Bulgaria mountains and monasteries Tour

“A ten day, small group fully guided tour, starting and ending in Sofia and staying in small hotels. With private transfers. ”

Highlights

Sofia | Rila Monastery | Rila National Park | Melnik | Pirin Mountains | Rhodope Mountains | Trigrad | Asenovgrad Fortress | Bachkovo Monastery | Plovdiv | Kazanlak | Arbanasi | Troyan Monastery | Veliko Tarnovo | Central Balkan National Park

Description of Bulgaria mountains and monasteries Tour

This Bulgaria mountains holiday, a small group tour of ten days, focuses not only on the country’s stunning natural heritage but also on its cultural highlights and, in particular, its monasteries. A most underrated destination, Bulgaria has a fascinating history thanks to its geography which has seen influences from both Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire from the south.

Starting and ending in Sofia, we head immediately into the Rila Mountains to visit one of the country’s most famous ancient sites: Rila Monastery. The centre of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, it is a fortified complex packed with magnificent frescoes and carvings. Other great monasteries on this trip include Bachkovo and Troyan.

Insights into contemporary Bulgarian life can also be enjoyed in many of its untouched rural areas, such as in the tiny villages of Gorno Draglishte or Apriltsi where we stay in a small, local guesthouses or the village of Arbanasi, where traditional houses in this ancient trading spot resemble small forts. The larger towns of Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo are wonderful places to explore the country’s medieval history and traditions.

Throughout this trip, you will be enveloped by mountains, with more than a third of the country covered by ranges which we will dip in and out of. These are the Balkan, Rhodope, Rila and Pirin ranges, and we spend some time specifically in Central Balkan National Park which lies within the Balkan Mountains, taking a gentle hike through ancient beech forests.

With great food, welcoming people and a superb array of historic monuments, this Bulgaria holiday itinerary is a perfect introduction to a country that is packed with unknown beauties.

Travel Team

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Date
Price
Basis
16 May 2020
£1149
excluding flights
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 16 May 2020 departure
19 Sep 2020
£1149
excluding flights
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 19 Sep 2020 departure
15 May 2021
£1149
excluding flights
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 15 May 2021 departure
18 Sep 2021
£1149
excluding flights
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 18 Sep 2021 departure
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Accepted

Responsible tourism

Bulgaria mountains and monasteries Tour

Carbon reduction

Your holiday will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this holiday and how to reduce them.

Environment

Much of the time on this tour is spent in towns and cities, but we do spend time in the Rhodope and Balkan Mountains, a stunning area of impressive landscapes. When exploring this area on foot we take care to stick to the trails and not to damage any of the flora, as some parts of the region are quite a fragile environment. We operate a strict no litter policy on our tours, which includes the drivers. Bulgaria is a country where western European norms regarding the environment are not so well entrenched, therefore it is quite common for local people to dispose of rubbish simply by throwing it out of the window. We work to educate our drivers and other service providers so as to avoid contributing to this problem.

Similarly, in conjunction with our local team we work with hotels and guesthouses to implement best practices when it comes to environmental matters – again in some places this is far behind what we might be used to in other parts of the world. This includes basic things like not replacing towels each day, as well as saving electricity and turning lights off – small things but we hope that they can become ingrained into the culture of a country where tourism isn't so established as other parts of Europe.

In Gorno Draglishte we stay in a small guesthouse which uses local produce for the meals they provide – local in the sense of being from the village and nearby area, not from elsewhere. Not only is this a great introduction to the culinary culture of Bulgaria but it helps in a small way to cut down on food miles.

Community

On all of tours we strive to include a strong focus on local communities and we are firm believers that tourism should have a positive impact on the places visited. On this tour we spend time in some of Bulgaria’s more traditional areas such as the village of Gorno Draglishte, that do not see as much tourism as other parts of the country. We stay at locally owned guesthouses and hotels and where appropriate employ the services of local people in order not only to gain a greater insight into the complex traditions here but to ensure that they gain financial benefit from our visit, rather than just being ‘exhibits’.

