Bulgaria holiday by train

“No car, no hassle – explore Bulgaria on this 12 day train adventure, staying at family hotels, with plenty of time to explore its mountains and old towns.”

Highlights

Sofia | Iskar River Gorge | Vratsa Nature Park | medieval capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo | Tryavna town | Balkan Mountains | Kazanlak town in the Valley of Roses | Plovdiv | Rhodope Mountains | Velingrad | Razlog | Rila Monastery

Description of Bulgaria holiday by train

This slow-ride trip is the best way to discover Bulgaria’s many different faces: its painted monasteries, traditional villages, cultural landmarks and small family-run hotels, offering a warm Bulgarian welcome. And all this, independently and car-free, enjoying the dramatic landscapes of the railway roads of Bulgaria. Through the shabby train windows you will immerse in the scenic lands of 3 different mountain ranges: the Balkans, Rhodope and Rila Mountains. During this rail holiday you will visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Rila Monastery (10th century) and Kazanlak Thracian Tomb (4th century BC) and many iconic old towns with cobbled streets and local traditions, such as Veliko Tarnovo, Tryavna, and Plovdiv.

Travel Team

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Check dates

2019: 5 Oct
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Responsible tourism

Bulgaria holiday by train

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

One of our main responsible policies is the protection of the local environment and the cultural heritage. Running this tour we try to minimise the impact on the visited areas and protect them by using public transport, such as trains and buses. Train rides give you the opportunity to explore much of Bulgaria’s cultural and natural hidden treasures without a car. Short car transfers are available from/to train stations to the local guesthouses/hotels.

Community

Joining this trip you will visit many remote monasteries and traditional villages with very few inhabitants. Part of your money goes to the protection and restoration of some of the St. Sofia Holy Mountain Churches. Other, for accommodations such! We try to keep the money local by using only small guesthouses which have Green Lodge certificates or are family-run businesses. Green Lodge® is a certificate issued for guesthouses and small hotels that correspond to ECEAT sustainable tourism label and Eurogites quality standards. Hosts of these houses are local people who have special attention to local nature and culture. They will be your guide to interesting sites and events in the surroundings and will saturate your experience. Your stay at a Green Lodge will make you feel the charm of the traditional everyday life and guide you through local cuisine. Such place is Deshka’s Guesthouse. Your visit to her house in the mountain village Gorno Draglishte means a lot to the local people, who produce a lot of the goods used in the kitchen.

3 Reviews of Bulgaria holiday by train

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Reviewed on 06 Jul 2019 by

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


Travelling on the trains meant meeting ordinary Bulgarians, not just those involved with the tourist industry. We met some really helpful people, especially
when trains were delayed. Attending an opera in Plovdiv’s Roman amphitheatre was also very memorable.


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


This holiday is not for anyone with mobility difficulties – the trains are a steep climb to get in (as in many countries) and many of the hotels and guest
houses do not have lifts or ground floor rooms. Take a rucksack rather than a wheelie bag, partly for the trains and hotel stairs but also Plovdiv old town has unsurfaced roads which are not neat cobblestones. The taxis for getting to/from the station were either not familiar with the streets in the old town or unwilling to go there. The suggested itinerary would be better as a 3 week trip than 2 weeks as the timing of the travel means that you don’t always get a good chance to look around towns, and no chance to walk in the surrounding areas. Request late check out is booked at hotels where travel to the next town is long after check out time – it’s usually too late to do that when you arrive! Hotel Studio in Veliko Turnovo has a great laundry service. Travel timings are not confirmed until you collect the tickets. The transfer back from Rila Monastery is at 3pm which means no time in Sofia, and because of engineering work there is no direct train from Kazanlak to Plovdiv, so the scheduled arrival time in Plovdiv is 8pm, but delays meant we didn’t arrive until 9pm. In this case good directions in both English and Bulgarian would have helped us get to the hotel quickly, although maybe not to the door. Google maps and a translator app on a mobile phone are a great standby for finding your way round.


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


Yes – travelling by rail, mostly electric trains, within Bulgaria reduces the environmental impact compared with renting a car. Local people benefitted particularly when we stayed in the guest houses as in both cases we were the only people staying.


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


Very good –it could have been excellent if there had not been discrepancies between the English trip dossier and the Bulgarian Cyrillic vouchers and train
tickets. Train tickets were easy to sort out, and the timetables enclosed for each train very helpful. Confusion about where we were staying at Rila Monastery had to be sorted out with a call back to the organiser – the advertised trip says stay in the monastery, the trip dossier says the same but the contract and the Cyrillic voucher both said Hotel Tsarev Vuh (2*) which is close to the monastery, and the hotel was where we had a booking. Very disappointing, and although the staff were friendly and helpful the hotel is in a poor state.

Reviewed on 05 Aug 2017 by

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


Everything was very good. The genuine welcome from every host hotel or guesthouse was excellent. Staying in guesthouses and eating their normal local
food. Highlights were Veliko Tarnovo (especially Hotel Gurko), Plovdiv, and the hosts at Boyana Guest House (Vratsa) & Guest House Deshka (Gorno Draglishte) were great fun.

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


Because the Bulgarian signs are always in cyrillic, not our normal letters, translate before you travel all of the station destinations form the Latin typeface
to Cyryllic, and make a note of them. You need to know the translation to see on the departure boards at each station & also the station name when you arrive. Sometimes English / Latin letters are used but not always. Quite a lot of older people do not speak English so make sure you have a phrase book, or a
Translator App on mobile phone (this was very useful). Also take the free guided walking tours wherever possible - Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo and Sofia. Smile at the locals and they will appreciate it.

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


The local people definitely benefited - the small local shops, taxi drivers,- even though we went to many touristy places, much of the time we spent our time
and money with people off the beaten track. Train travel will have definitely helped the environment.

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


Very enjoyable. A mixture of places, people and modes of transport.

Reviewed on 08 Jun 2017 by

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


Both Plovdiv and Rile were interesting and enjoyable and despite communication problems the two homestays were interesting if challenging and the hosts we very friendly and kind.

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


Keep luggage to a minimum. Bulgarian trains - all rather elderly - are not too easy to board. The latest Rough Guide is a little short on detail compared with earlier editions (5th edition far better and not noticeably out of date).

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



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


Reasonably well organised overall. All hotels acceptable with one exception. Fair value for money I would say. We were the guinea pigs for this tour and Simeon Dimitrov was appreciative of our comments on our re turn to Sofia. He is a very pleasant young man, and most eager to please. Bulgaria's mountains are spectacular, the people most friendly and all the towns we visited had something of interest. The biggest problem is communication even if one can read Cyrillic. It is a tour I would particularly recommend for the elderly, those wishing to avoid self-drive, and of course train buffs.

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