DAY 1: Boyana Church – Vitosha National Park
We meet at breakfast and visit the Alexander Nevski Cathedral before driving 20 minutes to the Boyana Church (UNESCO World Heritage). An unknown artist drew with inspiration from biblical themes and contemporary life – he clothed the saints in medieval Bulgarian dress and set garlic, radishes and bread – the peasants’ staples – on the table in the Last Supper. We will offer easy walks in the region as well as visit to National Museum of History, which is Bulgaria’s most worthwhile assemblage of ancient and medieval artifacts. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Hotel Sofia
Day 2: Bansko:
We will depart this day for Bansko region
The BANSKO mountain resort is situated in Southwestern Bulgaria, at the foothills of one of the most beautiful Bulgarian mountains - Pirin, which is a national reserve, included in the WORLD NATURAL HERITAGE list. The distance from Sofia to Bansko is 160 km.
The town itself attracts visitors by its 120 cultural monuments, its museum-houses and the permanent ethnographic and Bansko school of icon painting exhibitions. A very interesting sight is the HOLY TRINITY Church with its 30 m highball tower and clock, splendid murals and woodcarvings. The region is famous for its cuisine and colorful folklore and offers various entertainment opportunities.Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner. Hotel in Bansko for three nights, with indoor swimming pool
DAY 3: Rila Monastery - Bansko
After breakfast we set off for the Rila Monastery (listed as UNESCO world heritage), the greatest orthodox sanctuary in Bulgaria famed for its architecture, murals (more than 1,200 wall paintings), and fortress-like walls all within a beautiful mountain setting. John of Rila chose this valley in the 10th century to escape the savagery of the feudal era and to live a life in search of enlightenment. He and his followers established a hermitage here. The monastery was founded in 1335 about 3.2 km from John’s original hermitage, and it became a famous Christian pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages. From that period remains the medieval Hrelyo’s Tower with a chapel rich of frescoes from 14th BC. The most attractive part of the monastery is the main church with fabulous murals located outside the Gallery of the Catholicon and a fantastic Iconostais.
After lunch we follow the pilgrim path to St. Ivan Rilski’s cave where Ivan Rilski lived and is buried. According to legend, anyone able to pass through the hole in the cave's roof has not sinned. Since it's easy to get through, the legend is very popular! Late in the afternoon we travel for 90 minutes to the small traditional town of Bansko, nestled below the three mountain ranges – Rila, Pirin and Rhodopi. Horse-drawn carts are a frequent sight in this 15th century town, which has a modern center as well as an historic district. The town is situated at 950 meters above sea level.Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
DAY 4: Pirin National Park and South Rila
In the morning we visit the unique walled Church of Sveta Troitsa, built during the Ottoman occupation. The Bansko Icon School was quite famous within the Balkan Peninsula in the 18th and 19th centuries. We will choose easy yet beautiful walks in Pirin National Park possibly including the Valiavishki Ezera Lakes and the Demianitsa river valley. One evening while in Bansko we will enjoy dinner with local families sampling regional specialties. Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner
DAYs 5&6: Rhodope Mountains and Kovacevitsa village
This beautiful and traditional region situated in the far western part of the Rhodope Mountains offers numerous walking and cultural options including "Sini vir" waterfall, the old Roman road above the village of Kovachevitsa; the nearby Osikovo village; and the villages of Leshten, Debren and Delchevo examples of old Rhodope architecture.
Kovachevitsa is an architecture reserve known for its original, well-preserved houses from the 18th-19th century. In Ribnovo you will experience the long-standing life style of the Bulgarian-Turkish people. Our walk will allow us to meander through a variety of villages in the Rhodopi region. Each village has a unique personality and character. Ognianovo is known for it's thermal baths and Gotse Delchev has a history museum rich in archeological and ethnographic exhibits.
Two nights at KAPSAZOVI Kashti Guesthouse. Our hosts Sonya and Stoyan Kapsazovi will welcome you in their guesthouse. The house has authentic Bulgarian style and atmosphere, reproducing the Rodopeen interlay from 18 c.
DAYs 7&8: Trigrad and Devin
Today is a travel day combined with easy walking that will take us to the Yagodino cave, Trigrad village and a river canyon in Western Rhodopi. Artifacts found in the Yagodino cave date back to the copper-stone age as well as from the Thracin period, attesting to antiquity of the village. In Trigrad one cant' help but notice a unique blend of Christian and Muslim cultures with a Christian Church and a Muslim Mosque built side by side. The diverse culture and traditions have become interwoven within the village. There is an ancient Roman road above the Trigrad gorge
Our home for two nights, Devin, is a charming small town nestled in the mountain of Orpheus and Dionysus – the Rhodopes, a place enchanted by the mysterious beauty of Ismena – the younger sister of Antigona from the Sophocle’s ancient Greek tragedy of the same name. The town is famous for its mineral springs known from ancient times. The Thracians settled this region around 1400 B.C. Later, during the 17th century, many Christian Bulgarians in this area were cruelly forced to convert to Islam. However, they keep their Bulgarian traditions and language alive to this day.
overnight in DEVIN village 2 nights
DAY 9: Plovdiv
Today we will reach Plovdiv. We drive through the Rhodopi Mountains and stop for a break in the town of Batak. There we visit the church of Sveti Nedelya, which is strongly related with the Bulgarian history. Our trip continues to the city of Plovdiv – the second largest in Bulgaria. King Philip II of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great founds the town. Today Plovdiv is admired for its Old Town, with its hilly streets, timber-framed mansions and artisan houses. This area is a real cultural mix – with a well-preserved Roman Theatre, ruins of a Thracian settlement, houses from the Revival period (18-19th century) and the interesting Ethnographical Museum. In the city center there are temples of different religions – Orthodox churches, Catholic cathedrals and mosques just to name a few. We discover Plovdiv by a pleasant guided 2h walk and enjoy a free afternoon. We stay in a hotel in the Pieton center for the next 2 nights.
Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner. Hotel in Plovdiv 2 nights
Day 10: Pilgrimage – Backovo Monastery
Early in the morning we set off for the Sveti Kirik and Julita Monastery. From here we have a pleasant walk of 1h30 (mostly on descent) to the medieval fortress and church of Assen built in the 13th century. We continue walking and after a short transfer we arrive at the famous Backovo Monastery, the second largest and the oldest one within this country setting in the Rhodopi Mountains.
There we will also see the medieval monastery kitchen with frescos from the early 17th century and the ossuary with frescoes from the late 11th century. We then follow the old pilgrim path, which leads us to the chapel and holy wells. This pleasant walk is through an old platane forest. In the late afternoon we return back to Plovdiv. We have dinner in a 19th century house that is now a restaurant. Total hiking 4-5h.
Starosel Thracian temple – Koprivchtitsa - Brestovitsa winery
Our trip goes northward. Today we will explore the Sredna Gora mountain chain. We visit the recently discovered Temple of Thracian kings (1 millennium BC) near Starossel village and then we have a walk around the village of Koprivchtitsa. This village was among the most important economic center during the Ottoman period and has its own charm and a well-kept architectural heritage from 18-19th centuries. The houses are painted from the outside with different colors and have very unique architecture. The village is declared a national heritage site. In the late afternoon transfer to the Brestovitsa winery. We taste different bottles of Mavrud the most renowned Bulgarian varietal wine. Its origin dates back to the Thracian time (2000 year BC).
Day 11: Departure
After breakfast we drive to Sofia (2h). We have some time for last shopping or a rest before the flight. Transfer to the Sofia airport (20min from the downtown). For guests staying an extra overnight in Sofia they will be transported to the respective hotel.