Culinary Tour of Bulgaria
Gourmet Paradise, Culture, Wine and More!
Sofia, Sandanski, Plovdiv, Kazanluk, Nessebur, Varna, Veliko Turnovo
When: July 4 – July 15, 2017
September 4 – 15, 2017
Led by: George Vishegonov
What we offer:
- Visit all 5 UNESCO cultural sites: Boyana Church, Rila Monastery, Kazanluk Thracian Tomb, Nessebur and Madara Horseman
- Accommodation at 4* centrally located hotels for 10 nights (buffet
- 4 cooking courses of local specialties
- 5 lunches and 5 dinners in attractive restaurants.
- Glass of wine with all dinners
- Wine-tasting session in a cellar
- Tasting of eco-cocktails of herbs and fruits
- Folklore performance
- Orthodox concert in Kazanluk
Bulgaria is a small country located at the Balkan Peninsula in Easter Europe that offers a unique mixture of traditional culinary, cultural, and spiritual experience for the traveler. Its rich culture and traditions stood for over 1300 years on the crossroad of world’s civilizations. Bulgaria is often called the UNDISCOVERED GEM.
The centuries-old Bulgarian culinary traditions influenced by the ethnic diversity and the clearly distinguishable four
seasons have created remarkable traditional dishes. As for the method of preparation, Bulgarians have favored stewing, roasting,
simmering and cooking in earthenware dishes. Most of the roasting is done for hours on charcoal ember leaving the meats deliciously tender, juicy and succulent. The combination of daily picked fresh eco-products, spices, meats, chicken, game and the unique traditional slow cooking process are the secret to the creation of the remarkable exquisite and tasty traditional dishes.
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Overnight flight to Sofia, Bulgaria on airline of your choice.
Day 2: SOFIA
Arrival at Sofia International Airport. Meet and greet by your tour guide/company representative. Brief orientation tour of the city on your way to the hotel. Welcome-drink. Free-time or visits according to the flight schedule. Welcome-dinner. Overnight at 4* hotel in Sofia. /D/
Day 3: SOFIA /50km/
After breakfast, walking city-tour of Sofia – the capital of Bulgaria. One of the oldest cities in Europe, with more than 7,000 years of history, it was called ‘My Rome’ by the Emperor Constantine the Great. Visits to the Ruins of Serdica – Roman fortress walls /2ndc./, St. George Rotunda /4thc./ – the oldest building in Sofia, St. Sofia Basilica /6thc./ – the oldest active church which gave the city its name, St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral /1912/ – one of the largest Eastern Orthodox Cathedrals in the world, the biggest on the Balkans, the National Theater /1907/, the Presidency and many more historic sites from ancient times alongside the modern sights of cosmopolitan city life. After lunch, drive away from the city center to the foot of Vitosha Mountain for a visit of Boyana Church and National Museum of History.
Boyana Church /UNESCO site/ – unique monument with wonderful frescoes /13thc./. Created by a Bulgarian artist, the realistic style of paintin surpassed the Italian Renaissance by a century. The portraits of Sebastocrator Kaloyan and his wife Dessislava are the oldest realistic images of monumental art in Medieval Europe, created before the
Italian Renaissance, before Giotto.
Nearby is situated the National Museum of History – one of the largest history museums on the Balkans. The collection of 650,000 exhibits covers the history of Bulgarian lands from the Stone Age till the end of 19thc. The oldest crafted gold in the world, created by the oldest civilization in Europe, founded on
the territory of Bulgaria (Varna area), the world’s famous Thracian golden and silver treasures, ceramics, bas-reliefs from Bulgarian medieval capitals, etc. make a visit worthwhile.
Dinner in a traditional restaurant. Overnight at 4* hotel in Sofia. /B,L,D/
Day 4: SOFIA – RILA MONASTERY – SANDANSKI /250 km/:
After breakfast, departure to the Rila Monastery /10thc./, included in the UNESCO List of World Heritage, the biggest in Bulgaria and on the Balkans, the most visited tourist site in Bulgaria. Tour of the monastery with its lavish collection of precious old icons, manuscripts etc. An inaccessible fortress from the outside, it reveals a totally different world behind its heavy gates – exquisite architecture with arches and columns, 1,200 outdoor murals, sunlit verandahs and old fountains. The
monastery museum contains over 41,000 exhibits altogether. Lunch in a restaurant nearby, tasting the most famous local fresh trout menu.