We visit a number of sites and monuments on this tour that do not necessarily receive much funding from other sources; the entrance fees that we include help to maintain the heritage of this country for future generations – not just western travellers but more importantly to local people to whom they have far more cultural and historical significance. We use locally owned suppliers and our partners here are deeply involved with the preservation of the culture and heritage of the country. Through carefully supervised tourism, greater worth is placed upon Bulgaria’s rich heritage and it is hoped that local authorities will not only have the funds but also recognise the value in restoring and preserving such places.

When visiting the smaller communities we encourage our travellers to spend money locally and perhaps purchase some of the fine handicrafts on sale here.

4 Reviews of Bulgaria mountains and monasteries Tour

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Reviewed on 15 Oct 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The wonderful food and hospitality given to us by 'the three Babas' (Grandmothers) in a remote village house. Much singing, dancing and wine - no wonder we got lost on our way back to the guesthouse! Also memorable were the incredible frescoes which covered the walls of several churches and chapels. The chapel in the village of Apriltsi was breathtaking.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


There are some lengthy stretches of winding mountain roads - take travel sickness pills if you suffer. Luckily our minibus was comfortable and the driver was excellent. I took a travel kettle and tea bags, and was glad as none of the hotels provided them in the rooms. The tea in most places was the local herbal brew - very healthy! Maybe learn the Bulgarian for 'Where can I get some milk?'

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Without doubt the holiday benefited the villagers who had joined forces to provide our guest house accommodation. Our guide explained that tourism is relatively new in rural areas and a welcome source of income. All food there was home cooked, and we were told that nothing we left would be wasted - there were plenty of pigs and chickens to feed. I don't think our holiday reduced environmental impacts - though one bus was better than six cars, I guess. The maximum number which the operator take on this holiday is twelve, which felt right in terms of impact.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I had a fall on day three and smashed my glasses, so had to wear sunglasses for most of the trip. This was difficult when we were inside or when the light was dim. I would still rate the holiday highly, not least because of our friendly, well-organised and knowledgeable guide, who got me medical help very promptly and was caring without making a fuss.

Reviewed on 15 Oct 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The reproduction Thracian Tomb at Kazenlak which we were able to enter 4 at a time with Stoyan helping us. Absolutely amazing.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Because of the large, irregular cobbles in some places my comfortable, light-weight walking shoes were perfect for me. However I did not go on the more difficult hike on the last day but spent a lovely morning walking local lanes and village (with cafe) with half our group. We had a choice. Better if you are interested in history and, in our case, learning something new. Learn even 2 or 3 words. It makes such a difference. People seem genuinely pleased. I think it is too hard for visitors to bother with but Microsoft Translate is wonderful with written and spoken words and phrases. 'Could we have 2 more pillows please' was incredibly useful to show on my phone.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Food was fresh and local and specially cooked or baked or brewed (local herb tea) for us. No pre-wrapped. I hope local people found this tourist employment useful. People often cooperated to house, feed and entertain us.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Excellent. We loved everything about it. Could find no faults. The local people we met were friendly and pleased to see us, especially if we smiled and spoke to them.

Reviewed on 08 Oct 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Seeing Plodiv

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Some of the backroads are rough and there are many guesthouses which are basic at best.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


See below

Reviewed on 02 Oct 2018 by

Overall, this was an exciting and enjoyable trip with numerous highlights. The most outstanding things for me were the: frescoed monasteries and churches, the mountain scenary including the gorges and caves, the historical and attractive city of Plovdiv and the interesting heritage villages with their traditional architecture.

The accommodation was clean and comfortable and in good locations. The transport was comfortable and all journeys were less than 2 hours. The guide was very knowledgeable, patient and considerate. The driver was safe, helpful and pleasant.

Suggestions --- More time in Sofia at either the start or end of the tour. More detailed trip notes to save long explanations from the guide at the site. Maybe less included meals ( with a subsequent reduction in the trip price) My wife and I are not used to having a 3 course lunch and a 3 course dinner every day. ( although others may disagree!). Some indication of the level of fitness required would have been helpful -- there were a lot of steps, steep slopes and hills to negotiate.

Overall it was a great trip which I would recommend to like- minded friends.

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