reminders of their rich culture throughout the Bulgarian lands. Enjoy the discovery with us!

Day - by - day Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Sofia, Bulgaria! 
Welcome to Sofia! Our English speaking guide meet us at the airport and escort us during the whole trip. On the way to our hotel we get first impressions of the Bulgarian capital, one of the oldest cities in Europe with 7000-year long history. "Ever Growing, Never Ageing" is the motto on Sofia's coat of arms. Due to the fact that it occupies a strategic position at the centre of the Balkan Peninsula, Sofia has always been a crossroad of the key land routes from Europe to Middle East and Asia.
Our sightseeing tour in the Bulgarian capital take us to the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral – the seat of the Patriarchy and one of Sofia's emblematic symbolsWe will not miss the Church of "St Sofia” that has given the city its name in the 14th century, as well as the Roman fortress “Serdika”, Martyr Saint George the Conqueror Rotunda, the National Theatre, the old Bath House, Banya Bashi Mosque - a remnant of the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria that lasted nearly five centuries.
Dinner and overnight in Sofia. (D)

Day 2: Sofia, The Rila Monastery, The Kresna Gorge , Melnik
Today we travel south – east towards the majestically rising Rila Mountain that features the highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula - Musala (2929m). Besides the spectacular scenery our highlight today is the Rila Monastery - a true architectural masterpiece of its time. It survived through the centuries to fascinate us today with distinguished works by some of the most renowned Bulgarian artists.

  • Possibility for a picnic lunch in a the picturesque area Kirilova Poliana  in the vicinity of the monastery

In the early afternoon, we continue our trip south towards the Kresna Gorge, where we do one of the following activities with professional guides and full equipment:

  • Rafting on the Struma river – no experience needed
  • Kayaking on the Struma River – no experience needed
  • Bow shooting  near the Struma River  – no experience needed

NOTE: All the above activities are weather dependent to a different extend, so we will be able to specify which will be available for the particular period of the trip, just before the trip starts.

In the late afternoon we reach the town of Melnik, famous for its ancient traditions in winemaking. Here  we will enjoy a wine tasting in one of the traditional wine cellars in Melnik and learn about the special wine-aging method used d by the local wine producers. For dinner we wash down some local specialties with delicious Melnik red wines.
Dinner and overnight in Melnik. (B, L, D)

Day 3: Melnik, Rozhen monastery, Bansko
We start the day with a scenic drive to the established in the 12-century Rozhen Monastery, situated in the south part of the gorgeous Pirin Mountain. Then we descend down the slopes of the mountain, taking in the opulent panorama of the the “Sandstone pyramids” - peculiar rock formations which overlook the town of Melnik and according to the locals they are its mystic guardians.
(Estimated hike time: 2 h, hike level: beginner)
In the afternoon, we reach the town of Bansko, situated at the foot of the eastern slopes of the Pirin Mountain. For the rest of the day we will be able to explore the Old Town of Bansko on our own. Here we drift back in time and get lost in the maze of narrow streets lined with beautiful medieval houses tucked behind the high stone walls. It is a must to spare some time and peek into the numerous welcoming galleries where the local artists present their works.
Tonight we will enjoy a traditional dinner and live folklore music at an authentic restaurant in town.
Dinner and overnight in Melnik. (B, L, D)

Day 4: Biking at the foot of the Pirin Mountain!
By bus: Bansko – Dobarsko
Bike ride: the village of Dobarsko – the village of Gorno Draglishte – the village of Dolno Draglishte – the town of Bansko
(Distance: 20km, altitude difference: 150/200m, start at 927m, easy ride)     
This morning we take some time at leisure to explore Bansko on our own. Then we travel to the nearby village of Dobrasko, where we visit the church “St. St. Theodor Tiron & Theodor Stratilat” built in the remote 1614 and undoubtedly the most interesting and extremely well-kept historical monument not only in the village of Dobarsko. Here we will enjoy listening to some traditional folklore songs performed by the renowned local women’s choir in the church’s cozy yard. Then it will be time for us to start our bike ride from the village of Dobrasko to the town of Bansko. The route goes through tranquil mountainous villages and lush green fields along the foot of the Pirin Mountain.
For dinner, we will be able to attend a Cooking workshop and prepare traditional Bulgarian dishes from the Bansko Region at a family – own hotel in town.
Overnight in Bansko. (B, L, D)