Drive further to the town of Sandanski – famous Bulgarian spa resort with an ideal climate of sunshine and low humidity. Sandanski has been known as a balneology center since 2nd millennium BC, when the Thracians discovered the curative power of its mineral springs.Homeland of Spartacus – the famous Roman gladiator, later a leader of the biggest slave uprising in Antiquity. Free time for relaxation, or SPA treatments. Dinner at local restaurant. Overnight at 4* spa hotel in Sandanski /B,L,D/
Day 5: SANDANSKI – MELNIK – DEVIN /170 km/:
After breakfast, city tour of Melnik – the smallest Bulgarian town /300 inhabitants/, located amidst a natural fortress of majestic sandstone pyramids. The town is famous with its impressive houses /18th-19thc./ and as a center of viticulture and red wine industry. Visit to the biggest on the Balkans house from the Revival period, with its Venetian stained glass – the Kordopulova house, which has a real underground wine-production installation. Lunch in a local tavern, and a cooking course of local specialties.
Drive further to the small town of Devin – picturesquely located on the two banks of Devinska River, in the Western Rhodope Mountain, the town is famous for its favorable climate and thermal waters. It is known as the best SPA resort in the Rhodope Mountain. Traditional Rhodope dinner with lamb cooked in BBQ style (cheverme) and folklore performance with bagpipes. Overnight at 4* spa hotel in Devin. /B,L,D/
Day 6: DEVIN – PLOVDIV /120km/:
After breakfast, departure to Plovdiv – the second largest town in Bulgaria, recently announced as European Cultural capital for 2019. Plovdiv is the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe, older than Rome and Athens, and contemporary to Troy and Mycenae. Existing as a settlement about 8,000 years ago, it became a town 3,000 years ago during the Trojan war. Tour of Plovdiv where you will find lasting and indelible marks from the Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Turks and Bulgarians. Walk along the Old town with its unique charm – narrow cobbled streets that admire the silence and tranquility of this historic town, elegant old buildings with painted facades /19thc./,. Lunch in a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, walking tour along the Roman Theatre /2ndc./, built by Emperor Trajan, the Roman Stadium /2ndc./, built by the Emperor Hadrian – one of the largest and most impressive structures from the time of the Ancient Rome on the Balkans, and the Ethnographic exhibition. Demonstration of pottery-making (if available). Free time to explore the ancient city on your own. Dinner in an attractive restaurant located next to the Roman remains of ancient Plovdiv. Overnight at 4* hotel in Plovdiv. /B,L,D/
Day 7: PLOVDIV – STAROSEL – KAZANLUK /150km/:
After breakfast, drive away from Plovdiv for a visit of Bachkovo Monastery /11thc/ – the second largest monastery in Bulgaria. Tour of the monastery, founded in 1083. The murals, old icons from different periods, the manuscripts and incunabula with artistic facings, as well as the many objects linked with church crafts, turned Bachkovo monastery into one of the richest galleries of old Bulgarian art.
Drive further for wine-tasting and lunch in a boutique winery called ‘The Temple of the wine’, located at the foothills of the Thracian Temple with capacity of producing of 1,000 tons of grapes annually (‘Mavrud’, ‘Merlot’,‘Cabernet’, ‘Muscat’, ‘Chardonnay’). The close proximity to the Temple gives you the unique opportunity to touch the spirit of the ancient Thracians who left us the gift of the art of wine-making. The wine-tasting hall is created as a replica of a Thracian tomb, with unique acoustics and architecture.
Drive away to Kazanluk – small town located in the world’s only ‘Valley of Roses’, famous also as the ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’.
City-tour of Kazanluk exploring the world famous Thracian heritage. Visits of the local History Museum where the finds from the ancient Thracian town Seuthopolis and the Thracian tombs around are exposed. The unearthed ancient gold funeral mask is as important a discovery as the treasures of Agamemnon and Tutankhamen and the ancient Kazanluk Tomb /4th – 3rdc.BC/, UNESCO site. It is a masterpiece of Thracian architecture and painting, offering unique insight into the life of the ancient Thracians. Visit of the Rose Museum with presentation of the 350-year-old history of Bulgarian rose-growing and oil-production industry.Enjoy an Orthodox concert in a local church. Dinner in a traditional, open-air picnic restaurant, with beautiful rose garden. Overnight at 4* hotel in Kazanluk. /B,L,D/
Day 8: KAZANLUK – NESSEBUR – VARNA /320km/:
After breakfast, departure to Nessebur /UNESCO site/ – unique town, situated on a rocky peninsula, linked with the mainland by a narrow isthmus. Throughout 3,000 years different civilizations have left the marks of their history here. The town’s old name – Messambria has a Thracian origin. Walking-tour along the remains of fortress walls, fortifications of different periods, and ancient churches. Lunch in a fish restaurant located in 250 year – old house.
Drive further to Varna – the third largest city after Sofia and Plovdiv, situated on Varna bay – the pearl of the Bulgarian Black Sea. Enjoy the Black Sea coast and some of the famous resorts. Short tour of Varna with a visit to the
Cathedral of the Holy Mother /18thc./ – second largest in Bulgaria after the Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia. Dinner and overnight at 4* hotel in Varna. /B,L,D/
Day 9: VARNA – VELIKO TURNOVO /220km/:
After breakfast, departure to Veliko Turnovo – the symbol of the glory of the Second Bulgarian Empire and ancient medieval capital /12th–14thc/, announced recently as Cultural capital of the Balkans. Stopover for a visit of the Rammed Stones – a natural landmark, one of the most frequently visited sites in the country. The unique rock formations are formed by erosion about 50 million years ago. The hollow, up to 7m high rock columns, with a diameter of 2m, have a sand and limestone covering, and are located amidst sands.
Continue to the village of Madara for a visit of Madara Horseman /UNESCO site/ – the only one of its kind in Bulgaria and in Europe, dating back to the epoch of early Middle Ages. The bas-relief is cut 23 m above the basis of the cliff – symbol of the victorious march of the Bulgarian rulers.
Drive away to a small village nearby, for a culinary course and home-hosted lunch of traditional Bulgarian organic food ina century-old vintage-style eco villa estate with a beautiful and fragrant garden. Tasting of eco-cocktails of herbs and fruits with an authentic folklore program.
In the afternoon, departure to Veliko Turnovo. Walk along the Samovodene market – the place where skillful master-goldsmiths, potters, wood-carvers and weavers sell exquisite objects in the small restored workshops Free-time. Possibility to attend the ‘Sound & Light’ show at Tzarevets Fortress.
Optional: ‘Sound and Light Show’ Visit to the unique performance of ‘Sound and light’ Show in Veliko Turnovo, reproducing the glorious and tragic history of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The show is held for min 30 participants and if the weather permits (it is not held in the case of a heavy rain or storm). The show is upon request. Individual tourists (or small groups) can join only in case there had been a group request for the specific day. Price per person: $11.
Dinner in a newly restored inn, built in 1858 as Venetian style palace. Overnight at 4* hotel in Veliko Turnovo. /B,L,D/
Day 10: VELIKO TURNOVO – ARBANASSI – SOFIA /250km/:
After breakfast, sightseeing tour of Veliko Turnovo – with its stone houses perched one above the other over the banks of the Yantra River.
Visits to the Tzarevets Hill with ruins from the Royal Palace, the Mediaeval Fortress, the Patriarchal Cathedral and the Baldwin’s Tower where the Emperor Balduin I of Constantinople died in prison.
Drive further to Arbanassi village. It’s flourishing as a trade and craftsmen’s center, with monumental houses and churches with rich interior decoration, wood-carving and mural paintings, was built between 16th-18thc. The Arbanassi-type houses may be characterized as dwellings-fortresses. They inspire awe with their austere appearance – high solid walls, heavy gates, iron grids and secret-hiding places.
Tour of the village including visits of Konstanzliev’s house /19thc./ with museum collection and Church of Nativity /17thc./ priceless treasure-trove of Bulgarian National Revival culture. Drive away to Sofia. Farewell-dinner in Sofia at a local restaurant. Overnight at 4* hotel in Sofia. /B,L,D/
Day 11: SOFIA:
After breakfast, free-time, or time for optional visits in the city center – the Archaeological Museum, the National Art Gallery, etc. Back to the hotel for farewell-drink. Transfer to Sofia International Airport for your flight back home.
George Vishegonov, born in Bulgaria has traveled the world as a professional volleyball player. His experience as a coach and children’s camp director contributes to his excellent organizational and people skills.
George has lived in the USA for over 40 years. His love for Bulgaria and travel brings him back home every year where he keeps discovering amazing new places and warm friendly people that leave him with unforgettable memories every time.
He is the founder of Active Life Travel, and has dedicated his time to creating tours to Bulgaria filled with memorable experiences. His trips are especially designed for people interested in culinary adventures and unique tastes, exquisite wines, ancient history, monasteries, biking and hiking through picturesque roads from the mountains to the sea.
George is fluent in English and Bulgarian and has deep understanding of the Bulgarian culture and traditions. His passion for adventure combined with love of travel and enjoying other people makes him the perfect leader for any trip to Bulgaria.