Day 5: Bansko, the village of Leshten /Kovachevitsa, Trigrad
Today we travel south-east to the secluded villages of Leshten & Kovachevitsa, where time seems to have stopped centuries ago. We visit one of them and take in the authentic, rustic atmosphere and stunning mountainous scenery.  We take time to go for a walk in the area. (Not a hike, just a walk, so no special clothing needed.)
In the afternoon, we travel deep in the heart of the Rhodope Mountain and reach the spectacular “Devil’s throat” cave situated near the village of Trigrad in the breathtaking Trigrad Gorge. The cave is wrapped up by myths and legends and on one of the walls of its enormous main gallery you can see the carved face of the Devil himself.
Overnight in Trigrad. (B, L, D)

Day 6: Trigrad, Shiroka Laka, The  Wonderful Bridges, Plovdiv
We travel east to the town of Shiroka Laka, impressive with its authentic Revival architecture and one of the best Folklore Music Schools in the country. Then we explore one of the most spectacular natural rock phenomena on the territory of the Rhodope Mountain - The Wonder Bridges. It is assumed the formation was once a cave which probably collapsed as a result of an earthquake. Here we will hike towards the village Zaburdo through a picturesque area covered with lush forests.
(Estimated hike travel time: 3h, hike level: beginner)
In the late afternoon, we arrive in Plovdiv – one of the most ancient settlements in Europe.
Overnight in Plovdiv. (B, L, D)

Day 7: Plovdiv, Bachkovo Monastery, Sofia
Our guided tour this morning take us to the Old Quarter of Plovdiv famous for its spectacular Roman Theatre, the multitude of tiny art shops, the cosy old-time cafés and the authentic Revival period houses. In the afternoon, we take a short trip in the mystic Rhodope Mountain to visit the Bachkovo Monastery, the second in size and importance monastery in Bulgaria founded during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom and impressive with its picturesque location and extensive icon collections. During a refreshing hike in the picturesque area around the sanctuary we will hear the story of the mysterious wonder-working icon from the Bachkovo Monastery.
 (Estimated hike travel time: 2 hours, hike level: beginner)
Overnight in Sofia. (B, L, D)

Day 8: Tour ends in Sofia
Today after breakfast we say “Goodbye” but promise to keep forever all the beautiful memories we have created together! (B)

  • Depending on the  departure flight time, we can organize more activities in Sofia ( like “Horoteca”-  learning how to dance the traditional Bulgarian folklore dance  “horo” )

If you like the suggested program, ideas, services and this is really your kind of holiday please send us your request for further details! We will be happy to answer any questions you may have and give you our professional advice. Thank you!

Highlights

  • Breathe the air of the Bulgarian capital Sofia - a blend of ancient historical heritage and modern-day landmarks
  • Visit the Rila Monastery – a masterpiece of its time!
  • Get an adrenaline rush at the Kresna Gorge on the Struma River!
  • Drink delicious red wine in Melnik - the smallest town in Bulgaria!
  • Give in to the serenity of the secluded Rozhen Monastery in the South Pirin Mountain!
  • Cycle and walk in the foothills of the majestic Pirin Mountain
  • Cook some traditional Bulgarian food at a local family’s house in Bansko!
  • Hike in the wrapped in myths and legends Rhodope Mountain and explore the spectacular Devil’s throat cave and the imposing Wonderful Bridges Rock Phenomenon
  • Take your time and slow down in the tranquil mountain villages of Leshten, Kovachevitsa & Shiroka Laka - cornerstones in the preservation of the Bulgarian history, traditions and cuisine
  • Drift back in time in the Old Quarter of the city of Plovdiv and visit its ancient Roman theatre

Route

Photos


Learn more about the places

What Is Included

  • 11 days / 10 overnights
  • 10 breakfasts (B), 8 Lunches (L), 10 dinners (D)
  • 3 nights 4 - star hotel accommodation on a twin-share or double basis
  • 7 nights 3 - star hotel accommodation on a twin-share or double basis
  • Guided sightseeing tours of all visited cities and sights
  • Escorted services of an experienced guide in the requested language for the whole tour
  • Group Size: T/A
  • Transport: Modern air-conditioned coach
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